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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 4

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NFL WEEK FOUR: A 9-7 record in Week 3 is good but not great, but I'm tickled that two of my three upset picks (Seattle and Chicago) came through. A third in Oakland ended up sailing wide left. Also, being a Georgia boy, I don't mind that I muffed my Saints-Falcons prediction. I did say it would be "a close one," but forgot to specify "as close as kissin' cousins behind the barn door at a Labor Day barbecue." And that's close.

Woody has compiled a 27-21 overall record this season. Here we go for Week 4!

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N.Y. Jets (2-1) @ Buffalo (0-3)

This is the 99th regular-season meeting between these two long-time AFL/AFC rivals. Putting Buffalo’s league-worst offense (242 yards per game) up against New York’s defense is like, well, asking a bison to outrun a 747; it ain’t gonna happen. And when that big ol’ Jet airliner lands in Buffalo this Sunday, it’ll be the Bills playing the part of “The Joker.”

Woody’s Winner: New York

FACT: The Jets’ defense has allowed opponents to complete more than half their third-down attempts this season (23 of 43).

Click "more" to see my picks on the 13 other games in Week 4.

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Seattle (2-1) @ St. Louis (1-2)

The Rams earned a rare home win last week, their first in 15 attempts dating back to 2008. The Gold Horns remain at the Edward Jones Dome in Week 4 when some angry-looking Seahawks swoop in from the northwest. Is the spirit back in Saint Louis? Although the Ocean Birds have won the last 10 games of this matchup, they’ve not shown enough to gain Woody’s confidence this year. Eyes will open all over the NFL when rookie QB Sam Bradford shows just how Ram tough he really is.

Woody’s Winner (in a mild upset): St. Louis

FACT: Rams kicker Josh Brown has been blocked twice in 8 FG attempts so far this season.

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Carolina (0-3) @ New Orleans (2-1)

With RBs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas hurting, this week’s stat line for Saints QB Drew Brees may be more impressive than usual, and that’s saying something. Of course, that’s only if New Orleans doesn’t jump out to an early, insurmountable lead – which is a distinct possibility. The Panthers have won 11 of their last 15 meetings against the team from Louisiana, but that means little to a team still smarting from a division loss at home last week against the Falcons. This Sunday at the Superdome, every quarter will be the French Quarter.

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: Five fumbles by Carolina RBs this season have rendered the team last in the NFL in scoring, averaging only 10.7 points per game.

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Detroit (0-3) @ Green Bay (2-1)

Detroit RB Jahvid Best leads the NFL with 5 TDs this season (4 rushing, one receiving), but he won’t find any holes in the type of cheese that the Packers’ defense will be serving this Sunday afternoon. The Lions will smell like #2 until they manage to get their #1 QB, Matt Stafford, back on the field. Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley leads the NFC with 17 catches and 265 yards, but has yet to cross the goal line in 2010. QB Aaron Rodgers will rectify that this week, perhaps more than once.

Woody’s Winner: Green Bay

FACT: Green Bay doesn’t believe in going for it on fourth down; they’re the only NFL offense yet to attempt one this season, and their defense has held opponents to 0-for-4 in fourth-down conversions.

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Cincinnati (2-1) @ Cleveland (0-3)

The Bengals’ high-risk, high-reward style has paid dividends this season, including a perfect 5-for-5 conversion rate on 4th-down attempts. They’ve also converted all 8 of their field goal attempts this season, including two from 50+ yards. Of course, I don’t expect Cincy to have too much trouble crossing the goal line in Cleveland, so none of that matters. The Battle for Ohio goes to the Tigers, who should have plenty in the tank to turn the Browns various shades of black and blue.

Woody’s Winner: Cincinnati

FACT: The Cleveland Browns have converted a league-low 1 of 3 field goal attempts in 2010.

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Baltimore (2-1) @ Pittsburgh (3-0)

Having won two straight road games, the Steelers sit all by their lonesome atop the AFC North. Pittsburgh’s first in-division matchup brings the Ravens to Heinz Field. As might be expected from two defense-focused clubs, the last five meetings between these teams have all been decided by fewer than 7 points. Which Joe Flacco will show up, the one who threw 4 interceptions in Week 2, or the one who threw 3 touchdowns in Week 3? The Raven QB will decide the game, and Woody predicts that he’ll be Joe Cool (or maybe Cold).

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: Pittsburgh’s offense has generated a league-low 12.7 first downs per game.

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Denver (1-2) @ Tennessee (2-1)

Because of scheduling quirks and realignment, Tennessee and Denver have only faced one another twice since the Oilers left Houston after the 1996 season. Injuries to Bronco running backs have kept the team from developing a rhythm this season, and they’ll need that stompin’ beat if they hope to headline in Nashville. A healthy dose of RB Chris Johnson up the gut will prove that folks in the Volunteer State know just how to deal with a bunch of wild horses.

