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AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez Gary Bettman

Just Go Away, Gary

Before getting to the Week 11 picks, let's take a moment to honor the incompetence of the NHL commissioner

News broke last night that embattled NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested a two-week moratorium from lockout negotiations with the NHLPA. The reason? Things had just become too heated. I guess that’s what happens when you cancel six weeks of games and Thanksgiving is looming — maybe there’s a little more urgency, you say some things you regret, people take those things personally, and suddenly you’re threatening each other in monotone Canadian accents. Why don’t you go to hell, eh? But canceling another two weeks just so everyone can cool off? Who does this? And you wonder why hockey fans were regarding Bettman’s lockout leadership the same way you’d act if you were watching a baby play with a chainsaw.

Oh God … wait, is that on … OH GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a guy who recently earned the following e-mail from a Minneapolis reader named Peter Gilbertson: “How does one impeach a sports commissioner? How can a commissioner on the verge of losing two NHL seasons in one decade, with four work stoppages during his tenure, continue to keep his job? He is a failure. For the fans, the players, and the game this needs to be done — Bettman should be impeached.”

First of all, how much fun would it be to impeach Gary Bettman? Can’t you see him sweating and stammering through the hearings as various politicians rehashed an endless list of mistakes over the years? “So you allowed John Spano to buy the Islanders without any money because … why?” That would be the best courtroom TV since the O.J. trial. But if we voted for sports commissioners (with fans, players and owners each splitting one-third of the overall vote) or put term limits on their tenures (10 years max), then we wouldn’t have to ask questions like “How does one impeach a sports commissioner?”

Gary Bettman should have lost his job years and years ago. He kept it for the same reason David Stern plans to hang around for three decades, Bud Selig will still be running baseball when he’s 80, and Roger Goodell will probably get a contract extension even after he handled the Saints debacle so badly that he had to bring back his old boss to fix the situation for him. (Yes, we covered these commissioners in this space last month.) But Bettman’s supernatural ability to keep ruining hockey is almost unparalleled — after I joked recently for the umpteenth time about Bettman’s former boss, David Stern, planting him in the NHL to ruin hockey, a few readers e-mailed me wondering if that could be legitimately true. What other explanation could there be? How could someone be this bad for this long?

The case against Bettman in one sentence: The NHL sacrificed an entire season so they could reimagine their entire salary structure … and only seven years later, that “reimagining” went so poorly that they might have to sacrifice a second season because they need a mulligan.

That’s all you need to know. I didn’t even need to bring up the league’s botched television deals, overexpansion, poorly picked markets, belated acknowledgement of the concussion epidemic, or more incredibly, how they stupidly forgot to limit the length of contracts. This is a commissioner who fought like hell to create a hard cap, and after it finally got approved, was too dense to remember to include a rule that contracts couldn’t last longer than five or six years (like what the NBA does). That led to team after team circumventing that cap by giving out guaranteed deals lasting as long as 15 YEARS. Really, didn’t see that loophole getting exploited, Gary? Never came up as you were hashing things out?

Imagine your neighbor knocking down his house, then rebuilding it from scratch as his family lived in a hotel. You had to listen to the construction guys hammering, sawing and banging for a solid year. Finally the house goes up, the family moves back in … and seven years later, suddenly they’re knocking the house down again. You ask the neighbor what happened and he says, “Yeah, sorry about that — we screwed up when we rebuilt the house, had too many flaws, we needed to do it over again.”

Naturally, you say, “Why didn’t you figure out all that stuff before you rebuilt the house the first time?”

He says, “Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.”

And then, there’s an awkward silence before he walks away, as you don’t know whether he’s kidding or not.

That’s Gary Bettman.

