Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TV Review - The Walking Dead Season Six (Episodes 9 & 10)


One of the more grisly scenes of The Walking Dead...

  After a 2 month hiatus AMC’s The Walking Dead resumed with the second half of season 6 on Valentine’s Day. When we last left our intrepid band of zombie apocalypse survivors they had just gone through the worst day ever. The group had split in two with leader Rick Grimes and most of the zombie hunters headed to a nearby quarry to lure the thousands of zombies trapped there away from the town while the rest of the town stayed behind the town's massive walls. The friendly confines of Alexandria were then attacked by the Wolves who killed many of the weaker residents while many of the other Alexandrians were killed when the walkers broke the containment and descended on the town, drawn by the gunfire and noise emanating from the Wolves' attack. Slowly the survivors made it back to Alexandria while the town was overrun by zombies, the last of the nefarious Wolves had kidnapped Doctor Denise, Maggie was trapped on a rickety guard tower, and the rest of the survivors were hiding in houses not yet overrun by the zombies. Rick and Carl were leading Rick’s girl Jessie and her two sons through the town after covering themselves in zombie guts to mask their smell. Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham were riding to the rescue in a tanker truck but were shanghaied by a group of bikers who told them their tanker and property belonged to ‘Negan’ (the ultimate bad guy from the comic book).

  The premiere was as action packed and tense as I would expect from such desperate circumstances although it was the most comic-booky episode I’ve seen from ‘The Walking Dead’ with gaping inconsistencies amidst the terror. In the beginning of the episode the 8 member motorcycle gang has stopped Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham. While the leader of the crew is pretty funny (he tells Abraham that “If you have to eat s**t, don’t nibble – bite chew repeat”), he sent one of his gang with Darryl to search the back of the tanker. I don’t understand why you would let any of the prisoners out of sight but if I did I would have sent at least two of my eight man army to keep an eye on Daryl. Naturally Daryl manages to soundlessly kill his guard and blow up the rest of the gang with the rocket launcher from the back of the tanker with a perfect shot even though there is no evidence that Daryl has ever seen a rocket launcher much less fired on and wouldn't at least one of the biker gang have spotted Daryl and his rocket launcher?

  The most gripping scene was when Rick and crew are covered in zombie guts and walking through the streets to get to the armory for their guns or the quarry for their vehicles. Along with series regulars Rick, Carl, Michonne, and Father Gabriel are Rick’s flame Jessie and her two children Sam and Ron. Sam seemed like a normal kid until he caught Carol stealing guns in season 5 and Carol threatened to leave him tied up outside the walls of the town so the monsters could eat him alive if he ever told. Sam may have come back from that trauma until Rick killed his father and started taking up with his mother which led Sam to never leave the upstairs of his house in the whole first half of season 6.

  Alexandra doesn’t seem like a very big town but the walk through the ‘walkers’ took so long that it started in the afternoon and continues until it is dark outside when Sam has a flashback to what Carol told him and starts whimpering which leads to the walkers noticing him and eating him alive in front of the group. Jessie looks on in horror and freezes which leads to her being devoured also with the small complication that she has Carl’s arm in a death grip and won’t let go. Rick has been flashing back to memories of Jessie but finally realizes the honeymoon is over and hacks Jessie’s arm off with his hatchet to free Carl. Seeing his brother and mother eaten and then his mother’s arm hacked off by the man who killed his father unglues Ron and he tries to shoot Rick before being gutted by Michonne’s samurai sword, inadvertently shooting Carl in the eye on one of the comic book’s signature moments. This was the most terrifying three minutes of television I’ve seen in quite a while and I’ll give the show a pass on switching to a night time scene so quickly.

  The rest of the episode featured the rescue of Maggie by Glenn and Enid, the rescue of Glenn by Abraham and Sasha, and the rescue of the town by Daryl. Each rescue was more improbable than the previous one. Enid leads Maggie from a rickety guard tower to walkway at the top of the wall which was two feet away and apparently too much for her to traverse. Glenn who diverted the walkers’ attention from Maggie found himself out of ammunition and cornered by hundreds of walkers when the walkers were gunned down by Abraham and Sasha from another walkway on the top of the fence. I don’t see how they could have missed Glenn given the closeness of the walkers and the angle of the shooters but I like Glenn and was glad to see him survive. As if that wasn’t enough Rick started trying to kill all the walkers with his hatchet and inspired the town to grab their machetes, sticks, and baseball bats and beat back the walker hordes. Then Darryl pours all the gasoline from his tanker truck into the nearby lake and sets the lake on fire with his rocket launcher. The fire makes all the walkers head to the river where they are burned alive. At the end of season two Rick set fire to a barn full of walkers but the walkers didn’t run towards the fire so I don’t know what changed in the meantime.

