As a Patriots fan for the past four decades, I rooted for the great Tom Brady, the sometimes-great Drew Bledsoe, and the always-dreadful Marc Wilson. I rooted for Matt Cassel during the year when He Wasn’t Tom Brady. I rooted for one of the softest QBs who ever lived (Tony Eason), as well as the one of the toughest (Steve Grogan). I rooted for the immortal Scott Zolak in a playoff game. I rooted for Doug Flutie, watched him stink for the Patriots, then spent the next two decades in total denial that it happened.
I rooted for a QB who only had a quality nickname going for him, but the nickname was so much fun, we didn’t even care if he sucked (the Hughmillenator, Hugh Millen). I rooted for Jim “Total Bust as the No. 1 Overall Pick Even Though It Wasn’t His Fault Because His Line Sucked” Plunkett before he became Jim “Super Bowl MVP” Plunkett. I rooted for Matt Cavanaugh, and then, I rooted for him to get traded. I rooted for Bob Bleier during the ’87 scab games. (That’s right, THE Bob Bleier.) I rooted for Michael Bishop every preseason and fully expected him to turn into the next Randall Cunningham. (Never happened.) Apparently I rooted for Tom Owen, Tom Ramsey and Scott Secules. I barely remember this. I definitely remember rooting against Millen, Zolak, Tommy Hodson and Jeff Carlson when we needed to bottom out for the top pick in the Mirer-Bledsoe draft.
Here’s the point: As a Patriots fan, I have seen EVERY level of quarterback play from “transcendent” to “putrid.” That makes me uniquely qualified to judge the 42 best quarterbacks in 2011 — in order, from 1 to 42 — during the ultimate “you’re only as good as your QB” season. Every rule has swung against pass defenses except for an interception embargo (and that’s probably coming). You can’t hit QBs any more unless they’re holding the ball or releasing it, and even then, you can only hit them between the chest and thigh. You can’t chip receivers other than jamming them at the line. You can’t crunch receivers like you could in the old days; hell, you can’t even leave your feet to hit them. You can’t really do anything.
This happened for a good reason (player safety) and a sneaky reason (really, the league just wanted more scoring). But now we’re here. The biggest advantage you have in football? Throwing the ball. You can throw to the sides, you can throw deep, you can throw over the middle. You can throw without fear of being injured, or having your receiver get injured. You can throw to set up the run. You can throw 60 times in a game if you want. It really doesn’t matter. Just throw it. The whole field is your oyster. Of course, you need someone who can, you know, throw it well. Our four best starting QBs play for teams with a combined record of 22-5. This isn’t an accident. Why even write a power poll of NFL teams when a QB poll is basically the same thing?
One caveat: We’re judging these guys by their ability to win in 2011. That’s it. Anyway …
THE TOM BRADY DIVISION (SUPERDUPERSTARS)
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Peyton Manning
Rodgers is enjoying a better season (more yards, higher completion percentage, better TD/INT ratio), he’s younger, he can run around a little, his commercials have been better, and I’ve enjoyed his facial hair more. Even if Brady hasn’t turned into a total statue (a la Dan Marino in the 1990s)1, defenses never have to worry about him using his legs to extend plays. Brady’s last three seasons (since his 2008 knee injury): 70 rushes, 104 yards. Rodgers over that same time: 151 rushes, 747 yards. And that doesn’t account for defenses worrying about Rodgers taking off (and conversely, not worrying about Brady), or how “dropping like a stone in the first round made Aaron Rodgers determined” has replaced “dropping like a stone in the sixth round made Tom Brady determined” as the go-to generic feature for every pregame show.
Brady’s biggest advantage: Because Rodgers suffered two concussions last year and plays more recklessly in general, you can’t count on him in quite the same way. Brady will be there in January barring a fluke injury or another vicious Bernard Pollard assault. (Sorry, I’m still bitter.) What about Rodgers? He’s one more hit away from becoming an ongoing question mark, right? You could say he’s on double-secret concussion probation right now. You can get away with two. Three? Now you’re pushing it. Even if it’s grim to say it that way, it’s the reality of football in 2011.
