Week 16 picks: Hazardous to our health?

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Jim Vallet and Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

As I have aged, the number of times I go to some doctor has increased dramatically. And, I hate going to any doctor. Although I understand the need to stay on top of my own health, my perception of the indignity of a doctor visit combined with the possibility of the discovery of a serious medical problem make me dread my increasing number of visits to health professionals. I go only because I believe that it is the best thing for me.

This time, all is well. In medical terms, that means all tests were negative, including my brain scan (not sure how to react to that). As I was dancing my way out of the office, I vowed yet again to lead a more healthy lifestyle. I will drink less beer. I will exercise more. I will wear a hat and sunscreen (at least spf 30) whenever I venture into the sun’s rays. I will go to bed earlier. I won’t worry about bad drivers. I will read material other than comic books.

Why is it that I have to make myself do what’s best for me, and why would I ever indulge in behaviors that are bad for me? Why would I ever indulge in anything that is, or even could be, hazardous to my health?

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It’s not just me. Why would anyone, with what we know today, smoke? My mother was a very intelligent woman, but she smoked until the day she died of lung cancer. Unlike anti-vaxers, she never tried to say that she heard of some doctor or guy on TV that claimed smoking was ok. She took all the blame upon herself, but continued to indulge in her deadly vice until her deadly vice killed her. Why would anyone put anything in his body when he knows it very well might be laced with a lethal dose of fentanyl? Is there any excuse for being morbidly obese that isn’t far outweighed by the risks? Why do I daily see people driving far too fast for the conditions? How can anyone justify sitting under a sunlamp to get a sun tan?

Sadly, I have another. Why would parents allow their sons to play football?

I played football and both my sons played football, and we are all fine, I hope. But there is simply way too much research that shows playing football at any level exposes the player to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Also, the longer a player plays football, the greater the chance of the disease. There is no research at all that counters this. The only argument I have heard is the old, “I played, and I’m ok” argument. This argument makes about as much sense as trying to argue it’s ok to cross the street without looking because you do it, and haven’t been hit yet. We know there’s a strong correlation between playing football and developing CTE, we just don’t know why some guys get it and others don’t yet. 

Sunday night, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wideout Chris Godwin tore his ACL when he was hit by a legal low hit after catching a pass. NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL All-Pro receiver, stated that he, in spite of new NFL rules against high hits against defenseless receivers, would rather be hit around the head than around the knees because his speed was his livelihood. Former NFL great receiver and certain NFL Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald Jr. later echoed those same thoughts.

With all due respect to Collinsworth and Fitzgerald…WHAT??!! Although I know that a slow wide receiver means NFL stands for, “Not For Long”, you’d rather lose your brain function than your speed? Although it’s a “Sophie’s Choice” that I would never want to make, to me (not a former NFLer) it’s just no contest.

In spite of all the new NFL rules designed to make the game safer for the players, the problem is that football is simply inherently dangerous, and I don’t see any way to change that without making it flag football. We now know that a player can get a serious head injury without ever being hit in the head. The helmet is not really the issue, the rules are not the issue, how a player hits, although a factor, is not the big issue. If there are no high hits (which can never be completely banned) you can still get a serious head injury by playing football.

So, how can I justify watching (and enjoying) all levels of football? I don’t know. Like Barack Obama, who watches and enjoys football but struggles with the dangers, I guiltily watch and enjoy. Just like knowing people makes it harder to hate them, knowing the dangers of football makes me feel guilty. I guess if watching someone else smoke was fun, it would be the same thing.

Well, now I feel like one of the big tobacco companies, because I’m actually making money watching, and betting, world class athletes as they shorten their life spans. Although I think it’s harder to pick NFL winners than make cigarettes. Here are my picks for this week, against the point spread. Lines are from sportsline.com on Tuesday, Dec. 21.

Tennessee Titans (+3 ½) vs. San Francisco 49ers The Niners are hot, but take the points and the home team on a Thursday night.

Indianapolis Colts (+1) at Arizona Cardinals Momentum…

Atlanta Falcons (-4) vs Detroit Lions The Falcons beat bad teams and lose to good ones. In spite of their win last week, the Lions are…I can’t make myself say it.

