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Cook’s 2021-22 NFL Gambling Picks: Conference Championship Weekend

How does the NFL follow-up the greatest weekend in the history of our sport? With a loaded Conference Championship Weekend. And Cook has your picks!

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NFL Conference Championship Weekend

How does the NFL follow-up the greatest weekend in the history of our sport? With a loaded Conference Championship Weekend. And Cook has your picks!

If you had any doubt that the National Football League is the pre-eminent form of sport in America, and will continue to be for as long as we’re all here, that surely went away after this past weekend. I mentioned last week how the Divisional Weekend is traditionally the best weekend of each NFL season. This season’s offering topped all expectations people had, which were high to begin with because it’s the NFL.

The Bengals & Titans got things off to a roaring start, with the upstart Cincinnati club getting through to the AFC Championship Game on a field goal in the dying seconds. Heady stuff for a franchise that was widely expected to be among the bottom five this season. This would usually have been the biggest upset of a given day, but the 49ers outdid them by knocking the Packers & their nationally despised quarterback out with a field goal in the dying seconds. Both #1 seeds were one and done in one night. The kind of drama the NCAA wishes they could manufacture every year in their men’s basketball tournament.

You thought there was no way that the Sunday games could have topped that, and the day was destined to be a letdown. Especially after the Rams got out to a 27-3 lead in the first game of the day. You were wrong. Tom Brady led the Buccaneers back to a tie because that’s the sort of thing he does, and the only surprising thing about it was the Rams managed to kick a field goal in the dying seconds. Then Patrick Mahomes & Josh Allen put on a show the likes of which we haven’t seen since ever. The Chiefs ended up winning in overtime (without the Bills getting a possession, which led to all sorts of talk), but the fans were the biggest winners of all.

Well, maybe second-biggest. The National Football League was probably an even bigger winner than the fans. I’d go as far to say that their #1 status in American sports is even stronger than WWE’s #1 status in American sports entertainment. Not only is the NFL the most established brand by a mile, it’s also the most entertaining by a mile. No matter what problems we might have with rules or executives or whatever, it’s tough to argue that they aren’t doing everything right.

Of course, it’s going to be tough to top last weekend. At best, you can only have two instant classic games instead of four. However, we do have four teams that know each other very well, have met very recently, and will do their best to establish their dominance.

Sunday, January 30

Cincinnati at Kansas City (-7)

The Bengals don’t like being thought of as underdogs. Joe Burrow & C.J. Uzomah have been very adamant about that. As far as the team is concerned, they are that good, and they deserve to be in the spot they’re in right now. Which is an awesome mindset. However, from outside the locker room, the simple fact is that nobody in the world expected the Cincinnati Bengals to be in the AFC Championship Game five months ago. Not many more people expected them to be here at the end of the regular season, and not many more people expected them to be here last week.

Hell, I’ve been picking against them all this time. My blood is Bengals orange & black during football season, but with that comes the knowledge of what’s happened before. Thirty-one years without a playoff win. Zero road playoff wins prior to 2022. When your chosen team is constantly playing the role of Charlie Brown to Lucy, you get used to the outcome and don’t even entertain the idea of something else happening. Getting calloused to failure means it doesn’t hurt as much when it happens.

The fact the Bengals have gotten this far puts this team on a level most Bengals teams haven’t reached. As much as we loved the Marvin Lewis teams with Carson Palmer, Chad & Rudi Johnson, Willie Anderson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Andrew Whitworth & the various cast of weird characters on defense, they never accomplished as much as this team did. Those folks couldn’t win one playoff game, let alone two.

The Kansas City Chiefs were supposed to be here. There was a brief period of time early in the season where their defense was the drizzling shits & Patrick Mahomes wasn’t quite the Mahomes of previous years where people wondered. I figured they would get back to form, and they did just that. The defense drastically improved, and the offense got back to being the Kansas City offense from the past few years. Given what’s happened on the NFC side of the bracket, it’s tough to bet against the Chiefs hoisting another Lombardi Trophy and Pat Mahomes adding another title to his record.

