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Showing posts from November, 2014

Elizabeth's Song of Hope

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"After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” — Luke 1:24-25

Hope is a powerful thing. It is a necessary thing. As Paul writes in First Corinthians 13:13, only three things remain — faith, hope, and love. So it's fitting that Hope is the first candle of Advent, which beings today. Hope is foundational, necessary, and, sadly, often misplaced in our world.

People place hope in a lot of things of this world, and they often feel betrayed. In 2008, President Obama ran on a campaign of hope. He was elected and started his term with a nearly 80 percent approval rating. Just six weeks later, that rating was in the 40-percent range. Why? Because a human can't be the embodiment of hope.

We put our Hope in God, and His promises, and we'll never be disappointed. That was the story of Elizabeth. She was older…

Upcoming Releases — December

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We've reached the final month of the year, which offers a mix of holiday films, event films, and those movies that want to vie for the big awards. Sometimes one release will be all three!

Wednesday, December 3:
Wild — This is the true life story of Cheryl Strayed, but it's probably a bigger deal because of the performance of Reese Witherspoon. Witherspoon is at the top of a lot of Best Actress nominations list because of her fierce performance here.

Friday, December 5:
Top Five — It's been a little while since Chris Rock really headlined a hit, but this might do it. This feels like a good starring vehicle for Rock, and a film that allows him to make some observations about his career and the industry. The trailer also looks pretty funny.

The Dying of the Light — Nicholas Cage plays an aging CIA agent hunting for his nemesis before he retires. Um, nothing to see here… move along.

The Pyramid — Well, they can't all be winners. This is a low-budget horror film set on an ar…

Fall TV Roundup, Week 13

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In these weekly posts I look at all the new shows of the fall. I review the pilot and second episode. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
State of Affairs, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered November 17)
About: This is the latest drama from NBC to get the cushy post-"Voice" slot. It is Katherine Heigl's return to TV, where she plays a CIA analyst who prepares the daily briefing for the President. There's also a lot of other ongoing stuff she's dealing with in the wake of the death of her fiancé, who happened to be the President's son. It's complicated. The first episode really wanted to play up the fact that Charleston Tucker (Heigl) was self-destructive in her personal life. She drank a lot, rarely slept, and had a lot of random hook ups. That was dialed back 1,000 percent in the second episode, and it was actually a better show. I don't know if this will be a great, good, or even overly compelling show, but …

'Homeland's' Redemption

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“This is not who we are. This is not who you are. Please. Please. Please, Saul. Get up. Get up. Get up, get up. Please, please. No more dying. I wanna go home.” – Carrie, “Homeland”

“Homeland” was the hottest show on TV in its first season, sweeping the Emmys. It was compelling, engrossing, and wildly entertaining. But a funny thing happened, it was a victim of its own success. Rather than follow the logical conclusion it was building towards, the network interceded. A character who should have died lived, and instead it was the creativity of the show that died.

“Homeland,” a shell of its former self, limped through a weaker second season and a ridiculous third season that killed any remaining audience good will. But the show was finally able to clear the decks and remove some of the dead wood. That led to a wide open fourth season, at least in theory.

The first few episodes of this renaissance weren’t all they were cracked up to be. Stories were confusing, as were character actions …

NFL Picks, Week 14

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Well, the season is in the home stretch and I’m building a lead, up four picks through 12 weeks. Lindsay insists she gets a bonus five picks at the end of the season, since she knows less about football than me, so I have some work to do if I want to finish the year ahead.