New York Jets (-2 ½) vs Jacksonville Jaguars 

Los Angeles Rams (-3) at Minnesota Vikings I think the Rams are getting it together at just the right time

New England Patriots (-2 ½) vs Buffalo Bills

Last week 4-2

Season 46-40

Robert’s picks

North Texas (+2 ½) over Miami-Ohio: When 84 teams qualified for 41 bowl games, the powers that be hastily arranged this game so there wouldn’t be two bowl eligible teams left home for the holidays. That literally means that these are the two worst teams, or at least, the last two teams chosen, in a bowl game. Both of these teams are 6-6, but I think I do see an edge in this matchup. Two actually. For one, after starting the season 1-6, North Texas has won five in a row, including a win over Texas-San Antonio, which went 12-1 and won the Conference USA championship. That winning streak, not coincidently, started when the Mean Green stopped passing so much and leaned more in its rushing attack, which finished ninth in the country averaging 245.9 yards per game. Miami, meanwhile, allowed 303 yards rushing in its last game to Kent St. Also, this game is played in Frisco, Texas, about 18 miles form North Texas’ campus in Denton. Word is the school sold out its allotment of tickets, while Miami was 1-6 on the road. Seems to me the wrong team is favored.

Nevada (+6 ½) over Western Michigan: This is in no way one of my stronger bets of the season, but it’s one I need to have a peanut on just on principle. Nevada originally opened -6 ½, but the line has moved 13 points because Jay Norvell and most of his offensive staff are now at Colorado St., and Carson Strong, Romeo Doubs, Cole Turner and a bunch of other players have opted out or transferred. Still, a 13-point line move is more than I can pass up. Nevada certainly won’t be as explosive without Strong and Doubs, and with inexperienced Nate Cox starting. I think it’s possible we could see Drew Scolari get some snaps, but more importantly, I think Nevada leans on Toa Taua and Devonte Lee in the running game. Nevada hasn’t run the ball much this season, but has been effective in the few instances when they’ve gotten serious about running it. I think they cobble enough together and have enough spirit to turn this game into a fight.

Minnesota (-4 ½) over West Virginia: West Virginia games this season have followed a simple pattern – the Mountaineers win when Leddie Brown runs for 100 yards, and they lose when he doesn’t. Guess what? Brown opted out of this game. Maybe someone else will run for 100 yards for the Mountaineers, but I’ll take my chances. Minnesota, meanwhile, hasn’t had any players opt out, and after the team opted out of playing in a bowl game in 2020 because of COVID-19, they seem absolutely thrilled to be playing in this game in Phoenix. Aside from that, Minnesota’s defense was one of the best in the country, holding eight of their foes under 20 points. A motivated team, with a dominant defense and a senior leader at quarterback against a hampered foe. Sign me up.

Cardinals (-1) over Colts: In the any given Sunday NFL, no team beating another is inexplicable. But the Cardinals losing the way they did to the Lions last week was inexplicable. But I like to bet on good teams that got embarrassed the week before, and as an added plus, we get the Colts going on the road after a satisfying home win. It was obvious in the second half of last weeks game the Colts coaches didn’t trust Carson Wentz to throw the ball. When you have Jonathan Taylor you can do that, but if you get behind, that’s not going to cut it. Wentz is going to have to make some plays in this one, but I think Kyler Murray will make more.

Bills (+2) at Patriots: The Patriots borrowed their game plan from Army when they beat the Bills on Monday night two weeks ago. But even in that game, the Bills had their chances and just couldn’t punch it in the end zone. I’m high on Mac Jones as an NFL quarterback prospect, but he showed last week he isn’t yet ready to carry a team. I think the Bills will put him in that position and they’ll get revenge for that loss two weeks ago.

Ravens (+3) at Bengals: Even though I won on the Bengals last week, consider me completely unconvinced about them. Plus, the Ravens are going to make a two-point conversion eventually, right?

Last week

College 1-1

NFL 2-0

Season

College 29-23-1

NFL 17-12

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