THE YOUNG DREW BLEDSOE DIVISION (SUPERSTARS)
3. Drew Brees
For 2010 and 2011 (in progress): Brady has 52 TDs and 12 picks; Rodgers has 48 TDs and 14 picks; Brees has 51 TDs and 30 picks (and that’s playing in a Dome half the time). That’s a little too sloppy for the superduperstar group. We have standards for the word “duper.”2
4. Ben Roethlisberger
The last “I know I can win a title with this guy” guy. Are you frightened? Only 36 dudes left. OMTIDHPAAFPANEJTSMFTPPEA3, I love watching Ben Roethlisberger play football. Nobody saves more plays, nobody takes a bigger beating and nobody makes more out of less. He’ll have four or five “Wow!!!!!” moments per game. Any Raiders fan should be wondering why they overpaid for Carson Palmer instead of overpaying for Roethlisberger two springs ago when Pittsburgh was ready to be semi-Godfatheroffered for him.
This never would have happened if Al Davis was still alive.
THE 1986 TONY EASON DIVISION (STARS)4
5. Philip Rivers
The bad news: I already ripped up my “Rivers to win the MVP at 12-to-1″ ticket from Vegas. He’s been genuinely lousy (for him) this season — to the point that San Diego fans wondering whether Rivers was hiding an injury became a local story this week. Is there a better “That’s When You Know You’ve Sucked Lately” red flag than fans wondering if you’re hiding an injury, with the possible exception of every move Ron Washington made in Game 6 last night?
The good news: Rivers would be 2011′s “What the eff is wrong with him?” NFL star if not for Chris Johnson, who’s had at least 30 carries this season that made him look like Deena or Snooki starting to lunge at someone in a bar and immediately being tackled by three bouncers who carried her 10 feet backwards.
6. Michael Vick
Toughest starter to peg on the board. If I gave you an over/under of 7.5 more Vick games this season, you’d go under, right? What about consecutive healthy Vick weeks vs. consecutive married weeks for Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries? You’d take HumpDash right?
7. Cam Newton
This seems crazy. I know. Just remember, he’ll keep getting better and better … and from what we’ve already seen, he can make any throw, extend any play and make things happen with his legs whenever he wants. He’s like Steve McNair 2.0 crossed with Roethlisberger, only with Jay Cutler’s arm. He also handles himself exceptionally well — no small wrinkle5 — and if there’s something some of us (myself included) overlooked when we wondered if Newton should be the No. 1 overall pick, it was his resilience during a chaotic 2010 Auburn season. He’s had a ton of stuff thrown at him these past four years: three colleges, an NFL team, a scandal, multiple offenses, multiple coaches … and he just keeps coming and coming. More importantly, if you were making a list of “Football Players I Wish Were On My Team For the Next Decade For Sheer Entertainment Value,” it would be Rodgers, Newton, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson in some order. That’s a pretty good no. 1 pick. So there.
8. Eli Manning
Eli’s résumé since January 2008: 34-20 (regular season), 4-1 (playoffs), one Super Bowl ring, two 4,000-yard passing seasons, 96 TDs, 57 picks, 90+ QB rating, played every game, part of the luckiest play in football history (I’m not even going there), unofficially the “NFL QB You’d Most Want to Marry” (according to Eli Kool-Aid chuggers Sarah Larimer and Katie Baker) and “Manning You’d Most Want As Your QB Right Now” (by default, but still), and an infamous prankster to boot! He’s also doing it for a cold weather team that’s had four different no. 1 receivers since 2007, and he hasn’t missed a game since 2004 (when they gave him the job). Eli Manning is one of the best eight quarterbacks right now by any calculation. I will now strangle myself with Sarah’s pink no.
8 10 Breast Cancer Awareness Giants jersey.
