Editor's note: Every week this season, gay teenage NFL fan Jeremy Brener will give his perspective and predictions for the upcoming week.
I am incredibly disappointed in the outcome of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which was repealed by voters on Tuesday. Anthony Nicodemo, a gay high school basketball coach, and Brynn Tannehill, a transgender Air Force Veteran, both wrote incredible pieces voicing their disdain for the ruling, stating that Houston’s upcoming Final Four in 2016 and Super Bowl in 2017 should be relocated to different cities.
However, as an LGBT Houstonian, I believe that Houston is still a great option to host these upcoming events and the city should be able to host sporting events in the future.
My reasoning behind this is not related to money nor convenience. I have lived in Houston my entire life, and I feel incredibly comfortable and safe. Never have I come across one person that has been narrow-minded towards my gay or Jewish identity. Houston is a melting pot, filled with every minority from A-Z. The votes may relay one message, but the Houston I know relays a completely different message.
Houston is falling into this stigma that Texas is this typical Southern land of bigotry, and that could not be more untrue. Our current mayor Annise Parker is a champion for LGBT rights, as she is proudly married to a woman and has adopted a homeless LGBT teenager. From the Houston I know, people do not care if someone is black, white, brown, yellow, blue, straight, gay, transgender, whatever. In Houston, a person is a person. A transgender man is just as much a man as any other man. A transgender woman is just as much a woman as any other woman. This progressive Houston did not speak as loud as the other side. We need to be louder and more effective in voicing our message. The Final Four and Super Bowl are the perfect chances for Houstonians and the LGBT community to speak up.
What I am asking the rest of the nation, that is as disappointed as I am, is to give Houston a chance. Allow Houston to correct their mistake with the rejection of Proposition 1. If we did not give Californians a chance to change their opinion on Prop. 8, or give Indiana a chance to fix the religious freedom bill, or give Arizona the chance to reverse SB 1062, we would not be where we are today, where all couples have the freedom to marry in all 50 states.
Tuesday was a reminder that we are far away from full equality. In order to change this, we must continue to fight. If the NCAA disallowed Houston the Final Four for not protecting LGBT people, it would also have to disallow Oklahoma City the games it is hosting in the Second and Third Rounds in the 2016 tournament, since that city also lacks LGBT protections. Several NCAA football bowl games that are hosted in cities with identical discrimination laws would also have to be relocated. Such events include the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville and the Music City Bowl in Nashville to name a few. There are people just like me who are gay and live in cities that do not have these laws for protection that still feel very comfortable living there.
Our fight does not mean disallowing Houston the Final Four and the Super Bowl. It means continuing to speak up to educate and encourage the people on the wrong side of this issue. Relocating the Final Four and Super Bowl is not the answer. The answer is allowing Houston to showcase what a great and accepting city it really is.
On to Week 9:
Game of the Week
St. Louis Rams vs. Minnesota Vikings
There are several games to get excited about this weekend. The Panthers and Packers are fighting for the NFC’s top seed, the Eagles try to get revenge on the Cowboys, and Peyton makes only his second career appearance as a visitor in Indianapolis. However, the game that really excites me is the scrappy Rams heading north to take on the upstart Vikings. Both teams have been quite a surprise for the first half of the season. The Rams have defeated all three opponents in the NFC West and find themselves with a legitimate shot at the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. The Vikings have also experienced a major turnaround this season with a record of 5-2 and only one game behind the Packers for the division lead.
Not only will this game have an impact on how the playoff picture could shake out at the end of the year, but it also features two of the best running backs in the game. Former MVP Adrian Peterson goes head-to-head with the player that people are comparing him to, Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite Todd Gurley. Gurley has four straight games of over 125 rushing yards, and has run for three scores in his last two games. His vision and running style has been directly compared to AP, and some might say that it is even better than Peterson’s. However, AP is still AP. He is third place in rushing yards in the NFL with 633 yards. Gurley is fifth in the league with 575 yards despite playing only five games. It is certainly a battle of the present vs. the future. The running back who performs better will likely lead his team to victory. I like Peterson to edge out Gurley and lead the Vikings to their sixth win of the season, 24-21.
Upset of the Week
Oakland Raiders over Pittsburgh Steelers
I took the Raiders in the upset last week, and I was correct. This week, I’m taking the Raiders to get their third straight win, on the road in Pittsburgh. This Raiders team is not a playoff pretender. Head Coach Jack Del Rio and QB Derek Carr have already led this team to more wins than they had last season. The Raiders offense made the Jets secondary, which was one of the best in the league, look clueless. Now, they face an inferior Steelers secondary and an offense that is in flux. Le’Veon Bell is out for the year and Big Ben Roethlisberger is still struggling after his return from injury. He threw for 262 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions last week against Cincinnati. The Raiders have put up 71 points in the last two weeks led by the receiving corps of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Andre Holmes. Oakland’s defense is quite underrated. The pass rush of Aldon Smith, Khalil Mack, and Malcolm Smith has been strong, and 39-year-old Charles Woodson is playing like a Pro Bowler while leading a promising secondary. I like the Raiders to get some points on the board early and win, 39-29.
