I can remember it as though it were just the other day because, well, it really was just the other day. Early in September I wrote in this very column that I would not complain about bad beats because it made me seem ungrateful for all the good gambling fortune that came my way. Like in Week 1, when I had the Cards minus-3.5 over the Panthers and Cam Newton's last-second heroics to tie the game fell short (that game did teach me a lesson, that the Cam Door is always open, and I haven't lost playing them since.) I also had the Vikes plus-8 against the Chargers and won that wild one near the end, too. So, as a thank you to the Bugsy Siegels floating above the clouds, I promised I wouldn't share my suffering.
The truth is, I'm not much of a sharer. Years ago when I first started dating my wife, we were on a boat on a lake just a few weeks after graduating from college. It was sunny and quiet and we were at that spot in our lives when we should be contemplating our futures. I stress should have been. Clearly that is what she was doing. She looked over at me and I must have appeared contemplative, as if I was weighed down with the burden of Lincoln during the Civil War. She said to me, "Are you OK? What's happening?" I looked at her and answered, "Can I swim from here to shore?" She responded, "Wow, you really have nothing going on up there, huh?"
Now we're married and I actually am burdened. Forget the stressful job, two kids and rising costs of colleges. I spend my weekends burdened by randomness. (And 5-year-olds who refuse to listen to me when I am trying to coach them to victory on the soccer field. Just spread the freak out already. Stop running to the ball like it's a jar of honey and you're worker bees!)
And that burden is too much to bear. I must unload. Specifically I will unload on you, Steve Spurrier, who broke the hearts of many when your Gamecocks had a 14-10 lead versus Mississippi State on the last play of the game, a game in which you were a 3.5-point favorite, and you decided to take a safety. Final score: Gamecocks 14, Bulldogs 12. According to RJ Bell of pregame.com, that safety cost bettors tens of millions of dollars worldwide.
And I'd like to unload on you, Pierre Garcon. I can't figure this guy out. He can make some spectacular plays. And then he can drop the simplest catch. Or worse, he makes plays like he did on Sunday, which made him seem like, well, a 5-year-old on a soccer field. I had the Colts plus-7 versus the Bengals on Sunday as one of my Hilton SuperContest picks. I had been encouraged by the way the defense played against the Steelers a few weeks ago on Monday night. And liked what I saw when Curtis Painter handled the Chiefs for a good part of the game last weekend. I've watched the Bengals a lot too. And while their D is fantastic, their offense sputters. A touchdown in a game between two strong defenses and offenses that are inconsistent is a lot. This seemed like a no-brainer to me.
And with a little more than two minutes left, after Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed a field goal that would have put Cincy up by six. I was feeling pretty good. This is the point in the game where you start thinking of everything that can go wrong. And, after the change of possession, as Curtis Painter dropped back I thought, "Please, no pick-six." When he completed the pass, a slant to Garcon, I felt relieved. But then Garcon, trying to be a hero, struggled for more yards. And as he fell to the ground, he pulled off the kind of amateur move that would make Peyton Manning cut him before they were back on the sideline: Instead of tucking the ball away, he switched from his protected arm to his free arm and flung his arm back, as if he was trying to lateral. The ball was poked free and Bengals defensive lineman Carlos Dunlap picked it up. He zig-zagged his way through all the gloved Colts linemen who couldn't get a hold of him and scored. What was a sweet, smart cover born of good work and sound logic was undone by randomness and stupidity.
Now, when my wife asks me what I'm thinking, at least I have an answer.
The Green ZoneMany of you understand the stress I felt yesterday, as the green zone chart shows. Here's a breakdown of how many games were within the cover margin or one score outside of it in the final minutes:
As you can see, with five 1 o'clock games in the Green Zone as the clock ticked under three minutes yesterday, there were plenty of moments to curl up in the fetal position. Luckily, we can do it all again tonight.
Matchup: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Spread: Opened at Jets minus-7, now Jets minus-6.5
Over/Under: Opened at 43, now 42.5