  The action was great even though it hokey enough to defy belief but after all it is a television show about a zombie apocalypse so I have to allow for a little creative license. But then in episode two there was even more comic book type shenanigans. As Rick and Daryl take a road trip to get supplies they find a truck full of food and have their first encounter with the character named Jesus who is one of the more popular characters from the comic books. Jesus pickpockets Rick’s (a former sheriff) truck keys and steals the truck. Rick and Daryl run after the truck for what seems like hours and catch it when the truck has some sort of flat tire. Jesus then beats the tar out of Rick and Daryl using some martial artistry but our heroes get the drop on Jesus and leave him tied up on the road while they drive off but a few miles later Jesus is on the roof of the truck. The truck ends up in the bottom of a lake while Rick and Daryl overpower Jesus and tie him up yet again and take him back to Alexandria, leaving him tied up with Daryl guarding him. The next thing we know Jesus is in Rick’s bedroom all untied and telling Rick him to wake up.

  As much as I like the Walking Dead the second half of season 6 has been a parody of itself so far with so many unbelievable escapes and moments that the zombies seem believable. The appeal of the show to me has always been that it really seemed as if this is what a zombie apocalypse would look like but I fear the show is devolving into a Saturday Night Live skit about ‘The Walking Dead’. Hopefully the remaining 6 episodes will be less hokey and show more than the occasional grittiness of the first two episodes of this half season.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Net Disaster (the down side of 'The Future Is Now' philosophy)

  George Allen was the Washington Redskins football coach in the 1970s and was known for trading his future first round draft picks for aging veterans. When asked about how he would replace the aging players in the future without draft picks, Allen said “The Future Is Now”. Allen was proven right – the Redskins had winning records all 7 years he coached them. The ‘Skins suffered only a mild drop-off when he left the team in 1978, winning half their games in the next four seasons before becoming Super Bowl champions in 1982. The secret to Allen’s success was that even though he traded his draft picks he had a keen eye for talent. The quarterback of the 1982 Redskins was Joe Theismann who Allen acquired from the Miami Dolphins in 1974 for his 1976 first round draft pick. It was a good deal for the Dolphins since Theismann was a 1971 4th round draft pick that went to the Canadian Football league and never played a down for the ‘Fins and a better deal for the Redskins who obtained a two time pro-bowler and 10 year starter for a low first round pick.

  The ‘Future is Now’ strategy is a legitimate strategy to build a championship team. The other main strategy is to build a core group of young players through the draft like the Seattle Seahawks have done. Most teams have a hybrid strategy. The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl two weeks ago with mostly drafted personnel and the free agent signings of Peyton Manning and Demarcus Ware to fill gaping holes at the quarterback and defensive line positions. No matter which strategy is adopted the key to success is being able to get quality players and being healthy at the right time for a championship run.

  In the 1970’s the Yankees epitomized the successful execution of ‘The Future Is Now’ strategy by overbidding for every top free agent on the market and won two championship with the additions of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Goose Gossage to their already playoff ready roster. The strategy was less successful in the 1980’s as the team overreached for mediocre players coming off good seasons. After building a dynasty in the late 1990’s with a youthful core group the team again went astray by overbidding for marginal all-stars like Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina as well as steroid cheated Alex Rodriguez and got to the World Series one between 2002 and 2008. A final bidding spree in 2009 (Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Johnny Damon) netted one championship but not a single World Series appearance since. Now that all major sports have a salary cap or penalties for excessive payroll (a luxury tax) the pendulum has swung towards building a core group of young players because sports teams either can’t fit more than two expensive free agents under the salary cap or eventually decide to slash salary to avoid paying the luxury tax. Since the death of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner the Yankees have been trying to cut payroll to avoid paying the luxury tax. The result has exposed their lack of player development and left them with a mediocre group of players who are either past their prime or whose prime will not be good enough to contribute to a championship team.

