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Entries from October 2015

Blog: Pumpkin Time for Halloween

October 29th, 2015 · Comments

Who couldn't be in the mood for a pumpkin today?  Pumpkin pie!  Pumpkin spice latte!   Even a little roasted pumpkin.  Mmm, so good.

Carved pumpkins with funny faces are so fun to look at.  I can make basic triangles and squares for faces.  Beyond that, it's rough.  But I ask you -- when you carve a pumpkin and leave it out for a few days, doesn't that make it unfit to eat?  That's disappointing.   There's so much pulp on the shell of a pumpkin.  You can use it for pies, milk shakes, casseroles, all sorts of foods.   What an unfortunate waste of pumpkin a carved pumpkin is.

but, with that aside, it's such a festive look.   Here's my favorite carving so far.  Somebody turned a pumpkin into the DEATH STAR.

Whoahhhhhhhhhhhh, how cool is that!?   That pumpkin has the power to destroy an entire stomach.

I went to get a stamp at the on campus post office.   I gave them a dollar.  They gave me back 51 cents.  That's two quarters and a penny.  I did not have the foggiest idea what to do with the penny.  It's a pretty nice penny too.  I went back to my office just holding it, fully confused.  I was stumped.   Adding to the consternation I got a receipt.  It reminds me of Mitch Hedberg's line about the donut receipt, "we don't need to bring ink and paper into this!"

You'd be surprised how good the cheesesteak is at Jersey Mike's.  A true unsung hero.

Most of us are having candy this week.   Are there any more fake tasting fruits than strawberry and banana?   No two flavors are more inaccurate than those.  The banana flavor in most artificial foods tastes more like cough syrup.  The strawberry flavor isn't strawberry tasting at all but rather, I don't know, some mix of vanilla and cream and peach.  Quite unusual.

Recently I saw pumpkin cookies at the store.   Will there soon be a time when they have peach cookies?  It's gotta happen.

At breakfast, some places serve an egg cooked inside a piece of toast, called "Toad in a hole."   I saw today that one guy took it a step further and put the egg into a burger patty!   Egg in the hole burger, here it is: 

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Oh baby!  Enjoy your Halloween everybody.

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Podcast: World Series 2015, Mets vs Royals, NFL, NCAA, Kids Club Wk 9 (10-28-15)

October 28th, 2015 · Comments

On this 90 minute show we look at the 2015 World Series so far between the Mets and Royals.   A dramatic 14 inning Game 1 showed the Royals' mettle as they take the lead in the series.  Can the Mets with Jacob DeGromm battle back?  We'll provide occasional live updates from Game 2.  Also this week: Jerry Kill retires from Minnesota after tumultuous health while on the sideline.  Baylor suffers a big blow when QB Seth Russell hurts his neck, ruling him out for the season.   Utah suffers a blow in the Pac 12 standings after a blowout loss at USC.  Cal takes a step back after losing to UCLA.  Bama suffers a close call against Tennessee.  The first College Football Playoff rankings are released this week, John and Tom in NJ try to sort it out with Dave as they and the other panelists send in their Week 9 football picks.  In the NFL two big showdowns between the Bengals and Steelers during the day and a nighttime matchup for the ages between the Packers and Broncos highlight the weekend.  That and more from the world of football along with continuing World Series coverage this week in the City.

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Kids Club Picks: Week 9 (Week 8 NFL)

October 28th, 2015 · Comments

Here are the Week 9 picks for the "Kids Club" in the NFL and College Football!

Dave in the City (20-10 this season)
Temple +10.5 vs Notre Dame
Wash. St. +12 vs Stanford
49ers +8.5 at Rams
Broncos +3 vs Packers

Ron in NJ (19-10-1)
Houston -11 vs Vanderbilt
Maryland +17 at Iowa
Packers -3 at Broncos
Cardinals -5 at Browns

John in CT (17-13)
Maryland +17 at Iowa
Cal +6.5 vs USC
Steelers PK vs Bengals
Browns +5 vs Cardinals

Say Hello to Ottis (16-13-1)
Houston -11 vs Vanderbilt
Iowa -17 vs Maryland
Pats -8 vs Dolphins
Cardinals -5 at Browns

Andy in Seattle (16-13-1)
Temple +10.5 vs Notre Dame
Florida -2.5 vs Georgia in Jacksonville
Packers -3 at Broncos
Lions +5.5 vs Chiefs in London

Pretty good picks, and surprisingly three people picked the Maryland/Iowa game!   Now to Tommy's NFL Picks.

