The WWE Midseason Awards

32 Bold Predictions for the NBA Season

AP Photo/G. Newman Lowrance

Don’t Call It a Comeback!

The Sports Guy sets his sights on redeeming himself while delivering some reader emails and the Week 8 picks

Greetings from Boston! I haven’t been home since the night LeBron James saved Miami’s championship season, eviscerated the 2012 Celtics AND played the greatest game of his life. Last night at Fenway Park, my streak of coming-home gut punches climbed to two when Craig Breslow went full-scale Calvin Schiraldi during a monstrosity of a seventh-inning meltdown. I might never come back. Good things happen to Boston sports teams when I’m 3,000 miles away — that’s been the deal for 11 solid years and it’s the biggest reason why I refuse to leave Los Angeles. Don’t worry, I’m leaving Boston before Game 3 starts.

The good news? I’m in the middle of the worst NFL handicapping slump of my career. Oh, wait, that’s horrible news. An Alabama reader named David Krakower summed it up best: “Simmons, I want to congratulate you on your John Anthony–like performance of picking games this weekend. No, not the weekend when he miraculously goes 14-0. Not that weekend. The weekend he goes 2-12, prompting Walter Burke to proclaim that monkeys throwing darts could do better and then having Mr. Novian ‘meet him in the park’ to urinate all over him. Kudos — you pulled off a 2-13! You must be so proud.”

You know it’s gone bad when readers are comparing you to characters from wretched Matthew McConaughey movies.1 You also know it’s gone bad when readers are thanking you for your dreadful picks — you know, because they went against them for their own financial gain — which is the lowest you can sink in gambling without selling your possessions or your body.

I like to make excuses whenever my picks fall apart. It’s never my fault. I’ll blame a book tour, or one of my kids being born, or too much traveling … just know it wasn’t ME. This time around, my creaky-all-season picks finally fell apart after we decided to produce 30 “Bill and Jalen NBA Previews” in less than a month. People seem to like these videos, which makes us happy, but attempting this series with a skeleton Grantland Channel staff was one of my five dumbest ideas ever, maybe even worse than my ill-fated cartoon. I don’t know whose wife hates her husband more right now, Mrs. Simmons or Mrs. Jacoby, but it’s probably a toss-up. There’s a good chance Jacoby and I will be living in a one-bedroom apartment on Wilshire soon and sharing the same divorce lawyer. The least you can do is watch the damned clips. Here’s our latest preview (the Clippers).

So you’re thinking you should just start going against me every week. I get it. With the NBA season starting Tuesday, you know I’m still immersed in all things NBA … and you know there’s a 95 percent chance I’m getting bronchitis on the flight back to Los Angeles. You should be profiting from my incompetence. That’s what you’re telling yourself.

But I need you to remember one thing …

We live in a world in which, over the span of five unfathomable weeks, the immortal Ron Rivera flipped the script and became a competent head coach in the National Football League. You might remember a then-winless Panthers team squandering an agonizing Week 2 game in Buffalo and one of my readers writing, “I find it funny that Rivera, the worst game closer in the NFL, shares his name with the best baseball closer ever. In October when both of them are out of work (hopefully), my only wish is to see them paired together. Maybe Mariano and Ron star in a sitcom called the Two Riveras. Story lines include them going to a bar with Ron buying drinks for a girl all night until Mariano sweeps in at closing time to take her home while Ron stands there with a blank look on his face. Every week the same situation happens and nothing changes because that is the life of a Panthers fan.”

What happened? Rivera finally embraced advanced metrics and unexpectedly morphed into “Riverboat Ron” (as ESPN delightfully dubbed him). Here’s how Riverboat Ron explained his new identity in a watershed ESPN.com piece on October 15. The quotes belong to Rivera; my thoughts are in parentheses.

“Which is the right call? The right call turns out to be one that you win with.”

(Hey, high school seniors — feel free to steal that one as your yearbook quote. Make sure to credit him as “Riverboat Ron.”)

“If you win it’s a great call. It goes all the way back to everybody talking about what Coach Belichick did against Indianapolis. … That’s not a gamble. It’s what I believe is a calculated attempt. I do mean that in all sincerity.”

