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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 8

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NFL WEEK EIGHT

What I've learned through seven weeks of NFL play this season:

  • Buffalo will win a few games before the season's over
  • Oakland will become a contender over the next three years
  • Teams have figured out how to beat New Orleans
  • Dallas has leadership issues and needs veteran help
  • It's no fun for anyone when games are blacked out
  • Tennessee is good enough to reach the Super Bowl
  • Any team can beat any other team on any given week

There are no particularly potent slices of brain food on that list, I know. But you have to admit, it's been a wild season thus far in several regards. Last week's 7-7 record brings me to 56-48 overall, but I know I'll ruin things with the number of upsets I've predicted for Week 8. When the games pan out, I'll either look like a fool, or I'll look like a lucky fool. Let's find out:

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Green Bay (4-3) @ N.Y. Jets (5-1)

The New Meadowlands will be awash in a Sea of Green this Sunday as the Packers and Jets compare notes on how lucky they both are to have “moved on” from the Brett Favre days. New York has only allowed 12 QB hits this season, compared to 20+ for every other NFL team, so the Pack pass rush won’t have much effect. Both teams sport capable pass defenses, but Gotham can run the ball, and plans to do so early and often to control the line of scrimmage. If Aaron Rodgers can toss a few aerial bombs to keep the 747s at bay, he just might be able to shut down the airport. Too bad George Kennedy is a Jets fan.

Woody’s Winner: New York

FACT: The Packers have never beaten the Jets on the road.

Please click "more" to see my picks for the dozen other games scheduled for Week 8!

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Denver (2-5) @ San Francisco (1-6)

The last thing both the Broncos and 49ers needed at this point in the season was a distraction. Denver gave up 59 points last week – at home – while San Francisco’s QB went down in a loss to punchless (and previously winless) Carolina. So let’s send these two teams across the Atlantic to London to play at Wembley Stadium in front of a bunch of fans yelling things like “Sissies wear pads!” and “Wot’s up with the funny-shaped ball?” The Golden Gate guys are just trying to stay afloat, while the Mile High men could still salvage their season. That glimmer of hope, and the anger of last week’s embarrassing show, will make all the difference for Denver.

Woody’s Winner: Denver

FACT: In 1989, the 49ers shellacked the Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.

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Jacksonville (3-4) @ Dallas (1-5)

The Cowboys’ offense has racked up plenty of yardage this season, but mistakes regularly keep them out of the end zone. The solution is to crank out a few long plays, and QB Jon Kitna will have that opportunity against a Jaguars defense that has allowed more 20+ yard pass plays (28 of them) than any other team in the NFL. While Cowboys Stadium is gorgeous, the home team is 0-3 there this season, and it’s sure deafening when 100,000 fans boo in unison. As long as the Silver can contain RB Maurice Jones-Drew, they have no reason to lose this game. But that hasn’t mattered so far this season, has it? Still…

Woody’s Winner: Dallas

FACT: Jacksonville’s QBs have thrown more interceptions (11) than anyone else in the AFC.

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Miami (3-3) @ Cincinnati (2-4)

The notion that this Flipper-vs.-Fluffy matchup involves two middle-of-the-road teams all but guarantees an exciting game. Both squads hope to recover from Week 7 games that they could have (and should have) won. With a tough second-half schedule looming, the Bengals are happy to be playing in the friendly confines of Paul Brown Stadium. But Miami is 3-0 on the road in 2010, and they’d just as soon keep that streak alive. In a surprise, the salt-water Dolphins will thrive in the muddy Ohio River this Sunday.

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

FACT: Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, the Bengals are 3-12 against the Dolphins. Cincinnati has, however, won the teams’ two most recent matchups (in 2004 and 2007).