Tommy's Week 9 NFL Picks
Packers -3
Seahawks -6
Panthers -7
Browns +5
Rams -8.5
Bears +1
Lions +5.5
Patriots -8

Good luck to all the picks and may we have a good Halloween football weekend!

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LIVE DITCOW Show at 9pm ET: World Series Gm 2 Coverage, Kids Club Football Picks

October 28th, 2015 · Comments

LIVE TONIGHT at 9pm ET at it's our latest DITCOW Podcast with World Series Game 2 updates plus the Kids Club Week 9 Football picks with John in CT and Tom in NJ (in for the other panelists).   We'll cover the Mets and Royals so far in the Fall Classic, plus cover other NCAA and NFL stories including Jerry Kill's retirement from Minnesota on the program.  It all begins here at w/ the embedded player below.  Join us at 9pm ET or watch directly on YouTube on the DITCOW channel.

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Blog: What is the deal with telestrators?

October 28th, 2015 · Comments

I've been around 33 years, and I have seen football telecasts going to my infancy.   I started following sports regularly in 1999.   I'll tell you what:  I haven't seen anyone use a telestrator effectively like John Madden.  No let me clarify that.  I have not seen ONE PERSON use a telestrator who knew how to use it other than the great coach and analyst John Madden.

Over the years lot of good, even great analysts have used the telestrator so sparingly.  When they DO use the telestrator, all I've seen from most guys is jokers marking big x's on guys and drawing little circles.

Cris Collinsworth -- now this guy knows football, but the few times he uses the telestrator he just draws little circles over players' butts.   I CAN DO THAT.   That does not take much expertise.  

"Hey Cris, let's take a look at the play"

"Al, it's a stroke of brilliance, check out this little butt circle and that little butt circle, now this dude is a gamer… he goes into this other guy, let me add a circle on him, and takes him down, clean hit, clean circle, what a play."

I thought it'd be good to draw out routes like Madden would do once.   That's a coach doing coach things.  I wonder if there are guys today who are good at route drawing and play predicting w/ the telestrator on TV?  haven't seen that guy yet, but maybe he's out there.

On to the other scenarios…

"Cut down week" continues… last night's dinner was grilled pork chops, a handful of steamed veggies, and triscuits.  I had some more starburst, it's my current vice, but I had I think less than a roll of squares.  I think that was at most 150 calories for the starbursts.    This morning, more coffee and a peanut butter sandwich.

I'll tell you I really want to have the pork chow mein with crispy noodles at Noodle World.  It's not like most chow meins with the soft noodles.  It actually -- let me think -- like having the meat for chow mein on a block of thicker ramen noodles but the crispy noodles are higher quality than ramen.  It's phenomenal.

In England they call cookies "biscuits."   Sounds odd, but it's quite sensible.  What is a biscuit?  It's just a bunch of batter baked in the oven with a lot of fat and gunk in it.  Lots and lots of butter.  And I THINK the cookie is a flatter, sweeter biscuit.

That's all for today.  Big show tonight -- podcast tonight!  Kids Club Picks tonight alongside Game 2 of the World Series.  I'll be there, won't you?

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Tommy’s Picks: Week 7 Results

October 27th, 2015 · Comments

Full disclosure, I do not like giving Tommy whole articles for his picks -- I shouldn't even have posted his picks in their own article just because he was so late with them, tough to take!  :guffaw:

Love ya T.K…. all right let's break down his picks.  Tommy went. 3-5-1 .  Not a good week at all.

He got: Titans, Ravens, Rams
He missed: Texans, Colts, Chargers, Lions, Steelers
PUSH: Jets

We'll give it a go next week along with the Kids Club Picks.  Join us!  Granted, we may not have the podcast this week due to the World Series.  I'll update you either way.

