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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 6

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NFL WEEK SIX:

Week 6 was an absolute mess, leaving prognosticators nationwide scratching their heads. My 6-8 record last week included the Giants’ upset win at Houston, but who’d have predicted Oakland over San Diego or Arizona over New Orleans? Heck, some teams – Minnesota, for instance – can do the Jekyll & Hyde thing in a single game, looking awful in the first half and awesome in the second. Still, Woody promises to do better in Week 6. Here are my picks:

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Cleveland (1-4) @ Pittsburgh (3-1)

Colt McCoy vs. Big Ben Roethlisberger. It sounds a lot like an Old West gunfight, and it may well turn out that way. The former is a rookie QB expected to make his first start for the Browns, while the latter returns for the Steelers after a four-game suspension for rustling. McCoy has a capable six-shooter of an arm, but may spend most of the day digging Steel spurs out from his hinder. Big Ben may have a bit of rust on his cannon, but he’ll knock that off in short order against that logo-less team from across the state line.

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: RB Peyton Hillis scored another TD last week, giving him one in each of Cleveland’s five games.

Click "more" to see my picks on the remaining games in Week 6.

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New Orleans (3-2) @ Tampa Bay (3-1)

These NFC South foes lie on opposite sides of the Gulf of Mexico, and they were on opposite ends of upsets last week; the Saints fell to Arizona while the Buccaneers surprised Cincinnati. Neither team can run – or stop the run, for that matter – so the outcome of this game will hinge on passing the pigskin. There, New Orleans has the edge. The Freebooters would love nothing more than to send the Canonized Crew limping back to Bourbon Street with an even record, and it could happen. Still, as defending NFL champs and spiritual beings, the Saints don’t have to worry about contracting TB.

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: The Buccaneers are 4-2 over their last six games against the Saints.

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Miami (2-2) @ Green Bay (3-2)

Two of the five combined victories these teams have posted in 2010 have come against 0-5 Buffalo (and two others against one-win teams), so neither has impressed much this season. The Pack has major injury issues on both sides of the ball, and Miami will look to take advantage of the situation Sunday at Lambeau Field. Green Bay is used to packing meat, not fish, and the slippery Dolphins may prove tough to tackle. Both teams need a win to keep pace in their respective divisions, and the coin flip goes to:

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Miami

FACT: Historically, the Dolphins won their first 8 games vs. the Packers, but Green Bay has taken 3 out of the last 4 meetings.

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San Diego (2-3) @ St. Louis (2-3)

How is it that the Chargers are #1 in the AFC in both offensive yards and defensive yards-against, but have a losing record? Turnovers. Last week, they frittered away the game to Oakland with three lost fumbles and two blocked punts. Now, the Bolts face a Rams defense that looked good before Week 5’s shellacking at Detroit. The Golden Horns will sorely miss WR Mark Clayton (out with a season-ending injury) but if San Diego continues its thunder-with-no-lightning play, they could be in for a bad storm.

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: The Chargers have never beaten the Rams in St. Louis.

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Baltimore (4-1) @ New England (3-1)

In one of Week 6’s most anticipated matchups, the Patriots host Baltimore in a battle of two of the AFC’s best teams. The Ravens have been eating clam chowder all week to prepare to face Foxboro’s league-leading scoring machine. Soup is good food, but that’s a tall order. The departure of WR Randy Moss didn’t affect New England last week, but they’ve yet to face a defense as Raven-ous as this one. Baltimore will truly have something to crow about after putting down the Red, White and Blue.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: This will be the Ravens’ fourth road game (out of 6 total games) this season.

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Kansas City (3-1) @ Houston (3-2)

After a season-opening victory at home against Indy, the Texans have lost two consecutive home games. Those same Colts became the first team to knock off the Chiefs this season, although the Kansas City defense put on a good show in the loss. Houston QB Matt Schaub has passed for under 200 yards in each of the last two games, with 2 TDs and 3 turnovers. He’ll perform better this week against an Arrowhead defense that’s among the worst in the league in passing yards allowed. Sorry about that, Chiefs.

Woody’s Winner: Houston

FACT: A win at home this week will even Houston coach Gary Kubiak’s career record to 35-35.

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Detroit (1-4) @ N.Y. Giants (3-2)

Woody picked Detroit to win last week, and they won, and that’s swell. But this game is on the road, and the Lions have not won an away game in nearly three years. The Giant trio of Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw has hit its stride the past two weeks, and New York’s defense has returned to form as well. The Lions’ wounded Pride will head into their bye week with their tails back in a more familiar position – tucked firmly between their legs. Can you say “dead cat bounce”?