(Note: Huge progress from someone who spent two-plus seasons treating fourth-and-ones like they were grenades, even though he had the best short-yardage QB in the league. It’s always funny when people say things with 100 percent conviction that they didn’t believe five weeks ago. Hold on, Riverboat Ron ain’t done yet.)

“I do have a checklist that I try to go through and try to look at prior to going out on the field. Are we expected to win? What type of game are we anticipating? Will this be a ground-and-pound-type game?”

(Note: A checklist that includes questions like “Are we expected to win?” CUTTING EDGE! I NEED TO KNOW MORE!)

“So there is a checklist with 32 things that I go through.”

(Wait, there are 32 things on Riverboat Ron’s checklist???? How did he get to that number? What else is on there? And why do I have a feeling that he has stuff on there like, “Are you acting like a huge wimp on fourth-and-1?” and “Are your players afraid to make eye contact with you because you just blew the game?” and “Are you forgetting to breathe and blink?” I think I’d pay five grand to see the rest of Riverboat Ron’s checklist.)

“I go through those before I go out (on the) field in my mind trying to set those things up. Obviously, my attitude has changed on a few of those points.”

(Translation: “I’d like to thank Bill Barnwell’s weekly ‘Thank You for Not Coaching’ column for changing the way I approach these games. Mr. Barnwell had a dramatic impact on my life.” Does anyone else love the thought of Ron Rivera strolling onto a football field mentally rehashing items from his generic 32-item coaching checklist? I don’t think I have ever loved a non-Patriots coach more. I love you, Riverboat Ron.)

“The analytics of football really plays into those things.”

(It sure does, Riverboat Ron! Who knew? This brand-new analytics movement really came out of the blue — it took all of us by surprise.)

“There are a lot [of] things I go through now understanding it even more and learning it. As I look at it as a defensive coordinator you look at it one way, and then putting on the hat of a head coach you have to look at it most certainly from a different perspective.”

(“So what if it took 34 regular-season games to get there, and so what if I almost murdered the collective will of the entire Panthers fan base? I’m here!!!!!!”)

“It’s something that I’ve kind of grown into.”

(DO THE DAMNED THING, RIVERBOAT RON!!!!!!!! I BELIEVE IN YOU!!!!!!)

Look — if Ron Rivera can avoid the firing line by turning into Riverboat Ron, then I can turn things around in 2013. Go against me at your own risk. I’m climbing back over .500 before the playoffs start, and not by pulling a Chris Berman and making my final Sunday-night pick in Week 17 worth 20 games, either. I’m getting it done the old-fashioned way. It’s happening. The comeback begins this week. Without further ado, the Week 8 picks.

(Home teams in caps.)

Panthers (-6.5) over BUCS
Here we go! 1-0! I’m back, baby! This was an easy one — you had 2013’s Good Bad Team (a.k.a., the team that beats up on all the other bad teams but can’t beat anyone good) playing 2013’s Everything Has Gone To Hell Team during a week with headlines like “Greg Schiano loses Tampa Bay Buccaneers with autocratic style” and “Tampa radio station buys 19 ‘Fire Schiano’ billboards.” The way Schiano is free-falling, we might have to change my “WARM” (“Wins Above Raheem Morris”) stat to “WAGS” (“Wins Above Greg Schiano”).

Palm Beach reader Joshua summed it up best: “Which do you think teams should be more worried about catching when playing in Tampa Bay — the flesh-eating, terrible-PR-creating disease wracking the Buccaneers, or MRSA?”

San Diego’s Bye Week (-6.5) over Chicago’s Bye Week
So long, 2013 Bears. Thanks for coming. We have some parting gifts for you. On the flip side, the Chargers are looking a little no. 6–seedish, aren’t they? I enjoyed this email from Hamm Hooper in St. Louis: “Did you hear that Philip Rivers is expecting his seventh child? Do you think it’s possible that Rivers is attempting to become the next Archie Manning and send as many quarterbacks to the NFL as he can? Even though four of his six kids are girls so far, I don’t think Rivers will stop pumping out babies until he has an adequate number of boys to make a run at the Mannings.” Who makes more sense to become Archie Manning 2.0 than Philip Rivers? Wish I had thought of that one. Good work, Hamm Hooper.