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Blog: Raisin Bran for Dinner

October 26th, 2015 · Comments

There's no sure sign of being an adult quite like Raisin Bran.  Not just eating it, but liking it.  Let me tell ya, I like it!  The flakes are crunchy, the raisins chewy, I don't want to eat it every day but every now and again it's satisfying.

After this weekend's outrageous meals of Pastrami Reubens and square pizzas, Monday presented a course correction.  In the morning, eggs, bacon, and sourdough toast with baked tater tots.    That was good enough to carry me through the day.  I closed the day with raisin bran and fruit.  I cheated a bit at the end with a few Starburst squares, but come on, it's close to Halloween and who can't enjoy some Starburst?

That really *was* my day.  Work was work, I finally have all the junk in my office lined up for recycling and I'll wheel that out Tuesday.  I saw the Monday Night Football game on ESPN.  I took a shower.

Yep -- I entered my 30's. In my early 20's, I was able to stay up all kinds of late and get up about 9am and feel just fine.   If I tried to do that today it's a total crash.  The other day I was up until 2am watching a movie, I came home and nearly died on the bed.

Days like this boring ole day are enjoyable -- no drama, low stress, and your intestines get a break.  I'm happy to report the McIntosh apples are back in season.  Had one for dessert -- so good.

People must wonder why I don't watch very many shows on TV or DVR.  It's pretty simple -- TV is too passive for me.  I feel like I'm wasting all sorts of time watching prerecorded shows.  As for movies, I'd rather go to the theater to watch those because that's more of an experience.  I make exceptions for a few TV shows but generally I don't enjoy just sitting on the couch watching a TV all day unless its sports.  Sports is different because it's live and nobody knows the outcome yet.  This year I may skip a game here and there so that I can go on YouTube and write instead.  I love to write.  I *missed* writing day to day when I moved into the new apartment in Santa Monica.  I lived for writing out ideas and stories.

Now, I know that's not what I used to do... as a kid, before we had a computer and YouTube and smartphones, I was on the TV at LEAST 8 hours a day.  My parents got so upset at me watching cartoons all the time.   They were right -- the damn thing was sucking my brain.  Man, it was worth it though!  I'm sure everybody remembers Nickelodeon in its salad days 20 years ago.  Life was *good* man.   But while that's true, my Dad brought in a PC and eventually AOL and that put me on a path to explore things online.    

Anyway, we're here in 2015 and the rhythm of writing is in full effect.   All I ever really wanted with this blog is a voice and, IF things went well, an audience.  I really enjoy hearing from my buddies who read this blog space with their reactions and comments, it's a good time.  I dream of this going viral someday, with thousands of people going to only to go "what is that clown's obsession with raisin bran?"

Well!   World Series starts tonight with the Mets and the Royals.   I know we're all just cringing at the thought of more "Worst World Series TV rating of all time" headlines like we do most years.  I don't think we'll get that this time!   The Mets have a lot of pull in the biggest media market in America.  The Royals had fantastic local TV ratings this year so they'll have big support from their home city.  Why wouldn't this be a good ratings show?   These are two great teams with terrific pitching.   The Royals play hard and can be downright exciting on the basepaths.  The Mets will dazzle you with big home runs from Daniel Murphy and big payoff pitches from their rotation.  I'll be there!  Won't you?

Oatmeal Chocolate Stout is remarkably good -- you really start to deviate from what a beer is, but a few weeks ago I drank one of these with friends and the beer really is a knockout.  So good.

Ever have this soda called "Bubble Up?"  It's a sweeter, all natural, cane sugar version of 7-Up.   They served me one of those when I asked for a Sprite at Father's Office some weeks ago and now I can't get enough.  That's great soda, but I haven't had it since either in the interest of better health.

I have no idea who Ali Spagnola is, how I started following her, or why she's so popular.

Have you had big trouble.................. in Little China?

A couple movies I want to see soon:   "All things Must Pass" a documentary on Tower Records and this goof movie with Vin Diesel called "The Last Witch Hunter."  Now who wouldn't enjoy inane action theater?   Looking forward to those movies soon.

I can see that I'm clearly out of ideas, but hopefully more to tell next time out.  Take care all and carry on.

