Seattle at Chicago (-4)
RG: The Bears and the Seahawks have split the last four games in the Soldier Field. The two wins by Seattle were in the regular season by the scores of 23-20 and 38-14. That second game happened last year with Caleb Hanie at the helm. The two Bears wins were in the playoffs in 2011 and 2007. This is the regular season along with Browner and Sherman playing. Pick: Seattle
MK: In three of their five losses, Seattle has carried a lead late in the fourth quarter only to have their defense surrender a late touchdown. The spread here still accommodates a fourth time. Pick: Seattle
Indianapolis at Detroit (-4.5)
RG: If the Colts make the playoffs, their secondary will be the downfall of the team. Good feelings and pride can get a team somewhat far; but not in the playoffs. The Lions still pass the ball well, just not as far down the field. The Titus Young circus can't help, but that is more of a team discipline problem that has become obvious. Pick: Detroit.
MK: Two weeks ago, I uncorked a huge rant about how terrible the Colts are on the road and how their run over the last eight games isn't as impressive as it looks. The Lions aren't the Pats and I'm scared of this dangling half-point, but I like the Lions with the extra rest in a game they must win. Pick: Detroit
Tampa Bay at Denver (-7), Over/under: 50.5
RG: The stats in the weekly picks column should be interesting to anyone that reads them. The simple fact is that BOTH Josh Freeman and Peyton Manning are playing like MVP candidates. Still, the Broncos defense continues to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. They are 8th in points allowed and have given up about 17 a game during their win streak. Pick: Denver and the Under
MK: I tipped my hand on this pick last week. I'm not backing down. Taking advantage of a half-point to cover against the Vanilla Beans kept me above water, but the Buccaneers are leaving the station and I'm on the platform. The Broncos had an offensive hiccup in a winning effort in the division last week, but scored 30+ in their previous five. The weather looks good in Denver this weekend and I like the Broncos in a convincing win. Pick: Denver and the Over
Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-7.5)
RG: Ben is out. The Steelers are reeling and averaging almost as many punts as points without Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens needed Norv to win last week, but won't need him this week. Still, that extra half a point seems like too much here and the Steelers will fight hard for the win. Pick: Pittsburgh
MK: Jerome Bettis said that there's nothing worse than losing to Cleveland. Is losing three in a row--to Baltimore, Cleveland, and Baltimore again--even worse? I know the conventional wisdom is that the Steelers' defense is not what it once was, but it's still pretty damn good. They lead the league in total defense and against the pass. They are still in the top five against run and in scoring defense. Even if Ben isn't back this is a close game. Cam Cameron's incompetence rivals Pat Shurmur's, so even if we see another eight turnovers from the black and gold this one will stay tight late. Pick: Pittsburgh
New York N (-2.5) at Washington
RG: The Skins will continue a fun end to the season. It will hsve Shanny's hide and some moves to get something on the offensive line and in the secondary will make 2013 a fun year. They survive one more season of sanctions from the un-capped year that still was somehow capped, I guess. Anyway, I digress. The Skins are fun, but the Giants are beginning to take the season seriously. It's December now. Pick: New York
MK: I have been slow to embrace RGIII as a quarterbacking messiah. His virtuoso performances the last two weeks haven't quite converted me to that particular church. The Giants, having proven once again that they are not terrible after a few ugly weeks in the press, are due to look sloppy again. Washington's star begins to rise as Tampa's begin to fade. Pick: Washington
Fried Sauerkraut Balls
The summer I turned 21 (that's 2006, for everyone keeping score at home) I was living in Columbus, but I played for a bar league softball team in Lakewood, OH. Anyone who knows anything about the geography of the great state of Ohio knows that that's a considerable distance to travel, but a college buddy of my best friend--we'll call him The Sage--would drive up to Cleveland every Saturday night for a game Sunday morning throughout June and July. And good God, we were terrible. All was not lost, though, because in addition to seeing some of my best friends on a weekly basis, the bar who sponsored us offered us two things: pitchers of the beer of the month for $4 each and sauerkraut balls. Now, they offered these things to all their patrons, but they did give us a free pitcher for every four players we brought to the bar post-game to start things off. Anyway, I started ordering the sauerkraut balls, which I've since learned were once a Cleveland staple that have fallen out of fashion. I've only made them a couple times myself--most notably for the Colts-Bears Super Bowl of 2007--but this is a modified version, based on my own attempts and some recipes I've found.
What you'll need: 16 oz. ground pork or bulk sausage; half of a yellow onion, chopped; two cloves garlic, peeled but whole; 28 oz. (two cans) of sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry; 4 oz. cream cheese (room temperature); 5 eggs, beaten; 8 oz. milk; 1 tbsp brown mustard; 4 cups and 1 tbsp flour; 4 cups breadcrumbs; salt and pepper, to taste; several cups frying oil (canola, vegetable, or peanut makes the most sense).
Method: brown the pork with the onion and garlic (add salt and pepper), cooking for just a few minutes until the onions are soft and the pork is no longer pink. Remove the garlic, drain of liquid, and let cool for ten minutes. Once the pork has cooled, add the sauerkraut, cream cheese, mustard, 1 egg, and 1 tbsp of flour. Apart from the sauerkraut, these are all classic binding agents. Mix well and through, adding a pinch of salt again and a few more twists of pepper. Form them into one inch balls, or a size that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand--if they have difficulty keeping their shape, consider adding one more egg to the mixture and reworking it. Once formed into balls, chill them, or better yet, place them in a freezer--this will help them keep shape throughout the frying process. After an hour or so, dredge the sauerkraut balls in the remaining flour so that there is full but thin coverage. Then roll them through egg and milk mixture (about 4 eggs, 8 oz. milk) and then cover them in breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. (Pro-tip: Use wet hand/dry hand when doing this, otherwise your flour/egg-milk/breadcrumb complex is going to become a huge mess.) Fry them in hot oil and serve with mustard, sour cream, or ranch dressing.
Personally, I prefer the ranch. There aren't any pretensions that this is a classy snack. It's tangy, deep-fried, and weird, and about as damaging to the long-term viability of your cardiovascular system as a pack of smokes. Trust me, they're worth it, though.
In honor of the recipe choice, I give the only Polish beer I have ever had: Zywiec