Yeah, the Bengals did win the Week 17 game, and it’s not like the Chiefs were disinterested and started a bunch of back-ups or anything like that. They were trying to win that game. It’s definitely something that’s been overlooked by Vegas & the media, where one wonders if the smart bet is against the spread.

The one drawback the Bengals have had this postseason is fair to bring up against a Chiefs team that scores so many points. Evan McPherson has been the Bengals MVP so far, and has been lights out from 50+ yards this season. He’s a great weapon to have, but everybody in the world knows that the Bengals won’t go to the Super Bowl if he’s kicking four field goals. The Bengals need to be scoring touchdowns against this Kansas City Chiefs team that will be cited as one of the great offenses of all time twenty years from now.

I feel like the Chiefs will win by 10 points. On one hand, I’ll be bitter. On the other hand, the Bengals will have had one of the best seasons in the history of the franchise, and it’ll be tough to complain. There’s no guarantee the Bengals will get back to this point with Joe Burrow at the helm, no matter how much we wish it so.

At least my friend Dustin James will be happy. We might part ways after this game, as football’s a serious piece of business worth taking seriously. Should the Bengals somehow win, Dustin James would send a hitman after me. He says he wouldn’t, but I know better. He’s a cutthroat sumbitch that would want my head on a platter if the Chiefs were eliminated here. The difference between somebody happy to be here and somebody that won once and now thinks it’s their birthright.

The Chiefs think it’s their birthright. I think they’ll win, and continue to think they have a birthright to go to Super Bowls and do tomahawk chops.

San Francisco at LA Rams (-3.5)

The 49ers certainly seem to have the Rams’ number. Six straight wins over the Los Angeles Rams, including a win that got them into the playoffs to begin with. Had the Rams taken care of business in Week 18, they might be playing the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers, basically anybody other than the San Francisco 49ers. It goes to show just how important those final games can be, even if coaches & players want to act like they aren’t.

I know people want to tell me that Matthew Stafford got to the next level once he beat the Bucs, and people want to tell me that Jimmy Garoppolo can’t be trusted. See, this is a tricky thing. I would like to trust Jimmy, but my friend Mina Kimes doesn’t, and now people want to trust Jimmy G because Mina never played football. Well, I didn’t play much football either, so Jeff Garcia wouldn’t trust my opinion either. Unless he knew that I had a penis. An important thing to have when you’re discussing football.

That being said, the Rams have looked as good as anybody else during the playoffs. We have to ignore that bit where the Bucs came back from a 27-3 deficit, because the Rams did end up winning. Cooper Kupp is getting MVP talk again, which is kind of weird because the MVP is only based on regular season activity. We choose to forget that when we need something to talk about. The Rams do have a bunch of star players, who so far have stepped up in big situations like star players tend to do.

It does seem that the 49ers will have the homefield advantage. It also seems like a close game, so even if I think the Rams will win, it could be a three point game. Should the 49ers win, it’ll be because of Deebo Samuel, who I’m not sure anybody has an answer for.


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NFL

Cook: Super Bowl LVI Final Thoughts

The Super Bowl worked for Cook’s betting picks, but not his fandom. He unfurls some feelings and thoughts about the Super Bowl, and the season that was.

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As a fan of the team that lost Super Bowl LVI, I should probably feel disappointed. Distressed. Discouraged. Disgruntled. Disenchanted. Despondent. Disconcerted. Dissatisfied. Depressed. Dejected. Despondent. Down. Downcast. Downhearted. Lots of D words, basically.

Don’t get me wrong. A sports fan’s favorite team losing any type of game comes with a bit of a sting. You want your team to win. Even those mid-September baseball games where your team has already been mathematically eliminated come with a little sting upon defeat. So yeah, I won’t deny that the Bengals coming up a little short at the end of the game stung a bit. It wasn’t the optimal result.

With that being said…I’m not disappointed or distressed or discouraged or disgruntled or disenchanted or any of those other D words I mentioned earlier. There were plenty of Bengals seasons that left me in that state of mind. Most of the pre-Marvin Lewis seasons. A lot of those Marvin Lewis seasons did, even the ones where they made the playoffs.