We should mention that, in a vacuum, he’s correct about this particular lockout: The league’s financial model (already a mess because we have too many NHL teams, which is 100 percent Bettman’s fault, but whatever) can’t be sustained with such meager television revenue. Hockey depends on its attendance and the unwavering devotion of its zealous fan base. From a television standpoint, the league will always be handicapped by its lack of marketable stars (the biggest reason it can’t command anything close to the NBA’s television deal), a glaring problem that I noticed during my first year owning Kings season tickets, when I realized that it didn’t really matter who the Kings played from night to night. Sure, you always enjoy seeing the Malkins and Ovechkins, but it’s a much different mind-set from, say, LeBron playing the Clippers. Anyone who went to Wednesday’s Heat-Clippers game was thinking I’m going to see LeBron!, because they knew he was playing 90 percent of the game. In hockey, you don’t say “I’m going to see Ovechkin!,” because he might play one-third of the game if you’re lucky (and might not make a single meaningful play).

It’s the ultimate team sport, and really, that’s the best thing about hockey — there’s a guaranteed level of entertainment night after night after night that transcends star power. Everyone skates hard, everyone throws their bodies around, everyone plays well together, everyone gives a crap. It’s a blue-collar game that happens to be tailor-made for the ADD generation. That’s why kids love going to hockey games so much, and that’s why my daughter is so bitter right now (fast-forward to the last minute of this podcast). Throw in what hockey means to Canada (where they love hockey like we love football, basketball and baseball combined), some of the NHL’s American hotbeds (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Philly, Los Angeles, etc.) and the underrated fact that hockey players are the least entitled professional athletes on the planet … and it’s almost impossible to screw this up, right?

So how do we end up with a salary system that allows Minnesota to spend $196 million on Ryan Suter and Zach Parise? And that’s not to pick on those guys — you could build a decent playoff team around them as long as your goalie didn’t stink. Just know that nobody is saying the words, “Suter and Parise are coming to town tonight!” It’s just not that kind of league. You go to hockey games to see quality teams, not quality players. There’s a fixed level of entertainment. Suter and Parise shouldn’t make that much money because hockey players shouldn’t make that much money. It has nothing to do with them.

If you think of the cable television model, it makes more sense — channels like AMC, FX and Showtime realized that the quality of their shows matter a thousand times more than the “star power” of the actors on those shows. Yeah, AMC could have spent an extra $15 million per season on Keanu Reeves to play Rick in The Walking Dead, but why would they? People watch that show because they want to see people kill zombies. So they went the other way — cheaper actors, cheaper locations, more money on extras and special effects. Same for Showtime’s hit Homeland, which features only one star (Claire Danes, who certainly isn’t making Parise/Suter money) surrounded by well-casted actors, including a few good ones whom you’d recognize from other shows (including Mandy Patinkin, a fairly famous name in his own right) and certainly weren’t expensive. You might recognize that same blueprint from Breaking Bad, Dexter, Californication, Shameless, Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy and about 10 other cable shows. And by the way, did you know ANYONE on Mad Men when that show launched other than Ashton Kutcher’s old girlfriend with the weird first name?

On cable television, the showrunner and the writing matter more than anything else. In hockey, the sport and the fans matter more than anything else. It doesn’t matter who Minnesota’s third-best player is any more or less than it matters who plays Mike on Homeland. Fans are coming, regardless. So why overpay players, jack up ticket prices and price out those fans when you don’t have to? Wasn’t that what the last lockout was about? Wasn’t the league supposed to be regaining control of its broken salary structure? How are we back here seven years later battling the exact same problem?

For that and that alone, Gary Bettman needs to step down. No, we can’t impeach him. Yes, we can continue to excoriate him. He’s the worst commissioner in sports history, and really, it’s going to remain that way unless Roger Goodell extends the NFL’s season to 20 games, adds Wednesday- and Friday-night football to the schedule, pays a hitman to murder Jonathan Vilma, and gets outed for having a heated affair with his biographer, Peter King … and even then, I’d probably still give the edge to Bettman.

If you want to talk about moratoriums, Gary, here’s a better idea — step down and give us a lifetime moratorium. From you. On to the Week 12 Picks …

HOME TEAMS IN CAPS

BILLS (-1.5) over Dolphins
Big comeback for the Skunk of the Week! We’re back, baby! Speaking of skunks, I have the following thoughts about the Marlins skunking the entire city of Miami …

1. Thank God it’s over … and by “it,” I mean, “the charade that the public should be funding sports arenas/stadiums for billionaires.” May this never happen again.