CHIEFS (-7.5) over Browns
Jason Campbell — on the road, in Arrowhead — going against a ferocious Kansas City defense that feasts on sloppy QBs who make poor decisions? And I’m getting less than 14 points? Make that 2-and-0! I’m back, baby! Hold on, I have some assorted Chiefs-Browns thoughts that require snazzy bullet points:

• Not only was Kansas City gift-wrapped the easiest schedule of the year, it somehow became EASIER after four weeks thanks to an incredible five-game stretch of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrelle Pryor,2 Case Keenum, Campbell and Thad Lewis (next week). Does anyone else think that Andy Reid sold his soul to the devil, Kurt Warner–style, right before they offered him this Chiefs job?

• Jamaal Charles has been a borderline MVP candidate for Kansas City. It’s hard to imagine them cracking 13 points a game if you switched him with a half-decent back. You know what else? He’s trailing only Peyton Manning in the fantasy football MVP rankings through seven weeks; right now in a non-PPR league with conventional scoring, he’s 20 points higher than any other non-quarterback. And he’s been REALLY fun to watch. (Cut to every Chiefs fan screaming, “Shut up, Simmons! You’re gonna blow out his left hamstring! STOP TALKING!”)

• From Santa Ana reader Lee Vasquez: “At the beginning of the 4th quarter of the Chiefs-Texans game, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms confirmed that Andy Reid gave them ‘a full scouting report’ on all the BBQ joints in Kansas City. I felt very proud of you as a reader on hearing this.” I feel proud that you felt proud, Lee.

• So long, Brandon Weeden. We knew you were in trouble when Cleveland.com ran a poll wondering “Which former Cleveland Browns quarterback since 1999 would you take over Brandon Weeden?” One of the choices was “I’d stick with Brandon Weeden,” which was probably a better option than “I am going to keep wrapping Saran Wrap around my face until I stop breathing.” Here’s how the vote broke down …

Tim Couch: 22.8 percent
Colt McCoy: 17.1 percent
Kelly Holcomb: 16.1 percent
Thaddeus Lewis: 12.1 percent
Jeff Garcia: 9.27 percent
Derek Anderson: 8.11 percent
I’ll Stick With Brandon Weeden: 5.77 percent
Trent Dilfer: 2.8 percent
Brady Quinn: 2.68 percent
Seneca Wallace: 1.98 percent
Charlie Frye: 1.0 percent

Some follow-up thoughts: First, what an incredible list. I’m just honored to be here. Second, “I’ll Stick With Brandon Weeden” is either a phenomenal fantasy team name or a phenomenal name for an indie movie about a crazy Browns fan who ends up going on a killing spree, or both. Third, Charlie Frye’s performance in the vote is one of the 19 or 20 funniest things that ever happened. When you can’t crack higher than 1 percent on THAT list? My god. Fourth, any vote that covers 15 years of QBs and yields a second-place finish for Colt McCoy but doesn’t include the words “worst” or “painful” … I mean, who knew this was possible? What a list. I could stare at that list all day.

• Hard to argue with this prediction from Ohio reader Darrin Lacheta: “Here’s how I see Cleveland at KC playing out: Campbell looks mediocre, then suffers a season ending injury in the second quarter, putting Weeden back at the helm. The Browns sign Brady Quinn as their backup. Quinn ultimately gets to start a game after Thanksgiving, but gets injured putting Weeden back at QB. It’s a familiar script to us Browns fans. I feel it’s written in the stars. Can this season play out any other way?” And then, Darrin went on a 15-person killing spree and inspired the 2015 indie movie that won Sundance, I’ll Stick With Brandon Weeden, written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