9. Jay Cutler
Doing more with less compared to the next five guys. Is there a single Bears receiver starting in your fantasy league? Would you want to play 16 games in front of his offensive line? Would you want to play QB outside in Chicago from mid-November on? I can’t think of a single advantage Cutler has other than Matt Forte’s Tidwell-esque contract run right now. Leave Jay Cutler alone! Leave him alone!!!!6
THE YOUNG STEVE GROGAN DIVISION (BORDERLINE FRANCHISE GUYS)
10. Matt Ryan
11. The RomoCoaster
Combined record: 79-41. And yet … they both make me pee-in-my-pants nervous every time I wager on them, so I can only imagine how their fans feel. How are there still 31 QBs left???? By the way, we just hit the “I’d be really surprised if any QB after right now played in a Super Bowl soon, much less won one” cutoff line. Which can’t be underrated. Our last six Super Bowl winning QBs since 2004 (the year they started making the rules more pass-friendly)7: Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, both Mannings, Brady. For that reason, I can’t see any of the next 31 guys winning this year’s Super Bowl.
12. Matt Schaub
Porn name: Luke Warm. Can you remember an above-average QB provoking less opinion over a longer period of time? If I effusively praised Schaub, you’d think this was bizarre. If I attacked him, you’d also think this was bizarre. If I told you, “Did you know Matt Schaub has started 61 games and only won three in a row three times?” (true by the way), you wouldn’t be shocked. Houston flipped two second-rounders for him five years ago, got a solid QB out of it … and you never hear that trade mentioned as a steal, a bust, anything. When he goes in fantasy drafts or auctions, nobody ever says anything; you just kinda nod and move on. I could see him finishing his career two games over .500 with no playoff wins, and then Houston retiring his number and not being able to fully form an opinion about it.
13. Matt Stafford If He Stays Healthy
The “If” is pulsating right now. Look, some people just aren’t built to get hit all the time. For instance, I have a bad back, bad knee and bad shoulder right now. I’ve always been getting hurt dating back to when I broke my collarbone twice as a kid. My son? He’s built like a 1780s blacksmith. All muscle with one of those hard pot bellies. He’s fallen down stairs, fallen off beds, fallen off playhouses … it just doesn’t matter. He’s a wrecking ball. I do think some people are more likely to get injured than others. For whatever reason, Matt Ryan’s body was built to weather that crazy ankle roll last week. Had it happened to Stafford? Maybe not.
THE JIM PLUNKETT DIVISION (ENIGMAS)
14. Ryan Fitzpatrick
His last 11 starts: 6-5 record, 17/11 TD/INT ratio, one game throwing for more than 265 passing yards, six games with under 225 passing yards, one game with a QB rating over 100. So when you hear reports that he signed a $59 million extension (breaking today), it makes you furrow your brow … and then you start sifting through the next 20 names on this list, and it unfurrows a little.
THE OLDER STEVE GROGAN DIVISION (GAME MANAGERS)
15. Mark Sanchez
We have multiple ways to rate QBs in 2011. The passer rating (you know, the one that inexplicably goes up to 158.3) has been around longest and leaves the most people confused. Football Outsiders uses something called DYAR, which measures “Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement.” Just as an aside, I would have called that one, “DayaWeinke” for “defense-adjusted yards above (Chris) Weinke,” and also, because it sounds like a rare bowel disease. This season, ESPN.com’s research guys created QBR (which tries to include crunch-time play and goes from 1 to 100) and Grantland’s crack staff created the BQBL (which rewards QBs for being incompetent distractions and for being morally corrupt); just so you know, ESPN.com and Grantland have agreed not to acknowledge the other’s idea until ESPN The Magazine tries to hijack one of them.
The conventional Sanchize wisdom is that you can’t measure him by stats, so he’s like one of those Tony La Russa reclamation projects who eats up innings, finishes 19-11 with a 4.30 ERA and makes you think people should be killing his 87 mph fastball the whole time. Advanced metrics back this up. His passer rating? 83.0 … middle of the pack (16th). His DayaWeinke? 239 … middle of the pack (17th). His BQBL ranking? Eighth overall, which isn’t a compliment. His QBR? 35.6, which … wait, that’s out of 100! QBR hates him the most — it ranks the Sanchize 30th behind guys with first names like Lex, Colt and Tarvaris. Either way, we still need a new metric to make Sanchez look good, stat nerds. We’re 0-for-4.