Woody’s Winner: New York

FACT: Uncharacteristically, the Lions have had success on the road against the Giants, winning their last three games there (in 1994, 2000, and 2004).

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Atlanta (4-1) @ Philadelphia (3-2)

It’s birdwatching time in Philly this week when the Falcons fly in to meet the Eagles. It’s probably for the best that Michael Vick won’t start against his former team, as the Atlanta defense would undoubtedly dog his every move. Kevin Kolb has improved with each game, however, and an impressive victory over Atlanta could muddle the Eagles’ QB situation even more. In a decidedly un-avian fashion, this game will be decided on the ground, and that’s where the Red-and-Black will prove their mettle as game birds.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Atlanta

FACT: The Eagles are undefeated on the road (3-0) and winless at home (0-2) so far this season.

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Seattle (2-2) @ Chicago (4-1)

The Seahawks hope to jump-start their rushing game with newly-acquired RB Marshawn Lynch, but it’ll be a challenge to do so against Chicago’s grizzly defense. The Bears are convinced that their loss to the Giants was an aberration, and they’re not about to let any coffee-swilling ocean-birds into their den. Recovered from a concussion, QB Jay Cutler will return to the huddle in just the nick of time. In his absence, backup Todd Collins was 10 of 27 for no TDs and 5 INTs. Utterly unBearable.

Woody’s Winner: Chicago

FACT: Bears RB Matt Forte ran for 2 TDs last week. Prior to that game, Chicago had not scored a rushing TD since Week 13 of last season.

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Oakland (2-3) @ San Francisco (0-5)

Oakland played inspired football last week, scoring on a TD, FG, and safety before their game was even five minutes old. Still, the winless 49ers are favored to win against the team from right across the Bay. That’s not too surprising, considering the team went to the wire against three of the NFC’s best (the Saints, Falcons, and Eagles). Frisco RB Frank Gore has yet to hit his stride, something he should be able to accomplish against a Raider defense that couldn’t stop a run in a cheap pair of pantyhose.

Woody’s Winner: San Francisco

FACT: O.J. Simpson was a 49ers running back in 1979, the last time the team started a season 0-5.

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N.Y. Jets (4-1) @ Denver (2-3)

It’s “Orange Sunday” in Denver, as the team hopes the fans will join them in wearing orange and making Invesco Field look like a giant circus peanut. Being Jets, New York will feel at home a mile up in the air, and they’re eager to do some Bronco bustin’ in Week 6. The Jets’ ground crew will eat up the clock and force Denver to pass, which is all they do anyway. The runway will be lit-up and lined with defenders, however, and limited Horsepower just won’t cut it.

Woody’s Winner: New York

FACT: The Jets have averaged 31.5 points over their last four games, all victories.

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Dallas (1-3) @ Minnesota (1-3)

Which of these touted teams will break out of its funk this week? That’s a good question, and the answer may hinge on the availability of old number four. Minnesota QB Brett Favre is in danger of missing a start for the first time in 289 games. Despite their love for #4, some Purple fans feel that the scrambling ability of backup QB Tavaris Jackson might be just the thing to right the listing Viking ship. One team will wear stars in this game, and the other will be seeing them.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Dallas

FACT: The Cowboys and Vikings have battled each other in 20 regular season games, and each team has won 10 times.

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Indianapolis (3-2) @ Washington (3-2)

Something’s not quite right with the Colts. Peyton Manning has galloped to a great start, but the rest of the team has just trotted along without much inspiration. In Week 6, they saddle up for our nation’s capital to face the on-again, off-again Redskins. Washington fans are thrilled that their team has kept up in the tough NFC East with victories against the Eagles and Cowboys. With 6 of their next 9 games on the road, however, the Indians know a win at FedEx Field this week would put a sure-‘nuff fluff on those feathery headdresses.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Washington

FACT: In the 1960s, the Colts faced the Redskins 9 times, and won every game.

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Tennessee (3-2) @ Jacksonville (3-2)

All four teams in the AFC South have identical 3-2 records, but this matchup ensures that Week 6 won’t end that way (save for ties). Action Jacksonville will be doing the Titan-It-Up on Monday Night Football when the Music City team invades Florida, and while the Olmecs worshiped Jaguars, the Titans don’t kowtow to anybody. When the Cats look up to see the license plate of the truck that just ran over them, they’ll see that it reads “10SE.”

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: The Titans and Jaguars are two of the NFL teams whose geographic and team names begin with the same letters. Can you name the other two? (see below)

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BYE: Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati.

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ANSWER: the Bills and the Seahawks.

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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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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

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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Pop Culture
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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