Week 13:
Bears +7.5 Over Lions (Lions)
Cowboys -2.5 Over Eagles (Cowboys)
Seahawks +.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Browns +1.5 Over Bills (Browns)
Bengals -3.5 Over Buccaneers (Bengals)
Texans -6.5 Over Titans (Texans)
Colts -9.5 Over Washington (Colts)
Rams -7.5 Over Oakland (Rams)
Panthers +2.5 Over Vikings (Vikings)
Steelers -3.5 Over Saints (Steelers)
Giants -2.5 Over Jaguars (Giants)
Ravens -5.5 Over Chargers (Chargers)
Cardinals -2.5 Over Falcons (Cardinals)
Packers -3.5 Over Patriots (Packers)
Broncos -1.5 Over Chiefs (Broncos)
Dolphins -5.5 Over Jets (Dolphins)

Last Week: 8-6
Lindsay: 6-8

Season: 92-84
Lindsay: 88-88

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Natalie Dormer
Synopsis: “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1” ends when it’s really starting to get good. Or rather, it ends just when you want it to hit the climax. That’s not to say the preceding two hours are bad, just incomplete. But could it really have ended any other way. The fact that it’s part one of a story that was contained in a single book means you won’t have closure. And that’s what happens here — there is no closure, just a set up for that closure sometime next November. Blame “Harry Potter.” Ever since the producers of that franchise realized they could dominate the headlines, extend their run and increase their Box Office haul by splitting the final book into two films, everyone has followed suit. So this “Hunger Games” mov…

2014 Broncos Season, Week 12

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The Broncos returned home and won the game, maintaining their perfect home record. But the game was far from perfect. The injuries are mounting, the Chiefs are lingering, and there's a long road ahead.

Week 12: Broncos 39, Miami Dolphins 36
Season Record: 8-3 (6-0 Home)
Key Play: In the fourth quarter, with the Broncos finally having taken a 32-28 lead, safety T.J. Ward intercepted a deflected pass and returned it to the red zone. Peyton Manning then connected with Wes Welker on a short touchdown pass to increase the Broncos lead to 39-28 with little time left in the fourth quarter.

Recap: Ultimately the end result is what matters most, but the Broncos didn't make it easy. The Broncos have struggled since wrapping up a home stand in October by pounding the 49ers and handily beating the San Diego Chargers. The team went 1-2 on a three game road trip, including an embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams. The team returned home to battle a frisky Miami Dolphins team, one that has pl…

Hitting the Road

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For the first time since our honeymoon, Lindsay and I are headed out on a vacation. Since we were dating, we've talked about getting to visit Las Vegas. In fact, at one point Lindsay thought it would be fun to get married in Las Vegas.

Some people turn their head when you talk about going to Las Vegas, thinking you're just into drinking and gambling. But there is so much more to do here. It's really like an adult Disneyland. There are shows, exhibitions, and lots to see. Each of the casinos is built like a different part of the world, and there are a number of specialty shops — like the four-story M&M store.

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

* The Titanic Exhibit. Even 100 years after it sank, it's hard not to be fascinated by the ship, the people aboard, and its tragic fate.

* Shark Reef Aquarium. I've been once before and it was incredible. I can't wait to show Lindsay.

* TV City. Located in the MGM Grand is a delightful place where you can wat…

The final part split

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Blame "Harry Potter." Or, better yet, blame the studio that made "Harry Potter." The film adaptations of the books had been so successful, made so much money, and captured so much national attention, no one wanted it to end. But there were only seven books, so how to keep it going?

The "Potter" team came across an ingenious discovery. It would take the final book and split it in half, ramping up the tension, ramping up the Box Office, and killing the creative vision of the book. While, arguably, the two halves of the final "Harry Potter" book are both great films, they're not what was originally intended.

But splitting the final book gave the team an extra movie, millions of extra Box Office dollars, and another year to dominate the headlines and pop culture. Their gambit worked, and now it appears to be here to stay.

"The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay, Part 1" debuted yesterday. It's the first half of the third and final installm…

Saddest 'Horror Story' ever?

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“Those girls were a cool stream of glacier water. My heart bloomed as they nourished it. And now it's all gone. There's nothing left but the dust and the scorpions inside of me. I was never destined to feel love.” – Dandy, “American Horror Story: Freakshow”

When “American Horror Story: Freakshow” bowed in October, it offered the potential to be the best installment of the series. Now in its fourth run, this installment started with great potential, kooky characters, and possibly the scariest clown in the history of entertainment.

