Without further ado, the Week 1 picks
(Home teams in caps.)
SAINTS (-5) over Vikings
My favorite random subplot of the preseason: when the Vikings watched Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels practice for a few weeks, then sent Jared Allen, Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson to Mississippi to beg Brett Favre to come back and a devastated Jackson had to meet with the media and say diplomatic things like, “I felt I was the best prepared. I felt confident I was going to be the starter. But I understand the situation.” This is reason No. 5,718 why women could never play professional football. If Jackson were female and Favre got injured in Thursday’s Saints game, we’d have this exchange on the sideline:
–Brad Childress: “OK, T-Jack, just go out there and run the offense, we can win this.”
–T-Jack (crying): “Oh, now you want me? Why don’t you ask Brett to win it for you?!?!?!? Why don’t you ask your little whore!!!!!!!????????”
GIANTS (-7) over Panthers
The Steve Smith Bowl! I’m excited. Also exciting: Nine months after the Panthers ruined the final Giants game at the old Meadowlands stadium, they’re trying to ruin the official opening of the new Meadowlands stadium. (Unless you count the Bon Jovi concert, a soccer game and four NFL preseason games. I’m on the fence.) I see the G-Men getting revenge. By the way, “New Meadowlands Stadium”? Really? Do you want to pitch anything as a “new” version when the old thing was an apocalypse? It’s like saying “The New Amityville Horror House” or “LeBron’s New Decision.”
Packers (-3) over EAGLES
Just throwing it out there: If I turn out to be right and (A) the Packers ascend to the top of the NFC, (B) Aaron Rodgers wins the MVP, and (C) Favre and the Vikings go down in flames would there be a better freezing-cold place to be in January than Wisconsin? Happiest bunch of shivering people on the planet.
Dolphins (-3) over BILLS
I wrote in last week’s QB column, “It’s always fun when a QB sucks but their fans are in deep denial and say things like, ‘If he had time to throw, I think he’d have a chance to be good’ (like Bills fans do with Trent Edwards).” That prompted about 75 e-mails from Bills fans like this one (from Justin in Williamsville): “No offense, but you’re dead wrong on this one. NOOOOOOOOOOOO-BODY in Buffalo thinks Trent Edwards has a chance to be good.” Well, then.
(FYI: I planned on betting the Dolphins before finding out that Gus Johnson was calling this game. If you had a line for “amazing September endings Gus has called” versus “rock stars Kate Hudson has known in the biblical sense,” I’d have Gus as a minus-3.5 favorite. And that’s saying something. If you’re a singer and you haven’t made out with Kate Hudson yet, you need to re-evaluate things. Anyway, even the thought of C.J. Spiller scampering 78 yards for an overtime TD as Gus screams, “C.J. Spiller says SEE YOU LATER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” puts the fear of God in me. I’m staying away.)
Falcons (-2) over STEELERS
What’s the best-case scenario for Not So Big Anymore Ben? Has to be 2-2, right? Everyone blames him for an 0-4. A 1-3 would be too big of a hole. A 3-1 or 4-0 could lead to a “Screw that guy, let’s try to win without him” movement. But 2-2? Perfect. Anyway, I had a contest on Twitter for people to come up with a joke for this game. Bad idea. We broke the record for “most unprintable Ben Roethlisberger jokes in a 20-minute span.” Shattered it. My favorite printable tweet (from @reg202): “You want a Pittsburgh/Atlanta joke? Knock knock. Who’s there? Dennis Dixon.”
Lions (+6) over BEARS
A textbook undervalued/overvalued play. If I’m right and the Lions are a frisky pseudo-sleeper this season, do you realize we might actually enjoy Thanksgiving for the first time this century?
(Crap, I think I just jinxed it.)
