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Hurley's Picks: Building a World Cup roster from NFL stars

CBS Boston 12/1/2022 Michael Hurley

BOSTON -- We're all sprinkling in some futbol with our usual football viewing these days, because while we may be American, we still enjoy high-level sporting competitions. And it doesn't get any higher than the World Cup.

And make no mistake about it: After Tuesday's entertaining-but-still-not-exactly-thrilling 1-0 win for the U.S. over Iran, there will be a whole lot of American eyeballs fixed on television sets on Saturday morning, when the U.S. takes on the Netherlands at 10 a.m. on the East Coast and 7 a.m. for our friends out west. (OK, realistically, most of those people will be joining us for the second half.)

Despite that interest though, there's still not a tremendous amount of star power on the American squad. Not to us novice footy fans, anyway. There's Christian Pulisic, yeah. And he sacrificed his most precious possession in order to score the game's lone goal on Tuesday. That'll bump up his Q rating, no doubt. 

Locally in New England at least, plenty of people surely know the Matt Turner story. He didn't play soccer until he was 14, didn't make varsity until his junior year of high school, was a walk-on at Fairfield and didn't get selected in the 2016 MLS draft, yet he became the best keeper in the league, earned a job with Arsenal, and now allowed just one goal in group play of the World Cup -- on a penalty kick, no less. What a tale.

Beyond that? Tim Weah has been involved a lot. Don't know much about him. Walker Zimmerman made that match-saving -- and World Cup-saving -- play against Iran. Had to look him up.

The team is fine without stars, obviously. But let's pretend they had 'em, and let's go ahead and be the first people to ever build a World Cup roster out of NFL players. Surely, nobody's ever thought to do this before. Wow. Shoutout to us -- but mostly me -- for this truly novel concept.

Goalkeeper -- Sauce Gardner

Have you seen this man's arms? Or his closing speed?

Well. He's got long arms. And he closes fast. Hunts the football, which should translate to the futbol. And his name is Sauce. Sounds like the perfect keeper.

Defenders -- I Don't Know

Honestly not sure what you're looking for on the back end. Don't watch enough soccer. I'm sure some safeties would be good at it, right? Throw Derwin James out there, for sure. Minkah Fitzpatrick, too. Maybe I'd want a big, scary linebacker at center back, just to make little, skinny strikers think twice before trying to score. But he can't be too big ... how about Devin White? Throw in Maxx Crosby just to really scare the bejesus out of opponents, too. 

Oh, and how could I forget Justin Reid? He plays safety and kicks field goals for fun. Duh. 

Boom. Defense done. Defense is boring though.

Midfielder -- Justin Tucker

This guy came up short on a 67-yard field goal outdoors last week, and we were all like, "Wait ... he didn't get it?" So you simply need that kind of power leg out there. Obvious choice. Free kick from midfield? Tucker might freaking score. 

Remaining Midfielders -- Sick Wideouts

We're going deep here, folks. Stefon Diggs, go deep, buddy. Justin Jefferson, get running. Devin Duvernay, you're fast as heck. Davante Adams, Jaylen Waddle, congrats, you made the team. I don't think we're going to be short on talent here. Sick wideouts is America's No. 1 export in the international sporting world. We're not playing defense on this team, just to be clear. We're scoring goals. No more nil-nil. We'll win 11-10 if we have to. 

Attacking Midfielder -- Lamar Jackson

OK, look, do I know all of the positions out there on the pitch? Reader, I do not. But if I need someone up front who is fast but can also deliver precise shots and passes, I'm going to need a quarterback. Ideally one who's an athlete and a half. Lamar can be that guy. I don't know if he can kick, though. Whatever, we'll figure it out.

Somewhere In The Middle Of The Field -- Travis Kelce

Again, the position thing, not my bag. But I just want to get Travis Kelce involved somewhere. He's just so slippery. He doesn't look fast, but he's always outrunning everyone and he's always finding creases in defenses that don't appear visible to anyone else. He's going to help you move that soccer ball from one end of the field to the other. We'll find space for him on the roster.

Center Forward -- Josh Allen

Again, if I want the ball to get in the net, I'm going to need someone who can move and someone who can deliver shots and passes with precision. Enter the 9-foot-tall Josh Allen. He's probably not fast enough to keep up with world class soccer players, I guess. But have you seen him run? Seems fine to me.

Striker -- Tyreek Hill

There was only one choice, really. Nobody else possesses the combination of raw speed plus start-stop ability quite like Tyreek Hill. He has a one-in-a-million ability to put other people into blenders.

When you need goals, Hill is your guy.

Mascot -- Tom Brady

Obviously, Tom Brady would be the slowest soccer player in the world. He has no place on the pitch. BUT! He fancies himself on the level of your Christiano Ronaldos and your Lionel Messis, so he's gotta be involved somehow. And really, when people around the world think of American sports, they probably think of LeBron James and Tom Brady first. So throw Brady out there every match, wearing a rotating wardrobe of killer eagle shirts. It's good for morale.

Manager -- Bill Belichick

Give this man a couple of weeks to study the rules, and the rest of the world is so, so screwed.

