Saturday, December 29, 2007

NFL Picks - Week 17

This is it - the final regular season picks in what has been a disappointing season for this column. Another 7-9 last week continued the downward spiral toward mediocrity, and with the lines so out of whack this week the choices are even more difficult.

New England (-14.5) over NY GIANTS
The Game Which Pissed Off Bar Owners From Coast To Coast. Thanks, Mr. Goodell, for arriving at such a royally screwy compromise to allow us all to see this classic battle. Hey, why not show it on Lifetime and Home & Garden TV as well, in case you missed some other potential audiences? As fot the game, we'll go with the Pats on the simple premise that they will want to keep the starters in since they will be off next week, while the Giants have to stay intact for the first round game in Tampa next week.
Patriots 27 Giants 10

ATLANTA (-2.5) over Seattle
Screwy line #1. Hawks, bad on the road and with nothing to play for, will mail one in and give the Falcs the chance to end this awful year on a positive note.
Falcons 20 Seahawks 17

CLEVELAND (-9.5) over San Francisco
Browns need this one badly, and Niners are not going to play so well in frigid Cleveland.
Browns 27 49ers 10

New Orleans (-2.5) over CHICAGO
No rational explanation, other than the fact that the Saints need to win in order to have any mathematical chance. We'll lay the figgie.
Saints 23 Bears 20

Cincinnati (-2.5) over MIAMI
Dolphins have been more competitive, and new honcho Bill Parcells will be in attendance actively evaluating players and coaches. Still, Bengals should be able to cover this small number.
Bengals 21 Dolphins 12

PHILADELPHIA (-7.5) over Buffalo
Eagles on late season tear, while Bills blew any chance by collapsing at home vs. Jints. Farewell game for Donovan McNabb?
Eagles 27 Bills 17

Carolina (-2.5) over TAMPA BAY
Screwy line #2. Bucs have zero to play for, and should rest key players, while Panthers look to close out on an upswing.
Panthers 20 Buccaneers 17

GREEN BAY (-3.5) over Detroit
This would have been another "rest the starters" game, but blowout loss in Chicago last week makes us think the Pack will stay on the gas pedal here and head into the bye feeling better about themselves.
Packers 30 Lions 14

Jacksonville (+6.5) over HOUSTON
Screwy line #3. We understand the sentiment behind making Texans the fave, we just don;t think they can cover this many points. Still think the Jags are rolling, and won't be deterred here.
Jaguars 23 Texans 16

Pittsburgh (-5.5) over BALTIMORE
Steelers need to re-establish the running game after losing Willie Parker, and will take it to overmatched Ravens.
Steelers 24 Ravens 9

WASHINGTON (-8.5) over Dallas
No T.O., no Gurode, a QB with a bad thumb, Skins need to win to stay alive. All these add up to the inflated number, and a Washington win.
Redskins 19 Cowboys 10

ARIZONA (-6.5) over St. Louis
Ugh. In a game nobody should have to watch, we like the Cards.
Cardinals 27 Rams 17

Minnesota (-2.5) over DENVER
Tough call, since Broncos play better at home. Vikes have incentive, and can run the ball against surprisingly porous run defense.
Vikings 27 Broncos 10

San Diego (-6.5) over OAKLAND
Raiders will go with Jamarcus Russell, who will become quite intimate with Shawn Merriman by the fourth quarter. Bolts will keep the throttle on and cruise into playoffs on an up note.
Chargers 37 Raiders 9

Kansas City (+5.5) over NY JETS
This was originally scheduled as the Sunday nighter - thank you Flex Scheduling! Chiefs finish worst year since '88 by watching Herm Edwards make a less than triumphant return to team he abandoned. Jets have a knack for keeping all games close, win or lose, so we can see a tight, boring one here.
Jets 17 Chiefs 13

INDIANAPOLIS (+6.5) over Tennessee
Screwy line #4. Colts getting 6.5 at home seems unthinkable, even if Jim Sorgi plays the whole game. Titans need the game, but it will not come easy.
Colts 23 Titans 17

Best Bets: Chargers, Packers, Eagles

Last Week: 7-9, again
Season Total: 125-115 (52.1%)

Last Week: 2-1
Season Total: 24-18 (57.1%)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Baseball Hall Of Fame - Class of 2008