2. Everything you ever wanted to know about professional sports in 2012 could be summed up with the sentence, “Jose Reyes needs to pass a physical but is currently still on vacation in Dubai.”

3. I agree with Jonah Keri’s take that Jeff Loria is an evil genius, as well as Oakland reader Alex S.’s take that Jeff Loria looks like the Colonel from Boogie Nights. Jack says you have a gigantic publicly funded stadium that I can build and then screw you over with. May I see it?

4. The Red Sox definitely would have jumped on the Jose Reyes–Josh Johnson–Mark Buehrle trio if John Henry were still alive.

5. We’re living in a world right now in which (a) Donald Sterling and James Dolan own two NBA contenders, and (b) someone just blew by them on the “Worst Sports Owner” power rankings. Hey, you can’t say the Mayans didn’t try to warn us about 2012.

Packers (-3) over LIONS
Remember when it seemed like things were falling apart for Aaron Rodgers? His offensive line couldn’t block anyone. His skill position guys kept getting hurt. His agent badly overexposed him by throwing him into too many commercials, which had a habit of running back-to-back during the most dire parts of every Packers game. His team was having such an unlucky season that Grantland’s Steven Hyden wondered if they were playing on an ancient Indian burial ground, with larger forces seemingly determining Golden Tate’s “Fail Mary” and Indianapolis’s first “ChuckStrong” victory. Heading into Week 6’s Sunday-night game in Houston, everyone seemed to agree that the Packers weren’t the Packers anymore (and by proxy, Rodgers wasn’t Rodgers anymore).

And then, something interesting happened — even before Green Bay started running up the score in that Houston game, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels talked about meeting with Rodgers that weekend and how angry he was about everything. Really, everyone is pouring dirt on us? You watch what happens Sunday night. They came away thinking, Uh-oh, Houston is in trouble, even saying that on TV before the Packers blew Houston out of their own building. (By the way, would it kill Al Michaels to create a Twitter feed just so he could tweet things like, “Met with Rodgers today, boy is he pissed off. Grab Green Bay and the points, just trust me.”) As soon as they told that story, I knew I was screwed with my Texans pick. And really, Rodgers has been crushing teams ever since. At the same time, his NFC nemesis Eli Manning contracted the E Coli Delhomme virus,1 Matt Ryan’s Falcons lost a textbook “We would have believed in you if you won THAT game, but you didn’t” game, and suddenly the conference belongs to Aaron Rodgers again. I’m riding the Packers until they lose.

In other news, here are some fun stats about Calvin Johnson’s total number of touchdowns this season (two).

• Calvin Johnson has scored one less touchdown than Matthew Stafford.

• Calvin Johnson has scored as many touchdowns as Green Bay’s slew of stiffs at running back.

• Calvin Johnson has scored the same number of touchdowns as Randy Moss, Jorvorskie Lane and two of Chicago’s defensive players.

• Calvin Johnson has scored one more touchdown than Ravens punter Sam Koch.

• Calvin Johnson has the same number of TDs (two) as my West Coast fantasy team has wins (two).

• Somehow, Calvin Johnson is still the best guy on my West Coast fantasy team.

This is reason no. 610 why I’m retiring from fantasy football after this season.

The Giants’ Bye Week (+3.5) over the Seahawks’/Titans’/Vikings’ Bye Weeks
Reason no. 611 was this e-mail, courtesy of Steve in Bedford, Massachusetts: “Fantasy is kind of like cheating on your wife. You don’t get any solid action for a while (seven months of crappy SportsCenter bits with Jon Gruden), then you get an opportunity to get some (three hours with your friends drinking and competing about football knowledge with the promise of real football to come) only to spend the following 17 weeks living with regret and not wanting to check your e-mail.”