• One more email, courtesy of Cleveland fan Daniel Donatelli: “In your most recent Cousin Sal podcast, you wondered how it came to be that Brandon Weeden was selected in the first round. I was born in Cleveland, and I’ve lived here throughout this whole nightmarish process, and this is my understanding of how that happened: It was Mike Holmgren. “””””””””QB Guru””””””””” (I can’t put enough quotation marks around it.) Mike Holmgren brought in Tom Heckert to be the General Manager, but in the months leading up the Richardson/Weeden Draft Debacle, we Clevelanders were told that “”””””””””””QB Guru””””””””””” Mike Holmgren was putting all of his efforts into scouting the college ranks for the absolute right guy to lead the Browns. In Holmgren/Heckert’s first draft, they picked up Bust McCoy in the third round, and then a few years later, after falling on their chins trying to trade up get RGKnee, they traded up for a below-average running back and then drafted Derek Anderson’s father. I despise Mike Holmgren so much that I think there should be a serious reconsideration of his Hall-of-Fame credentials AS A COACH. He robbed the Browns of money, and more importantly he robbed Cleveland Browns fans of time, and then he rode out of town with an organization burning to the ground, and honestly (DELETED BY THE EDITORS SO YOU DIDN’T THINK DANIEL DONATELLI WAS A MANIAC). Now it looks like Mike Lombardi might actually know what he’s doing after all, which puts the over/under on 6 months before Jimmy Haslam is forced to sell the team. God hates Cleveland? What God?”

(I take it back: We’re making Daniel Donatelli the lead character in I’ll Stick With Brandon Weeden, written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Anyway, I’m laying the points this week if it’s OK with you.)

LIONS (-3) over Cowboys
Both of these teams zig when you think they’re gonna zag. That means the Lions win this week. I think. In other news, ESPN.com posted a piece on October 15 centered on the following compliment about Tony Romo: “I think you can be an elusive guy without being overly skilled, overly impressed from a motor skills standpoint — guys who run fast and jump high and have this rare quickness. There have been some great athletes through the years who kind of get away from people. The great Larry Bird seemed to get away from people for a long time, right?”

The headline of the piece? “Tony Romo with Larry Bird-like ability.”

Putting the Basketball Jesus in the same headline with Tony Romo? That’s sports blasphemy!!! This is the worst thing ESPN has done to me in at least two weeks.

Dolphins (+7) over PATRIOTS
I’m not ready to do this one yet. Let’s kill some time with Mike from Wormleysburg weighing in on my decision to write about the NBA for last Friday’s column.

“Acceptable Simmons excuses for no NFL column: 1. If ‘South Park’ can do it, so can I. 2. Red Sox, motherf’ers. Red Sox. 3. Laptop and all computer files were stolen while I slept (although Barnwell already used that).

“Unacceptable excuses, and most likely the ones we’ll be hearing: 1. I had to finish my videos talking about NBA teams three people watch. 2. I slept with my contacts in/had allergies/tweaked my back and was in gripping pain all week. 3. I had to spend all day editing a story about Rashida Jones not being a fan of Kim Kardashian.”

(Words hurt, Mike from Wormleysburg. Words hurt.)

Bills (+11.5) over SAINTS
You knew Doug Marrone was our best new NFL coach this season. He’s been excellent in every respect. (Congratulations, Buffalo fans.) But did you know Marrone was New Orleans’s offensive coordinator from 2006 through 2008? I’m banking on some “I know how to fluster Brees” tricks in this one. And by the way, Thad Lewis isn’t bad! He really isn’t. I miss the days when you could just throw teams in teasers that were going against third-string QBs without even blinking … you can’t do that anymore. Well, unless it’s Jason Campbell. Then you can do it.

Speaking of Marrone, check out the subtle “Nobody believes in us!” messaging in this interview he did with BuffaloBills.com.

Q: Does the team get anything extra out of being an underdog in games?

A: I think it would be tough because I think we’ve been the underdog in every game since we’ve been here. If you play that underdog card, you’d play it every week … We’re doing it for a bigger cause. We’re doing it for the people in the region and the fans that have gone through a long period of time where we haven’t been relevant. We’ll just keep working and keep fighting, but I think it is one game at a time, I don’t think a game is going to make a statement in that. It’s going to be your body of work.