Fantasy Start of the Week
Bears WR Alshon Jeffery vs. San Diego Chargers
The Bears were dealt a crushing blow this week when Matt Forte injured his MCL, sidelining him for some time. Going against the worst run defense in the game on Monday Night Football, Forte would have been my Start of the Week if he were healthy. However, Forte’s injury opens the door for Jeffery. Jeffery spent four weeks on the inactive list earlier this year with a calf and hamstring injury. Since his return to action, Jeffery has 18 receptions for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jeffery has been hot these last two weeks, and now he is the unquestioned top playmaker in the Chicago offense. I like his chances to shine on national television and his 100-yard and touchdown streaks to get to three games.
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Colts QB Andrew Luck vs. Denver Broncos
A lot of sportswriters and fans owe the Denver Broncos defense a huge apology. On Sunday Night Football, many people expected Aaron Rodgers to expose the best defense in football. However, it was the Broncos who turned the tables on A-Rod, holding him to 77 passing yards and zero touchdowns. I made the mistake last week of starting Rodgers against the Denver D, and it ended up costing me the game against Cyd. I follow the mantra of starting the studs regardless of matchup, but this week's matchup for Luck is one you must avoid. Do anything in your power to find a replacement for Luck this week. And he has a bye next week, so a replacement is needed in any case. Plus, his Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton, whom he has had since his college days at Stanford, was fired Tuesday, which only spells more trouble for this struggling offense. If the Denver defense made the reigning MVP put up stats worse than Geno Smith, imagine what they will do against a team that is ushering in a new coordinator and is struggling as much as anyone in the NFL.
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman
Injuries came down in full fury last week. Le’Veon Bell, Steve Smith, Sr., Reggie Bush, and Keenan Allen all kissed their seasons goodbye. Fantasy experts are advocating for the running backs to replace the studs, but I’m going to take a different route. I really like Dontrelle Inman’s stock to rise. And he isn’t a name that people are going to be running to claim off the waiver wire really quickly. People might go after DeAngelo Williams, Kamar Aiken, Pierre Thomas, or Jeremy Langford before they even think about Inman. The undrafted receiver from Virginia spent two years with CFL’s Toronto Argonauts before signing with the Chargers last year. In the two games Keenan Allen missed last year, Inman recorded 12 catches for 158 yards. Malcom Floyd is the team’s number one receiver, and he had a multi-TD game last week against Baltimore, but Inman is a deep sleeper and he might even be available after this week’s waiver wire flurry, so take a chance on him. He’s a low-risk, high-reward acquisition if you take the receiver.
Lock of the Week
New Orleans Saints over Tennessee Titans
This won’t be a difficult week for survivor/eliminator pools. There are three games that I think are possibly the safest bets all season, and this game is probably the safest. I do like New England to take care of Washington and Atlanta to beat a decimated San Francisco squad, but if I had to put my money on any game this week, I’d feel the most comfortable taking the Saints at home against the lowly Titans. The Saints had Week 8’s high score with 52 points in regulation against the Giants, and the Titans couldn’t even score a touchdown against the Texans. The Titans’ loss in Houston led to the firing of their head coach Ken Whisenhunt, so Tennessee is being led by Mike Mularkey into the hostile Superdome. I wish the Titans the best in New Orleans this week, but when you have only won three games in your last 23 and likely starting a quarterback who has yet to win a start in eight tries, it’s hard for me to see a win going in your favor. Final score: Saints 42, Titans 13.
Buzzer’s Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Browns +11 at Bengals. Pick: Bengals
Let's get this over Thursday night. The 7-0 Bengals are a legit Super Bowl team and they face a Browns' team starting a backup QB, and not just any backup – it's Johnny "Money" Manziel, who has made more news off the field than on. This is a disaster waiting to happen and I like the Bengals big. Cleveland's defense is suspect, but with Josh McCown at QB they were at least scoring points. Not this week with Manziel.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 5-3
Hot Player of the Week
Panthers LB Luke Kuechly
I was watching the fourth quarter/overtime portion of Monday Night Football last week, and I could not keep my eyes off of Luke Kuechly. My first thought was: what a player! This guy is keeping them in the game, and his interception ultimately led the Panthers to their seventh win this season to maintain their undefeated status. He reminds me of Brian Urlacher and how he would carry and lead a defense. My second thought was: what beautiful eyes! How can you not be mesmerized by the eyes? I want to say he is cute, but I don’t think you can call a man who plays with such ferocity and power "cute." I’ll just call him my hot player of the week.