Bill Belichick Chris Unger / Getty Images © Provided by CBS Boston Bill Belichick Chris Unger / Getty Images

Did we just win a bunch of World Cups? I think we did. Congrats to us.

I might have picked a few too many people and a couple of extra positions there. But that's OK. We've got to fill out a bench, too.

Let's make some Week 13 picks.

(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)

Buffalo (-3.5) over NEW ENGLAND

I don't think the Patriots will get embarrassed like they were in the playoffs vs. Buffalo. People forget that the Patriots were using guys like De'Vante Bausby, D'Angelo Ross and Joejuan Williams on defense. So it'll be a better game.

Yet when Buffalo needs to gain 7 yards, Josh Allen will take off running for 50. As often as he wants.

HOUSTON (+7) over Cleveland

My exclusive Bad Pick of the Week hit last week, with the Jags not only covering but winning outright. Here's hoping we can keep that streak going, as Deshaun Watson's return to Houston could inspire the Texans to show up for once? Maybe? Perhaps? 

Regardless, Watson hasn't played in a game since the end of the 2020 season. There ought to be some rust. I'd feel better if Houston was getting, say, 25 points, but we have to work with what we're given.

BALTIMORE (-8.5) over Denver

Do you know what the NFL loves doing more than anything else? I will tell you. The NFL loves putting Patrick Mahomes on prime time more than anything else.

So it speaks to how dreadful the Denver Broncos are that the NFL took Patrick Mahomes off prime time in Week 14, solely because of how badly he and the Chiefs will be beating those dreadful Denver Broncos.

For that reason, I am out. (On picking the Broncos. In case that wasn't clear.)

ATLANTA (+1) over Pittsburgh

No respect for Mr. Smith's boys! 

Atlanta is ... fine! Just as fine as Pittsburgh. And they're at home, with the Steelers facing a short week and travel? Come on! 

Tennessee (+5.5) over PHILADELPHIA

The Titans are too tough to be losing by a touchdown. They've lost by that much just once all year, all the way back in Week 2, when they got blown out by the Bills. Their other three losses have been by one point, three points, and four points.

I have every reason to believe they'll be competitive in this one, with a chance to win it.

DETROIT (+1.5) over Jacksonville

Two teams that are kind of good enough to win sometimes. Love it. Take the home team getting points.

I have an itch to scratch here, and it has to do with selective outrage on officiating controversies. Like, the Jaguars' right tackle was clearly not set at all before Trevor Lawrence threw the late touchdown last week ... and I have yet to see anybody care about it. The video in the NFL tweet started so late that you can't even see it. 

Do we just not care because it's the Jaguars beating the Ravens? We should be better than that, folks.

(My personal reason for not getting up in arms is that I just don't expect NFL officials to get most things right.)

NEW YORK GIANTS (+2.5) over Washington

I'm so ride or die with the Giants that it's not even funny. I've picked them every game since Week 7. They rarely let you down. Now they're getting points at home? No need to think about it.

New York Jets (+3) over MINNESOTA

It's weird that the only things standing between the New York Jets and first place in the best division in the NFL are two losses to the Patriots and an organizational obligation to Zach Wilson. Take Zach out of those two Patriots games, and the Jets are either 9-2 or 8-3 at worst.

That's crazy.

Green Bay (-4.5) over CHICAGO

This will be the ultimate test of Aaron Rodgers' ownership of the Bears. He's hurt. He's seemingly halfway-invested in his job. He has no on-field chemistry with anybody. He just had to watch Jordan Love play for really the second actual time. It's not great.

And yet ... if there's one week where Rodgers is certain to care, it's the one where he boldly told every fan "I own you" during his visit a year ago.

If he flops in this one, it's over.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (+7.5) over Seattle

I get it. But still. As tempting as it is to pick against the team that's lost five in a row, you also have to remember that losing streaks do end eventually.

The Seahawks might be turning back into a pumpkin, too. Losing at home to the Raiders, coming off a bye, after losing to the Bucs? That's kind of spoiling what was a sweet start to the season for Pete Carroll and Co.

Miami (+4) over SAN FRANCISCO

Just to be completely honest, I wondered in August if Mike McDaniel might go 0-17. Something about that guy telling linebackers and O-linemen what to do seemed impossible.

And yet ... here we are. I like him going into his old home, against his old boss, and having his team play its best game of the year.

Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) over LAS VEGAS

The Raiders have won two in a row, but they needed overtime to beat the Broncos. Does that even count?

Kansas City (-2.5) over CINCINNATI

What a delightful football game for us all to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon! I'll go with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs because at this point in time, they seem to be so much better than everybody else.

DALLAS (-10.5) over Indianapolis

Very excited to watch the Colts in prime time again. Very, very excited. Super cool. Excellent. Most sweet.

TAMPA BAY (-3.5) over New Orleans

The Buccaneers' march to .500 begins now.

Call me crazy, friend, but I think they can do it.

(And, as you'll see from last week's record, I know a thing or two about getting to .500 around Week 13.)

Last week: 10-6

Season: 88-86-6

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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