(To repeat: “We’ve been the underdog in every game since we’ve been here.” Oh, like he’s not saying that in the locker room on Sunday? NOBODY BELIEVES IN YOU, BUFFALO!)

Dolphins (+7) over PATRIOTS
Still not ready. In other news, Dave in Portland emails, “I was reading your Week 6 NFL column and realized I couldn’t remember what “TAINT” stood for. So, I now have ‘Bill Simmons TAINT’ in my google search history.” Now I need a new goal for 2013.

49ers (-16) over Jaguars
Good news, London — we’re bringing another atrocious NFL team overseas for you! Hope you enjoy. The Jags are flirting with history in three ways: They’re 40 percent of the way toward tying the all-time Clock Game record of 10; they have a legitimate shot at 0-16; and they have a chance to finish with the bottom two QBs out of 36 QBR qualifiers. Right now, Chad Henne is 34th and Blaine Gabbert is 36th. Will we ever see another NFL team trot out the TWO worst QBs in football in one season? I’m on the edge of my seat.

Indy’s Bye Week (-9.5) over Tennessee’s Bye Week
Great work by the Colts last week. Right now, my Super Bowl Circle (of teams that could win the Bowl if they get some breaks in January and February) includes the following teams: Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Indy, New Orleans … and we’re done. Usually that list goes eight deep, which means we have spots for three more teams. Stay tuned. Anyway, I enjoyed these two emails.

Demitri in Seattle: “When I watched my beloved Seahawks take on the Titans, throughout the game, I was paranoid that Bernard Karmell Pollard would take out DangeRuss. I think we should call this fear ‘Pollardanoia’ — the dread that the other team’s player who just happens to consistently take out your most important player.” Done. I can tell you this much — I suffer from an acute case of Pollardanoia.

Dan B. in Bethesda, Maryland: “Can we please start calling Trent Richardson ‘Trent Richardson 3.0′ since that is going to be his YPC for his career? Thanks!” You got it, Dan B. Can we officially say that Trent Richardson stinks yet? How many more weeks do we need? Who would get to first base faster — Trent Richardson or one of the Molina brothers?

Dolphins (+7) over PATRIOTS
Just a bizarre line. I don’t think one of these teams is better than the other. Anyway, let’s start here …

Player A: 1,687 yards, 60.7% comp, 6.44 YPA, 14/4 TD/INT, 90.9 rating, 48.1 QBR, +8.20 DVOA
Player B: 1,723 yards, 58.3% comp, 7.73 YPA, 8/11 TD/INT, 74.3 rating, 35.8 QBR, -18.8 DVOA
Player C: 1,708 yards, 55.4% comp, 5.99 YPA, 8/5 TD/INT, 75.3 rating, 48.5 QBR, -12.2 DVOA
Player D: 1,741 yards, 60.5% comp, 6.55 YPA, 8/13 TD/INT, 69.5 rating, 32.3 QBR, -20.3 DVOA

If you had to guess the identities of Tom Brady, Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer and Geno Smith based on those 2013 numbers, how would you pick?

(Hold on, I’ll give you a few seconds.)

(And a few more.)

(And … time!)

Player A: Bradford. Player B: Geno. Player C: Brady. Player D: Palmer.

Hold on, I have to finish vomiting.

Here’s the thing about Brady’s lackluster season: I’ve watched all the games. He’s been missing throws for two months. You can’t just blame the new receivers when Brady keeps sailing balls over the heads of wide-open receivers. (FYI: If he hits Gronk in stride with 30 seconds remaining last week, it’s game over.) Pro Football Focus reports that Brady is 9-for-37 (24 percent) on passes traveling 20-plus yards (with just one TD), something that ties into a multi-year problem (read this piece from the summer of 2012). This might be a more benevolent version of the late-career funk that plagued 36-year-old Brett Favre in 2005, when Favre fell apart during a 4-12 Packers season and finished with 20 TDs, 29 picks and a ghastly 70.9 QB rating. And remember, Favre bounced back. I’m leaning toward this being a slump and not a career-altering swoon, but you never know, and if you don’t think every Pats fan is secretly freaking the eff out over this, you’re crazy. We know the 2013 Pats almost definitely aren’t playing in February without Vince, Mayo and (it has to be said) Hernandez, but watching Brady slowly become Just Another QB … none of us is ready for THAT yet. As my buddy Hench texted me last week, “Nobody’s 50-Worst-Throws montage is worse than Brady’s this year.” Well, except for yours, Brandon Weeden.

