How the NFC South Is the Clark Griswold of the NFL

Plus other 'Christmas Vacation' comparisons



Ravens -5.5 vs. Chargers (Best Bet)
Seahawks +1 at 49ers (Nov. 27)
Cardinals -2.5 at Falcons
Packers-Patriots OVER 58.5
Minnesota +14 at Wisconsin
Oregon State +20 vs. Oregon
UNR -10 at UNLV

I’ve long been accused by family and friends of failing to get into the spirit of the holiday season. Not sure how I got this reputation. OK, I’ll admit that putting up decorations tends to send me into a Manson-like rage (because God-for-freakin’-bid the entire strand of lights work) … and that I’d rather take gun-cleaning lessons from Jose Canseco than spend two minutes in a shopping mall this time of year … and that I’m still holding a grudge against Santa for not delivering me that Green Machine on Christmas Day in 1979. (No, Mom, I’m never going to let it go.)

But none of this makes me Scrooge. To prove it, I’m filling this week’s betting analysis with seasonal cheer by paying homage to the greatest holiday movie ever—no, I’m not talking about It’s a Wonderful Life (never seen it); I’m talking about Christmas Vacation …

Clark W. Griswold Award: Goes to the incredibly hapless NFC South, whose four teams enter Week 11 with a combined 13-30-1 record—and seven of those 13 wins came against one another! Atlanta and New Orleans sit atop the pile of garbage at 4-7; Carolina is just a half-game behind, despite winning just once since Week 2! If the season ended today the Falcons would win the division (and a yearlong subscription to the Jelly of the Month club) based on a Week 1 overtime victory over the Saints. By the way, these Falcons, who are 0-7 vs. non-NFC South foes, are only a 2½-point home underdog this week against the 9-2 Cardinals.

Ellen Griswold Award: Goes to fans of the Bills and Browns for suffering through years of ineptitude and disappointment, but refusing to jump ship despite countless reasons to do so. Unlike Mrs. Griswold, Bills and Browns fans might finally get rewarded for their undying loyalty: At 6-5 and 7-4, respectively, Buffalo and Cleveland—who meet in New York this week—are very much in the thick of an AFC playoff picture that’s more murky than Aunt Bethany’s green Jell-O mold.

Cousin Eddie Award: Goes to the Raiders, Jaguars, Titans and Jets, who have parked their broken-down RV in front of the AFC’s house and refused to leave. Not only are these the only four teams in the conference without a winning record, but they’ve combined to lose 38 of 44 games. And like Cousin Ed, this quartet will suck every last red penny from you. Actually, Oakland (6-5 ATS) has delivered more than it hasn’t; the other three are 8-23-3 ATS, despite being significant underdogs in almost every game. (Don’t let this trio near your microwave—they’ll piss their pants and forget who they are for a half-hour.)

Griswold Family Squirrel Award: Goes to Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, two Pro Bowl quarterbacks who have been destroying everything in their path for two solid months. Brady has thrown 22 TD passes and just four interceptions while leading his Patriots on a seven-game winning streak (after a 2-2 start), while Rodgers has a 25-2 TD-to-INT ratio during the Packers’ 7-1 run (which followed a 1-2 start). This week, Brady and Rodgers duel at Lambeau Field, where the scoreboard is liable to go up in flames like Clark’s Christmas tree.

Audrey and Rusty Griswold Award: Goes to the UNLV football team. Sure, the actors have changed over the years, but the story line remains the same: One embarrassing event after another—the latest coming last week when the Rebels scored a go-ahead touchdown at Hawaii with 15 seconds to play and still lost, falling to 2-10. Now here comes hated UNR to Sam Boyd Stadium for a season-ending battle for the Fremont Cannon. The Wolf Pack—who haven’t lost in Las Vegas in a decade, winning the last four meetings at Sam Boyd by an average of 18.3 points—are a 10-point favorite. In other words, a Rebels victory seems more unlikely than Clark Griswold receiving his Christmas bonus and using it to build his poor kids a swimming pool.

Last Week: 5-2 (3-1 NFL; 2-1 college; 0-1 Best Bet).

Season Record: 43-41 (22-22 NFL; 21-19 college; 4-8 Best Bets).