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Woody's Winners, NFL Week 11

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NFL WEEK ELEVEN

We say goodbye to bye weeks in Week 11, returning to a full schedule of 16 games per week for the remainder of the 2010 NFL season. I returned to Earth with a 7-7 record last week, but a win in Thursday night’s Bears-Dolphins game brings my overall record this year to a respectable 82-63. Will the wackiness continue this week? Thursday's game was already picked (and played), so here are Woody's Winners for the Sunday and Monday games in Week 11. Enjoy!

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Green Bay (6-3) @ Minnesota (3-6)

In his 299th career regular-season game, Brett Favre faces the team he led for 16 seasons – the Green Bay Packers. Earlier this year, he lost to his former team for the first time, but the 41-year-old QB hopes to fare better at home. Meanwhile, the Cheesehead Nation needs a win to keep pace with the Bears. There’s plenty of dairyland in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, but there’s a secret most folks don’t know about the Vikings: They’re lactose intolerant.

Woody’s Winner: Green Bay

FACT: The Packers have beaten the Vikings 50 times, more often than any other NFL team. (Minnesota’s overall record against Green Bay is 47-50-1).

Please click "more" to see Woody's Winners for the remaining Week 11 NFL games.

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Washington (4-5) @ Tennessee (5-4)

The one-two punch of a loss to Detroit and a blowout (at home!) against Philly has rattled the Hog Nation. Washington will also be without the services of RB Ryan Torain, but Clinton Portis is back in action to take his place. The Titans have fizzled as well, but the LP Field crowd should help QB Vince Young and RB Chris Johnson move the ball against the Redskins’ weak defense. It wouldn't surprise me if both of these teams ended Week 11 with an even record, but Tennessee should find a way to make the 'Skins cry, even without tossing some garbage by the side of the road.

Woody’s Winner: Tennessee

FACT: The road team has won the last 3 matchups between these teams.

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Arizona (3-6) @ Kansas City (5-4)

In Week 5, the Cardinals shocked the Saints to improve their record to 3-2, and headed into their bye week with confidence. Since then, they’ve lost four straight. The Chiefs have similarly fallen, following a 3-0 start with 4 losses in their last 6 games. QB Matt Cassel threw for 469 yards last week against Denver, proving that KC can do more than run the ball, but his effort still left his team 20 points short at game’s end. The crowd at Arrowhead Stadium should help the team’s defense recover against a Cactus League squad that ranks next-to-last in yards on offense. It looks like Phoenix isn’t done flaming out quite yet.

Woody’s Winner: Kansas City

FACT: Since the Cardinals moved from Missouri to Arizona, they’ve only won 1 of 5 games against the Chiefs, their former in-state rival.

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Baltimore (6-3) @ Carolina (1-8)

Either in the regular season or the playoffs, the Ravens have defeated 31 NFL franchises, but they’re 0-3 all-time against the Panthers. Of course, Baltimore is stark Raven mad after Week 10’s last-minute loss to the Falcons, and Carolina will be the unfortunates on the hurting end of all that anger. The purple-and-black will complete their collection this week, and may even enjoy some tennis after the game. Somebody will have to find a way to recycle the Cat gut that’ll litter the field at Bank of America Stadium. 40-Love!

Woody’s Winner: Baltimore

FACT: New Carolina starting QB Brian St. Pierre has thrown only five passes in his 8-year career as a backup with the Steelers, Ravens, Cardinals, and Panthers.

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Buffalo (1-8) @ Cincinnati (2-7)

No one expected the Bengals to fall behind the Browns in the AFC North, particularly the team’s fans. Empty seats at Paul Brown Stadium mean the first Cincy blackout since 2003. Of course, it’s tough to sell tickets when your team’s biggest star refers to the upcoming home game as the “battle of the worst.” The team from Queen City has lost six in a row, but none of those by more than 8 points. But an intimidating second-half schedule (including road games vs. the Jets, Steelers, and Ravens) means that Terrell Owens has officially thrown in the towel. The Stripes will pull this one out, but at game’s end, no Buffalo will have been harmed in the making of this production.

Woody’s Winner: Cincinnati

FACT: The Bills have won 9 in a row against the Bengals, with their last loss way back in 1988.