Instantly the idea reminded me of the movie “Freaks,” a 1932 film that featured real carnival and sideshow performers in a film that, for years, has been touted as one of the scariest ever. After being persecuted, the colorful characters at the freakshow turn and go on the rampage. In the pilot of “Freakshow,” it seemed like that was where this installment of the show was headed too, and it was potentially terrifying.

Now midway through its run, the …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week.


Big Hero 6
Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans, Jr., T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, and Alan Tudyk
Synopsis: When the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment, it opened a new world of possibilities. Already Marvel’s heroes have moved into Disney’s theme parks in full force, and Marvel properties have moved to ABC, the Disney-owned network. But the partnership also opened the door to other creative endeavors. “Big Hero 6” is the latest feature from Disney animation — it was also inspired by an obscure Marvel comic. Fans of the comic will recognize some serious liberties have been taken, but in the process the animators at Disney have created a fun new world. Superhero films have a lot of cache at the Box Office, and “Big Hero 6” is no exception. But rather than following some of the darker, more serious elements of the source material, the movie has created a kid-friendly world an…

NFL Picks, Week 12

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It's time for the week 12 picks. Week 11 was a horror show for a number of NFL teams, and for our picks. Let's hope Week 12 is a little better. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 12:
Raiders +7.5 Over Chiefs (Chiefs)
Browns +3.5 Over Falcons (Falcons)
Bills -4.5 Over Jets (Bills)
Bears -5.5 Over Buccaneers (Bears)
Bengals +1.5 Over Texans (Texans)
Lions +6.5 Over Patriots (Patriots)
Packers -9.5 Over Vikings (Packers)
Titans +11.5 Over Eagles (Eagles)
Colts -13.5 Over Jaguars (Colts)
Rams +5.5 Over Chargers (Chargers)
Cardinals +6.5 Over Seahawks (Cardinals)
Broncos -7.5 Over Dolphins (Broncos)
Washington +8.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Cowboys -3.5 Over Giants (Giants)
Saints -3.5 Over Ravens (Saints)

Last Week: 5-9
Lindsay: 4-10

Season: 84-78
Lindsay: 82-80

Fall TV Roundup, Week 12

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We're nearing winter, and the new shows debuting this fall are slowing down. Now it's mostly those late release network offerings and some Cable options. As always, I review pilots and second episodes of new shows. If you don't see a new show listed below, please check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
State of Affairs, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered November 17)
About: This is the latest drama from NBC, one that slips into the "Blacklist" time slot behind "The Voice." So NBC has high hopes for the series, which is also a come back to television vehicle for Katherine Heigl. The series feels like a bit of a mishmash of a lot of different series, including "Homeland" and "The Blacklist." It's about a woman working for the CIA as an analyst that prepares the daily briefing for the President. There's some secrets and ongoing mysteries, and Heigl's character has a tragic past that's led to some troubling personal behavi…

2014 Broncos Season, Week 11

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The NFL is hitting the home stretch, and Sundays game showed the Broncos still have a lot of work to do.

Week 11: St. Louis Rams 22, Broncos 7
Season Record: 7-3 (5-0 Home)
Key Play: Early in the first quarter, with the Rams dominating game flow and time of possession up 3-0, quarterback Shaun Hill connected with wide receiver Kenny Britt on a 63-yard touchdown strike to make it 10-0 with 1:10 left in the first quarter. The Rams continued to dominate the entire game.

