Thursday, October 1, 2015

NFL Picks Week Four: Is there a Ralph Around Here?

Ladies and gentlemen, much like my beloved New York Mets, I am in the midst of a drought. Much like my beloved Mets, that drought will end this month. Now, I'm not really naive enough to think my drought, which is all of nine months, is as significant as the Mets' which has lasted nine years, but I'm as excited for mine to end this weekend as I am for the Mets' to end on October 9. Ok, that's not entirely true, but it is enough nines to make Herman Cain proud. Except this is marginally more sensible.

Look, here's the point. I started this blog several years ago with the stated intentions of chronicling my irrational goal of seeing every sports team in the four major North American sports leagues play a home game. Unfortunately, there aren't enough teams, enough trips or enough money in my bank account to have a new adventure ready for posting each week, so I have often verged into other topics. Even as I've done that, however, I have still managed to make progress on my goal, typically matching or exceeding my ideal pace of six new teams per year for the next three decades or so.

Then 2015 came.

This year has been slowed by several other commitments, be they vacations, visiting family abroad or still being stuck in that brutal stretch in which everyone you know is getting married. I have capitalized on this to some extent, finally seeing my beloved Saints for the first time when I stayed with my sister in London and experiencing the insanity of Japanese sporting culture as I made a mid-summer trek around the globe. I even managed to combine a wedding in California this past June with trips to see the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's.

The catch here is that none of these teams were both in North America nor teams I had never seen before. In fact, the last time I ventured outside my sports comfort zone within the lower 48 was way back on December 7, 2014 when I watched the Giants pulverize 22 homeless men masquerading as the Tennessee Titans. Since then it's been nothing but watching the same teams I always watch, and if you happened upon a Devils or Knicks game last season you know that can't be a good thing.

This weekend, however, that all changes as I board an early-morning bust tomorrow to beautiful...Buffalo, New York? Yeah, that's right. And given what New York City seems to be in for this weekend, it appears, for once, Buffalo might have been the right choice as far as weather is concerned.

In any event, I will be following unpredictable and confusing Giants to western New York for their octennial visit to Ralph Wilson Stadium for Sunday afternoon's showdown of two teams with no real rivalry to speak of despite one very significant piece of shared history. There isn't much else to say between the two franchises considering they only play once every four years. The Giants did clinch a postseason berth in their last trip to Buffalo eight years ago, but given that it's just the first weekend of October that won't be happening this time.

What will be happening, however, is a firsthand experience of spending the afternoon with what is supposed to be one of the most passion fan bases in the NFL, and arguably the best at tailgating. Two days before that I will be seeing the future of American hockey, Jack Eichel, as he plays in a preseason game with the Sabres against the Columbus Blue Jackets. While I have been to First Niagara Center before, I have not actually seen the Sabres play a game at home. So, two teams knocked out in one weekend, right?

Well... I'm not so sure. The past day has left me contemplating the dilemma that a preseason game may not qualify for the purposes of this adventure, and opinions around the office and among my friends are split. Ultimately, I will have to make an executive decision on this that may or may not be largely influenced by how frequently I go to Buffalo. Either way, at least one team is getting crossed off the list this weekend, and they host my team far less frequently than their neighbor, so I'm going to consider the trek a productive one regardless.

Also, they have wings there. I hear they're good at them.

Last week: 10-6-0
Season: 25-22-1

Baltimore (-2.5) over PITTSBURGH
NY Jets (-1) over MIAMI
ATLANTA (-6.5) over Houston
NY Giants (+6) over BUFFALO
CHICAGO (-2.5) over Oakland
Kansas City (+4) over CINCINNATI
INDIANAPOLIS (-9) over Jacksonville
Carolina (-3) over TAMPA BAY
Philadelphia (-3) over WASHINGTON
Cleveland (+7.5) over SAN DIEGO
DENVER (-6.5) over Minnesota
ARIZONA (-6.5) over St. Louis
Green Bay (-8.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
NEW ORLEANS (off) over Dallas
SEATTLE (-9.5) over Detroit

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