One last email from Dr. Jeff in Rhode Island: “What’s higher, the number of complete games played by Danny Amendola in 2013 multiplied by two, or the number of Wes Welker 2013 TDs? (Feel free to shake your head and mutter expletives like I’m doing right now.)”

(Shaking my head, muttering expletives.)

Jets (+6.5) over BENGALS
From Kevin in Cincy: “Fun fact about the Bengals: they have never lost when they score more than 24 points in the Dalton Era (14-0). Also, in the four games this season that the Bengals scored 24 or less, they still won by over 6.5 twice. Throw in how Andy Dalton won’t turn over the ball and Geno Smith will, and I think you know what to do.” That Kevin from Cincy is too confident. I’m going the other way. You can’t make me trust Andy Dalton yet — no matter how good he looked these past two weeks. I’m still worried that he’s the Ginger Matt Schaub.

Speaking of the Jets, I have a request based off this email from Amir from Cambridge: “In the Cialis commercial that was playing during PushGate (last week’s Pats-Jets game), the in-love couple literally has this plate of nachos in front of them that is big enough for like 20 people. Is the idea that his raging four hour erection makes him eat like an elephant too? I would never serve that much nachos for two people even if it was Vince Wilfork and the fat guy from Jake and the Fatman.” I Googled “Cialis Nachos” to no avail. Could someone get that clip on YouTube please? I don’t ask for much.

RAIDERS (+3) over Steelers
I feel like the Steelers blow this specific game every single season. That brings us to our Shakey’s Pizza Watch for Week 8: every LeGarrette Blount kick return (Jesus he’s awful) … the Denver/Seattle/Miami O-lines … Detroit’s secondary … Seattle’s O-line … Sam Martin punting with games on the line … Chicago’s defense … Indy giving up a first-rounder for Trent Richardson 3.0 … Cincy’s defense without Leon Hall … any NFL team that drafts Aaron Dobson over Keenan Allen … Peyton Manning on deep balls … Roy Helu stealing Alfred Morris’s TDs … Hakeem Nicks’s trade value … Washington’s special teams … Dan Dierdorf repeatedly calling Rob Gronkowski “The Gronk” … New England’s chances in any game announced by Dan Dierdorf … the Dan Dierdorf era … Dan Dierdorf.

Giants (+5) over EAGLES
I agree with Kyle in Seattle: “Has there ever been a more prolonged, simultaneously putrid and terrifying team than the Coughlin era Giants? I haven’t felt comfortable picking any game this team has been involved in for like 6 years. If these Giants brought their current 0-6 record into Foxborough tomorrow, would you feel THAT confident the Pats would beat them? You wouldn’t want any part of it, right?”

I’ll go further: I could totally see the 2013 Giants making the playoffs, and I could totally see them landing the no. 2 pick in the draft and getting Jadeveon Clowney, followed by Clowney sacking a rejuvenated Brady to clinch the Giants’ improbable 20-17 victory in Super Bowl L. I will now eat broken glass.

D.C. Daceys (+13) over BRONCOS
Signs of life from RG3!!!! Signs of death from Peyton Manning’s right arm! I can’t resist grabbing the points … remind me how stupid this was midway through the second quarter when Denver is winning by 28. By the way, a belated shout-out to Von Miller, who returned in Week 7 from a six-week suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and somehow added 16 pounds of muscle since the preseason. This story was reported unironically by Fox’s Jay Glazer (on TV), Pro Football Talk and DenverBroncos.com.

Houston’s Bye Week (+3.5) over Baltimore’s Bye Week
Did Case Keenum look a little Romoish last Sunday, or was it just me? I liked him. Meanwhile, did you know Gary Kubiak has nine career losing streaks of three-plus games, as well as five four-game losing streaks? Read more about it in this SI.com story with the headline “With his team in a free-fall, Gary Kubiak appears to be out of answers.” Wait, Gary Kubiak once had answers?