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Kids Club Results: Week 8

October 25th, 2015 · Comments

An ENORMOUS week for Ron as he goes 3-1 to come within percentage points, basically a half win difference now between Dave and Ron for 1st place.   What a nice comeback for Ron as he wins the week.  No other winning weeks among the panel and two losing weeks between Andy and Dave.  Here are the results in details:

Ron in NJ went (3-1): Bowling Green, Clemson, Jaguars hit; Colts misses.
John in CT went (2-2): USC, Panthers hit; Miami, Lions miss.
Say Hello to Ottis went (2-2): Clemson, Rams hit; Kansas State, Colts miss.
Andy in Seattle went (1-3): Panthers hits; Utah, Cal, Falcons miss.
Dave in the City went (1-3): Panthers hits; Georgia Southern, WKU, Colts miss.

The Colts really did a lot of us wrong.   It winds up as a triple checker on a checker that went south for us all.   Unbelievably disappointing game, and the Saints went up 21-0 on the Colts in THEIR building.  Clemson was as big a hit as Indy was a miss for both Ron and Ottis.  Clemson shut out the Hurricanes 58-0 which also means John loses his head to head Miami selection.   The weekend surely was ripe with surprises and one positive is that nobody had a wipeout week.  Major shakeup in the standings, here are the standings after 8 weeks...

Dave: 20-10
Ron: 19-10-1
John: 17-13
Ottis: 16-13-1
Andy: 16-13-1

Ron is now just one win away from taking the lead, technically he's half a win from tying Dave in the standings.   John's not far behind at all and both Ottis and Andy are just one game back of John.  How wild is this??  The entire Kids Club is separated by roughly 3 games.

The excitement continues as we close on the second half of the season. It's still anyone's contest.  Tune into this week's DITCOW podcast at 9pm ET on Youtube this Wednesday to hear our next move.  More NFL and College picks for you plus comprehensive analysis on all the big games this week including a real "firecracker" matchup of the Packers and Broncos.  Don't miss it!

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Blog: Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend, “The Martian” Movie Review

October 25th, 2015 · Comments

Have you tried the new "Thanksgiving Blend" at Starbucks?  It is *sensational!*   A dark, rich blend with many flavors, some of the best coffee Starbucks does.  Tremendous.   Well done, and looking for more!

A good bold blend of coffee really puts a kick in the pants, and I needed it.  You'll wake up some mornings and go "man, I really need the coffee."   Those are perfect moments.

Let's not waste any time, I watched a movie called "The Martian" over at a theater in the valley called the Pacific Theatres Winnetka 21.  It is one of a kind -- a fairly rare breed of late: the massive multiplex that isn't adjacent to or attached to other big shopping centers and stores.   This place is HUGE.  Every screen is very big, but the screen I went to was the biggest I've seen for a stadium auditorium.  I mean it is MASSIVE.  79 feet wide according to articles I read online!  Theatre #9.   It seats 715 people with a stadium seating configuration... that means it could seat well over 1000 with traditional sloped style seating.

Honestly, I went to this place and it took my breath away.  I thought the screen was going to eat me.  I could not believe it.  Let me dial back a bit and give a little background into the trip.

You saw on Friday when I wrote out my two itineraries based on who won the ALCS Game 6.  Kansas City won the game after a very dramatic rally in the 8th inning.   So, that meant I would try out Barone's Italian for pizza.  That also meant I'd go to the Valley to see a movie.

I chose The Winnetka 21 for a couple reasons -- first, it was the only one left still playing "The Martian" on a very big screen.  When I saw "XME" next to the movie listing, I looked it up and read all about it.  Then I saw that "XME" featured an auditorium with a 79 foot wide screen.  79 feet!!  To put that in perspective -- the old Grauman's Chinese Theatre, pre IMAX was a 65 foot wide screen with 2.35:1 aperture.   That seemed enormous to me.   At the Cinerama Dome, a curved screen with slight distortion, the screen is 86 feet wide to the same 2.35:1 aperture.  The inward curve makes the experience more immersive and I believe that's still the largest traditional sized screen in LA.

Now 79 feet straight across is nearly the same width AND, it's much taller to the tune of the 1.85:1 aperture... that won't affect "the Martian" but if other movies were to come out in taller aperture the screen would swallow you.  Either way, the size of the screen is massive.   I had to try it out, in fact I was giddy.

