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Over/Under

As a kid, I used to scan the Sears catalog for all the toys I wanted for Christmas. I would leave notes in the catalog, with the hopes for a pile of gifts just for me. By Christmas Eve , the gifts, though somewhat disappointing in volume, placated me. Unlike the nights previous to Christmas Eve, sleep came easily, knowing what was actually in those packages.

As an adult, the excitement of Christmas waned and moved to football. Much like Christmas, I began to wonder what each new season had in store. I would spend quite a bit of my free time reading about the various teams, hoping to successfully put my finger on the pulse of the coming season. As the years have gone by, though, I have figured out that most of the excitement and interest generated by the media isn't wisdom and intelligence and genuine enthusiasm, but something altogether different: Hype.

Here are the most over/under-hyped games available for viewing in Chicago. Also, since I had a soft spot for Jimmy the Greek in my heart (until he decided to play "social commentator"), each game includes my prediction.

Over-hyped: Miami at Pittsburgh, Thursday 7:30 PM Central
OK, I'm a huge Steelers fan. Some might even consider me a freak. So what if I had two Franco Harris jerseys when I was a kid? Every kid should be so lucky to have one strictly for playing football in the backyard, and the other for school. One might file this away as childhood fancy. I look back and feel proud.

So why am I turning you away from this game? Both teams have pretty good defenses. Though both teams ended last season playing well, but each has made some important changes on offense. And then there's the big news: Ben Roethlisberger is out due to not wearing a helmet on his appendix.

The Steelers have won their opener the past four years running, albeit against four crappy teams. This year, they have graduated from "that decent team that cannot win in the playoffs" to "that team that annoyed us all year with those Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Champions commercials." Even I wished for the return of those cheesy football phones.

In short, everything points to a low scoring game. If you choose to watch it, it will be difficult to determine if "impressive defensive play" or "the other offense wanting to lose more" was the determining factor.

Pick: Under 37 points, Miami +5

Under-hyped: Seattle at Detroit, Sunday Noon Central
This game serves as the warm-up to the Bears-Packers game. Try your best to mow the lawn between 11 a.m. and noon, because I believe this will be one of the more surprising games of the weekend.

Here is the storyline: Seattle went to the playoffs as the number one seed in the NFC last year, then lost to a hot Steelers team that "some say" won through faulty officiating. Now, they start their defense of the NFC crown by traveling to pitiful Detroit. In other words, the experts say, don't watch this game because the result is a no-brainer. So much so, reports are Vince McMahon will be special guest referee.

This will be a closer game, however, and a high-scoring game at that. After all, Seattle led the league in scoring last year. And even though Seattle led the league in sacks, Detroit was in the bottom half of allowing sacks. That's pretty impressive for a Detroit team on the verge of signing Josh Blue from Last Comic Standing to improve their faltering running game. Also, while Jon Kitna is not exactly the Barack Obama of the NFC North, he can make some plays.

I'm not saying that Detroit will win. I'm just saying there will be plenty of scoring. And maybe, just maybe, one of those patented Down-by six-driving late-in-the-game-and-Detroit-snatches-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory endings.

Pick: Over 35 points, Seattle -3

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Posted on Nov 13, 2019