The 2021 version of the Cincinnati Bengals gave me nothing to be ashamed of. There were certainly some ups & downs in the regular season, but we all know that the postseason is what matters in football & every other sport. The postseason was the downfall of the Marvin Lewis Era of the Bengals. They could make it there. They just couldn’t win a game. Against anybody. I’m pretty sure I could have found 22 people on the street and beat the Marvin Lewis Bengals in a postseason game.

These Bengals made us forget about the past. Three decades of not winning in the playoffs came to an end. They were favored against the Raiders, but not really favored because they were the Bengals. It was a big hump for fans to get over. I was more gobsmacked after that win than what followed.

I could barely even text people afterward. It was unreal. Once that happened, things got more real. There was this Tennessee Titans team that was the #1 seed but was doubted because of their quarterback and injuries that happened but still got the #1 seed. (Those fans are still very bitter towards Bengal folks, btw.) The Titans even sacked Joe Burrow 9 times and still managed to lose because their offense couldn’t take advantage. But their coach won an award so everything’s ok.

The Chiefs, now there’s a beast I still can’t believe the Bengals managed to beat twice somehow. They’re cutthroat sumbitches just like Dustin James, and have the best quarterback of modern times in Patrick Mahomes. We know they’ll be one of the top teams in the AFC for years to come. Beating them in Week 17 in Cincinnati was one thing. Beating them in the AFC Championship Game in Arrowhead Stadium? Another thing entirely. Crazy stuff, unimaginable before it happened.

The Super Bowl didn’t end well, obviously. There were still moments that Bengals fans wouldn’t have believed before they happened. Joe Mixon throwing a touchdown pass, for one. The experts expected the Rams to blow the Bengals out of the water, and that isn’t quite what happened.

So what did happen?

The Rams’ stars rose to the top, as cream always does eventually. The Bengals could keep Cooper Kupp & Aaron Donald down for so long. You can’t keep the cream down forever. The Bengals’ offensive line could hold the Rams back for 2.5 quarters. They hit a wall eventually. The Rams ran out of weapons other than Cooper Kupp. Odell Beckham had a good game early, got hurt. Kupp was their last option after that, and the Bengals could shut him down for a minute, but not forever. When it was the end of the game and time for stars to step up to the plate, Cooper Kupp got the ball. You have to tip your hat to him.

The Bengals didn’t capitalize off of certain opportunities. As much as we love Evan McPherson, an extra touchdown instead of a field goal would have helped. That early 4th down call that led to a Rams touchdown didn’t help. Why was Samaje Perine in & having the ball directed towards him during the last two Bengals offensive plays of the game instead of Joe Mixon?

Maybe we’ll understand someday. Maybe we won’t. At the end of the day, the result is the same. The loss hurts, but seasons have come to an end in much bitter fashion. The future is still bright. The Cincinnati Bengals may not have shed all of their stereotypes, but few can deny that this isn’t a different team than previous versions. Joe Burrow is still with us, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Ja’Marr Chase is pretty good, along with Tee Higgins. The main thing the Bengals need? Offensive line, which this upcoming draft seems to have a deep pool of.

No, I’m not any of those D words. I’m optimistic about the future of the Cincinnati Bengals. The main thing that worries me? Given how fleeting existence on this mortal coil seems to be these days, I just hope to be around to see that moment where the Bengals finally shut the mouths of those critics. If only for a moment. Critics will always critic, as I well know being one myself.

Who Dey.


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Cook’s 2021-22 NFL Gambling Picks: Super Bowl LVI

Get some of your Gambling Pick insights for the Super Bowl! Cook’s heart may be with the Bengals, but where is his money?

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Hi, hello & welcome to Super Bowl LVI speculation! I’m Steve Cook, and I’m in a bit of an unfamiliar position here. In years past when I’ve done Super Bowl predictions & projections, I haven’t had any skin in the game. My Cincinnati Bengals are typically done for the season long before early February hits. Usually, I’m watching the Super Bowl as an impartial observer that doesn’t really care which team wins. This year, I have some interest.