Some interesting names appear on the nomination list for the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. Mark McGwire's inclusion marks the second (of what, sadly, will be many) opportunity for voters to sound off on The Steroid Era. Bristol In My Rear View Mirror presents the entire list below, with comments on each. Enjoy the Bill Simmons-esque groupings below:

The "We're Listed Because, By Rule, We Have To Be" Group
Brady Anderson - A more obvious 'roid aided player. C'mon, are you kidding?
Chuck Finley - Better known for getting smacked by a blitzed Tawny Kittan.
Todd Stottlemyre - Dad was better.
Robb Nen - A dominant closer when healthy, he just didn't last long enough. Still, an impressive career.
Jose Rijo - Too bad his career was filled with so many injuries, or else he could have been a great one.
Travis Fryman - Nice player, who helped several of us to fantasy league titles, but not a Hall of Famer.

The "Who Will Be The First True DH Elected" Group
Harold Baines - We're not counting Paul Molitor as a true DH - he cut his teeth playing infield before going the "extend my career" route by DH toward the end. Would you believe that Molitor played at least 50 games at five different positions, not counting his stints at DH? Baines is remembered as perhaps the quintessential DH, a true hitting machine. Is he the one? Not this year, maybe someday in the future as a Veterans entry.

The Closer Not Named Gossage
Rod Beck - A guy who would have been a blast to have a beer with, which unfortunately doesn't result in many HOF votes. RIP, Shooter.

The Recent Near Misses/Enough Votes To Be Optimistic
Goose Gossage - Now or never for the Goose. A true reliever, as opposed to closer - he would enter games in the 7th with guys on base, escape the jam, then finish the game. They don't make them like this anymore. If Sutter is in, you have to let Gossage in too.
Jim Rice - A stud; his 1978 season (46-139-.315) would have been legendary if the Sox didn't collapse. Another case of a guy who didn't exactly endear himself to writers, which ultimately hurts the HOF cause.
Bert Blyleven - Getting closer, but could be overshadowed by the two names above.
Andre Dawson - The Hawk was a true pro, and one can only imagine what kind of career he would have had if not for the cement like turf in Montreal screwing up his knees.
Jack Morris - If only for Game 7 of the '91 Series. Morris would routinely throw 250+ innings per year, which is unheard of today, and his 254 career wins rank 40th of all time. Also, a winning percentage of .577, with 145 complete games. Perhaps the most dominant pitcher of his era, which the Hall must acknowledge.
Lee Smith - #2 All time in Saves, but won't get in before the Goose. The save total, while impressive, isn't enough, otherwise John Franco would be getting votes.

Great Players, No Support (Yet)
Dale Murphy - 2 MVP's, 7 All-Star games, a truly feared player in his prime. The only problem? His prime didn't last very long. Needs a stronger showing than last year, when he garnered only 9%.
Dave Parker - Another monster player, who hit for power (339 HR) as well as average (.290 lifetime). Throw in an absolute cannon of an arm and you have a player who deserves consideration.
Don Mattingly - An amazing hitter, as well as a Gold Glove (9 times) first baseman, Donnie Baseball's only knock will be the relatively short career he had. Never making the post-season didn't help from an exposure point of view, even though he played for the Yankees.
Alan Trammell - Twenty seasons with one team, part of one of the all time great double play combinations (with Lou Whitaker), excelled in the post season. He'll also need to boost his percentage this time around if he expects to make a run at this.

The Ongoing Controversial Guys List
Mark McGwire - Did not appear in the Mitchell Report, but his case is well documented. He will likely get incremental increases each year, as some writers feel the need to "punish" him by delaying support.
Chuck Knoblauch - Appeared in the Mitchell Report. Not that he had much of a prayer anyway, but that sure won't help him. Also, most guys in the Hall never had issues throwing to first base.

First Timers Who Will Eventually Get Strong Consideration
Tim Raines - Might see some punishment delay due to the nose candy issues, but should eventually merit strong consideration.

First Timer, Little To No Eventual Chance
Shawon Dunston - Never lived up to the hype, but nevertheless had a decent career. His arm could be its own exhibit.

