PlayBook: Another Sunday In America

By Fraser Lockerbie

We shipped the Patriots across the great divide to play football in a foreign land. Plus this week's NFL lines.

“It’s not really a football crowd…it’s random. If I’m talking to somebody and you hear the crowd go crazy, you think something has happened, but’s that’s their cheer or chant or whatever it is.”

Maybe. Or maybe Bill Belichick can’t quite remember what a real football crowd sounds like. It has after all been a while since he’s heard one, and it seems entirely possible that, given his team’s stilted 4-3 record and tendency towards cutting things a little too close for comfort this season, he’s simply forgotten what the noise made by an all-consumed rabble of rabid football fans sounds like.

That could be it. Or it could be that Bill Belichick is just a filthy old hoodie-bound curmudgeon with absolutely nothing nice to say about anybody at all. Whatever it is, we can say for certain that something is amiss with the Patriots; something is definitely rotten in New England. They used to be what we might call one of football’s natural forces and a king bitch buzzkill to play on cold nights when the snows start to fall, but now they seem soft, adversely affected by some sort of crippling neurological disorder that causes them to forget for minutes at a time what it is exactly that they are doing or where they are and how they even got there in the first place. They can no longer discern the meaning of fourth and goal, and after the snap Tom Brady sometimes just stands in a stoned silence, looking around all wide-eyed and confused by the succeeding noise and calamity, and then, after a few seconds, when he realizes that he’s holding some kind of large leather egg in his hands, calmly places it at his feet and sits cross-legged in the grass, waiting on this strange new world to open up and explain itself. 

Mmm. That is not the kind of abstract behavior you want to see regularly from your future Hall of Fame Quarterback; some level of confusion and disorder can be expected and even tolerated from the ugly 300-pound mutants manning the O-Line, but when your field general is routinely caught off guard, lost in a hardwired daze and unfamiliar with his once well-known surroundings, well, things tend to fall apart fast; top-10 teams can fall to 4-3…

But as of this writing, no one with any close ties to the Patriots camp seems to be in a position to explain this troubling turn of events. Team doctors say they are running a series of random, around-the-clock “reality-challenging” tests and hazmat teams are sweeping the vents around Foxboro for signs of deadly foreign spores blowing in through the air ducts. Tom Brady is tied at all times to a fantastic orgy of beeping monitors and machines, and to help stop the spread the NFL has quarantined the whole desperate team on a small, densely populated island in the North Atlantic with the only other organization that has shown signs of definitive symptoms: the St. Louis Rams.

But outside this bad rash of lewd and debilitating football afflicting New England, all else seems to be fine in the world; the Texans are 6-1 and the Packers are on the rise. The Bears are back to their winning ways and the Bills are on a bye. It’s almost Sunday in America and we can sleep easy knowing New England is 3000 miles away.

This Week’s Lines:

New England (-7) over St. Louis

The Patriots and the Rams will appease the London crowds, used to scoreless draws, by employing a newly devised system of exclusively lateral passes. New England will win when Brandon Lloyd, seeing this as his opportunity to finally do something useful this season, breaks ranks and runs 100 yards down field for a touchdown, infuriating the drunk English crowd who, seeing the score for the first time, simply can’t remember when the Patriots scored six goals.

San Francisco (-7) over Arizona

Vegas lines will take a little while to adjust to Arizona’s early season surge. Take advantage while you can.

New Orleans (+6) over Denver

The over in this game is 56 and will be surpassed, perhaps by a lot. A 31-34 shootout is a realistic, even tempered, expectation.

Chicago (-7.5) over Carolina

Cam Newton has struggled to connect with his receivers against lesser defenses than Chicago. To make matters worse, Brian Urlacher awaits any quarterback with a sneaky eye for the end zone. And those are the only two tricks Carolina knows, so…

Washington (+4.5) over Pittsburgh

Washington is going to be pushing Pittsburgh to keep up offensively, and up to now they’ve done little to indicate they can play that kind of game. That and Washington seems like the kind of team that would toy with .500 before nose-diving to a disappointing 6-10.

Seattle (+2.5) over Detroit

Seattle’s cornerbacks are 10 feet tall; if Matthew Stafford plays anything like he did this past Monday, thinking he’s going to throw over or behind them to be safe, he’s in for a rude awakening.

Atlanta (+3) over Philadelphia

Vegas seems inclined to keep giving the Eagles the benefit of the doubt so we’re inclined to take the points against them.

San Diego (-3) over Cleveland

Norv Turner needs this win to avoid looking like a complete idiot in his final season in San Diego.

Quick Slants: Giants (-2) over Dallas, Indianapolis (+2.5) over Tennessee, Oakland (+1.5) over Kansas City, Miami (+2.5) over New York, Green Bay (-15) over Jacksonville.

Last Week: 8-2-2

Overall: 56-37-4

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