Recap: Week 11 was a bad time for a lot of teams, but perhaps none more so than the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been 13-3 and the top seed in the AFC each of the last two seasons. With six games left, it feels like that dream is all but gone. Worse yet, this is a Bronco team with major flaws that it doesn't seem able to overcome and the injuries are starting to pile up. In short, it was hard not to leave Sunday's game feeling like the Broncos could be in real trouble. Now, granted, the Rams have been one of the …

Going out a Bronco

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“I've been around the league for a number of years, and you don't get any better than Champ.” —Former Denver head coach Mike Shanahan

Earlier this fall, Champ Bailey decided to retire. It had been a long off season and a rough start to the new season. Bailey’s time in Denver came to an end over the summer, and he signed with the New Orleans Saints. But shortly before the new season began, the Saints cut Bailey. He looked for work for the first few weeks of the season before deciding to hang it up for good.

Rightly, the Denver Broncos will sign Bailey to a one-day contract on Tuesday so he can retire as a Denver Bronco. Though he played for the Washington Redskins for the first few seasons of his career, he will probably best be known for what he did in Denver. He was a great player for the Broncos, one of my all time favorites, and it seems right he should retire as a Bronco. Hopefully in five years, when he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he will rightly go in…

A look at depression

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“He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away.”  ― Elizabeth Strout, “Olive Kitteridge”

HBO used to be known for making TV movies, and some very good ones. But in recent years, much like networks that used to make original movies and mini series, HBO has focused on its original dramas and comedies. Now it offers just a few movies and mini series each year. In fact, the last movie that wasn’t a documentary was “The Normal Heart” last Spring.

But on November 2 and 3, HBO offered “Olive Kittridge,” a four hour mini series that aired in two, two-hour installments. The work was based on the collection of short stories from Elizabeth Strout, and it was directed by Lisa Cholodenko, the director behind “The Kids Are All Right.”

The mini series was a fascinating exploration of the character Olive Kittridge, played beautifully by Frances McDormand in an Emmy-worthy turn. It was based on Strout’s work, w…

A different path?

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“I'm going to ask you to look around at your families, your friends, the members of your community. Ask yourself do you look at them with suspicion? Do you?” – Paul, “Gracepoint”

One of the buzziest shows heading into the fall was “Gracepoint,” a 10-episode limited series on FOX. The show is a re-make of the British crime drama “Broadchurch,” an eight-episode saga that was part mystery and part intense character study. Both versions were created by Chris Chibinal, and both star David Tennant in the lead role.

And for the first six episodes, it felt like “Gracepoint” was simply following the blueprint from “Broadchurch” exactly. Sure, the location, character names, and some of the faces changed, but the story was largely the same. On Thursday, in its seventh episode, “Gracepoint” finally started to walk a different path.

I am on record as being skeptical of this whole endeavor. Originally I was excited about the idea of “Gracepoint,” but the more I thought about it the less excite…

Now Playing

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Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.

Birdman
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone
Synopsis: "Birdman" is a fascinating film. It's been hailed by critics as a masterpiece and it will likely be a player come award time. And there is a lot to like about the film. But it's not the kind of movie that will likely appeal to mainstream audiences. It feels like a very meta exploration of life, the careers of Keaton and Norton, the nature of criticism, and where the motion picture industry is. If that sounds incredible, you're the target audience of "Birdman." If it doesn't, you likely won't appreciate what writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu is trying to do here. That being said, Keaton is incredible in the lead role. He looks like he's having fun, and he's really sinking into the part here. Norton is also incredibly good, and it feels like he's using the part as a wa…

NFL Picks, Week 11

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It was a good week 10, as I took a one pick lead. Let's see if I can maintain it. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 11:
Dolphins -5.5 Over Bills (Dolphins)
Seahawks -.5 Over Chiefs (Chiefs)
Falcons -1.5 Over Panthers (Panthers)
Bears -3.5 Over Vikings (Vikings)
Bengals +6.5 Over Saints (Saints)
Browns -3.5 Over Texans (Browns)
Broncos -9.5 Over Rams (Broncos)
Giants +4.5 Over 49ers (49ers)
Washington -6.5 Over Buccaneers (Washington)
Raiders +10.5 Over Chargers (Chargers)
Lions +1.5 Over Cardinals (Lions)
Packers -5.5 Over Eagles (Packers)
Colts -2.5 Over Patriots (Colts)
Steelers -5.5 Over Titans (Steelers)