Cardinals (+10) over FALCONS
Bucs (-1.5) over PANTHERS

When I wondered last week if the Falcons were the first-ever 8-0 “Nobody Believes In Us” team, multiple readers brought up the 2003 Chiefs — they won their first nine games despite being saddled with Trent Green, no receivers and a sub-par defense, eventually finishing 13-3 and grabbing a no. 2 seed before losing a Round 2 home game to the favored Colts. Nobody believed in those Chiefs until the bitter end. It’s not nearly as bleak for the Falcons, although it’s worth mentioning that (a) as soon as Harry Douglas didn’t get into the end zone with four minutes to play in New Orleans last week, you KNEW the Falcons weren’t going to score (Mike Smith + short yardage = “uh-oh”), and (b) if the 5-4 Bucs were playing the 8-1 Falcons on a neutral field right now, I’d put all my money on the Suddenly And Improbably Explosive Bucs.

Speaking of Tampa, the Bucs and Texans are both 7-2 against the spread right now (best in the league), with Seattle right behind them at 7-3. Since 2007, only seven teams have finished eight games above .500 against the spread: The 2011 Saints, 2010 Lions, 2009 Titans, 2008 Ravens, 2007 Giants and 2007 Browns all went 12-4; the 2007 Packers went 11-3-2. If we’re operating under the premise that 12-4 is the “ceiling” for covers — which makes sense because gambling lines exist to generate an equal amount of betting on both ends, so if one team keeps covering week after week, eventually, the lines will overreact to that pattern — then history tells us that Tampa and Houston can’t finish better than 5-2 against the spread these last seven weeks. Or, history might not be telling us anything. Maybe every NFL gambling season is its own unique thing.

Here’s the point: Now that Nate Silver has solved the polling process in politics, I’d like to see him devote his attention to something much more meaningful … football gambling. How hard could this be? Couldn’t Nate just study all the patterns from every football season and come up with 20 steadfast rules/tips/guidelines that should never be violated? That reminds me …

Jaguars (+15) over TEXANS
I know the Jaguars stink, but Houston plays again on Thursday — this is the all-time Milton Berle “Pulling Out Just Enough To Win” game if there ever was one. Anyway, back to Nate — John from Birmingham asks the startling question, “Has the throne of Dork Elvis officially been usurped by Nate Silver?”

Whoa. You know how strongly I feel about nicknames belonging to one person and one person only — I wasn’t even OK with LaDainian Tomlinson using “LT.” Daryl Morey will always be the one and only “Dork Elvis.” But the 2012 election pushed Nate Silver to a whole other level — he kick-started the same argument we had about advanced baseball stats during the 2000s on a much larger scale, with his detractors looking even dumber than all the sportswriting dinosaurs did last decade. It ended up being a much more decisive win (for lack of a better word), and the irony was that Silver’s methods weren’t even that convoluted. He simply studied the ebbs and flows of the best polls, figured out patterns, weighed percentages and came up with the safest probabilities.

And yet, a decent chunk of the country reacted like this crazed nerd was working undercover for the liberals and trying to uproot the election. Because of that, Silver going 50-for-50 has to be considered the single biggest victory of the sabermetric era, easily edging out Felix Hernandez’s 2010 Cy Young Award win, Brad Pitt getting nominated for an Academy Award as Billy Beane, the Sloan Conference turning into Brainiac Woodstock, John Hollinger beefing with DeMar DeRozan and Morey getting hired as an NBA GM in the first place. Nate Silver doesn’t need a nickname the same way Chuck Norris didn’t need a nickname. So the “Dork Elvis” moniker remains safe, and really, it’s a compliment to both guys.

Eagles (+3.5) over REDSKINS
The Nick Foles era was fun for about 12 minutes, until everyone realized, “Oh, wait, they can’t block for him, either.” But back to those spread records — right now, the Eagles are 1-7-1 against the spread, making them by far the worst (only 3-6 Kansas City and 3-6 Oakland come close). Since 2007, only the 2007 Ravens (3-13) and 2011 Rams (3-12-1) covered in three or fewer football games in one season, and the 2010 Panthers (4-12), 2011 Bucs (4-12) and 2008 Jags (4-12) were the only other teams that finished eight games below .500. So history tells us that the Eagles are definitely covering two more games. Don’t tell me this season is hopeless, Philly fans. You’re definitely covering two more games!!!!!!!!

