Sunday, September 02, 2007

Survivor-Harbor Islands

The National Football League hates gambling. Why, I don't know, since gambling is a major cause of the league's popularity, but it does, and those of us who like gambling must deal with it. In a nefarious but ingenious maneuver for which Commissioner Roger Goodell must be congratulated, Week One of the schedule looks to be the worst ever offered for survivor pool members across the U.S. and world.

(For those cave-dwellers in blogland, a survivor pool involves putting up some dough to pick the winner of one pro game each week, no point spread involved. But you can't pick any team more than once. Sounds easy. It's not. But it gives you more fun than going up against the cruel arithemetic of the spread and vigorish.

All survivalists know that by far the most difficult week to pick, the one that always eliminates the most participants, is week one. This is no mystery. Picks are made with the least amount of relevant information. Players go by last year's record, the injury chart, and football preview magazines, a formula that leads to many a trainwreck. In Week One, teams destined to be very good or very bad have yet to build their collective superiority/inferiority complexes that do so much to determine who wins NFL games.

Even granted that, however, 2007's Week One is a doozy. In years past, the league had a fondness for scheduling divisional rivals in openers, to pique interest. This year, they've opted for a seeding process. By and large, teams the league thought would be good back last winter play other good teams, average ones play average opponents (the gambler's graveyard) and projected patsies play foes with similar weaknesses.

Survivor poolists look for a strong team playing at home against a week one. Good luck with that. There aren't any. Seeding took care of that.

Exhibit A: The two worst teams in the NFL in 2006, of whom less than nothing is expected in 2007, were the Lions and Raiders. Detroit is at Oakland Sept. 9.

Using the traditional method outlined above, the most appealing game on the card from a pool standpoint is Tampa Bay at Seattle. Alas, as all football gamblers of any kind know, the Seahawks have inherited the Lions' former mantle as the NFL team that it's folly to bet either for against.

Option two for a survivalist in Week One is to pick the team he or she thinks will win the Super Bowl next February. After all, the Super Bowl winner will win many more games than it loses, so the percentages are in one's favor.

Any nationwide poll of NFL fans would show the following preseason assessment of who'll be the champ in 2007. 1. New England. 2. San Diego. Week One games: Patriots at Jets. Bears at Chargers. Now, the Pats, even without Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison, and the Chargers at home are each more likely to win than lose. Not much more likely, though. I sure as hell wouldn't bet 'em in a parlay.

In between are a bunch of games beyond rational assessment. The only opinion I have about Dolphins at Redskins is that I won't watch it under any circumstances.

Of course I sent off my survivor pool entry fee yesterday. Goodell can't make a monkey out of me. I reserve the right to do that myself.


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