Bengals (+4.5) over PATRIOTS
Weirdest fact about the 2010 Bengals: Is it (A) their first- and second-string quarterbacks are brothers; (B) their first- and second-string receivers spent the summer as the Sunday night reality block for VH1; (C) one of their starting linebackers hosted a show on Travel Channel; (D) they start two Polynesians (Fui Vakapuna and Rey Maualuga); or (E) they have Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones?
I vote for B and here’s why: I can’t believe Terrell Owens has a reality show. You know how the Dos Equis guy is the Most Interesting Man in the World? T.O. might the Least Interesting Man in the World. I’m still waiting for his first compelling moment. According to VH1’s episode summary for “The T.O. Show,” these were some actual storylines for Season 2.
“While Mo and Kita hunt for a house for Terrell, he moves in with Mo — which puts his babysitting skills to the ultimate test.”
“As Terrell settles into his new L.A. digs, his faltering relationship with Kari drives him into therapy.”
“With Mo weeks away from giving birth, an awkward Terrell fills in for her husband Vic at birthing class.”
“In an effort to get Terrell organized, Mo and Kita set out to hire Terrell an assistant.”
“Terrell accompanies Kita back to her hometown of Louisville, where he meets her family, and attends the Kentucky Derby.”
“Terrell moves closer to his dream of becoming a serious actor when he lands an audition for his first leading role in a film.”
“Terrell spends the day waiting at home for the cable guy to show up. Later, he takes a nap.”
“Terrell’s friends worry that he’s battling post-concussion syndrome before realizing that he just doesn’t have a personality.”
“Terrell’s friends paint a wall, stand Terrell next to it, then stare at Terrell and the wall trying to decide what’s more exciting.”
(Fine, I made the last three up. But has a reality show ever looked that boring on paper? I’m dumbfounded by this whole thing. As I tweeted the other night, T.O. could be sitting with me in my living room and I wouldn’t care. Why would I want to watch him on TV?)
Colts (-2) over TEXANS
We’ve been here before.
Raiders (+6) over TITANS
For the third straight year, I ended up with Darren McFadden on my East Coast and West Coast fantasy teams. The first year, I wanted him. The second year, I talked myself into him. This year, I couldn’t avoid him even though I went into both drafts thinking, “I don’t care what happens, I just don’t want McFadden again.” I’ve written about Fantasy Kryptonite guys before (guys we keep taking every year even though they keep burning us), but he can’t be a Fantasy Kryptonite guy because I’m fully aware that he stinks. Again, I didn’t want to take him. He’s more like my Fantasy Herpes guy. I’m going to need to take some form of medication to get rid of Darren McFadden.
JAGS (-2.5) over Broncos
Just a guess: This will be the last week the Broncos get a line of less than 3 points on the road against anyone in the league.
(On the bright side, one of my Twitter followers came up with a fun nickname for Tim Tebow: Virgin Air. That would have been my favorite 2010 NFL nickname except for the guy who came up with Michael “70s” Bush.)
Browns (+2.5) over BUCS
I know Jake Delhomme, Browns fans. He can be a cruel mistress. He’s the type of guy who will throw for 340 yards and three TDs in Week 1, get you excited, follow it up with a mistake-free game in Kansas City in Week 2, light up Baltimore’s secondary in a close Week 3 loss, and just as you’re letting down your guard, he’ll turn the ball over five teams at home against the Falcons (Week 4) and throw two TAINTs (touchdown after interception) at Pittsburgh the next week. Be careful. He’s going to try to pull you in this Sunday. Remember, you can’t trust a QB whose first name rhymes with “Snake.”
Niners (-3) over SEAHAWKS
Check out this formula: (no track record of Pete Carroll being a good professional head coach) + (no track record of any college coach succeeding immediately in the pros) + (a lousy 2009 Seahawks season) + (Pete gutting the team and going younger) + (he might not know what he’s doing because he’s been out of pro football for 11 years) x (he’s been distracted by a book tour and a massive scandal at his old university for much of the summer) x (everyone in Seattle is convinced that the sports gods turned on them). I’d say that Pete might be the perfect storm of coachsuck, but that would belittle what Art Shell achieved (dechieved?) a few years ago. So let’s just say we should go against him for a few weeks until the lines shift.