  In basketball, the Miami Heat turned the pendulum back to the superstar concept when they acquired superstars LeBron James, Chris Bosh, to join their own drafted superstar Dwyane Wade. This was only possible by James and Bosh taking less money than they could have gotten elsewhere in order to team up and chase a championship. The trio managed 2 championships and 4 finals appearances before James left the team to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers have assembled their own ‘big 3’ by teaming James with Kyrie Irving and trading for all-star forward Kevin Love. Love, James, and Irving all have big contracts and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has a $65 million luxury tax penalty on top of his $110 million dollar payroll. The Cavaliers surely believe the future is now and even replaced their head coach David Blatt despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference in their quest to win this year.

  In 2012 the New Jersey Nets were moving to Brooklyn's new Barclays Center Arena. The Nets were in the midst of a five year losing string which included a league worst 12-70 record in 2010 and were eager to field a competitive team in their new Brooklyn home. To that end, the Nets traded $3 million dollars, 2 first round draft picks, and promising young player Derrick Favors to the Utah Jazz for disgruntled but talented point guard Deron Williams at the end of the 2011-2012 season. In the summer of 2012 the Nets traded a batch of spare parts for Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson. Even though Johnson was a 6 time all-star his $126 million dollar contract made him the league’s highest paid player at the time and the Hawks wanted to clear salary cap space to rebuild. The Net started the season 11-3 and coach Avery Johnson was named NBA coach of the month for November. Johnson didn’t keep his job through December as the Nets lost 10 of 11 games to fall to 14-14.

  The Nets corrected their record under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, winning 35 of their final 44 games, but losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs in 7 games. This wasn’t good enough for Nets owner billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The Nets replaced Carlesimo with newly retired Jason Kidd and traded for the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the heart of the Celtics 2008 championship team. To get the pair of superstars the Nets traded 5 journeymen players, their 2014,2016, and 2018 first round draft picks and also gave Boston the right to swap 2017 draft picks with the Nets.

  Most trades for draft picks are assigned 'protection' to protect a team from losing a chance at a generational player if they should win the draft lottery. The Los Angeles Lakers traded their 2015 draft pick to Phoenix years ago but were assured of keeping it if the pick should be in the top 5. When the Lakers won the second pick in the draft they kept their pick and assigned their 2016 draft pick to Phoenix but only if it is not in the top 3 of the draft. If it is the Lakers 2017 pick has a similar top 3 protection but in 2018 their first round pick will unconditionally belong to Phoenix. The Nets probably expected their new acquisitions to lead them to top records and low draft picks so they assigned no protections to any of the picks that were traded to the Celtics.

  The 2013-2014 Nets started with a 10-21 record before catching fire once again, winning 38 of their final 51 games to finish with the 5th best record in the Eastern Conference. The Nets won their first round playoff series against the division winning Toronto Raptors but were no match for the eventual champion Miami Heat, losing in 5 games. I doubt this was the ‘Dream Team’ result Prokhorov envisioned while paying a $90 million luxury tax bill on top of the Nets’ $100 million payroll. Coach Jason Kidd demanded more organizational power and when he didn’t get it left to join the Milwaukee Bucks as their coach and main basketball mind. Pierce left as a free agent to join the Washington Wizards and the Nets were still chasing a championship. The 2014 draft pick that went to Boston was the 17th pick which Boston used to get James Young form Kentucky who has not to this point been able to stick with the team.

  The Nets entered the 2014-2015 with new coach Lionel Hollins and a vastly trimmed payroll which only cost Prokhorov and additional $19 in luxury tax payments. The team struggled to stay in the playoff chase, Garnett was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the team eventually claimed the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, losing in 6 games to the Atlanta Hawks. Heading into the 2015-2016 season, the Nets waived Deron Williams and bought out the final 2 years of his contract, leaving Joe Johnson and his unmovable contract and all-star caliber center Brook Lopez as the only two pieces left of what was hoped to be a championship team. The Nets payroll is still $13 million dollars over the salary cap and will pay another luxury tax this year. The team was not projected to be very good and have lived up to expectations with a 14-40 record that is the 3rd worst in the league. Coach Lionel Hollins was fired and long time General Manager Billy King was also relieved of his duties although King has been retained to help the job search for his successor.

