GELFAND: Carlson Kicked to the Curb -- and Week 3 Picks

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my dismay and shock after the news that Minnesota’s own Daniel Carlson had been booted from the Vikings’ roster after playing just two games. The proud Norwegian had kicked footballs and some serious butt in the exhibition season, but then he…

What’s that? He’s not from Minnesota? He’s from Colorado? But he went to a Minnesota college, right? Like maybe St. Olaf? What the...Auburn?

Still, it just doesn’t seem right for the Vikings to cut a guy named Carlson. I’m not exactly a Northern European myself, but I can appreciate our proud tradition of Nordic kickers. I mean, these guys have fjord-water in their veins. I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, but those stalwart towheads are simply unflinching in the face of 290-pound goliaths sprinting at them with malice in their hearts and perhaps something stronger in their veins.

Who can forget Jan Stenerud — the first Norwegian to play in the NFL?  Such a chill dude that he made it through 19 NFL seasons — the final two with the Vikings, in 1984 and 1985.

There was Morten Andersen, so Nordic that his nickname was “the great Dane.” But he never dogged it on the field. He was so consistent that he just about played forever; he set the NFL record for most games played (382). His stint here was a short one, in 2004, but helps us segue right into…

Gary Anderson. OK, he was from South Africa, but with that name, he must have had Nordic DNA. He was perfect for the Vikings in 1998, never missing an extra point and nailing all 35 of his field goal attempts. He was invincible that year…until he missed from 39 yards out in the NFC championship game. And that’s what most Vikings fans remember about him.

Being a famous athlete, it seems, is like being a famous anything. When the spotlight shines on you, it’s exhilarating — until it’s lonely. I think of singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester’s classic, A Showman’s Life:

A showman’s life is a smoky bar
And the fevered chase of a tiny star
It’s a hotel room and a lonely wife
From what I’ve seen of a showman’s life
Nobody told me about this part

So light a candle tonight for Daniel Carlson, he who knocked ’em dead in the exhibition season and got the yips in the real season. And who among us hasn’t double clutched when it mattered the most? I’ve never kicked a field goal, never even got the winning hit in a Little League game, but we’ve all known that moment of ignominy, that moment when the crowd cheered us on and the cacophony was deafening and then there was only the sound of our fevered breathing — that and a voice deep within us whispering primordial doubt.

While it’s true that I continued to achieve a modicum of success in Week 2, I am in no position to pose as a pro handicapper reaching for the stars. I’m just hoping to achieve mediocrity this week. I waited for the gambling muse to visit me, but it never happened, so here are the selections:

Denver at Baltimore

The Broncos have been bad on the road in recent times, but the Ravens have failed to cover in their most recent five attempts at home vs. teams from the AFC West. The knock on Case Keenum is that he’s just a system quarterback, but, on the positive side, he’s no Trevor Semien, either. What he is, however, is a winner. He’s 24-12 straight up in his last 36 starts. And all he has to do here is cover. In a matchup of uncertain offenses, I’m going with Denver’s defense and its two surging rookie running backs.

  • Broncos 23, Ravens 20 — Denver plus-5 for $40

New York Giants at Houston

Eli Manning has been running for his life, which is pretty much SOP in New York. but it’s happening on the field, too. The Giants, like most of my cohort, are getting older, not better. And though it’s generally not his fault, Manning has been sacked eight times already. Fun fact: the Giants have gone 34 straight games without scoring 30 or more points. I think I saw signs that Deshaun Watson was shaking off the rust last week, but it might just have been confirmation bias. I don’t like laying six with a winless team, but I like the Giants even less. 

  • Texans 28, Giants 17 — Houston minus-6 for $40

From those two shaky picks, I move on to a gimmick wager, one that I’m not even capable of justifying. Bereft of inspiration, I’ve taken two of the most obvious plays of the week and rolled them into a two-teamer.

Chicago at Arizona | Buffalo at Minnesota

I’m hoping that Arizona’s total of six points in its first two games wasn’t a fluke. And that this isn’t the week they get David Johnson out in space for some big gains. And that Chicago’s offense, yet to be heard from, doesn’t find a pulse. Arizona has gone under to the tune of 16-5-1 lately at home and Chicago has gone under in seven of its last eight games. As for Minnesota, its biggest liability seems to be the ground game, but Buffalo’s pass defense hasn’t posed a threat in the first two weeks. I’m not going to say that the Vikings defense is going to score more than the Buffalo offense, but it could happen. You can hear all the details of this pick on our Minnesota Line podcast, but for now:

  • Bears 16, Cardinals 13 and Vikings 30, Bills 10. It’s a two-team parlay risking $25 to make $65

In our head-to-head competition last week, my young nemesis, Colton Molesky, took some bad breaks and ended up 0-3. My bankroll now stands at $1,242, while his is at $758.

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