The Nightmare is Almost Over

When I try to explain the importance of what will happen
this Wednesday at Azteca Stadium to any of my fellow American friends I don’t
seem to be able to get the message across. It’s as if us Mexicans have grown up
in a completely different society, where the Soccer National team can drive the
entire country to the edge of their seats. I don’t want to say that if things
go the other way the entire country will suffer high levels of depression, but
I also wouldn’t eliminate the possibility.

The World Cup is THE event for Mexicans. We look forward to
it every 4 years, we get excited about it, we have high hopes for the team, and
every WC we are certain that we have a team that will advance past the round of
16 (we’ve been eliminated in that round the past 5 tournaments). When we are
finally eliminated it’s still in everyone’s conversations, everyone knows what
went wrong, where the coach messed up, what player is overrated, and when we
are done diagnosing the team’s sickness, then we move on from that World Cup
and start having high hopes for the next one.

There is no scenario where Mexico is not going to the World
Cup. None. So being 180 minutes away from either going or not going is very
new, and very scary. Yes, I’m very scared. If Mexico does not qualify, I don’t
want next summer to come. I’m not ready for that possibility. I don’t want to
have everyone talking about it and not have Mexico in the conversation. I’m
petrified. I live for this. This event makes me genuinely happy, I don’t want
that to change.

What went wrong? How did we come to this scenario? Why do we
have to travel to New Zealand, yes freaking New Zealand, a country with 5 times
more sheep that humans, in order to secure the final ticket to Brazil 2014? And
then I analyze the road to New Zealand. It includes 4 different National Team
coaches, a loss to Honduras and three 0-0 home ties including one with Jamaica
at Azteca Stadium, the inability to recruit the best player of the country, a
disappointing and even disgusting sports media coverage, a miracle goal from
the US against Panama, a disrespectful Mexican Soccer Federation, no home field
advantage despite having 100,000+ supporters on the stands, and most
importantly zero identity on the field. 

This nightmare will come to an end in Wellington a week from
Wednesday with a tragic touch or hopefully with an unquantifiable sense of
relief. When I started saying that no one here in the US quite understands me
and this situation, I was not kidding, not trying to be funny, I was being
sincere. Americans have an amazing sports industry, and an inspiring sense of
patriotism, but they lack a team who truly unites the entire country. Maybe the
Dream Team or the Hockey Olympic Team, but those don’t come close. The US Soccer
National Team is exponentially growing in supporters, but is still nowhere
close to Mexico. I’ll say this though, having lived in Washington DC has
changed my perspective of how true soccer American fans live soccer, this sport
is not far from gaining cross country real attention.

The 2 legged series vs. New Zealand starts this Wednesday in
Mexico City and closes next Wednesday in Wellington. I believe that for the
first time in the qualifying process Mexico will have a true home field
advantage. Playing at 2:30pm local time, with the beautiful hot, dry, and
polluted atmosphere that only Mexico City could present and with 100,000+ fans
in the stands that know that this time everyone has to be in “hostile mode”
because the ticket to Brazil is on the line. I don’t know a single “All White”
player, but I’m sure they have no idea of what is ahead of them.

It worries me that the newest Mexican coach, Miguel Herrera,
opted not to call any “European” players such as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez,
Guillermo Ochoa, or Giovani Dos Santos, but even without them Mexico has the
better squad. The local players don’t need to adapt to the altitude nor the pollution
of the city, which plays in our favor. This terrible qualification journey is 10
days away from completion. The nightmare is about to end, and when we wake up,
let’s hope is with a ticket to Brazil in our hands.

PS. If you see any Mexicans on Wednesday, please don’t
worry, it’s game day!

PPS. Expect a weird virus that affects only Mexicans
(outside of Mexico) on Wednesday. #CallInSickWednesday

PPPS. Follow me on Twitter @michrika

Survivor/Eliminator Picks

Teams used so far:

Week 10:

WHEWWWW! Everyone of you who picked the Dallas Cowboys to beat the Vikings (very popular choice) felt how a Cowboys fan feels every week. I’m glad a bunch of you had the opportunity to live it. As for this week’s pick I had 2 clear options designed for this week, unfortunately as you know now, Rodgers broke his collarbone and the Packers are no longer trust-worthy. That leaves us with whoever is playing the Jaguars… again! Welcome on board Jake Locker and the rest of the Tennessee Titans you have been chosen to keep us going one more week. In their defense, the Titans are a good team and the model has them winning by the biggest margin this week. It would not surprise me at all if the other 13 contestants in my Survivor league choose the Titans.

Jacksonville 7 – 31 Titans

The pick: Tennessee Titans

Week 9:

Terrible news: the Jaguars are on a bye!!! I’ll have to pick someone that’s not a Jaguars opponent for just the second time in 5 weeks. The good news is that I expect the Cowboys to have a similar game as the one they played at home vs. the Rams, but this week vs. the Vikings. Dallas is the second highest favorite in my model and the third highest in Yahoo! and ESPN, so it’s a very safe bet. I feel confident using the Cowboys at home against almost any team, using them against a bad team with Freeman/Cassel/Ponder/Webb combo in their QB position is a no brainer.

Minnesota 22 – 36  Dallas

The pick: Dallas Cowboys
UPDATE: Tony “Clutch” Romo: thank you! Survived one more week.

Week 8:

Have I mentioned how much I love the Jaguars? They’ll be spreading their horrendousness all the way to London this week. Despite me giving the Jaguars a home field advantage which is worth almost 2.5 points, the Jaguars are still the biggest underdogs this week against the 49ers. 

San Francisco 31 – 11 Jacksonville

The pick: San Francisco 49ers
UPDATE: Not much to say when a powerful team faces the worst team in the National Football League. 