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Carolina (1-5) @ St. Louis (3-4)

Some questioned how much St. Louis had improved following Week 5’s debacle in Detroit, but the team’s other three losses have come by a combined 7 points. Carolina comes to town with the league’s lowest-scoring offense, and it looked like they went all-out to garner a 3-point win vs. the hapless 49ers last week. Despite having surgery on a broken ring finger earlier this week, Rams RB Steven Jackson vows to play in this game. He won’t put a Super Bowl ring on that finger this year, but with that sort of determination, it may not take long.

Woody’s Winner: St. Louis

FACT: The Panthers have won their last four games against the St. Louis Rams (including a 2003 playoff matchup).

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Washington (4-3) @ Detroit (1-5)

Last season, the Lions squeaked by the 'Skins 19-14 at Ford Field, but that was against QB Jason Campbell. His replacement, Donovan McNabb, has torched the Detroit secondary in his career, completing 50 of 68 passes (73.5%) for 6 TDs without an interception. His skill set should allow D.C. to outlast Motown, provided they don’t fall behind too far. QB Matthew Stafford makes his heralded return for the Cats after a Week 1 injury, and had a bye week to prepare, but is he up to speed? I picked the Lions to win once this season, and they did. They’re slightly favored here, but I’m no fool.

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

FACT: The Redskins are the only NFC team that hasn’t attempted to “go for it” on fourth-down this season; not surprising, since they’re worst in the NFC on third down (converting only 25 percent).

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Buffalo (0-6) @ Kansas City (4-2)

These long-time rivals faced off in the 1966 AFL Championship, in which KC earned a spot in the very first Super Bowl (where they were unceremoniously disposed of by Vince Lombardi’s Packers). The Chiefs hope to tan some Buffalo hide when the Bills rumble into Arrowhead Stadium in Week 8. Kansas City feasts on the NFL’s dregs, with all 4 of their wins coming against teams with a combined 8-20 record. The Buffs have hung tough against some of the AFC’s best (notably New England and Baltimore) and if their defense ever shows up, they’ll win a game this season. But not this week.

Woody’s Winner: Kansas City

FACT: The Chiefs’ stellar running game averages a league-leading 176.5 yards per game.

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Tennessee (5-2) @ San Diego (2-5)

Fifty years ago, these two franchises (then in Houston and Los Angeles) met in the AFL’s first title game. The Oilers won, proving that petroleum had an advantage over electricity back in 1960. It’s 2010 now, however, and the buzzword is “hybrid.” In the NFL, this means that, in order to win, you have to play defense AND run the ball. (Just ask Dallas, Detroit, and Denver.) RB Chris Johnson and the Titan offense has picked up steam to become the second-highest-scoring team in the NFL, and that’s advantage enough for them to leave the Chargers looking for a place to plug themselves in.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Tennessee

FACT: The Chargers last lost to the Titans franchise in 1992 (when they were still the Houston Oilers).

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Minnesota (2-4) @ New England (5-1)

I’ve heard a few fans grumble that Brett Favre rises slowly from hits – and feigns aches after games – just to make his return the following week appear all the more amazing. A twice-broken heel can’t feel good for anybody, and while the league’s oldest starting QB is still a tough competitor, some time off might be best for Minnesota. The Vikes do need to stir up some excitement (whether it’s orchestrated or not), but they’ve got to win games along the way. Will this be the week that Favre’s record of 315 consecutive games comes screeching to a halt? It matters not to the powerful Patriots, where business as usual will result in a victory at Foxboro.

Woody’s Winner: New England

FACT: The Patriots’ defense is last in the league in opponent pass completion percentage (70) and opponent third-down conversion percentage (49).

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Seattle (4-2) @ Oakland (3-4)

Oakland is 1-2 against the NFC West this season, and finishes off the division when the Seahawks fly south this Sunday. After scoring only 9 points in Week 6, the Raiders shocked everyone last week by hanging 59 points on the Broncos. They won’t have that kind of success against Seattle’s solid run defense, but may have to worry about their own. The one-two punch of Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch will take the pressure off QB Matt Hasselbeck. Black-clad fans will sit with mouths agape by the time the ‘Hawks fly off over the horizon with eye patches in their beaks, swatches of silver in their talons, and a “W” where it counts.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Seattle

FACT: The home team has won the 9 previous games in this matchup.