Last Week: 9-4
Lindsay: 8-5

Season: 79-69
Lindsay: 78-70

Fall TV Roundup, Week 11

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In these weekly posts I look at all the new shows of the season. I review the pilot and second episode of new shows. If you don't see a new show listed below, please check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
The Britishes, Tuesdays at 8:22 p.m. on DirecTV (October 28)
About: This is the latest from DirecTV, an original series that spoofs "Downton Abbey." It's also a short, and judging by the first two installments that's an understatement. Neither short has been longer than three minutes. So far it's mostly just been a series of cliches of complaints about "Downton Abbey," or exaggerations of things the show is famous for. This was a highly advertised series, but so far there's not much to it.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-

Benched, Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on USA (Premiered October 28)
About: USA hasn't had a lot of luck with comedies, but "Benched" has the bones to be a keeper. It's been a rough fall for new sitcoms — with four …

2014 Broncos Season, Week 10

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The Broncos continued their three game road trip with a win, this time a blow out over the 0-9 Oakland Raiders.

Week 10: Broncos 41, Oakland Raiders 17
Season Record: 7-2 (5-0 Home)
Key Play: In the first half, trailing 10-6, Peyton Manning connected with running back C.J. Anderson on a 51-yard touchdown pass on a screen. It broke it open for the Broncos, who scored touchdowns on their next five drives to take a communing 41-10 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Recap: The Broncos played an ugly game in New England last week. The team turned the ball over, got down early, and got pounded. It looked like the Broncos had a lot of hang over early in the game with the Raiders. Manning threw an interception on the second play of the game. Later, after struggling to move the ball and score points, Manning was intercepted again. Though the Broncos defense played well and the Raiders had hardly moved the ball, the team was up 10-6 and it was understandable that Broncos' fans might have st…

The woeful Lakers

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The Los Angeles Lakers won a game Sunday night. The Lakers, behind 21 points from Kobe Bryant, were able to top the Charlotte Hornets 107-92. The win, the first of the Lakers' season, moved their record to 1-5.

Winning a game didn't used to be news for the Lakers, but then again the team didn't used to start seasons 1-5. This a team that, with Bryant, has been a perennial contender. Bryant has won five titles and been in the NBA Finals seven times. He's one of the great players of his generation.

But now his declining skill — due to age and injury — and gigantic contract have hamstrung the Lakers. The once proud franchise now isn't even the best team in Los Angeles. That would be the Clippers, who have talent, coach Doc Rivers, and a clear path to the playoffs.

Two seasons ago the Lakers were poised to make one last run. The team has Bryant and Pau Gasol, as well as Metta World Peace. They traded for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, giving themselves a loaded roster.…

The Right to Die

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The second half of our exploration of the value of human life in our Sunday School curriculum looked at suicide — more specifically those who choose to end their suffering by taking their own lives. It's a tricky subject, and just one of the reasons this curriculum has been so challenging and engrossing.

This is a topic that’s been in the news quite a bit this week. Brittany Maynard was a 29-year-old woman who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She opted to move to Oregon — where assisted suicide is legal — in order to end her life with what she said was death with dignity. She wanted to die on her own terms, while she was still in good health.

Maynard went through with her plan last Sunday, writing to her supporters on Facebook, “Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more.”

An article looking at Maynard's decision also discuss…

Showtime's flailing Sunday night lineup

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"Mathison? I heard rumors she's on her own planet. Not like lovable eccentric, hardcore chemical." — Dennis, "Homeland"

Four falls ago, when "Homeland" debuted, it was easily the most fascinating new show of the year. It was an incredible thriller with a great story and great performances. It rode a wave of critical and popular acclaim through awards season and a first season finale that didn't end the way most people thought.