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Detroit (2-7) @ Dallas (2-7)

The last time these two silver-and-blue teams faced one another was in Dallas in 2006. Uncharacteristically, the Lions won that game on the road, 39-31. But last week’s loss at previously-winless Buffalo has given Motown 25 consecutive losses away from home. Woody made the unforgiveable mistake of picking Detroit last week (even though they were on the road). Truth be told, it was wishful thinking from a Michigan resident who won’t make that mistake twice. Despite their surprising victory last week, the Cowboys are still in trouble, but back-to-back wins will help Jerry Jones cut back on his aspirin intake for a few days.

Woody’s Winner: Dallas

FACT: For the 2010 season, the Lions are #1 and the Cowboys #3 in the NFC in pass attempts.

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Houston (4-5) @ N.Y. Jets (7-2)

After back-to-back wins to open the season, the Texans seemed destined to turn the corner. Now, losers of 3 in a row, they want to right the ship before somebody slaps an “S.S. Poseidon” sticker on its bow. Unfortunately, that’s a lot to ask when your opponent is considered one of the AFC’s best. Let’s face it, though, the Jets have struggled since their Week 7 bye; they were shut-out at home by Green Bay, and it took overtime for them to KO the Lions and Browns. Pass defense is the Achilles ’ heel for both teams, but will that mean more to Schaub or Sanchez? The answer, my friend, is an airliner in the wind.

Woody’s Winner: New York

FACT: The Texans are 0-4 all-time vs. the Jets, and have never scored more than 14 points against New York’s defense.

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Oakland (5-4) @ Pittsburgh (6-3)

In what promises to be a must-see game, the Raiders – surprise winners of 3 straight – ramble east to face the Steelers. Pittsburgh started the season 3-0 but have lost half their games since, despite the return of QB Ben Roethlisberger. It will be interesting to see if Oakland’s power-run game can make a dent in Steeltown’s top-ranked rush defense. Last season, the Silver and Black came into Heinz Field and put a hurting on the Black and Gold. Both teams will be Black and Blue when this one’s over, but that's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) they like it. Uh-huh.

Woody’s Winner: Pittsburgh

FACT: The Steelers (4 wins) and Steelers (2 wins) combined to capture 6 of the 7 Super Bowl crowns from 1975-1981.

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Cleveland (3-6) @ Jacksonville (5-4)

The Browns don’t need to impress me any more this season. With a tough schedule, they’ve won 3 games and have been within one score of winning 4 others. Last week’s OT loss against the Jets proved that Cleveland has something special in the works. Will they be able to pull out a win this week? The Dawgs have won their last three games in Jacksonville, so it’s possible. The Jags have earned back-to-back wins, and the fans paid them back by selling out this game and preventing another local blackout. Too bad they won’t be able to do much about a Brownout.

Woody’s Winner: Cleveland

FACT: In the previous two games (both victories), Jaguars QB David Garrard has completed 41 of 52 passes for 602 yards and 6 TDs, without throwing an interception.

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Seattle (5-4) @ New Orleans (6-3)

Beyond a Week 6 win at Chicago, the Seahawks have performed very poorly against the league’s better teams, so they’re not looking forward to facing the defending Super Bowl champions in the Superdome. The Saints will be missing some important pieces, notably S Darren Sharper and TE Jeremy Shockey, but the team should benefit from the expected return of RB Reggie Bush. Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck is playing despite a broken bone in his non-throwing hand. The Bayou Boys will blitz the ‘Hawks early and often, and if they’re successful – or even if they’re not – QB Drew Brees will make it crystal clear why Nawlins is called “the Big Easy.”

Woody’s Winner: New Orleans

FACT: RB Chris Ivory leads the Saints with 78 rushes, but has yet to score a TD on the ground.

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Atlanta (7-2) @ St. Louis (4-5)

As the only NFC team with 7 victories, the Falcons feel like they’re the team to beat. But truth be told, the Rams are just the type of team that could upset Atlanta. With a solid defense and an opportunistic offense, St. Louis has held its own this season, and they’ve won four in a row at home heading into this game. If the Dirty Birds get caught looking ahead to next week’s game against Green Bay, those broken wings will make the trip back to the ATL that much harder. Still, Hotlanta has taken on all comers with beaks out, and there’ll be bleating and bleeding when all’s said and done.

Woody’s Winner: Atlanta

FACT: Four of the Rams’ last six games will be played on the road, where they’re 0-4 this season.