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Tampa Bay (4-2) @ Arizona (3-3)

So far this season, the Cardinals have won one week and lost the next. They were defeated at Seattle last week, so it’s “win” week, right? Not so fast. The return of Arizona WR Steve Breaston should help rookie QB Max Hall, but pass defense is one thing (perhaps the one thing) at which the Buccaneers excel. The Redbirds haven’t been performing well on either side of the ball, and their inconsistency is bound to catch up with them. I’m predicting that this will happen in Week 8.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Tampa Bay

FACT: The Cardinals have fallen to last in the league in passing yards (172.5) and total yards (237.8) per game.

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Pittsburgh (5-1) @ New Orleans (4-3)

With 3 interceptions and 2 fumbles returned for TDs, opponents have feasted on Saints mistakes this season. The Steelers arrive in town in this contest between the two most recent Super Bowl winners, and they want to add to those numbers in the worst way. Pittsburgh’s powerhouse defense can stop a team’s rushing game in its sleep – which is how Nawlins runs – so they’ll turn their attention to the passing game. Sadly, for the home fans, QB Drew Brees won’t make much of a ruffle in the Steel Curtain.

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: The Steelers have completed only 86 passes this season (fewest in the NFL) but have averaged 8.7 yards per completion (second-best in the league).

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Houston (4-2) @ Indianapolis (4-2)

In Week 1, the Texans surprised the Colts in Houston, but it will be a tough order to repeat that success this Monday night in Indianapolis. While Peyton Manning’s iron-man streak continues, Indy’s offense has lost several playmakers. The team’s leading RB (Joseph Addai), WR (Austin Collie) and TE (Dallas Clark) are all out. This trio has accounted for 12 of the offense’s 18 TDs this season. The Colts are 8-1 on MNF since 2003, but the luck in their horseshoes might have finally fizzled. If the Texans can control the ball, they’ll prove that their season-opening victory wasn’t just a cow patty.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Houston

FACT: The Colts have not played in a regular-season overtime game since 2004 (87 consecutive games).

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BYE: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia.

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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
Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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entertainment
9 Things You Might Not Know About 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
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Even by the standards of pro wrestling and its exaggerated personalities, there’s never been anyone quite like Randy “Macho Man” Savage (1952-2011). A staple of WWE and WCW programming in the 1980s and 1990s, Savage’s bulging neck veins, hoarse voice, and inventive gesticulations made him a star. Check out some facts in honor of what would’ve been Savage’s 65th birthday.

1. HE WAS ORIGINALLY A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER.

Born Randall Poffo in Columbus, Ohio, Savage’s father, Angelo Poffo, was a notable pro wrestler in the 1950s, sometimes wrestling under a mask with a dollar sign on it as “The Masked Miser.” If that was considered the family business, Savage initially strayed from it, pursuing his love of baseball into a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals farm team as a catcher directly out of high school. Savage played nearly 300 minor league games over four seasons. After failing to make the majors, he decided to follow his father into wrestling.

2. A HAWAIIAN WRESTLER INSPIRED HIS FAMOUS TAGLINE.

In 1967, a then-15-year-old Savage accompanied his father to a wrestling event in Hawaii. There, he saw island grappler King Curtis Iaukea deliver a “promo,” or appeal for viewers to watch him in a forthcoming match. Iaukea spoke in a whisper before bellowing, punctuating his sentences with, “Ohhh, yeah!” That peculiar speech pattern stuck with Savage, who adopted it when he began his career in the ring.