In other news, here’s an important e-mail from Phil in Irving: “I need your help to bring this problem to more people’s attention — ‘I will say this … ‘ is the new ‘Having said that … ‘ Doesn’t this phrase drive you crazy? Someone smarter than me could probably figure out how certain phrases seem to become trendy (ex: ‘it is what it is’ circa 2010), but suddenly I can’t enjoy TV or a podcast without talking heads obscuring their own valid points by throwing in an unnecessary, ‘I will say this … ‘ You don’t have to tell me you’re going to say something — just say it! It’s like a flimsy attempt to give extra importance to what you’re about to say, while devaluing what you just said. It’s like saying ‘listen’ in the middle of whatever you’re saying, because what you’re ABOUT to say is more important than what you were just saying.”

Provocative. But are we sure “I will say this” is more annoying than any sentence that starts out, “Honestly … “? Honestly, every time someone says something like that, it always makes me think, Why are they admitting that they’re being honest right now? Does that mean they weren’t being honest before? It’s always been the most commonly said word on shows that encourage lying and double-crossing like Survivor, The Challenge or The Real Housewives of Wherever, but now, it’s trickled into sports shows, and honestly, it’s just kind of weird. Having said that, I will say this — Phil from Irving might be on to something.

Browns (+8) over COWBOYS
Sitting there on my East Coast fantasy waiver wire these past two weeks? Tony Romo! Good God how the mighty have fallen. Are we sure the Cowboys should be laying eight points to anyone right now? Why do I pick the Browns every week when their coach is consistently overmatched? And considering that Cowboys fans just spent the last few days excitedly doing the math and realizing that — by next Thursday night — their team could be a half-game behind the Giants, isn’t it almost mandatory that the Cowboys lose on Sunday or come damned close? My prediction: Trailing by eight in the final minute of the fourth quarter, the Browns score a semi-miraculous touchdown, then Pat Shurmur blows the game by mistakenly kicking the extra point … only Jason Garrett mistakenly ices the kicker with a timeout right before the extra point, leading to the Browns then running Trent Richardson into an 11-man Cowboys line to lose the game. Hey, speaking of football teams that God hates …

Bengals (-3.5) over CHIEFS
Boooooooo!

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

PATRIOTS (-9) over Colts
I know it’s fun to think about another nationally televised Colts-Patriots game, with Tom Brady playing Tom Brady and Andrew Luck playing the role of Peyton Manning (kind of like the CSI franchise switching lead actors or something). I know those nine points look enticing, especially when you think about Luck potentially picking apart New England’s ghastly secondary. But I want you to look at something …

QB1: 2,645 yards, 18 TDs, 3 picks, 64.8 completion %, 15 sacks, 100.1 rating.
QB2: 2,072 yards, 15 TDs, 4 picks, 63.0 completion %, 21 sacks, 96.5 rating.

The first QB is Brady. The second QB is everyone who started against the 2012 Colts — a list that features exactly one quality QB (Aaron Rodgers), one above-average QB (Jay Cutler), one just-about-washed-up QB (Matt Hasselbeck), two rookie QBs (Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill), three struggling second-year QBs (Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Blaine Gabbert again), and one totally embattled QB (Mark Sanchez). Rodgers ranks second in QB rating, Ponder ranks 20th, and the other six range from 24th (Cutler) to 31st (Weeden). And yet, somehow, The Guy Who Goes Against The 2012 Colts would have the ninth-highest QB rating and the eighth-best touchdown/interception ratio.

Here’s the point: If Tom Brady doesn’t completely, totally and irrevocably carve up that openly lousy Colts pass defense — at home, in a relatively important game that he’s going to care about winning — it will be one of the biggest upsets of the 2012 season. Which means Luck (10 TDs, 9 picks) has to score 30+ points to hang around … something the Colts have done only once all year (30 against Green Bay in Week 5). Their only hope is that the Patriots will Milton Berle their way through this game with a Jets game looming four days later, but from what we’ve seen of Luck — especially late in games — is that really someone you want to let hang around? I think the Pats make a huge statement in this one. Pats 45, Colts 20. And with that said … I don’t even remotely believe in this team.