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Tampa Bay (6-3) @ San Francisco (3-6)

After hitting rock-bottom with a Week 7 lost at then-winless Carolina, the 49ers have recovered under new QB Troy Smith with back-to-back victories, both at home. This week, they’ll appear at Candlestick Park yet again, as the Buccaneers sail their pirate ship into San Francisco Bay. ‘Niners RB Frank Gore should have a field day against Tampa’s 31st-ranked run defense, but his solo effort won’t be enough to keep the sea-robbers from plundering all the gold in California.

Woody’s Winner: Tampa Bay

FACT: The 49ers hold a 15-3 all-time record against the Buccaneers.

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Indianapolis (6-3) @ New England (7-2)

The Patriots have been razor-sharp at Gillette Stadium this season, winning all four of their home games. While the Colts haven’t been as spectacular as in years past, they’ve quietly compiled a 6-3 record and now sit atop the AFC South. Indianapolis expects to be without RB Joseph Addai, but the game will hinge on QB Peyton Manning’s success against a shellshocked New England pass defense. If he’s recovered from his concussion, WR Austin Collie may leave the Pats wondering who Timmy is and why he fell down a well. While they’re trying to figure it out, the points will pile up against them.

Woody’s Winner (in an upset): Indianapolis

FACT: The 3 most recent games between these teams have each been decided by fewer than 5 points.

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N.Y. Giants (6-3) @ Philadelphia (6-3)

The G-Men have lost four in a row to the Eagles, and won’t have many supporters this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Last week’s loss to the Cowboys looked like a fluke, but it may have shaken their confidence. Meanwhile, Philadelphia continues to prove that they’re a better team with Michael Vick than Kevin Kolb, avenging their Week 4 loss to the Redskins by.  hanging 59 points on them last week. They won’t find that level of success against the tough New York D, of course. But what Philly’s baseball team couldn’t do to the baseball Giants will be corrected late Sunday night, and the streets of Philadelphia will rock once again.

Woody’s Winner: Philadelphia

FACT: In 2010, Eagles QB Michael Vick has thrown 11 TDs and run for 4 more. Most surprising, he’s done so without losing a fumble or throwing an interception.

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Denver (3-6) @ San Diego (4-5)

Last week, the Broncos surprised everyone by dropping a Rocky Mountain high 49 points against the Chiefs, the most they’ve scored since the AFL-NFL merger. They won the game despite allowing KC QB Matt Cassell 469 yards through the air. San Diego QB Philip Rivers could put up similar numbers, but may be without his top WR and TE as well as rookie RB Ryan Mathews. Despite back-to-back wins and statistics that are the envy of many teams, the Lightning Bolts have a losing record. But they’re only one game behind in the AFC West, and a win against a divisional opponent would improve their playoff chances. Expect a power surge at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday night.

Woody’s Winner: San Diego

FACT: This will be the 101st regular-season game between these two teams; they’ve played twice a year annually since the AFL’s premiere season in 1960.

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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 Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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retro-wrestling, eBay

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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History
Hans Schmidt, the "Nazi" Wrestler Who Incited Riots
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Courtesy of Dave Drason Byrzynski

Waiting inside the locker room of the Pioneer Memorial Stadium, The Des Moines Register reporter Walter Shotwell thought he had found a clever way to discredit a visiting professional wrestler named Hans Schmidt. Just a few days prior, on August 1, 1953, Schmidt had been seen on national television barking into a microphone using a thick German accent. He dismissed the concept of sportsmanship and vowed to “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”

In the years following World War II, a German nationalist was not likely to be cheered on anywhere in the United States, but the vitriol Schmidt encouraged was unlike anything pro wrestling had ever seen. Schmidt had fans practically frothing at the mouth, stabbing him with hairpins, waving cigarette lighters in his face, and vandalizing his car. Fearing for his safety, police would often have to escort him through angry mobs. It didn’t really seem to matter whether Schmidt was truly anti-American or just playing a role. Either one seemed egregious.

Shotwell suspected the latter. During his interview with Schmidt, he handed him a newspaper clipping and asked him to read it out loud in German. Schmidt refused, saying that Shotwell wouldn’t understand him. Looking at it closely, Schmidt could see it quoted residents of Munich, where he claimed to hail from, who said they had never heard of any Hans Schmidt.

