Before we get started with this week's picks, I'd like to acknowledge the dawning of the final postseason of one of the great clutch careers in all of team sports — Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
People oftentimes ask me, "Who's your team?" and quite honestly, for someone who is not just a member of the sports media but has been a diehard sports fan since age eight, my pro sports loyalties have been an ebb and a flow throughout my 47 years. It goes without saying I root for the Houston teams because 1. I live here, 2. I do work for one of them, 3. They're generally likable teams and 4. It's what's best for business...
Beyond that, the only eras when I lived and died by what sports teams did were during my childhood and college years, in which I rooted for the Pittsburgh Steelers (I was born in Pittsburgh), the Philadelphia 76ers (I lived in Philly from ages two through seven; mom was from Philly), the Hartford Whalers (grades 4-12 in Hartford, season ticket holder) and the Boston Red Sox (my dad is a diehard; I followed).
Once I reached adulthood, I became more of a pro sports floater, not to mention that I also started betting on sports, which aligns your allegiance with the almighty dollar. I express all this to say that the one non-Houston pro sports team during my adult years that I was emotionally invested in was the 2004 Boston Red Sox, the team that simultaneously broke the Babe Ruth Curse and embarrassed the New York Yankees by overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS. I LOVED that team, and their leader was David Ortiz, who batted like .904 in clutch situations that postseason. That's what it felt like, at least.
So now Big Papi is retiring after this postseason, on the heels of one of his best seasons in recent years, and Dunkin' Donuts is paying tribute in maybe the greatest way possible...
And if my kids are reading this — kids, when my time comes, and I pass on, please have a display of my face made out of 10,000 donuts at the funeral. Since, appropriately, it will probably be donuts that kill me, anyway.
And if you think that whole diatribe is my way of avoiding apologizing for my trashy 2-4 record last week, well...then you know me a little too well. (Although to be fair, I was covering in the damn Tennessee-Georgia game until it turned into the Battle of the Hail Mary's in the last 30 seconds! Curse you, FOOTBALL GODS!)
Okay, let's go 6-0, shall we?
OKLAHOMA STATE -16.5 over Iowa State
It's becoming readily apparent that, while the Big XII is the virtual lock to be the Power Five conference left out of the College Football Playoff, the conference title race itself, as a self-contained "thing," could be one very compelling, entertaining schmozz of about five or six teams, and Oklahoma State is one of those teams. Iowa State is not. However, they did almost knock off Baylor at home last week, coughing up a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 45-42. It's that "almost" that puts me on the Cowboys here — I just think the Cyclones will have a hard time getting up for this week's game after last week's devastating loss.
Michigan -27 over RUTGERS
Among Power Five football programs, Rutgers is undoubtedly in the bottom ten overall. Last week, Ohio State toyed with them in a 58-0 win that had everyone (except Ohio State and OVER betting backers) begging for a running clock in the second half. Rutgers is one of those schools that have virtually no home field advantage, and while this IS Michigan's first road game of the season — five straight at home to start the year — could it be any softer a landing than North Jersey? Harbaugh will smoke these fools.
ARKANSAS +14 over Alabama
This is a game that's been played inside the number in the past two seasons, including Alabama escaping Fayetteville with a one-point win two years ago. Both teams can run the football, which makes for a "shorter" 60 minutes with that clock grinding, making a 14-point spread feel even bigger. I don't know that Alabama is explosive enough throwing the football to make 14 points on the road feel like a proper number, and after watching Razorbacks QB Austin Allen get up from kill shot after kill shot against the Aggies a couple of weeks ago, I'd go to war with that kid... and I will... GAMBLING WAR!
Patriots -10 over BROWNS
Tom Brady is back, perhaps you heard. If you follow these types of things, then you know that Brady was 16/1 on Bovada to win MVP for the 2016 season, despite being suspended for the first four games of the year. How wonky has this season been so far for elite, MVP-caliber players? Four games into the season, having not even been in the Patriots' building, let alone taken a snap, Brady is now 12/1! You're about to see the reprisal of Angry Tom Brady. When we last saw ATB, he was tearing a 50 TD pass, 16-0 hole in the rest of the NFL back in 2007. This should be fun! It begins on Sunday...oh, also, the Patriots are coming off a horrific loss to the Buffalo Bills, and they are 13-6 ATS after a loss since 2011. Patriots 38, Browns 13.
STEELERS -6.5 over Jets
I can only imagine the whiskey drinking that is going on in the Jets team offices as they watch Ryan Fitzpatrick throw pick after pick, ten total through four games. In fact, if you want to relive the FitzMagic of his historic six-pick game against the Chiefs, well, here you go...
The Steelers are 5-2 ATS as a home favorite going back to last season, and although the rule says to fade teams that win by 28 or more the week before, I am giddy to back the Steelers at home against an ice-cold Fitzy and a banged-up Jets team (Eric Decker, likely out of this game).
Texans/VIKINGS UNDER 40
We will have an extended preview of this game tomorrow, but if there is one thing I feel very strongly about this NFL weekend, it's that I can't see either of these teams, short of some fluky turnovers or special teams plays, getting to 20 points in this game. The Texans are averaging 17 points a game, and as well as Bradford has played for the Vikings, he fits the mold of the type of QB that the Texans have generally played well against going back to the Kubiak era, quite honestly. Full prediction on this game tomorrow, but I'll back the low-scoring part, at the very least, here.
Last Week: 2-4
Season Record: 16-14
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.