That ending — with Brody (Damian Lewis) — was heavily influenced by Showtime's hopes for the future of the series. Ironically, that decision likely sealed the creative fate of the series. Sure, now in its fourth season, "Homeland"has finally shed the Brody storyline, but it turns out there's no where left to go.

The fourth season was supposed to be a creative re-boot for Carrie (Claire Danes) and the rest of the cast left. Instead, it's been a curious, and curiously unappealing, decent for a show that …

Now Playing

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Here's my movie review for the week.

St. Vincent
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, and Jaeden Lieberher)
Synopsis: Thirty years ago Bill Murray lit up the screen in the original “Ghostbusters” film. That was part of a run of larger-than-life characters that Murray played, helping cement his iconic status in comedy. But in the years since “Ghostbusters,” he’s made a transition to a different kind of character. Many of Murray’s recent films have seen him play something a little less larger-than-life, and more often than not a bit quirky. That lines up perfectly with “St. Vincent,” a film that sees him playing a bit of a loser, but someone who has a lot more depth than is visible on the surface. The film also marks a bit of a transition for co-star Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy started on the small screen playing loveable characters, but after her success in “Bridesmaids,” she’s  gone on a run of playing characters a little more caustic here. Not s…

NFL Picks, Week 10

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Week 10 of the NFL season is here, and Lindsay and I are locked in a fierce battle with pride on the line — mostly my pride. Lindsay's picks are in brackets.

Week 10:
Browns +6.5 Over Bengals (Browns)
Falcons -.5 Over Buccaneers (Falcons)
Chiefs -1.5 Over Bills (Chiefs)
Cowboys -7.5 Over Jaguars (Cowboys)
Lions -2.5 Over Dolphins (Lions)
Titans +9.5 Over Ravens (Titans)
49ers +4.5 Over Saints (49ers)
Steelers -4.5 Over Jets (Steelers)
Broncos -11.5 Over Raiders (Broncos)
Rams +7.5 Over Cardinals (Rams)
Giants +9.5 Over Seahawks (Giants)
Packers -7.5 Over Bears (Packers)
Eagles -6.5 Over Panthers (Panthers)

Last Week: 6-7
Lindsay: 5-8

Season: 70-65
Lindsay: 70-65

Fall TV Roundup, Week 10

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It hasn't been a good fall for new shows, and now the ax is starting to fall. "Manhattan Love Story" and "Utopia" have been officially cancelled, while "Mulaney," "Bad Judge" and "A to Z" are just playing out the string. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more of these shows get axed this month.

In these weekly posts I review new shows. I look at the pilot and second episode of new shows out there. If you don't see a new show from the fall below, check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
The Britishes, Tuesdays at 8:22 p.m. on DirecTV (Premiered October 28)
About: This is a new short on DirecTV. They are airing on Tuesday nights in between the comedies that have been airing this fall. The show is meant to be a send up of "Downton Abbey," and the first episode worked pretty well. But to call this a short is an understatement. The first episode was three minutes. I am curious to see where these go, but it's hard t…

2014 Broncos' Season, Week Nine

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You can't win them all. In all the NFL, only one team has just one loss. It's been an even and competitive season, and the Broncos found out that for as good as they've been, they have room to improve.

Week Nine: New England Patriots 43, Broncos 21
Season Record: 6-2 (5-0 Home)
Key Play: In the second quarter, trailing 13-7, the Broncos were forced to punt. After Britton Colquit nearly had the punt blocked, the ball sailed to Julian Edelman, who returned it 84 yards for the touchdown, putting the Patriots up 20-7. The Patriots never looked back, increasing the lead to 27-7 to end the first half before earning the 22-point win.

Recap: Sometimes you have a bad game. That's what happened on Sunday. The Broncos played a bad game, both offensively and defensively. It could be argued there were some bad calls, too, but it got away from them quickly and they never recovered. It happens. And in a season where there are a lot of teams all packed together, this is to be expected. S…