Great Players, Not HOF Material
Dave Concepcion - Use the Phil Rizzuto defense here: the starting shortstop on the reigning dynasty of his era. If that works, we'll see Davey in the Hall in about 40 years or so. A steady defender who patented the one hop throw off of the turf.
Tommy John - A special mention is deserved for having a surgery named after you, no? Points for longevity, and doing what he did after what had been up till then a career wrecking injury.
David Justice - He was married to Halle Berry, which always, always has to be mentioned. Oh, and he could play a bit too, but there is no way he ever makes the Hall. Actually, losing Halle Berry should work against him.

The Verdict:
We're betting on Gossage and Rice, with Dawson and Blyleven inching closer (in the 50-65% range), but falling just short.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

NFL Picks - Week 16

Man, has any franchise ever suffered what amounts to a season long crotch kick like the Atlanta Falcons? From having its franchise player caught torturing and killing dogs and subsequently heading off to prison, to seeing its newly hired college coach gutlessly bail on the team after a Monday Nighter without telling his players in person, to the latest - being led to believe that Bill Parcells was en route to help straighten out the team, only to shaft Arthur Blank at the altar and grab a deal with the Miami Dolphins (whom he will no doubt abandon in a few years if something better comes along). Man, it must royally suck to be a Falcons fan right now.
The funniest part, though, is seeing the idiots carrying the "Free Michael Vick" signs at the last few home games. Um, folks, he actually admitted doing what he was accused of, and is serving his penance. Normally, the "Free" whomever signs are used when a person is wrongly being held, ya know? Jerks.

Speaking of kicks to the crotch, our picks have kinda felt like that of late. Another 7-9 mark last week, adding to the current misery of a 28-36 run over the past four weeks, has us in desperation mode. Knowing that the final weeks are usually filled with some unpredictable results (some bad teams have simply quit, others are bad but playing well, some good teams are coasting with nothing to play for, others are tuning up), we bravely submit the following:

ST. LOUIS (+7.5) over Pittsburgh
Steelers are a bad road team, plain and simple. Rams threw blanks in second half at home last week vs. Pack, but should be able to at least keep it interesting in front of a "national" TV audience. (See what we did there? It's "national" because it's on the NFL Network, which is in about 37 homes.)
Steelers 23 Rams 17

Dallas (-11.5) over CAROLINA
Yes, we know Tony Romo has "a thumb", and yes, we know the Panthers looked frisky last week in knocking off Seattle. We don;t care - it seems highly unlikely the 'pokes will put together back-to-back stinkers with home field advantage at stake.
Cowboys 34 Panthers 17

Kansas City (+4.5) over DETROIT
Two teams on a combined 0-12 run - something's gotta give! We'll take our beloved Chiefs to stay close and ultimately fall in some sort of disappointing fashion.
Lions 23 Chiefs 20

INDIANAPOLIS (-7.5) over Houston
Indy's tight win over Oakland last week, coupled with Texans' impressive home win over Denver probably helped keep this line down. No matter, Colts are back home and will roll, despite having next to nothing to play for.
Colts 30 Texans 20

JACKSONVILLE (-12.5) over Oakland
Everybody loves and fears the Jags right now, and with good reason. Who would have believed a few months back that the Jags, led by David Garrard, would be The Team Nobody Wants To Face in the Playoffs? Not us.
Jaguars 41 Raiders 10

Green Bay (-7.5) over CHICAGO
Pack still has a shot at top seed, and will go all out in the Windy City against a very bad Bear team.
Packers 27 Bears 10

BUFFALO (+3.5) over NY Giants
G-Men are very good on the road, but the weather conditions are forecast to eerily resemble the mess they played in last week vs. Skins, and we all saw how that turned out. Combine that with Eli Manning losing his safety net option in Jeremey Shockey, PLUS the return of injured Bill Kevin Everett, and you've got an ugly scenario for Tom Coughlin and his team. How does a must win game against the 15-0 Patriots next week sound to you, Tom?
Bills 20 Giants 17

NEW ORLEANS (-3.5) over Philadelphia
Saints have quietly moved up in the offensive ranks to #4, and are poised to move into a playoff berth which seemed like a pipe dream after an 0-4 start. Eagles are tough, and might stick around, but we like Brees and Co.
Saints 24 Eagles 20