Before we make the official Super Bowl LVI Against The Spread pick, we’ll look at some of the prop bets. Nothing in the world has more prop bets than the Super Bowl. Most of them are pretty ridiculous. I mean, we’re really betting on whether singers are going to show some cleavage? (Take “Yes” on that one, LA’s going to have some record heat on Sunday.)

Odds via BetOnlineVegas Insider!

Super Bowl MVP:

  • Matthew Stafford: +115
  • Joe Burrow: +225
  • Cooper Kupp: +600
  • Ja’Marr Chase: +1600
  • Aaron Donald: +1600
  • Joe Mixon: +2500
  • Odell Beckham Jr.: +2500
  • Cam Akers: +3000
  • Tee Higgins: +5000
  • Von Miller: +5000
  • Sony Michel: 6600
  • All others: +10000 or above

We all know that quarterbacks are the most likely Super Bowl MVPs, so Stafford & Burrow are the most likely to win it. As far as a less likely option goes? If Jalen Ramsey (+10000) shuts down Ja’Marr Chase and gets an INT in the process? He’d be my pick, and the best pick to get some money on. Von Miller might be a good pick at (+5000) since the voters know who he is.

Will the Super Bowl field goal record of 54 yards be broken?

  • No: -320
  • Yes: +210

Evan McPherson has made four field goals in each of the Bengals’ playoff games. This includes three over fifty yards. His longest field goal during the regular season was 58 yards. It’s definitely within the realm of possibility for him to get it done, so throw some money on Yes.

Largest Lead

  • Over 14.5 (+100)
  • Under 14.5 (-130)

You might think this will be a close game, and it could end up being one. But we’ve seen both the Bengals & Rams come back from double digit deficits during the playoffs. We’ve also seen the Bengals & the Rams have double digit leads, only for their opponents to manage to tie the game. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if one of these teams got out to a big lead, only to see their opponent come back. Take the over.

Overtime Odds

  • Yes (+950)
  • No (-2000)

We’ve only had two overtime games in these playoffs, both involving the Kansas City Chiefs. One of them also involved the Bengals, so Yes might be worth throwing a few bucks on just in case it happens.

Over/Under: 48.5

I’m liking the under here. We’re talking about two teams without a ton of Super Bowl experience. Will the moment get too big for some of these players? Maybe playing at home helps the Rams like it helped the Bucs last year, but it’s still the Super Bowl.

Sunday, February 13

LA Rams (-4) vs. Cincinnati

The best argument for the Bengals just might be their inexperience. They’re the youngest team on average in Super Bowl history. They don’t know what they don’t know, which can be an advantage in big situations. Of course, Joe Burrow has plenty of experience leading teams in big situations, as we saw him lead LSU to a National Championship just before the pandemic started. His coolness has been a large part of the Bengals’ success so far, no matter what happens he doesn’t seem to get rattled. Of course, if there’s a time where something like that could happen, it might be one’s first Super Bowl.

The Rams defense worries me, as a Bengals fan. They have a couple of top-notch pass rushers in Aaron Donald & Von Miller. Tough to find faults in their games, and everybody else can capitalize off of being unnoticed. Joe Burrow might not mind being blitzed, but we all know that the main Bengals weakness is their offensive line.

Then the Rams have Jalen Ramsey working the cornerback position. He’ll have a lot of receivers to keep track of, but I feel like Ramsey Island is something for the Bengals offense to worry about, like Revis Island back in the day. If Ramsey can shut down Ja’Marr Chase, then Tee Higgins or Tyler Boyd need to take advantage. Maybe they can, but here’s the difference: I don’t doubt that Cooper Kupp or Odell Beckham can take advantage off of whoever’s covered. The Bengals just don’t have that secondary depth.

If the Rams can get the same pressure on Joe Burrow that the Titans did, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win this game by at least a touchdown.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Super Bowl LVI!


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