The previous night I went to my local AMC to see "Steve Jobs" in theatre 1.   Remarkably I was very impressed by the screen... Screens at the AMC 15 at Century City are all very nice -- most of them are rather large, but probably about, from my untrained eye, between 45 and 60 feet wide.   I was expecting a smaller screen than I got but nonetheless I was very happy and wonderfully immersed in Apple Tech drama for a couple hours.   Who would have guessed that was just the appetizer for an even grander experience?   But the point of all this is to say that I had to go pretty late due to the ALCS game so I went to a 10:40pm showing and it kept me up to 2am when I finally got home.

II didn't sleep a whole lot, and I needed coffee badly.  I had roughly 5 hours of sleep, and I thought of the Winnetka 21 again... it was close enough to the pizzeria in Valley Glen, and I thought, "it may not be Arclight, but a 79 foot screen I gotta see what it's like!"  I don't remember anything at the Arclight Sherman Oaks (the closest theater to Valley Glen, that approached 79 feet in width.  Ergo I chose the Winnetka.

Winnetka Ave. was a nice choice because I saw on the map that it's very close to the famous Brent's Deli, lauded from pillar to post as the best deli in the Valley bar none.  Some say it's the best deli in LA period, and if you think about it, it might be so -- it is apparently most consistent in quality and has the best variety.  With that said, the most popular sandwich is far and away the Black Pastrami Reuben.  It HAD to be tried, so I went up there in the morning and asked for the sandwich plus coffee.

First of all, the coffee, that coffee was strong and bold and flavorful.  Everything you could possibly want in a coffee!   I remember the coffee at Langer's deli by MacArthur park being pretty strong and memorable, but I don't believe the *taste* was quite there as say a Peet's coffee would be.   Brent's had coffee to d i e for.   I am a huge fan!  That's just the coffee!  I got the sandwich at my booth on a Saturday morning, about 9:30am, and it was a treat.  Thin slices, certainly, but succulence on buttered grilled slices of rye bread.  It was FANTASTIC.

I know my sister goes down to the valley for school, so I texted her to ask if she wanted to do join me for lunch or something.  Turns out my OTHER sister, the younger one, intercepted the text and wrote back that SHE wanted to do something.  So I texted my younger sister instead and worked out a plan.  I was fine seeing a movie on my own but it'd be fun to take her along.   My sister rode with her older sister because both of them were meeting cousins later in the day.  As my sister studied, the younger sister would try to find things to pass the time.  My trip to the valley presented an opportunity.  She begged me via text to take her to the movie, so I thought "that's a good idea, why not!"

The only drawback was that I was only half way through my sandwich and the movie started in 20 minutes.  I powered through the other half of the pastrami reuben, then checked out.  The waiter asked me "what?" when I asked him to close out. 

I said "I'd like to close, out."

He said "what?"

I could sense this was going nowhere so I said "can I have the check?"

THEN it made sense -- ah I got it.  Brent's is old school, the phrase "close out" is for hippy dippy trendy bars of the westside, I could understand that... 

So I was on my way!  I picked up my younger sister from Northridge and we went to the Winnetka 21.  I was pumped for this movie!  I didn't really have a feel for what it was actually about -- it had Matt Damon in it and he was on Mars.  Apparently people had to go find him.  That's all I had at the time I entered the theatre.

My sister was excited to see the film too.  I told her about the screen and how massive it was.   So the time came and we entered the multiplex.  This place was HUGE.  it's actually a very basic layout too -- just one  hallway that extends to the left and to the right of the lobby.  The left has 10 screens and the right hallway has 11 screens.  Its a pretty old place, opened in 1998, but the individual theatres were all upgraded recently. 

We entered theatre 9, which had XME design.   I could believe how big it was.   I've seen some big screens including the Chinese Theatre, and the Cinerama Dome.  I saw the huge IMAX screen at the California Science center.   Yet -- this place just had my attention.  As my sister and I walked down a long long hallway to reach the plateau dividing the bottom section from the top section, I could see the screen just swallow us whole.  Then I saw movie graphics pop up to warn us of coming attractions.  It scared me a bit!   I was like, this is so HUGE!