Cleveland (-3.5) over CINCINNATI
Brownies will be happy to play in a non-blizzard, that's for sure. Bengals are still a mess (see last week's dismal performance in San Fran), and Cleveland has too much at stake to falter here. A repeat of the 51-45 shootout from Week2? Maybe.
Browns 40 Bengals 24

ARIZONA (-10.5) over Atlanta
Cardinals take out frustrations at missing playoffs (again) at the expense of the hapless Falcs, who simply can't wait for this nightmare year to finally end.
Cardinals 38 Falcons 10

SAN FRANCISCO (+7.5) over Tampa Bay
Niners, as they did last season, are suddenly spunky in December (recall the upset in Denver last year which propelled the Chiefs to an improbable playoff berth?). Is Shaun Hill the answer at QB? Probably not, but he's playing with house money here, and can keep the 49ers within this high number.
Buccaneers 20 49ers 14

NEW ENGLAND (-21.5) over Miami
Pats have had all kinds of issues covering these big lines (and we should know - we've laid the 20+, and lost, each time), but the weather looks like it will cooperate on Sunday, and Miami got their win last week. All signs point to a large win for the Pats on the road to 16-0.
Patriots 41 Dolphins 13

SEATTLE (-10.5) over Baltimore
Seahawks did a nice job screwing over all those who were finally starting to believe in them last week, dropping a nasty game to Carolina. Don't fret, we still believe, at least when they're back home against a craptacular team like the Ravens.
Seahawks 24 Ravens 9

NY Jets (+8.5) over TENNESSEE
Jets have been in just about every game they've lost, save for the ugly Thanksgiving game in Dallas. Titans are a crapshoot team that has been almost impossible to pick all year, so we'll take the touchdown plus.
Titans 22 Jets 17

Washington (+7.5) over MINNESOTA
Skins will know the results of Giants game by kickoff, and will be extra motivated if G-Men fail in Buffalo. Again, after watching the Vikes and Tavaris Jackson last week, it's hard to expect them to lay over a touchdown to a team that plays good defense like Washington.
Redskins 23 Vikings 21

SAN DIEGO (-9.5) over Denver
Broncos are woeful on the road, and the Bolts are looking to keep the engine chugging toward the playoffs. No signs of a letdown after cracking the 50 point barrier last week, we like San Diego in a runaway.
Chargers 37 Broncos 17

BEST BETS: Cardinals, Chargers, Redskins

Last week: 7-9
Season Total: 118-106 (52.7%)

Best Bets
Last Week: 1-2
Season Total: 22-17 (56.4%)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

NFL Picks - Week 15

You stay classy, Petrino. Man, what a douchebag.

Weather looks to be a huge factor this weekend as a nasty storm moves toward the Northeast. Lucky for us we made these picks well before looking at a weather forecast, which will force us to defend what could be ridiculous choices.

On Thursday, we did take Houston -1.5 over Denver, so we're up 1 so far this week. Sorry the picks didn't make it in before that game kicked off.

For the rest:

Cincinnati (-8.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
One look at this line tells you all you need to know about the wretched state of things in Frisco. Bengals should not be giving anyone 8.5 points, but we're going to lay it anyway.
Bengals 30 49ers 13

Arizona (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
Essentially a playoff game for both teams, we'll take the uneven Cardinals over the slightly less unstable Saints, in a field goal game.
Saints 24 Cardinals 21

PITTSBURGH (-4.5) over Jacksonville
A bit of a head scratcher, this line. Steelers coming home after late blowout in New England, and should be able to move the ball on Jax D missing Marcus Stroud in the middle.
Steelers 20 Jaguars 14

Green Bay (-10.5) over ST. LOUIS
Packers are rolling, and won't be denied despite Favre's less than stellar record in domes. If Bulger doesn't play for St. Loo, this one is over by halftime.
Packers 31 Rams 13

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over Atlanta
Will the Falcons play better and rally around the hatred for departed coach Bobby Pertrino? Maybe, but the team is still short on talent, and the Bucs are coming off an ugly loss last week, so we'll take Tampa.
Buccaneers 27 Falcons 16

MIAMI (+4.5) over Baltimore
This could be the one. If the Fins don't get it now, you can book the 0-16. Ravens are a nasty mess prone to peaks and valleys - after bigtrime letdown last week they just might put together a solid effort.
Ravens 20 Dolphins 17

