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The Reducer: Week 13, Northeast Passage

It’s a Black Friday Half-Mailbag

The Sports Guy gives a holiday-season discount on some e-mails as he makes the rest of his Week 12 picks

Before we tackle the rest of the Week 12 picks, here were the winners and losers (copyright: Kevin Wildes) from the Thanksgiving games …

Winners: Jack Harbaugh; Aaron Rodgers; Aaron Rodgers’ QB rating; Brandon Marshall; anyone who’s been riding the 2011 Dolphins as this year’s “much friskier than you think” team; Laurent Robinson fantasy owners; Jerry Jones’ last-minute, show-me-on-TV-if-we-win sideline cameos; my wife’s broccoli and cheese casserole; my wife’s friend Robyn’s sweet potato pie; Andy Lee; Baltimore’s increasingly unstoppable “let’s clinch this game by drawing a long pass interference” play; Terrell Suggs; DeMarco Murray rookie-card owners; the Dan Bailey era; white meat; every shot with Jay Glazer and the troops overseas; anyone who could tell Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh apart; Baltimore fans; the White Stripes; Joe Flacco’s facial hair; James Jones; anyone who can’t wait to bet against Alex Smith on the road in the playoffs; gambling problems; Matt Moore; Tony Romo; the trust that Cowboys fans have for Tony Romo.

Losers: Leon Lett; Nickelback; Nickelback’s manager; everyone who splurged on Kevin Smith in their free-agent fantasy auction this week (like me: he used up my last $17); Archie Manning; San Fran’s offensive line; whomever decided “let’s run a play for Ted Ginn with a game on the line”; Ndamukong Suh; Ndamukong Suh’s apologies; foot-stomp defenses; Terence Newman’s agent; dark meat; Detroit’s Thanksgiving renaissance; Detroit’s wild-card hopes; Tony Sparano’s realtor; Miles Austin; Braylon Edwards; Green Bay’s Shanahanian running back situation (from a fantasy standpoint); chop blocks; Ray Lewis; Jim Schwartz’s “I’m going to be an intense hothead all season in a misguided effort to make my team tougher” strategy; anyone who believed the Niners could finish the entire 2011 season without failing to cover a spread; Matt Moore jokes; Matthew Stafford; Green Bay’s chance to go 16-0 (since it will be clinching the no. 1 seed by Week 15 thanks to the Niners’ loss); Calvin Johnson highlights; the strategy of using American Idol stars for Thanksgiving performances; Tony Romo; the trust that Cowboys fans have for Tony Romo.

As for the rest of the Week 12 picks, I’ll throw include a few e-mails — for 100 percent off! — as my special Black Friday deal for you …

FALCONS (-9.5) over Vikings
I can’t figure out how a three-team, 10-point teaser with the Falcons, Steelers (-10.5 over K.C.) and Jets (-9 over Buffalo) can lose except for the part that, you know, three-team teasers always lose. Please, give me the strength over the holiday weekend not to wager on that one. Meanwhile …

Q: You’ve been ripping on Tarvaris Jackson since he was traded to Seattle. In your “Bad QB League,” you had him in your top-three. Can you own up to the fact that you didn’t know jack about T-Jack’s QB abilities coming into the season? I mean, how could you? He was never given a chance! I don’t know why he was ever sat in favor of Frerotte when clearly Jackson had talent [I'm still bitter]. Why would you base your opinion of Jackson on the Minnesota head office’s decision when clearly they never make the right decision? Imagine what T-Jack could have become if he had been Minnesota’s starter for the past three seasons. Exactly.
— Carlos, Seattle

SG: These are all perfectly decent points. I e-mailed them to the best man in my wedding (Geoff Gallo, a die-hard Vikings fan), who sent back the following response: “Is that a joke?”

Texans (-5) over JAGUARS
When my son is rooting for the L.A. Jaguars five years from now, he’s going to be totally pissed off that they took Blaine Gabbert over Andy Dalton in the 2011 draft. I can’t see Gabbert making up for a battered Jags defense in this one, not even after Matt Schaub broke his Lisfranc (or whatever the hell happened). That reminds me …

Q: On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you to gamble against Matt Leinart in the first round of the playoffs?
— Mike Faxel, Chicago

SG: You should have asked, “On a scale of 1 to Chris Simms.” I’m not quite Chris Simms Excited for this reason: I’m not sure Matt Schaub was THAT important for the Texans. Their 2011 offensive success comes from running the football and playing defense, so if Leinart can give them a Lefty Alex Smith/Game Manager impersonation, it’s not inconceivable that they could grab a no. 3 seed and trounce some half-decent wild-card team at home. My answer for this week: I’m somewhere between Steve Bono Excited and Steve Walsh Excited.