My sister and I quickly found a seat and we sat through the coming attractions.  By the way, I forgot that most theatres still dont' have assigned seating so you could imagine my surprise when I punched through the checkout process and went "hey where's the select seats button?!"  it took me a minute to figure that out.  Anyway:  we settle down and just entered the movie.  I mean this screen was *so* big that we left the auditorium and flew right into the screen. I was thrilled.  Then, the movie started.

"The Martian" is a remarkable blend of action, heavy science fiction, a plausible storyline that could be real although a bit outrageous, and a lot of sprinkled humor.  I was told by others who saw the movie how hilarious it was and I couldn't imagine how that'd fit in a rescue mission style movie but it really did.  It was laugh out loud funny in certain moments.   Quite a lot of drama in other moments, and rather cerebral in still other movies.  It all made sense in the end as all of these qualities are signatures of the "Ridley Scott film."  He brought cerebral science and human drama together in Alien, Blade Runner, and historical context with human drama in Gladiator.   Here the movie adds humor and it's outstanding!  Acting in this film is tremendous... I'm not very keen on what makes acting good or bad, but in general terms if I could get to a point where I see the honesty of action and word to where I really start caring about the characters, acting is top notch.  Clearly that's the case here.

Some complained that the movie was too long, but there was so much detail to absorb I can't see how they could have made it shorter.  I thought pacing was quite right honestly.  You had to get the sense that there was a fairly large timeline involved in the plot and I never thought the movie dragged at any point.  I was riveted.  I couldn't wait to see how it ended and how they got there.

An amazing movie, with spectacular visuals that demand the grandeur of an enormous screen, what awesomeness for us that we got it despite seeing the movie in its fourth week.

My sister and I were both impressed by both the movie and the theatre.  We're desperate to go back!  She said that we have to go see "Star Wars: the Force Awakens" in this space.  I agree completely.  I don't think we'll get our first look at the film there at Winnetka 21, but the second or third look at the film will be spent here, I am sure.  It's going to be just tremendous.

Up next was pizza... I found a route to get to Barone's Italian restaurant in Valley Glen, at the corner of Woodman and Oxnard.  To get there we went East towards Woodman.   Then, as we went south on Woodman, it hit me... we are so far East that we must be close to Arleta, where the Marty McFly house was from "Back to the Future."  I punched it up on Google Maps and BINGO, we were not even a mile away!  My sister and I were excited to go find the house, and surely enough, there it was, on Roslyndale Ave.   WOW!  Here's a picture of the house, it looks exactly the same as it did during the movie back in 1985.  

Then we looked at the tree lined street and it is exactly like it looked then too!   I visualized the DeLorean flying between the trees and shooting out towards the sky.  Driving through this street was awesome!

From there my sister and I went to Barone's and had the square pizza.  Pretty good!   I don't think it's going to challenge John's on Bleecker Street, but I rather liked it.  Nice thin slices and thicker cut pepperoni.   Lots of cheese, in fact, tons of cheese, which all was pretty nice.   A solid, delicious pizza.

That ended our day, and I took my sister back to Northridge so she could go with my other sister to see other family that night.  The older of the two sisters was busy studying so she couldn't join us for these adventure, but I made sure five slices of pizza were sent back to her.

I owe the bulk of my gratitude to not only my sister for fortuitously being in the area so that I can share these moments, but also the Kansas City Royals for putting away the Blue Jays.  Had the Blue Jays won i would not go up to the valley because I wanted to make sure I was back at Marina Del Rey by 4pm for the football games plus an ALCS Game 7.  None of that could happen traveling from the Valley with LA traffic.  Thank you, Royals!  Heh heh, it's silly but wild how one action can set a chain reaction of other events.  That too was the lesson of "Back to the Future."  Remember though, as Doc Brown said, "the future is what you make of it!"

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Tommy’s Picks: Week 7 NFL

October 25th, 2015 · Comments

Late as all heck but here are Tommy's Week 7 picks:

Texans +4.5
Jets +7
Colts -4.5
Titans +6
Ravens +8.5
Chargers -4
Lions -1
Steelers -3.5
Good luck to Tommy's picks!

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