NEW ENGLAND (-24.5) over NY Jets
See lead paragraph. Pats have not been able to cover when laying 20+ thus far, and the weather could prevent that from happening here. Since I have to defend the pick, I'll go with a low scoring blowout.
Patriots 28 Jets 3

CLEVELAND (-5.5) over Buffalo
Browns can taste the playoffs now, and a win here pretty much cinches it. Despite their penchant for playing tight games, we like the Brownies to pull away at home and continue the unlikely playoff run.
Browns 28 Bills 20

KANSAS CITY (+3.5) over Tennessee
Two teams which have been frustrating bets most of the year. In cases like this, we'll take the home underdog, even when they have an offense which struggles to score more than 13 points each week. We can no longer pick the Titans, given our inability to correctly predict what they will do from week to week.
Titans 20 Chiefs 17

Seattle (-7.5) over CAROLINA
Seahawks have quietly got themselves to 9-4 and are in prime position to grab a 3-4 seed in the NFC. how the heck did that happen? Panthers simply playing out the string, and aren't being very competitive while doing so.
Seahawks 31 Panthers 7

Indianapolis (-10.5) over OAKLAND
Colts must be loving the lack of attention they're seeing as the whole world focuses on the unbeaten Pats. Dungy's boys quietly and efficiently get win #12 and solidify hold on #2 seed here.
Colts 34 Raiders 14

SAN DIEGO (-11.5) over Detroit
Still not fully sold on Norv's guys, but Lions stink on the road and are coming off blowing big lead at home versus Cowboys last week. Not a good combo.
Chargers 30 Lions 10

DALLAS (-10.5) over Philadelphia
Cowboys are rolling, especially at home, and should be able to bottle up McNabb and the Eagles.
Cowboys 37 Eagles 24

Washington (+4.5) over NY GIANTS
Skins need this one to stay in the hunt, and always manage to keep things close against Giants.
Giants 20 Redskins 17

MINNESOTA (-9.5) over Chicago
Kyle Orton starts at QB for the Bears. 'Nuff said.
Vikings 30 Bears 10

BEST BETS: Seahawks, Chargers, Vikings

Last week: 7-9
Season Total: 111-97

Best Bets
Last week: 3-0
Season Total: 21-15

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

We Suck Because You're Mean!

Knicks President/GM/Coach/Dismantler Isiah Thomas has finally discovered the reason for his squad's lackluster play, which, after last night's 99-89 loss to Dallas dropped the Knickerbockers (6-14) deeper into last place. Is it the "we barley care" attitude of the high priced imports like Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury? Is it the awful shooting? Is it a roster and accompanying slary structure seemingly put together during a three day hookers n' blow binge? Nope, it's you!

According to Altschuler, Thomas said, "We're missing layups because you're
booing." Altschuler, who worked 16 years for CBS News, said Thomas turned to
make his stream of remarks in the third and fourth quarters, directing it to the
first couple of rows.
According to Altschuler, Thomas invoked the phrase "Sixth Man," explaining what a crowd should be. Thomas mentioned Indiana and North Carolina as crowds that the Garden should emulate, she said. She said Thomas blamed a Quentin Richardson airball on the boos. Thomas could be seen by reporters in the third quarter exchanging words with fans, and did not deny it later.

So, remember, Knick fans: it's your responsibility, nay, your duty to cheer on your hometown squad, no matter how
horrid the play is on the court, nor how reprehensible the conduct of those in
charge. Be that Sixth Man!

The Garden of Hate (NY Post)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NFL Picks - Week 14

Isn't it nice to be back to the point where nobody really cares that they can;t watch the Thursday night game? It kinda brings the normalcy back, and the NFL loses any chance to argue how much the world should embrace the ridiculous battle they chiose to fight with cable systems nationwide, where nobody wins. Nice job, guys!