Shotwell pushed it a little further, until Schmidt made it clear he wasn’t going to continue to play along. Had he admitted the truth—that he was not an actual Nazi, but a French-Canadian named Guy Larose—then he likely would have missed out on a career that would eventually make him one of the highest-paid and most reviled athletes in the world.

Courtesy of Dave Drason Burzynski

If pretending to be an enemy of the state was his destiny, then Larose was born at the right time. He was 24 in 1949, the year he decided to become a pro wrestler; his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had ended while he was still in training after the police and several RCMP students tried to enforce an alcohol ban on a nearby Native community and had their vehicles pummeled with baseball bats.

Eager to exploit his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame, Larose turned to wrestling. In Michigan and across Canada, he was able to book contests but found that neither his persona nor his real name was drawing a crowd.

Arriving in Boston in 1951, Larose met wrestling promoter Paul Bowser, who took one look at the stern-faced wrestler and declared that he should adopt a Nazi persona. Larose wouldn’t be the first—Kurt Von Poppenheim had already devised a similar gimmick—but he’d have an opportunity to do it on television.

At the time, ring sports like boxing and wrestling were ideal for the burgeoning medium. Cheap to produce, they could easily fill programming schedules on networks like the DuMont Television Network, a onetime rival to CBS, NBC, and a burgeoning ABC that aired grappling contests from Chicago. Although Larose—now Schmidt—had been stirring up attention prior, it was his August 1953 appearance and interview with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse that drew more disdain than usual.

After declaring “Germany has been good to me” and claiming that he believed there was no place for sportsmanship in wrestling, Schmidt was cut off by Brickhouse. With the emotional wounds of World War II still fresh, his appearance had struck a nerve. DuMont, Brickhouse would later recall, received more than 5000 angry letters from viewers who were disgusted by Schmidt. At least one viewer recommended he be deported.

Larose, however, exercised some restraint. The word “Nazi” was rarely tossed around, and he never goosestepped or carried a swastika with him. The implication of his allegiance seemed to be more than enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy, especially when he would remain seated during the National Anthem or turn his back at the sight of the American flag. He had been a motorcycle dispatcher during the war, he told journalists, and was once shot down while in a plane.

Although those details weren’t true, on many nights Larose may have felt as though he was in a war zone. Walking to the ring, he’d often be jabbed by women using their hairpins, or by men trying to singe him with their cigarettes. During matches, his “cheating”—using chairs to brain opponents, or kicking them in the groin—would draw crowds toward the ring in an effort to start a riot. At one engagement in Milwaukee, the ensuing chaos led to a brief ban on pro wrestling in the arena.

When the journalist Shotwell asked him what kind of car he drove, he hesitated. “A Lincoln,” he said. “I don’t want to describe it any more than that. I don’t want it wrecked.” He often came out of arenas to find ice picks in his tires.

Whatever argument existed about the good taste of Larose’s performance, there was no question it was lucrative. People who wished to see him get beaten in programs against the likes of Verne Gagne or Lou Thesz filled arenas. Once, special guest referee Joe Louis decked him in a staged climax. There was some kind of catharsis in watching Larose get pummeled.

Photo (C) by Brian Bukantis, www.wrestleprints.com

According to pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who inducted the Schmidt character into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2012, Larose made roughly $1 million in his 20-year career, which wound to a close in the mid-1970s. Other “foreign menaces” like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik were coming in, diversifying wrestling’s villain culture.

The kind of loathing he had drawn from the crowd remained rare in wrestling, which hates its heels but usually doesn’t attempt to stab them or burn them with fire. It wasn’t until Sergeant Slaughter turned away from his patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early '90s that emotions got a bit too heated for entertainment’s sake. The WWE (then WWF) was forced to assign security to Slaughter’s family until the act was dropped.

By that point, Larose had long been out of the spotlight, having returned home to Quebec. He died in 2012 at the age of 87, his status as one of the most infamous performers of the 20th century having been largely forgotten. Never once did he admit during his prime that he was from Canada.

“Of course I’m from Germany,” he told Shotwell. “Do you think I’d go on television and say things that weren’t true?”

Additional Sources: Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped Wrestling; The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos (C) Dave Drason Burzynski from the book This Saturday Night: Return to the Cobo, available at Wrestleprints.com. Used with permission.

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