San Francisco 42 – 10 Jacksonville


Week 7:

Thank God for the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’ve looked at their schedule and if I could choose each of their opponents I would, they have a solid chance of going 0-16 for the season. Unfortunately I can’t bet against them every week. The good news is that I haven’t used the Chargers and even though they play on the road I like them. The model agrees with me projecting the second biggest blowout of the week.

San Diego 31 – 15 Jacksonville.

The pick: San Diego Chargers

UPDATE: Correct pick. Phillip Rivers is having a solid year. It’s too bad the Chargers are in the same division as the Broncos and the Chiefs.

Week 6:

For the first time this season I’ll pick only the 4th biggest blowout, but I got my reasons. The first one 1st one I can’t use (Jacksonville 14 – 50 Denver). The second one is a Thursday night game, I don’t trust anything that happens in those games (NYG 20 – 40 Chicago). The 3rd one suggests picking Kansas which I’ve already done. So we’re left off with Seattle beating the Titans at home. I’m really happy I haven’t chosen Seattle yet. This week’s the one.

Tennessee 16 – 25 Seattle

The pick: Seattle Seahawks

UPDATE: Correct pick. The Titans made it a close game though. We’re still alive!

Week 5:

Tricky pick this week suggested by the model. It picks a bad team to beat a terrible team. It always makes me nervous to go for this sort of picks. The other blowouts suggested come from Denver and Carolina. We’ve used Denver (but don’t trust them against the Cowboys anyways), and I definitely don’t trust the Panthers. I’m sticking with the Rams, the predicted score is:

Jacksonville 16 – 27 St. Louis

The pick: St. Louis 

UPDATE: Correct Pick. It was only close when the game started. Soon the Rams played well enough. We used a bad team and survived which is amazing!

Week 4:

The model suggests that I pick Kansas City against the younger Manning, which I dislike by the way. My other 2 projected blowouts come from Indianapolis and Denver, but I’ve already used both. The model predicts:

New York Giants 10 – 36 Kansas City

The pick: Kansas City

UPDATE: Correct pick. It wasn’t as easy as we could’ve thought, but things turned out for the best in the 4th quarter. We’re still alive.

Week 3:

Good news, the model is ready and we can start using it to make this picks as safe as possible. This week I have 2 solid options, the model is predicting this scores:

Jacksonville 0 – 23 Seattle
Oakland 20 – 34 Denver

On the one hand using Seattle seems such an easy choice, but I’m in the other hand I can probably use Seattle playing at home in another week and they’ll still be heavy favorites. I’m going to rely on Peyton Manning’s magnificent start of the season.

The pick: Denver Broncos

UPDATE: Correct pick. Easy win in this Monday Night for the older Manning.

Week 2:

I have always been a big Matt Ryan fan, specially at home versus a team that’s not good. I believe it’s a no brainer. I don’t see the Falcons starting the season 0-2.

The pick: Atlanta Falcons

UPDATE: Correct pick. Matty Ice at home never fails.

Week 1:

There are not many “obvious”  options to start the season. After weighing between the Patriots against the Bills in Buffalo and the Colts against the Raiders in Indianapolis, I will settle with Indianapolis. The main reason is the home field advantage. I personally don’t like choosing games between divisional teams, specially if the team I’m leaning on is the away team.

The pick: Indianapolis Colts

UPDATE: Correct pick, But we came close to loosing.

Broken dreams and Week 10 Picks

It’s amazing how the future of a team in one season can change dramatically so damn fast. This last Monday Night Football game is proof of that. The Packers entered the game one game ahead of their rival Bears, confidence was high for the Cheesehead fans. Not only had they dominated the Bears in the last 5 or so years, this time the Bears were walking into Lambeau Field as 11 (ELEVEN) point underdogs and with a backup QB. I had no reason whatsoever to even think about vetoing that game. 

In the first offensive series for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers took a sack from Shea McClellin, a second year player that will be remembered as the guy that broke Mr. Discount Double-check’s collarbone and possibly all aspirations for the Packers in the current season. What seemed to be a good game to increase their lead in the NFC North turned out to be a 3-way tie at the top of that tough division. Good luck with Seneca Wallace…

How this affects us non-Packers fans? Well would you have imagined 5 days ago that the lame Philadelphia Eagles would go to Lambeau Field as just a 1 point underdogs? The same Eagles that didn’t score an offensive TD against the Cowboys AND Giants defenses in back to back games? Nick Foles was abysmal against the Cowboys and 2 weeks later he throws a record tying 7 TDs in one game? I thought I knew how things worked in the NFL, truth is I know nothing… That is why I rely on my stats model to predict this outcomes.

Let’s move on to this week’s spread lines:

As you’ll see below, this week the model suggests an even distribution of picks between favorites and underdogs, very different than lasts week’s unfortunate results. Again I’m not going to present any vetos this week. We have 14 games this week and I have my eyes on that Panthers @ 49ers game. Should be a good display of good defenses and mobile QBs. It’s going to be a game where the Panthers will have to demonstrate that they can play good football against good teams and not only against terrible teams like they’ve had in the last 4 weeks. I believe they can, watch out San Fran, Luke Kueckly is coming! Also, New Orleans hosting the Cowboys. Two former Cowboys’ assistant coaches leading the pack for the Saints. Let’s see how Rob Ryan will try to stick it to Jerry’s face after his ugly dismissal from the team last summer. I’m predicting a bunch of blitzes against a wobbly Cowboys’ offensive line. It’ll be a great way to finish out Sunday, the Cowboys will win close or comfortable games, but they’ve yet to lose in a blowout, also they have good numbers in the Superdome, grab those 7 points.