So-Called Expert thankful and on a roll heading to week 12 of NFL Challenge

Thanksgiving is a day of traditions, a day for many to relax, spend time with family and friends, watch NFL football and, of course, sit down for a feast of turkey with all the trimmings.

This is also a time to reflect and be thankful for all of our blessings. The So-Called Expert is thankful for family, for my better half Cathy, for my rescue dog Mulligan, for golf buddies who believe in 3-foot “gimmes” and for a sportswriting career spanning more than three decades.

And, I almost forgot, I’m also thankful for guest prognosticators who have helped me build a five-game lead in my weekly one-on-one Pigskin Challenge in this space. (A special thank-you to Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who rolled over in Week 11.)

Carl Cain of Anaheim, a retired pallet mogul and this week’s designated guest prognosticator, also is thankful.

“I had several doctors tell me I’m lucky to be alive,” said Cain, 77, an avid golfer who suffered a serious stroke in 2007, when two blood clots in the back of his neck conspired against him. “I guess I shouldn’t be here. One of the doctors calls me the ‘Miracle Man.’ ”

Cain also is thankful that Fran, his wife of 38 years, is out of the hospital and recovering at home after complicated back surgery and that daughter Brenda is out of intensive care and back at her home after recent health problems.

All of which is why this will be a special Thanksgiving for Carl and Fran, their 10 children, 15 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Cain also was chosen to challenge the So-Called Expert in Week 12 because of his putting prowess from long distance.

Put it this way: Cain is known for putting from anywhere inside 100 yards, if the green isn’t elevated.

“I’ve been doing that for 15-20 years,” he said, laughing. “If you take your time, you should be able to get it on the green. I’ve seen a lot of golfers miss the green chipping from 40-50 yards, so why not putt?

“Hey, I’m lucky when I break 100, so why not have fun out there?”

That he does. Another Cain motto: “We’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time.”

And Cain lives that to the fullest, participating in hundreds of charity tournaments over the years – especially those benefiting children’s charities – in which he is known for putting one-handed, between his legs and, of course, from off the green.

“I’ve stuck a few of them a foot away from 90 to 100 yards,” he said matter-of-factly. And his frequent golf buddies have witnessed his long-range putting feats so often, they no longer refer to it as using a “Texas wedge.”

When they also choose to use the flatstick from off the green, it is not uncommon to hear one say, “I’m going to Carl Cain this one.”

When he was a member at Western Hills Country Club in Chino Hills, Cain also was known for teeing off with his putter on No. 6 and No. 8, both short downhill par-3s.

“It was easy to make a bogey that way,” he said.

And one day, back in 1997, he did better than that from 120 yards on No. 8.

After hitting his first tee shot out of bounds onto an adjacent road, Cain teed up another and knocked it in the hole.

“The guys who just left the green were jumping up and down when they saw the ball go in the cup,” he said. “I didn’t get excited. It was only a par.

“Everyone told me to say it was an ace. No way.”

Cain was born in Akron, Ohio and grew up there rooting for Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns, before moving to Southern California in 1970. He co-founded a pallet company in Gardena in 1976 and owned it until his retirement in 2003. He became a huge Rams fan after moving to Orange County and is one of the few people I know who didn’t blame Georgia Frontiere for moving the team to St. Louis.

He still follows the NFL, but he’d much rather be on the golf course, putting from long distance, of course.

Ready or not, it’s time for our Thanksgiving week predictions, with a lot of golf balls on the line, as always. (See if you can tell how hungry I am.)

Here are my picks and comments, noting the six games on which Cain and I disagree:

TURKEY DAY (Click here to login and make your picks)

Houston Texans (9-1) at Detroit Lions (4-6): Lions. My Upset of the Week, and Cain agrees. Not only did Texans have to extend themselves Sunday to beat the Jaguars in overtime, they had to travel during a short practice week. So I’m going out on a limb – a big, fat juicy drumstick – to pick the upset.

Washington Redskins (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5): Cowboys. (Cain picked Redskins.) Dallas also needed overtime to beat Browns, but I can’t go against Cowboys at home. ’Boys have won five of past six holiday matinees and are 28-15-1 overall on Turkey Day.

New England Patriots (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6): Patriots. Why is Buddy Ryan so quiet? Is he worried the Patriots, winners of five straight, are going to beat the stuffing out of his Jets?

SUNDAY

Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at San Diego Chargers (4-6): Ravens. (Cain picked Chargers.) Baltimore offense didn’t impress me against Pittsburgh last week, but Ravens defense could easily make mincemeat out of turnover-prone Philip Rivers.

 San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-5): Saints. (Cain picked 49ers.) Game of the Week. Saints have rebounded from an 0-4 start to get to .500 and Drew Brees is on a roll (no butter, please). Niners also had to travel after playing Monday night, a distinctive disadvantage.

Oakland Raiders (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-5): Bengals. (Cain picked Raiders as his Upset of the Week.) See a pattern here? Carl picked all of the California teams to win, and I picked all of them to lose. Bengals should enjoy offensive smorgasbord against a defense that has given up an NFL-worst 322 points.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-8): Browns. This would be a huge upset, except Steelers look very vulnerable with QB Byron Leftwich subbing for injured Ben Roethlisberger. And Browns are very hungry for a win after losing in OT to Cowboys.

Buffalo Bills (4-6) at Indianapolis Colts (6-4): Colts. Indy rookie QB Andrew Luck will bounce back from beating in New England by carving up Buffalo’s secondary.

Denver Broncos (7-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-9): Broncos. Why is Peyton Manning salivating? Because Broncos have won six in a row, and now he gets to feast on NFL’s worst team.

Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Chicago Bears (7-3): Bears. (Cain picked Vikings.) Minnesota will give Bears a heaping helping of Adrian Peterson, but Bears defense should be up to the task and angry after poor performance Monday night in S.F.

Tennessee Titans (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9): Jaguars. As bottom feeders in AFC South go beak-to-beak, it looks as if Jaguars are finally ready to celebrate.

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at Miami Dolphins (4-6): Dolphins. It’s all gravy for Seahawks at home (5-0), but they’re only 1-4 on the road, which is why wildly inconsistent Miami gets the nod in this one.

Atlanta Falcons (9-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4): Buccaneers, another upset special. (Cain picked Falcons.) Yes, I know Atlanta has NFC’s best record, but this is traditionally a bad weekend for non-flying birds. Bucs also have won five of past six.

St. Louis Yams (3-8-1) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6): Cardinals. Arizona has lost six in a row since a deceiving 4-0 start, but all bad things must come to an end, too, so Cards are ready to devour the Yams.

Green Bay Packers (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4): Packers. Green Bay has won five in a row to get back on the championship track; meanwhile, the reigning Super Bowl champions could turn into pumpkins. G-Men have lost two in a row and staring down the barrel of this schedule: Pack, at Redskins, Saints, at Falcons, at Ravens.

MONDAY

Carolina Panthers (2-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-7): Eagles. Turkey of the Week. If we’re lucky, we’ll fall asleep on the couch because of the lingering effects of a turkey-induced tryptophan coma. Gobble-gobble.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Is it time to eat yet?

Last week: Mike Scioscia, Angels manager, 10-4; So-Called Expert 13-1.

Season totals: Guest prognosticators 94-65-1; SCE 99-60-1.

Football Pool and Golf Ball Challenge winner: Mike Lopez 14-0. Won three-way tie-breaker in random drawing; Jonathan Lorden and Jeff Bonner also had perfect weeks.

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