16. Matt Hasselbeck
I have to be honest: I’d be more excited about QBR if it didn’t have Matt Hasselbeck ranked fourth. That’s one of those “Uh-oh, we screwed something up, let’s go dark for a few weeks and keep tinkering with this formula until Matt Hasselbeck isn’t fourth any more” aberrations. And yes, I know it’s not his fault that Kenny Britt blew out his knee, or that Chris Johnson is apparently filming a “Whatever Happened to Chris Johnson?” 30 for 30.8
What if I told you that being the best fantasy running back wasn’t enough? What if I told you that someone could go from a 4.2 to a 4.6 in the blink of an eye? What if I told you that money didn’t solve everything, or that it created more problems than it was worth? The Fantasy Death of Chris Johnson — directed by Jason Reitman. Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Unrelated: You may have noticed that six of our 32 NFL starting QBs right now are named “Matt” — Hasselbeck, Moore, Stafford, Cassell, Schaub and Ryan. But did you notice that none of the other 26 starters have the same first name? Aaron, Tom, Drew, Ben, Philip, Michael, Josh, Tony, Jay, Eli, Tim, Alex, Charlie, Andy, Mark, Ryan, Joe, Sam, Christian, Curtis, Kevin, Carson, John, Colt, Blaine, Cam … and six Matts. Sorry, that’s weird.
17. Andy Dalton
18. Joe Flacco
Two rookie QBs who could take you to 10-6 right now and might even be better than that down the road. (Wait, Flacco started 54 games already? What???? Are we sure? I could have sworn he played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. I don’t believe you.) I have to be honest … I wanted to put Dalton six spots higher but I thought you’d make fun of me. I’m all in on the Red Rifle. He’s good. You can’t talk me out of this.
THE OLDER DREW BLEDSOE DIVISION (UPSIDE/DOWNSIDE GUYS)
19. Josh Freeman
19. Jason Campbell
2010 Freeman: 25 TDs, 6 picks. 2011 Freeman: 7 TDs, 10 picks.
(Cue Bill Barnwell flying in screaming, “REGRESSION! REGRESSION!” at the top of his lungs.)
THE MATT CASSEL DIVISION (SHOOTERS)
20. Alex Smith
21. Matt Cassel
You can’t win a Super Bowl with either of these guys, but it’s going to be fun to watch the 2011 Niners try. I called them “Shooters” to signify that these guys are aspiring game managers … but you don’t know if they’re actually going to make it. You know, like Shooter in Hoosiers. There’s a chance he’s giving you the brilliant picket fence play, and there’s a chance he’s going to stumble onto the court drunk and cost you a technical. You just don’t know.
THE DOUG FLUTIE DIVISION (CHARISMA GUYS)
22. Tim Tebow
When I watched football with some friends last Sunday, we put Tebow on one of the four TVs even though Miami and Denver had one win between them. We laughed every time he bounced a pass or sailed one over someone’s head — that’s just part of the Tebow Experience at this point — and we were riveted anytime he started scrambling. We started cheering when Tebow led the first comeback drive, and when they recovered the onside kick, we had absolutely no doubt that Denver was winning. When they lined up for the game-tying two-point conversion and spread everyone out, we knew Tebow was running a QB draw, and we knew Tebow was getting it. When they kicked an absurdly long field goal to win the game, we weren’t surprised when it hooked left and mysteriously hooked back straight, and we weren’t surprised that Tebow was crouched and praying after it went in.
Here’s my question: Why does this have to mean anything? Can’t Tim Tebow just be a super-athletic QB with an erratic arm and possibly mystical powers who bugs the hell out of hardcore football analysts and stat guys because not EVERYTHING about sports has to have a concrete answer? One of my favorite songs of all time is “Nuthin’ But a G Thang.” Has anyone ever sat around trying to interpret what “It’s like this and like that and like this and uh” means? No! And that’s the chorus! Not everything has to mean something. I’m proud to be part of the Occupy Tebow crusade.