Browns (+7.5) over BENGALS
Sneaky trap game for the banged-up Bengals: They just lost tough battles to Pittsburgh and Baltimore and have to play at Pittsburgh next week, with an “easy” home game against the not-quite-as-bad-as-you-think Browns crammed in the middle here. Did you know the Browns have been out-passed by 397 yards, outrushed by 462 yards and outscored by 48 points, but they’ve somehow gained three more total first downs than their opponents and run 24 more offensive plays? They are DOMINATING between the 30-yard lines right now. If you’re looking for an offense to string together some fairly long and ultimately fruitless offensive drives, look no further than the 2011 Browns. Speaking of fairly long and ultimately fruitless …

Q: Am I the only one fascinated by this Natalie Wood case being reopened 30 years later? It’s like an All-Star episode of Cold Case, with guest star suspects Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken, along with some random ship captain. I’d love to hear the Chris Walken deposition for this, “We were on the boat … drinking … alcohol … Bob and I, we had a … we had a fight … screaming. Natalie … she leaves … disappears and ‘POW!’ the next thing we know she’s in the WATER … ” Meanwhile the sound track to like, Cracked Rearview Mirror or something is in the background throughout the episode. Hold My Hand is on when the night begins and they are drinking at a restaurant. Then, Only Wanna Be With You, when the flashback to the drinking on the boat scene happens. Let Her Cry starts up when she gets up to leave the argument going on. Finally, Drowning plays when she “falls” into the water and then goes into Let Her Cry when they find the body. Doesn’t this work almost too well, for them to not bring back the show just for this episode?
— Phil, Scarsdale

SG: What scares me is that I got all those Cold Case jokes. But if this was really turning into a Cold Case episode, wouldn’t the “twist” be that Wagner was innocent all along, and that it seemed like Walken did it when, actually, it was either the random ship captain (I see him being played by Terry O’Quinn) or the guy who played Max the Chauffeur on Hart to Hart?

Bucs (+3.5) over TITANS
Q: On your 11/14 podcast with Cousin Sal, you admitted that the Titans were a mystery to you. Hopefully I can clarify something. After being forced to watch Matt Hasselbeck’s Seahawks for the better part of a decade I’ve come to learn that Hasselbeck is exactly 1/2 of a good quarterback. He can play only eight good games of a 16 game season. He’s the NFL’s Jerry Seinfeld if you will. Look it up, its true. So when the Titans rattled off an early 3-1 record I knew what laid in store. By my count Matt “Even-Steven” Hasselbeck owes us one.
— Nate, Portland

SG: Yes, I received that e-mail before Matt’s stinker of a performance in Atlanta and it single-handedly talked me out of throwing Tennessee +6.5 into the Hilton’s SuperContest as one of my five Week 11 picks. (I went with the Vikings instead. They didn’t cover. Tennessee did thanks to an inspired garbage-time performance from Jake Locker. I kinda sorta hate Nate from Portland even though he was right.) By the way, I think I’m going to start using this excuse at home anytime the Sports Gal gripes about my husband/father performance: “But honey, look at my stats, I’m a great husband and father exactly half the time!”

Panthers (-3) over COLTS
If Cam Newton can’t outscore the Colts (44 points total in the last 5 games), then he doesn’t deserve the Offensive Rookie of the Year and we need to give it to either A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, DeMarco Murray or the entire 2011 Patriots’ draft (for being offensive). Meanwhile …

Q: Thoughts on the Colts inducting Marvin Harrison into their Ring of Honor this weekend?
— Frank, Brooklyn

SG: Does the Ring of Honor have a metal detector?

Cardinals (+3) over RAMS
Q: My team traded its second-round pick and our only good corner for a guy who can’t stay in the pocket or make good decisions or get the ball to the one guy on the planet you can trust in triple coverage. Then we signed him to a 60+ million dollar contract.
— Travis, Phoenix

SG: (Nodding.)

JETS (-9) over Bills
Q: It’s officially time to have the “They gave Ryan Fitzpatrick how much money over how many years?!” conversation.
— Aaron W., Gainesville

SG: You mean, two weeks ago?