Cardinals (-4) over RAMS
The Rams have lost 14 straight NFC West games, 10 straight divisional home games and 42 of their past 48 games. Meanwhile, the Cardinals lost their Hall of Fame QB to “Dancing With the Stars” and had to replace him with someone who threw 3 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season and had a 42 QB rating. Ladies and gentlemen, the NFC West!!!!!!!!!
JETS (-2.5) over Ravens
The Sports Gal was threatening to become a Jets fan after spending five entertaining weeks with Rex Ryan, the Sanchize and the rest of the crew until I told her they had cut Tony Richardson. “Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!” she screamed. “Couldn’t they have kept him and the Terminator? I loved Tony! I hate the Jets now! That’s bad karma. You can’t cut a guy like Tony and do well afterwards. Everyone loved him.”
(Follow-up notes: First, they brought him back two days later but my wife wasn’t appeased, saying, “If that were me, I would have told them to screw off.” See, I keep telling you: This is why women can’t play pro football. Second, any show that gets my wife to care that the Jets released a 38-year-old fullback should just be handed the Emmy right now.)
CHIEFS (+5) over Chargers
I don’t have a feel for either of these teams. When in doubt, take the points. By the way, every time I hear someone talking about Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis being reunited in Kansas City, it makes me think “Romeo and Charlie” could absolutely be a TNT drama that follows “Rizzoli & Isles.” Same for “Dexter McCluster” and “Brodie Croyle.” Am I the only one who actively searches around for real names that could easily be twisted into titles of TNT dramas? I can’t be the only one. I just can’t.
REDSKINS (+3.5) over Cowboys
Let’s end on a Cowboys rant. The Cowboys remind me of the Kardashians in that their strongest talent is a relentless ability to remain relevant. Much like the Kardashians successfully created the illusion that they should be famous, the Cowboys successfully created the illusion that they should be a Super Bowl contender. And they didn’t even have to leak a sex tape to do it. You know what Dallas’ record has been since 2000? 82-78. You know how many playoff games it has won over that stretch? One. That’s right one more playoff win than Buffalo and Detroit.
As with the Kardashians, it’s all about the packaging. We consider Tony Romo an elite QB because he dates celebrities and puts up big fantasy numbers; so what if he freezes in big games? We consider Jerry Jones an elite owner because he splurged on a magnificent stadium and matched wits with Ari Gold; so what if he never built a Super Bowl team without Jimmy Johnson? Dez Bryant has been reinvented as the steal of the 2010 draft based on a bunch of preseason practices that nobody saw; so what if half the league passed on him because teams thought he was a head case? Most fans consider the Dallas offense as “elite” because it has a few high fantasy picks; so what if they don’t have a single elite offensive lineman? Every Cowboys Super Bowl pick includes the caveat, “They’re returning 20 of 22 starters from last year”; so what if it means they’re returning 20 of the 22 starters the Vikings trounced in January by 31 points?
Even the Kardashians thing makes more sense to me. They learned all their tricks from Paris Hilton; there are three of them; they have a catchy name; they don’t say anything controversial or incriminating; they only date celebrities, athletes and reality-TV-ready degenerates; and Kim (their fearless leader) is the perfect goddess for her time: a multi-new-media icon (Internet, reality TV and Us Weekly) with a definite hook (her butt), a tawdry past (her sex tape) that wasn’t really all that tawdry (the camerawork was bad, and you could barely see anything) and no discernible talent whatsoever (which doesn’t matter, because you don’t need talent to be famous in 2010). That smoke-and-mirrors routine should work in pop culture. In football? No. And yet, somehow, the Dallas Cowboys have the fourth-best odds to win this year’s Super Bowl (8-1). I give up.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller “The Book of Basketball.” For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy’s World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.