THE HUGH MILLEN DIVISION (20/20 GUYS)
23. Kyle Orton
Named this group after Mike Lombardi’s theory that some QBs live between the 20s on the field … but as soon as they’re in the red zone, you don’t want any part of them. That’s why Orton was 6-22 in his past 28 starts. Couldn’t close. I’d still take him over the next 19 guys.
24. Brian Hoyer
Putting my full faith in Mike Lombardi on this one: Lombardi says that, had he gotten the Niners job, he would have immediately traded for Brady’s backup AND that Hoyer would have been Cassel 2.0 (a.k.a. the seasoned backup who learned enough from Brady and Belichick that he could become a competent starter somewhere else). Even the chance of that makes me feel better than I feel about any of these other guys.
25. Peyton Manning
Yes, this Manning right now — at this moment, the one with the still-healing neck that might get worse if anyone popped him even once. Question: If your life depended on winning one game, wouldn’t you rather have a semi-crippled Manning over anyone else on this list? Just have him stand seven yards behind center, shotgun every snap and dump the ball anytime any pass-rusher gets close. By the way, I don’t think Manning is coming back. Three neck surgeries in two years? Stem cell treatments in Europe? This seems insane. He won a Super Bowl, set some records and made more than enough money. Why risk it? What’s the point? You don’t mess around with heads, necks and backs. My personal take: I think Indy knows he’s probably not coming back; that’s just one of the 27 reasons they haven’t fired Jim Caldwell yet. They need Andrew Luck as much as Miami does.
26. Kurt Warner
27. Brett Favre
I’d rather have either of them — right now, pulled off the street, with 72 hours to learn a playbook — over anyone else on this list. Shit, I just gave Favre an idea.
28. Donovan McNabb
You know what’s strange? In this day and age — when NBA stars like Dirk Nowitzki are peaking in their mid-30s, when 34-year-old Tom Brady is playing as well as ever, when training and dieting has staved off the aging process for great athletes by a couple of years — how in God’s name was Donovan McNabb (born on November 25, 1976) washed up two years ago? It’s not like he suffered a major injury. It’s not like his personal life fell apart. Shouldn’t he still be thriving? Mike Lombardi’s recent report about McNabb’s poor work ethic was pretty telling — even though he gave Philly 10 quality years, made six Pro Bowls, finished 98-62 as a starter and goes down as one of the most talented QBs of that decade, it feels like the ancillary stuff (that he didn’t stay in shape, that he wasn’t prepared, that he wasn’t enough of a leader, that nobody will ever totally know what happened in the fourth quarter of that Patriots-Eagles Super Bowl, that three teams quit on him) will become a bigger part of his legacy than anything else. He’s one of those rare athletes who was handed the complete car wash package and never totally appreciated it. You know what Sonny from A Bronx Tale would say.
THE MICHAEL BISHOP DIVISION (DOWN-THE-ROAD UPSIDE GUYS)
29. Sam Bradford
Past 10 starts: two wins, eight losses (seven by double-digits), 4 TDs, 8 picks, 132 points scored. Anyone who brings up “Should the Rams keep Andrew Luck or Sam Bradford?” on a talking-head show should be electroshocked. There’s a Bradford in the draft every year. There’s a Luck in the draft every 10 years. Just stop it.
30. Christian Ponder
31. Blaine Gabbert
32. Colin Kaepernick/Jake Locker
Too early to tell, although it’s a promising sign that the first two started games without self-combusting. I do think there’s something to the theory of rookie QB clusters in high rounds. For instance, the 2007 draft had the following QBs picked in the first three rounds: JaMarcus Russell (1), Brady Quinn (22), Kevin Kolb (36), John Beck (40), Drew Stanton (43) and Trent Edwards (92). If you needed a young QB that year, you were desperately talking yourself into one of those guys and comparing them against each other … and eventually, that leads to decisions like, “We need to grab Beck right here!” or “Let’s take Quinn right in front of Dwayne Bowe.” On the flip side, 2011 had Newton, Locker, Dalton, Ponder, Gabbert and Kaepernick within the first 36 picks, there’s a chance every team that picked them lucked out, and nobody else needed a QB … which makes you wonder if the last guy in that cluster who fell to no. 74 (Ryan Mallett) might be more of a steal than we thought.9
THE MATT CAVANAUGH DIVISION (HOPE USURPERS)
33. Tarvaris Jackson
Might have a future as a change-of-pace backup who can come in during a semi-blowout, scamper around and make things happen. And sure, those things could be happening for the offense OR the defense, but still, they’d be happening.