Speaking of the Texans, you might remember me writing about Matt Schaub two weeks ago, as well as QBs in general and the mentality that quarterbacks need to be larger-than-life leaders over everything else (and once they lose that quality, it’s over). Lou from Los Angeles sent along a great YouTube clip about Dan Fouts, adding, “Check it out, it’s right in line with your piece on what a quarterback needs to be.” Take two minutes and watch this. Also, I’m changing my title to Grantland’s MFIC as soon as I hand in this column.

CARDINALS (-2) over Falcons
Can the Cards break the 0-6 streak of Team That Just Got The Crap Kicked Out Of It By The Seahawks? I say yes. Sneaky-good Matt Ryan season, by the way — he pulled off last week’s win against Tampa with Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez and a bunch of dudes on your fantasy league’s waiver wire. The rest of the Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 8: Doug Baldwin on third downs … everyone who backed Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young … San Diego’s O-line (????) … the rookie running back class … Andre Ellington (it’s coming!) … RG3 kinda sorta looking like RG3 again … Zac Stacy, Jarrett Boykin and Harry Douglas: Three Guys You Never Expected Might Decide Your Fantasy League … Danny Woodhead (miss that dude) … Kiko Alonso’s chances to win 2013’s Reggie Cleveland All-Stars MVP.

VIKINGS (+9.5) over Packers
Grabbing the points despite the following four emails …

Maximillian in D.C.: “This week is a perfect opportunity to test your ‘rock bottom’ theory for QB’s on Christian Ponder. He is quoted as saying about his upcoming start for concussed Josh Freeman, ‘I already got benched, so it can’t get any worse.'”

Jim C. in Chicago: “When a quarterback’s career is ending must they first play for the Vikings? Favre, McNabb, Ponder, Freeman, Warren Moon, etc.? Are the Vikings the NFL equivalent of Jason Voorhees for quarterbacks?”

Beau in Grand Junction, Colorado: “The description for the next Taylor Lautner led film, Tracers, made me literally laugh out loud at work today. ‘Wanted by the mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger.’ This crazy turn of events for Lautner has Josh Freeman written all over it. A young, budding star has a breakout moment (Freeman, the 2010 season, and Lautner, the Twilight series) and before you know it, both guys are completely irrelevant. Within 2-3 years we see Freeman as the 3rd stringer behind Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, while Lautner is headlining a movie with Rafi Gavron and Marie Avgeropoulos as the top-billed cast. Which career has more upside right now, Freeman or Lautner?”

Scott in Reno: “Leslie Frazier coaches like he has a concussion.”

(Thinking.)

Packers (-9.5) over VIKINGS
That’s better.

Seahawks (-11.5) over RAMS
I have very few rules in life, but this is one of them: When you’re so desperate for a QB that you call Brett Favre and try to get him to come back when he hasn’t played for three years and he’s 44 years old and you’re going against the best team in football a few days later, I can’t pick you that week.

Hold on, one last email, from Darryl in L.A …

“Don’t ask me how I stumbled upon this but I felt this was too good for me not to tell you about despite the fact that it might border on blasphemy for you as a Boston sports fan. I remember reading in TBOB that a running joke with you was that the worst possible clip to play in on NBA Jumbotron to ‘pump up’ the crowd would be the scene where Jack Nicholson sticks an axe into Scatman Crothers in The Shining. Well today, I noticed an interesting coincidence. Notice this video of that scene on YouTube.

“Now, I was listening to Sweet Caroline today in honor of opening night of the World Series at Fenway. This video in particular.

“Notice anything? The climaxes are PERFECTLY IN SYNC. Play the videos at the same time and you’ll notice that the moment that Nicholson nails him with that ax is the exact same moment that Neil Diamond starts to belt out the chorus (at the 1:04 mark in particular). Bizarre coincidence? Or something more? No clue what demons drove me to stumble upon this but I was laughing hysterically for a good ten minutes and thought I should share with you.”

(Yup, these are my readers.)

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 2-13
Season: 46-58-4

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