3. HIS MOM GAVE HIM THE “MACHO MAN” NICKNAME.


By John McKeon from Lawrence, KS, United States - Randy "Macho Man" Savage, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

According to Savage, his wrestling nickname didn’t come from the Village People song but from an article his mother, Judy, had read in Reader’s Digest announcing that “macho man” was going to be a hot term in the coming years. She mailed it to Savage along with a list of other possible names. Even though neither one seemed to know what a “macho man” was, Savage liked the sound of it. His stage name, Savage, came from Georgia promoter Ole Anderson, who thought Savage’s grappling style was ferocious.

4. HE SCARED OTHER WRESTLERS.

In the early 1980s, Savage’s father had started promoting his own regional shows in the Lexington, Kentucky area. To draw publicity, Savage and the other wrestlers would sometimes show up to rival shows threatening grapplers and offering up wagers that they could beat them up in a real fight. Once, a Memphis wrestler named Bill Dundee pulled a gun on Savage, who allegedly took it away from him and beat him with it. After his father’s promotion closed up, Savage landed in the WWF (now WWE), giving him a national platform.

5. JAKE THE SNAKE’S PYTHON PUT HIM IN THE HOSPITAL.

One of Savage’s recurring feuds in the WWE was with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, a lanky wrestler who carried a python into the ring with him and allowed the reptile to “attack” his opponents. To intensify their rivalry, Savage agreed to allow Roberts’s snake to bite him on the arm during a television taping after being assured it was devenomized. Five days later, Savage was in the hospital with a 104-degree fever. Savage lived, but the snake didn’t; it died just a few days later. “He was devenomized, but maybe I wasn’t,” Savage told IGN in 2004. 

6. HE PLANNED HIS MATCHES DOWN TO THE SECOND.

While outcomes may be planned backstage, the choreography of pro wrestling is left largely up to the participants, who either talk it over prior to going out or call their moves while in the ring. For a 1987 match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, Savage wanted everything to be absolutely perfect.

“We both had those yellow legal tablets, and we started making notes,” Steamboat told Sports Illustrated in 2015. “Randy would have his set of notes and I would have mine. Then we got everything addressed—number 1, number 2, number 3—and we went up to number 157. Randy would say, ‘OK, here is up to spot 90, now you tell me the rest.’ I would have to go through the rest, then I would quiz him. I’d never planned out a match that way, so it was very stressful to remember everything.” The effort was worth it: Their match is considered by many fans to be among the greatest of all time.

7. HIS MARRIAGE TO MISS ELIZABETH CAUSED PROBLEMS IN THE LOCKER ROOM.

Savage’s “valet” in the WWE was Miss Elizabeth, a fixture of his corner during most of his career in the 1980s. Although they had an onscreen wedding in 1991, they had been married in real life back in 1984. According to several wrestlers, Savage was jealously guarded with his wife, whom he kept in their own locker room. Savage would also confront wrestlers he believed to have been hitting on her. The strain of working and traveling together was said to have contributed to their (real) divorce in 1991.

8. HE CUT A RAP ALBUM DISSING HULK HOGAN.

In 2003, with his best years in the ring behind him, Savage decided to pursue a new career in rap music. Be a Man featured 13 rap songs, including one that eulogized his late friend, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. But the performance that got the most mainstream attention was the title track, which dissed wrestling star Hulk Hogan. The two had apparently gotten into a rivalry after Hogan made some disparaging comments about Savage on a Tampa, Florida radio show. Whether the sentiment was real or staged, it didn’t do much to help sales: Be a Man moved just 3000 copies.

9. HE MIGHT GET A STATUE IN HIS HOMETOWN.

In 2016, fans circulated a petition to get Savage his own statue in Columbus, Ohio. The initiative was inspired by the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a monument in Columbus, and wrestling fans argue that Savage should get equal time. The mayor has yet to issue a response. In the meantime, a 20-inch-tall resin statue of Savage was released by McFarlane Toys in 2014.

See Also: 10 Larger-Than-Life Facts About Andre the Giant

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