Q: At some point in the 10 seconds between Antonio Cromartie giving less effort to shed a block and try for a game saving tackle than he did in naming his 11 kids on national television, and the look of utter disgust/disbelief on Rex Ryan’s arrogant 3rd chin (the most arrogant of the three, interestingly), I realized that I was enjoying this Jets collapse in Denver as much as a Yankee or Duke loss. We all know the Trinity of Teams People Love to Hate are the Yanks, Cowboys, and Duke basketball. But I’d like to make a case that the Rex Ryan Jets have officially entered the discussion. Everyone has their list of teams whose losses bring as much joy as their favorite teams’ wins. I feel like these should be ranked according to the Schadenfreude Scale. For instance, on a Schadenfreude Scale of 1-10, watching LeBron disappear in the NBA Finals again and his Heat team choking away the title would be a perfect 10. Last night’s Jets loss was a solid 8.5, and any Duke NCAA tourney loss is a 78. What do you think?
— Zachary, Rockville, CT

SG: The Jets are like the Kardashians — we’re not getting rid of them. They’ll win their next three games and within six weeks you’ll be saying to yourself, “This is crazy, but I kinda feel like the Jets can go into Houston and win a playoff game.” As for your Trinity of Teams People Love To Hate, it’s more of a Double Trinity at this point: Along with the old standbys (the Yankees, Cowboys and Blue Devils), you’d have to include the Patriots, Jets and Heat for as long as Belichick/Brady, Rex Ryan and LeBron/Wade are involved.

Q: As I sit here watching my hapless Bills I am once again reminded that my relationship with this team is like a bad-long term relationship. You know, the kind where you are dating a guy and he eventually becomes comfortable with you and feels like you are such a good pal he no longer has to impress you by buying gifts and taking you to nice dinners and next thing you know you are in a relationship that is so non-exciting you decide to break it off. Then he apologizes and says he will work harder so you say ok, I’ll give it another shot, he can change (because at this point you really believe men can change). And it starts again, he’s back to sending flowers, taking you to nice dinners and you are all excited and you think he’s changed (but he really hasn’t…and you know this but you convince yourself he has so you can be happy for a little while) and eventually things go back to the way they were. The endless cycle keeps going until someone finally has the wherewithal to just put the relationship out of its misery and end it. I feel ashamed for having loved the Bills again. They have gone back to their old ways. When will I learn?
— Francesca, Philadelphia, PA

SG: You left out the part where your boyfriend flies to Toronto once a year to have sex with someone else.

Bears (+4) over RAIDERS
Q: How is no one calling Ewing Theory with the Bears now? Everyone is counting them out, except Cutler isn’t even their best offensive player. In fact, the Bears only started playing well when Mike Martz dialed back Cutler’s role in the offense to showcase Forte instead. With Caleb Hanie, Martz won’t forget Forte is good and will stop trying to throw deep to Knox by Week 15. If Hanie can do anything, it will be screen passes to Forte that are the Bears’ only good offensive play anyway.
— Dan, Baltimore

SG: I loved how Cutler was playing for the Bears, but let’s give their Ewing Theory potential a one-week test run just for the hell of it. And if that doesn’t totally sway you, repeat after me: Carson Palmer against the Bears’ defense. Carson Palmer against the Bears’ defense. Carson Palmer against the Bears’ defense. Carson Palmer against the Bears’ defense …

Patriots (-3.5) over EAGLES
Q: After nine games, the Eagles were 3-6 and Vick had 10 INTs (after only 6 last year). I think it’s time to bust out the Crashdown Player of the Year Award, right?
— Ricardo, San Paolo, Brazil

SG: And then it took four quarters for Vince Young to turn him into the best Ewing Theory candidate in recent memory. (Is there a better Ewing Theory guy than Vick? Overhyped, never won anything, all sizzle and no steak … he’s the very definition of a Ewing Theory guy. Cutler has a faint Ewing whiff; Vick has an overpowering Ewing stench.) Ricardo brings up a good point though — it’s too bad we don’t have off-the-cuff awards for things like “The Crashdown Player of the Year” (Vick), “The Daunte Culpepper Memorial Fantasy Football Mass Murderer” (Chris Johnson) and “Where The Hell Did You Come From and Why Are You So Good???” (DeMarco Murray) just for historical purposes. Plus, it would be neat to hear Joe Buck say, “Here comes Michael Vick … our first two-time Crashdown Player of the Year Award winner.”

SEAHAWKS (-3.5) over Redskins
Q: I’d like to extend a hearty congratulations to the 2011 Eagles on their acceptance into the Dan Snyder Memorial “You Can’t Buy A Championship” Hall of Shame. I’d also like to respectfully request the creation of a new, regular award: The Alberts trophy for Unmitigated Disasters in Sports Contracts and Free Agency (Alberts Belle & Haynesworth, co-founders). This year’s NFL Albert should, obviously, also be awarded to the entirety of the 2011 Eagles. From the free agency signings to the Michael Vick extension to the coaching staff decisions, the 2011 Eagles’ epic failure is the one thing that this Redskins fan has gotten to enjoy this season.
— Matt Berman, Washington DC

SG: There’s another good award! I just thought of four more …

• The “I Don’t Care How Good Your Stats Look, I Watched Your Games and You Aren’t Good” Award (this year: Plaxico Burress).