Speaking of Luck, here’s a crucial e-mail from Charlotte reader Peter Williams: “Sure, no one talks about it. But they do talk about how ‘we’re not talking about Andrew Luck’s athletic ability enough.’ I imagine people will be talking a lot more about ‘not talking about Luck’s athletic ability enough’ as the hype machine builds. If RGIII owned the first half of the season, then ‘not talking about Andrew Luck’s athletic ability enough’ will own the second half.”

Having said that, honestly, I will say this — we really aren’t talking about Andrew Luck’s athletic ability enough.

RAMS (-3.5) over Jets
Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow. Tebow.

Tebow.

RAIDERS (+4.5) over Saints
An Atlanta reader named Danny Kneecaps breaks it down for us: “The Saints start out 0-4, right the ship and go 4-1 in their last five (including a huge home win over their divisional rival, the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons). They are suddenly playoff relevant! Now they travel out West to play a weak Raider team who just gave up a double nickel to the Ravens. Warning! Classic trap game, correct? Instead of avoiding the Saints here, let’s get aggressive, Billy! What’s the opposite of a trap game? An escape game? Isn’t this an escape game for the Raiders, too? I can see it now: in a furious fourth-quarter comeback, Carson Palmer conjures up his best impression of Kenny the Snake Stabler as the Raiders ‘escape’ with a win!!!”

(I can’t believe I’m agreeing with someone named “Danny Kneecaps.”)

Chargers (+7.5) over BRONCOS
Gambling rules favoring the Broncos: “Don’t go against a hot team,” “Don’t go against Peyton Manning in a big home game,” “Don’t pick Norv Turner in a big game ever” and a special one just for this game, “Always pick the home team that’s +20 in sacks over the road team that keeps landing in articles with headlines like ‘O-Line play not helping Chargers’ cause’ and ‘Chargers’ line offensive, too’.”

Gambling rules favoring the Chargers: “Be careful with high spreads in division games,” “Be careful of any team when it’s their biggest game of the year,” “Be careful with road teams who had previous success in that stadium” (and San Diego has won five of their last six in Denver), “Be careful of any favorite when they’re going to be thrown into every two-team teaser on Sunday,” “Be careful of Norv Turner anytime his job is definitely on the line because he’s like Michael Myers — you have to chop his head off to get rid of him, or else he’s coming back.”

(Thinking … )

(Still thinking … )

(When in doubt, take the points … right?)

STEELERS (+3.5) over Ravens
Nobody believes in us! They think we’re done without Ben! The only guys who believe in us right now are the guys in this locker room!

Speaking of gimmicks that I’ve beaten into the ground in this column, Peter from Iowa City wonders simply, “Has the David Petraeus scandal entered the Tyson Zone yet?”

A quick recap: “Tyson Zone” status officially happens as soon as you find yourself saying the words, “I don’t know what’s happening next, but I’m prepared for anything.” That’s what happened (for me, a least) as soon as Chuck Klosterman became a bit player in a CIA sex scandal. I’m almost positive that’s never happening again. So the answer is, “Yes.” While we’re on the subject, I’d like to bestow Tyson Zone status on the following things: the Floyd Mayweather–50 Cent feud, Bettman’s commissionership, the Miami Marlins, Chamique Holdsclaw and the Jerramy Stevens–Hope Solo marriage.

Bears (+4.5) over 49ERS
Doesn’t Chicago’s defense and special teams have just as good of a chance to single-handedly win the game against Colin Kaepernick as San Francisco’s defense and special teams have to single-handedly win the game against Jason Campbell? What am I missing?

Last note: On November 16, 2002, I moved from Boston to Los Angeles to write for a television show, convinced my then-fiancée to come with me and promised her, “Don’t worry, someday we’ll go back.” Ten years, three dogs, two kids and two houses later, we’re still here. My hair is whiter. I’m much more mellow. I changed the way I ate and slept. I stopped partying, smoking cigs and doing anything else to abuse my body. I barely even go to Vegas anymore. And through it all, one thing never changed — my football picks still suck.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 5-9
Season: 74-70-3

Filed Under: NHL, NHL Playoffs, NHL Viewing Guide, Sports

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Bill Simmons is the founding editor 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.

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