34. Kevin Kolb
Here’s what I don’t get. You’re Larry Fitzgerald. You’re one of the best receivers of your generation. You’ve had it both ways: You played with the likes of Kurt Warner, and you played with the likes of Derek Anderson, so you know how important quarterbacks are. Now it’s mid-August, you’re coming off a long lockout, your team just traded for some unproven dude named “Kevin Kolb,” and your team is offering you a monster $120 million extension. Wouldn’t you wait a month to make sure Kolb was good? And wouldn’t you be thinking, If Kolb sucks, I’m out of here — I’m signing with either New England, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Diego or Pittsburgh, I’m taking a little less money, I’m winning a couple of Super Bowls and I’m going after EVERY Jerry Rice record?
(Cut to Larry Fitzgerald nodding sadly.)
35. Rex Grossman
36. John Beck
Redskins fans arguing about Beck and Grossman is like Van Halen fans arguing about Mitch Malloy and Gary Cherone.
37. Bruce Gradkowski
He has to be shaking his head and thinking, “I’m better than those last four guys. I mean, I know I’m not GOOD … but I’m better than those last four guys.” (Putting on my Robin Williams beard.) It’s not your fault, Bruce. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
THE MARC WILSON/TOMMY HODSON DIVISION (THE DREGS)
38. Curtis Painter
Does he have moments when he seems competent or am I crazy? (Thinking.) Wait, don’t answer that.
39. Carson Palmer
How can anyone say Palmer was “rusty” last week? Did you see those ducks he was throwing? My dad’s urine has more zip. Can you really trust someone who quit on the Bengals last year, to the point that his old coach called him out last week? And shouldn’t it matter that he hasn’t been good in three or four years? I continue to think that was the worst football trade since the Herschel Walker deal (and more indefensible). Carson Palmer is rusty, all right — he’s Rusty Hilger. That reminds me, it’s time for my annual choices for Halloween costumes! Let’s zoom through these quickly.
Costume No. 1: Carson Palmer
Just wear a Raiders jersey that you overpaid for, then spill beers into people all night while repeatedly telling everyone you’re sorry.
Costume No. 2a: Nolan Ryan and Robin Ventura
Costume No. 2b: Kobe Bryant and his German Stem Cell Doctor
Couldn’t decide between these two choices for my two-person costume.
Costume No. 3: Bruce Jenner
A funny costume for women — just dress and look like you normally would, only wear a fake Olympic gold medal.
Costume No. 4: George Ron Washington
Wear a Rangers uniform and a George Washington wig, then convulse happily every few minutes any time something good happens, to the point that people think you’re having an orgasm. Back to the column.
40. Colt McCoy
About three weeks ago, I realized that Colt was a career backup with an awesome name and a strange peace settled over me. You will see Ron Washington trust Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman with a World Series title again before you see me betting on Colt McCoy.
41. Charlie Whitehurst
During Week 17 last season, I had a chance to finish in the top-10 of the Hilton’s SuperContest. I only needed the Rams to beat Charlie Whitehurst and the Seahawks. Charlie singlehandedly cost me a top-ten finish and $13,000, then went back to being the lousy backup QB who looks like James Brolin in Amityville Horror. I will never figure out what happened. Ever.
42. Matt Moore
His last 10 games: 1,425 passing yards, 6 TDs, 13 picks, 24 sacks, 6.0 yards per attempt. In other words, Miami is in the Suck For Luck driver’s seat! Could somebody superimpose Luck, Bill Cowher and Marc Anthony and some Dolphins jerseys on the three guys in this clip? Thanks.