• The Mole Award, given out to the player who seems most like he’s secretly working for the other team (this year: Eric Smith).

• The Most Polarizing Player of the Year Award (this year, Tim Tebow … and we might have to name it after him before everything’s said and done).

• The Art Shell Memorial Award for “The Coach Who Makes You Wonder Four Times Per Game If He’s Actually a Corpse Propped Up on the Sideline” (this year: Jim Caldwell).

Broncos (+6) over CHARGERS
Q: Is Tebow the new Milton Berle of the NFL? Every game he pulls out just enough to win. Why waste any more gimmicks or tricks than that?
— Justin, Rio Rancho

SG: That’s the best nickname I’ve heard for him yet — Uncle Miltie. I love it. I’m stealing this. In fact, Justin from Rio Rancho doesn’t exist — that was me writing under a fake name.

Steelers (-10.5) over CHIEFS
Q: Living in the Kansas City area, Chiefs fans constantly tell me that Arrowhead Stadium is the toughest place to play in the NFL due to fan interaction, noise, etc. With the Chiefs last two losses (0-7 Dolphins and the 1906 forward pass Broncos) and Seattle’s inexplicable wins over the Ravens this season and Saints last season, isn’t it time that CenturyLink Field officially and undeniably takes the “Toughest Place to Play” title?
— Kameron G, Liberty, MO

SG: You’re not wrong. I can’t blame Kansas City sports fans, though — I think they collectively lost the will to live about eight years ago. Jason Whitlock agrees via text (when I asked him): “Beaten down dogs, stadium renovations at a bad time, prices went way up as team went way down.” You can’t be beaten-down dogs AND be the Toughest Place to Play, right?

My friend Connor (lifelong Chiefs fan) adds, “Hard to still call yourself the toughest place to play in the NFL when in the last five seasons you have started Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, Damon Huard, Matt Cassel and Tyler Palko at QB and had three years in a row where you went 2-6, 1-7, and 1-7 at home (thanks again, Herman Edwards). I get the question, but the fact is that the team does matter in that discussion and right now I don’t think any opposing teams are scared to go into Arrowhead no matter how much noise the fans make. When we get Matt Barkley next year and Jamaal Charles is healthy again, watch out … ”

Wow, some optimism from a Chiefs fan! I think we just made history! I’d also add this caveat: Anytime Kyle Orton is pulling every string possible NOT to play for you, you’ve probably lost your mystique. Let’s foreclose on Arrowhead’s “Toughest Place to Play” title and give it to Whatever the Hell They’re Calling Seattle’s Stadium Now.

SAINTS (-7) over Giants
Q: I can see it now … after the Giants get slaughtered on Monday night in New Orleans, everyone writes them off and starts saying, “It’s finally over for Tom Coughlin” … only just when we’re almost done shoveling dirt on them, they make Mercury Morris’ year by ending Green Bay’s undefeated streak at home in Week 13, then they upset Dallas in Dallas on Sunday night, followed by everyone saying, “You can never count out the Giants, when will we learn?” … only they promptly blow their Week 15 home game against the Redskins as 10-point favorites, everyone jumps off their bandwagon again … and of course, they upset the Jets in a “road” game in Week 16, and suddenly, they’re heading into the final week only needing to beat Dallas at home to (improbably) win the NFC East. The Giants are like Rowdy Roddy Piper: Every time you think you know the answers, they change the questions, right?
— Bill, Los Angeles

SG: Fine, I wrote that one myself. Enjoy Black Friday.

This Week: 2-1
Season: 80-76-7

Bill Simmons is Grantland’s Editor in Chief, the host of the BS Report podcast, the author of the New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball and the co-creator of ESPN’s Peabody-award winning “30 For 30″ series. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook


Previously from Bill Simmons:

The Sports Guy’s Thanksgiving Picks
Business Vs. Personal
Welcome to the National Mailbag League
Sports Book Hall of Fame: Ghosts of Manila
The Career Arc: Eddie Murphy
Bill and Jay’s YouTube Adventure
NFL Quarterback Power Rankings
Proactively Mourning the NBA
Behind the Pipes: Into the Arms of the NHL
Avoiding the Lockout and the Red Sox
We Need a Renegade Basketball League
A Running Diary of Game 162
Welcome to Amnesty 2.0 in the NBA

To submit questions for Bill’s mailbag, click here; to comment on this story through Facebook, click here.

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, People, Simmons

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Bill Simmons is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

Archive @ BillSimmons

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