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: Denver leads the NFL this season with 350 passing yards per game.

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San Francisco (0-3) @ Atlanta (2-1)

Not all that long ago, the 49ers and Falcons battled each other twice a season in the NFC West, and San Francisco dominated. Since Atlanta moved to the NFC South in 2002, the Dirty Birds are a perfect 3-0 against the Red-and-Gold. San Francisco’s defense has allowed an NFC-worst 87 points this season, and their one-dimensional offense centers on RB Frank Gore, who leads the team in rushes and receptions. The Birds of Prey should swoop down on the hapless Gold Miners with enough speed to make them spit out their beans and coffee.

Woody’s Winner: Atlanta

FACT: Atlanta is back to winning games on the ground. The Falcons have run the ball 120 times so far this season, 34 more than the next-closest NFC team.

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Indianapolis (2-1) @ Jacksonville (1-2)

Through 3 games, the Jacksonville defense has allowed 16 passing plays of at least 20 yards. That’s a downright scary statistic considering that the team has to face Peyton Manning this week. The QB already has one 400-yard passing game this season, and an “Indy 500” isn’t out of the question. The Colts have shoes, so they don’t really need to change tires, but if they decide to do so, they’ll have Jax to make the job a whole lot easier.

Woody’s Winner: Indianapolis

FACT: Jacksonville is 4-4 on field goal attempts this year, all of them from 40+ yards.

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Houston (2-1) @ Oakland (1-2)

The Texans are 4-1 all-time vs. the Raiders, but Houston’s defense has allowed almost 7 yards per play, and their O-line has allowed 11 sacks over three games. This Sunday, Houston heads out to Oakland, whose kicking machine has been misfiring recently. Sebastian Janikowski is 2-for-6 on field goals of 40+ yards, and a miss last week cost the team a win at Arizona. The Men in Black will hold their own at home against the Schaub-Foster-Johnson trio, but won’t be able to pull out a W.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: Oakland has committed a league-leading 33 penalties this season for a league-leading 290 yards.

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Washington (1-2) @ Philadelphia (2-1)

The Eagles are 2-0 on the road but lost at home, so Michael Vick and his High-Fliers are hoping to treat the fans at Lincoln Financial to some Redskin Ragoût  in Week 3. Washington’s defense has allowed an NFL-most 424 yards per game this season, and that average isn’t going to shrink against the Philly offensive juggernaut. The Redskins seem to play well against strong teams but lose to weaker ones. Luckily for the City of Brotherly Love, their squad falls in the former category.

Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia

FACT: Washington has converted only 6 of 33 third-down attempts this season, for an NFL-worst 18 percent.

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Arizona (2-1) @ San Diego (1-2)

Down 17-0 last week after Seattle’s Leon Washington opened the second half with a 101-yard KO return for a touchdown, the Chargers fought back to tie the score. But then a second KO-return TD for Washington (this one only 99 yards) left San Diego with its second loss. Still, the Bolts’ offense leads the NFL with 461 yards a game, so victories are imminent. It would be a Cardinal sin to let Arizona’s winning record fool you, as their victories have come against St. Louis and Oakland. Expect the California Current Company to deal the Cards a bad hand in the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium this week.

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: Malcom (yes, he spells it that way) Floyd has gained 240 yards on 12 receptions this season, each of them for a first down.

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Chicago (3-0) @ N.Y. Giants (1-2)

The Bears’ up-front defense has held opponents to only 2.1 yards per rushing attempt this season, and if they can keep that up against New York, they’ll force Eli Manning to throw the pigskin. This worries fans of the G-Men, since their QB has thrown 6 interceptions, succumbed to 7 sacks, and 2 lost fumbles so far in 2010. Unless he plays better, Goldilocks will end up clinging to Jack’s beanstalk as some fearsome Bears climb up and knock a few Giants out of the clouds.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Chicago

FACT: The Bears are the only NFC team yet to score a rushing touchdown this season.

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New England (2-1) @ Miami (2-1)

New England’s opponents are 4-of-4 on fourth-down conversions in 2010, and Miami is just the type of team to take advantage of that statistic. The Patriot defense is as spotty as a Dalmatian, and the Dolphins will spout enough water to put out the musket fire. It was a little over two years ago that the Fish unleashed the “Wildcat” formation on an unsuspecting bunch of Pats. It’ll be interesting to see what tricks they pull out of their blowholes on Monday Night Football.

Woody’s Winner (in a mild upset): Miami

FACT: The Pats lead the league with 90 points through 3 games, but they’ve needed every one of those scores, since their shaky defense has allowed 82 points during that span.

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BYE: Kansas City (3-0), Dallas (1-2), Minnesota (1-2), Tampa Bay (2-1)

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Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, but please be cordial to others; this is all in good fun. Thanks!

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Pop Culture
The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
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Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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