  Three short years after trading three first round draft picks to the Celtics for the aging Garnett and Pierce and paying the largest luxury tax ever, the Nets have the third worst record in the league which would give them a chance at a top player in the draft IF they hadn’t traded their pick to the Celtics. Aside from being in the New York market the team is a very unattractive destination for top free agents since the Nets can’t offer more money than other teams and the prospects of winning are minimal. If the Nets are awful in 2017 the Celtics will trade first round picks with them and if the Nets are awful in 2018 the Celtics will get their pick in that year’s draft!

  It looks like the Nets will be awful for the next 5 years and it is likely but not inevitable. The key will be whether the next general manager can pick talent. The Nets have one playoff caliber player in Brook Lopez. There are always quality players that are drafted in the second round or not at all as well as ‘problem’ players that teams are dying to get rid of due to personality or character issues. If the Nets can pick up two or three quality players over the next couple of years they could be a marginal playoff team and start to attract free agents because after all it is still New York. It is an unenviable task but not impossible.

  Yesterday the Nets hired San Antonio Spurs assistant general Manager Sean Marks to be their new General Manager. This makes a lot of sense in that Marks has learned from an organization that has sustained success over two decades but makes little sense in giving the control of the franchise to someone only 5 years removed from being a player. I imagine the Nets were reduced to gambling on a first time GM since I doubt they could attract a top name general manager to take over a franchise with an active owner prone to adopting a ‘win now at all costs’ strategy. Prokhorov recently issued an open letter in which he recounted his mistakes in his ownership of the Nets and Marks thanked the Nets for the opportunity and said he looked forward to “the challenge of creating a unified culture and building a winning team”. I think the challenge will be to Marks patience and believe that as soon as he makes some progress in rebuilding this denuded franchise Prokhorov will renew his push to get a championship using the familiar ‘all-in’ strategy.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Movie Review - Pawn Sacrifice

  Pawn Sacrifice is a movie about the rise of chess player Bobby Fischer to top of the chess world, his battle with his mental instability, and the people that help him in his journey. I missed the movie for the single week it was in Marshalltown but rented it from Family Video when I left work early on New Years’ Eve.

  The movie cost 19 million dollars to make and grossed under 4 million which shouldn’t be very surprising. The movie was highly publicized by the United States Chess Federation but said organization has maybe 120,000 members most of which are children who don’t even know who Michael Jordan was much less Bobby Fischer. Even so, assuming every member took someone to the movie and paid $7 a ticket that would be less than $2 million. Since Fischer spent his last years as a certifiable nut case who praised the World Trade Center bombing I can’t imagine many people my age or older going for some sense of nostalgia.

  The movie hits all the high points of Fischer’s career from his ‘Game of the Century’ vs. Robert Byrne to becoming the (at the time) youngest grandmaster ever to his claim that the Russians make short draws with each other to concentrate their efforts against non-Russians to the climactic World Championship match against Boris Spassky. While hitting the high points the biopic also shows his unhappy childhood where he is taught to be paranoid by his indulgent Communist mother who goes so far as to move out of their apartment to give Bobby the space and privacy he craves.

  Being a work of fiction, it should be a surprise that the movie plays pretty loose with some facts. For example, the movie depicts Spassky defeating Fischer in the final round of the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup to win the tournament when in fact Spassky beat Fischer in the first half of the tournament and they drew in the next to last round. The details of the championship are accurate although I highly doubt Spassky applauded Fisher after losing to him in the sixth game (the climax of the movie).

  The production of the movie reminded me a lot of X-Men: Days of Future Past with both films being period pieces set in the late 60’s/early 70’s with a lot of now-classic cars and the period’s rock and roll music. The productions values were great. I liked how director Edward Zwick showed Fischer’s paranoia by having him hear voices and notice the minutest distractions and I especially liked the splicing of Maguire in the famous Fischer interview with Dick Cavett. It was easy to be immersed in the manic-depressive life of Fischer as he bounces from the highs of his victories to the lows of his defeats and subsequent blaming of external factors for his own failings.