A 9-7 rebound last week somewhat eased the pain of the 5-11 debacle in Week 12. Trying to keep that momentum, we submit the following for Week 14:

Chicago (+3.5) over WASHINGTON
Skins have played juuust well enough to lose last two weeks, and the short week following the Sean Taylor funeral might be togh on them. This one just seems like a field goal game, in whcih case we'll grab the points.
Redskins 20 Bears 17

BUFFALO (-7.5) over Miami

Tough to lay this many poiunts woth the Bills, but the Fins have zero offense. It isn't hard to imagine Buffalo winning a low scoring game and covering this rather easily.
Bills 17 Dolphins 6

Dallas (-10.5) over DETROIT
Lions collapse is a big enough reason, but add in the fact that Jon Kitna provided some bulletin board material after the game last season and you've got a recipe for a blowout.
Cowboys 31 Lions 16

St. Louis (+6.5) over CINCINNATI
Bulger is playing, so this line is a gift against defenseless Bengals. Could be high scoring, but we'll go with the better than their record Rams.
Rams 24 Bengals 20

GREEN BAY (-10.5) over Oakland
Favre is playing, and Pack will not let up against improving Raiders, especially at Lambeau. Let's go with a repeat of the socre from Super Bowl II:
Packers 33 Raiders 14

Tampa Bay (-2.5) over HOUSTON
Bucs focusing on playoff seeding now at 8-4, and should be able to cover the less than field goal line on the road. Texans might hang tough, but talent wins out.
Buccaneers 23 Texans 17

JACKSONVILLE (-10.5) over Carolina
Jags fell behind in Indy last week, and nearly recovered. Their collective anger and frustration can be spent this week against reeling Panthers. Duck, Vinnie!
Jaguars 30 Panthers 13

PHILADELPHIA (-2.5) over NY Giants
This will be a far cry from the 12 sack nightmare Eagles endured in first meeting. Philly has played back to back tough games, getting burned by bad iNT's by AJ Feely. Donovan McNabb returns this week and engineers a close win over the G-Men.
Eagles 20 Giants 17

TENNESSEE (+1.5) over San Diego
Two teams we hate to pick, going head-to-head. Titans at home a slightly better bet than Chargers on the road, so, good job there, Vegas, in setting this line. When in doubt, take the points.
Titans 20 Chargers 17

Minnesota (-8.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Vikings have come a long way to the point where they can lay this much on the road, eh? Too much Adrian Peterson, plus a defense that gains more confidence each week, spells doom for the pathetic Niners.
Vikings 27 49ers 13

Arizona (+7.5) over SEATTLE
Seahwaks have to be the least convincing "good" team in the NFL. Honestly, these guys are 8-4? Cards have the ability to hang tough with anyone, and should be able to keep this one close, maybe even take it outright.
Seahawks 31 Cardinals 30

Pittsburgh (+13.5) over NEW ENGLAND
Wow, a Pat line below 20! Have to like the fact that the Steelers have an actual runing game, which has shown to be a problem for the Pats to stop recently. Also, Big Ben is a much better quarterback than either A.J. Feely or Kyle Boller, each of whom almost engineered big upsets the past two weeks. Pittsburgh can drain the clock a little and frustrate Brady, Moss and Co. by keeping them on the sidelines, which should result in, at the very least, a cover.
Patriots 24 Steelers 21

Kansas City (+6.5) over DENVER
Even at Mile High (we will never, ever, use the corporate name for any edifice, thank you very much), it's hard to pick the Broncos as being 7 points better than anybody. That, and the fact we hate them, makes it hard to pick against KC. Chiefs break the schnied!
Chiefs 17 Broncos 16

Cleveland (-3.5) over NY JETS
The wheels came off the Browns bandwagon last week, but we still believe. Jets don;t have the firepower to match the Cleveland offense, and we can see a close game for about a half before Cleveland pulls away.
Browns 31 Jets 16

Indianapolis (-9.5) over BALTIMORE
Ravens left it all on the field in upset bid last Monday night, and will not have enough to get fired up to upset Colts. It won't take a self destruct job this time for Baltimore to lose, either.
Colts 24 Ravens 10

New Orleans (-4.5) over ATLANTA

One week after setting a ratings record for cable, it won't be a surprise if this game sets a new mark as well - least amount of total viewers for an NFL game. Saints have to pretty much win out for any kind of shot at the playoffs, and will get a boost of hope here.
Saints 27 Falcons 17

BEST BETS: Packers, Browns, Vikings

Last Week: 9-7
Season Total: 104-88 (54.2%)

Last Week: 1-2
Season Total: 18-15 (54.6%)