Let’s quickly bang through the Week 8 picks …
(HOME TEAMS IN CAPS)
Saints (-12.5) over RAMS
Betting on the pathetic Rams to win the NFC West two months ago (2-to-1 odds) was the single worst sports wager I have ever made. And that’s saying something.
Dolphins (+9.5) over GIANTS
Don’t forget the words of Justin in Omaha after Seattle ruined my Giants minus-9.5 pick three weeks ago: “I honestly can’t believe you would take Eli in an obvious ‘people think I am good again so I will show them how bad I can be’ game.” You don’t want Eli around a suicide pool, a three-team teaser or your girlfriend.
Colts (+9) over TITANS
Tennessee scored 24 points total in the past two games and couldn’t move the ball against a mediocre Texans defense. I don’t get it. (Researching.) Oh yeah, Indy lost 62-7 on national TV last week. Now I get it. Still, we’re invoking the Oaksie Rule here10: Certain teams should never be favored by seven points or more under any circumstances. Even if they’re playing teams owned by dudes who tweet things like, “Titanic collapse,apologies 2 all ColtsNation … problems identifiable;solutions in progress but complex in nature/ better days will rise again.”
PANTHERS (-3.5) over Vikings
RAVENS (-13) over Cardinals
Cam and Steve Smith 3.0 against a ravaged Vikings secondary? A pissed-off Ravens defense against Kevin Kolb? Thank you! You shouldn’t have!
Michael Myers (+8.5) over HADDONFIELD
Thirty-four years ago on Monday, he came home AND covered the dead-body spread. That reminds me, if you love the Halloween franchise, I urge you to watch these rarely seen deleted scenes from the first movie.
BILLS (-6) over Redskins
I’m pretty sure Buffalo’s offense (31.3 points per game) can outscore John Beck, Ryan Torain, Roy Helu, Jabar Gaffney, Fred Davis and Chris Cooley’s backup by more than a touchdown in Toronto.
Jaguars (+9.5) over TEXANS
The Jags can run the ball and play defense — throw away Cincy’s stupid fumble return off a desperation lateral in Week 5 and they’ve given up seven touchdowns total in the past five weeks to Carolina, New Orleans, Cincy, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Meanwhile, a struggling Houston team beat up the punchless Titans and they’re suddenly a juggernaut again? Really? (Thinking.) You know what? I’m making this my Upset Special of 2011: Jaguars 20, Texans 19. Come on, Sunshine Ronny Bass! Take my fake +350 moneyline bet home!
BRONCOS (+3) over Lions
SEAHAWKS (+3) over Bengals
Look, some things can’t be explained. Blowing a World Series title with Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Mark Lowe on the mound? That can be explained. The power of Tebow and the power of Seattle’s home-field advantage? That cannot be explained.
Patriots (-3) over STEELERS
Just know that a week of “Tom Brady owns the Steelers in Pittsburgh!” stories have properly scared the living hell out of me.
BUCS (-3.5) Bye Week
Can they just sign Tiki Barber already? I’m invoking the PTI corollary here: What else could the Bucs possibly do this season to crack the A-block of PTI other than sign Ronde’s possibly crazy, formerly famous and philandering twin brother? Don’t make me beg.
49ERS (-9) over Browns
Our single biggest special teams mismatch of the year, and that’s before we get to Colt McCoy playing from behind against a tough Niners defense. I’m already kicking myself for making the Saints/49ers/Giants three-team teaser 42 hours from now that Eli is going to wreck.
Cowboys (+3.5) over EAGLES
CHIEFS (+4) over Chargers
Totally buying the “because of the new rules, bye weeks can be counterproductive” and “Todd Haley’s beard has magic powers” theories. And on that note … let’s start getting ready for Game 7 of the best World Series of my lifetime.
Last Week: 5-7-1
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.
Previously from Bill Simmons:
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
NFL Preview: It’s All About Continuity
Summer of Mailbag V: Passing the Buck
Summer of Mailbag IV: Dawn of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag III: Attack of the Mailbag!
The Glorious Return of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag: The Revenge