  The acting in the movie was top notch. Tobey Maguire was very believable as the paranoid genius Fischer even though he suffered from a lack of height in the role. The actual Fischer always seemed to tower over the other chess players but Maguire is half a foot shorter and didn’t have the same imposing presence but like any great actor was able to project a larger than life appearance and since most people probably had no sence of Fischer’s imposing presence it probably made no difference. Lev Schreiber played Boris Spassky so we had Spiderman and Sabretooth battling on a chessboard which might be something for Marvel to consider for a future superhero film. I thought Schreiber would have a more prominent role in the movie based on the ads but he was more of a plot device than anything, showing how the Russian champion was treated by a rock star but had demons of his own which he displayed when he told the lamp in his room (presumably where the Russians planted a listening device in his room) that he intended to play Fischer after the game two forfeit because he wanted to win over the board and not in the backroom.

  In my opinion the best performances were by Peter Sarsgaard as Fischer’s chess confidant Father William Lombardy and Michael Stuhlbarg as the sleazy lawyer Paul Marshall that gets Fischer to return from his self-imposed retirement and indulges Fischer’s whims out of some sort of patriotic duty to beat the Russians at their own game. Sarsgaard had a dry wit and compassionate demeanor towards the mentally unstable Fischer and ably performs the roles of father and best friend. Marshall has an air of mystery about him that is never explained. He claims to not be part of the government but is seemingly able to call in favors from President Nixon and Secretary of State to help Fischer when needed.

  The movie was well done and was mostly factually correct but was a failure at the box office and garnered not a single Academy Award nomination. Why? I have to think that it was due to profiling the mentally ill Bobby Fisher who is an essentially unlikable character no matter how much sympathy he can get for his mental illness. Fischer remains to this day the name most associated with American chess and to this day continues to give chess and chess players a bad name. Chess players know all about Fischer and have no reason to shell out $10 or $20 to see his particular mix of madness, genius, and arrogance and probably most non-chess players know him as the chess champion that made headlines for his praise of the 9-11 attacks. Another reason the movie failed to connect is there are barely any women in it except for the bit parts of Fischer's mother, sister, and of course Donna the prostitute which is the only relationship Fischer has in the movie except for the priest Lombardy.

  There are plenty of great subjects for chess movies without including Bobby Fischer, unfortunately they mostly would be about Russians. For example, in 1951 a world championship match was held in Moscow between Russian challenger David Bronstein and champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Bronstein was winning by one game with 2 games left in the match when he mysteriously melted down in the next to last game and lost an endgame that was a fairly simple draw. There was speculation for years that the ‘intelligentsia’ Bronstein was pressured to lose the match to Soviet hero Botvinnik. Bronstein never confirmed he was forced to throw the match but he never denied them either. A movie about that match would be something I would pay to see.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Thoughts On The Big Game

  The final football of the year will be Sunday’s ‘big game’. Are you wondering why I called it the ‘big game’ and not Super Bowl 50? There is a simple reason. The ‘Super Bowl’ is a registered trademark of the National Football League and I am not legally allowed to say ‘Super Bowl’ unless I have paid the National Football League for the privilege (Here is an explanation). Otherwise people might confuse this Broken Pawn with the actual sponsors of the ‘big game’ like Pepsi and Budweiser so let me make it clear that I am not a sponsor of the big game.

  Unlike last year’s deflate-gate controversy surrounding the New England Patriots there has been no headline grabbing story heading into this year’s contest. One big story are the rumors that this may be Bronco quarterback Peyton Manning’s last game, which got a boost at the end of the Patriot-Bronco AFC Championship game when Manning told Patriot coach Bill Belichick that this may be ‘his last rodeo’. The comments were recorded and publicized. This past week Manning seemed perturbed when asked about his comments saying “What happened to private conversations on the 50 yard line?”, apparently not realizing there are short and long range microphones everywhere all over the field ready to catch every utterance of every player.

  A bigger Peyton Manning story during the year was a documentary published by the Al-Jazeera television network that alleged Manning used human growth hormone issued under his wife’s name in 2011 when Manning was recovering from multiple neck surgeries. The report was widely ridiculed and Manning has threatened to sue Al Jazeera but has not up to the present time.

  The story’s main informant is a former worker at a ‘recovery’ clinic named Charlie Sly. Sly recanted his statements in a You Tube video, saying his remarks were recorded without his knowledge by a known fraudster. When I listened to the retraction it gave me some pause since it wasn’t like he gave false statements to Al Jazeera, he was telling stories not knowing he was being recorded. It reminded me of the Linda Tripp – Monica Lewinsky conversations that were secretly taped where even though the recordings were done illegally the statements were later proven to be true. One thing that came out of this was the information that Manning’s wife really was getting HGH prescriptions from the company Sly alleged was funneling the product to Manning through his wife. This reminded me of the Roger Clemens steroid accusations where HIS wife was getting HGH and it was supposed to be for her and not for Clemens.

  Now none of this was mentioned by announcer Jim Nantz during CBS broadcast of Manning’s return from injury in the Broncos game against the San Diego Chargers in the season finale. This was for a number of reasons. Manning is a golden boy of the league which CBS pays millions and millions of dollars for the rights to broadcast the games, Al Jazeera sounds like the subversive type of organization that would probably love to bring down an American icon like Manning, and Manning and Nantz are both represented by agent Sandy Montag.

  Another big story was Panther quarterback Cam Newton saying that the reason his touchdown and first down celebrations are criticized is because “I'm an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to…”.

  I think Newton’s mention of race is off base. The people who get upset at African-American athletes’ football celebrations probably stopped following football a long time ago. Most quarterbacks aren’t as flamboyant as Newton but Newton isn’t nearly as flamboyant as wide receivers Terrell Owens and Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson from the last decade or the inane sack dance of caucasian Mark Gastineau of the Jets in the 1980’s.

  The criticism of Newton is coming from the fact that this year he has performed at an MVP level, his team made a deep run at being undefeated, and he has been on national television more since leaving college. He was celebrating last year and the year before and no one cared because he wasn’t on national television as much. Newton also gets celebrated for handing out footballs after Panther touchdowns to little kids in the stands during home games. If he was getting any substantial criticism for his celebrations there is no way he would be a spokesman for something as wholesome as Dannon Oikos yogurt. Last I looked white people eat a lot of yogurt and Dannon Oikos is still in business so there can’t be too many racists running around complaining about Cam Newton.

  Newton has been a winner everywhere he has ever been. He was the quarterback of a junior college national champion team, a collegiate national champion, won a Heisman Trophy, and is likely to win the MVP. In this day and age success breeds contempt. That is where any criticism of Cam Newton is coming from. Tom Brady has won 4 super bowls and appeared in 2 others and the media is quick to give him criticism on anything from deflategate to his views on nutrition. If Peyton Manning was a champion like Tom Brady the HGH allegations would be taken more seriously but despite his all his records and one Super Bowl he is the type of quarterback that has come up short more often than come up big and I think that patina of being a loser is what keeps him celebrated instead of criticized. Personally I'd much rather see Newton celebrate than watch Manning endlessly point, gesticulate, and scream 'Omaha' before each and every snap.

  I guess Newton felt the same way I did since later this week when asked about being an African-American quarterback said "I don't even want to touch on the topic of black quarterback, because I think this game is bigger than black, white or even green" adroitly turning the conversation away from race and towards the Super Bowl. For the most part I agree with Newton except for the game being bigger than green since green is the reason all but the official sponsors have to call it the ‘Big Game’.

Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
I am amazed that the Broncos even made it to the Super Bowl but here they are with Peyton Manning leading a mistake free offense and a rock solid defense. The Panthers were no surprise to me or anyone else since they have rolled through the league on the way to a 17-1 record. Getting ahead is going to be the key to the game since the Panthers defense will tee off on Manning if he has to throw to catch up while Manning can orchestrate his mistake-free short passing and running game if the Broncos are winning.

   I am currently $50 in the red for this playoff season heading into the final game of the season so the pressure us for me to continue my 3 year playoff winning streak. I think the Panthers are going to win the game but the betting line from the lines as listed on the Yahoo Sports page is 4.5 which seems a little high for me so I will bet $110 to win $100 on the over of 44 points. Despite the solid defenses for both sides I like the chances of both sides finding enough big plays to get this game in the 50’s. Please keep in mind that my wagers are for entertainment purposes only with no real money being risked.