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The Niners Are Running Wild

The Island of Dr. Simbeau

The Sports Guy continues to mate his NFL picks with reader e-mails, hoping it turns out better than the Peyton Manning experiment

When you’re making the list of “Greatest Bad Cable Movies,” The Island of Dr. Moreau isn’t a first-ballot Hall of of Famer like, say, Face/Off or St. Elmo’s Fire. But it definitely lands on the GBCM ballot every year, and at some point, it’s probably sneaking in with help from the Veterans Committee. Moreau ended Val Kilmer’s chance to become a superstar, stuck the weirdest of exclamation points on Marlon Brando’s career (if you could describe his performance in two words, it would be “obesely insane”), and made the fatal mistake of trying an ambitious idea that required heavy CGI well before we really mastered CGI. Oh, and the script was incomprehensible. I forgot that part.

On the other hand, it’s a science fiction thriller about an obesely insane doctor who takes over his own little island, then keeps mating humans with animals until something goes horribly wrong. That’s a great idea! How could that not work? Every time Moreau comes on, I say to myself, “Oh no, oh God … OK, I’ll only watch a few minutes.” And an hour later, I’m still watching and asking myself things like, “Is this the exact scene when Kilmer checked out of this shoot and just started showing up high?” and “Would Brando have ever agreed to this movie if he knew IMDb.com was coming?” Just know that, at some point in our lifetime, someone will remake The Island of Dr. Moreau, find two lead actors who haven’t lost their minds, hire some killer CGI guys, ratchet up the blood and nudity, and eventually clean up at the box office. You wait.

What does this have to do with football? A few weeks ago, my Friday football column morphed into a picks/mailbag hybrid, and there’s just no fighting it anymore. You could say I bred two different species (the picks format and the mailbag format) as successfully as the Broncos bred Peyton Manning with a box of fusilli. So welcome to the Island of Dr. Simbeau. Hopefully it will have a better 2012 than Revis Island did. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Home teams in caps.

RAMS (+1.5) over Cards

Q: Lately there has been a scene from a ’70s Turkish movie making the rounds around the internet titled “Worst Death Scene Ever.” I think the search for greatest internet video ever has officially ended. Multiple viewings are required by law.
—Steve, Torrance, CA

SG: They could have easily named that “The Official Clip of Bill Simmons’s 2012 Football Gambling Season.” Although things may have flipped last night — I won a Skunk of the Week pick! Many thanks to Legatron (a.k.a. Greg Zuerlein), Jeff Fisher, Chris Long, Arizona’s offensive line, Arizona’s offensive line again, and Arizona’s offensive line a third time.

Q: Is it me, or does Kevin Kolb look just like the guy who paid Dirk Diggler to masturbate and then beat him up in Boogie Nights?
—@RobOstrom (via Twitter)

SG: I’d say “Thanks for ruining Kevin Kolb for me,” but Arizona’s offensive line already took care of that. Have we mentioned how bad Arizona’s offensive line is? We mentioned that, right?

Q: My boyfriend and I were watching the Rams/Cardinals Thursday Night Game when we had a GENIUS idea for how to save the Pro Bowl. Stay with me here. We watched Greg Zuerlein kick a 53 yard field goal like it was a chippy. That thing almost cleared the net. That’s when we came up with the idea to turn the Pro Bowl into NBA All-Star Saturday Night. Wouldn’t you want to see Zuerlein, Aikers and Janikowski kicking 70 yard field goals, high jump style? You start with a 50 yarder and incrementally move them back until there’s one man left standing. QBs could have some sort of 3-point contest-esque competition involving ridiculously long throws to various inanimate objects like tires or garbage cans. Give them a rack of footballs and watch them go wild. Tell me this would not make the Pro Bowl at least an “I might watch” instead of an “I don’t even know when they play the damn game.”
—Sarah, Philadelphia

SG: I like where you’re headed here, Sarah and Sarah’s lucky boyfriend — especially when you throw in the fact that we could gamble on those things. I never bet on the Pro Bowl, but I’d want to wager on things like “The Longest Kick” (how great would that be?), “The Longest Punt” (a natural), “Downing a Punt Closest to the Goal Line” (I like this one because it would require teammates), some sort of elaborate throwing contest (maybe four events that combined distance, accuracy, and as Sarah put it, “various inanimate objects”), a 100-yard dash (like a track meet, only everyone runs from goal line to goal line while holding a football), and my personal favorite, “The Hail Mary.” Would you ever turn the channel if someone said, “Turn on ESPN, you’re about to see 10 Hail Mary attempts in 10 minutes”? I say no. We could even have Lance Easley officiate it.

The toughest one to figure out: Could we create a contest that basically pits a QB and a receiver against a shutdown corner and a pass rusher? Maybe they have five plays to go 100 yards, and the pass rusher has to wait 2.5 seconds before he can rush the QB or something? Imagine Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson in the finals taking on Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. There’s something there, you have to admit. Regardless, any night that makes me say “I kinda want to watch this” AND “I can’t resist gambling on this” would be a humongous improvement over the Pro Bowl.

Dolphins (+3.5) over BENGALS

Q: The Bengals are this year’s good Bad Team. They were also last year’s good Bad Team. In 2009, they won their division as the good Bad Team. That’s 3 of the last 4 years (the Chiefs broke up their streak in 2010), making them a dynasty good Bad Team! Only the Atlanta Hawks and Nicolas Cage have been historically and consistently this good/bad.
—Adam, Chicago

SG: Adam, kudos for successfully linking Marvin Lewis, Joe Johnson and Nic Cage in the same analogy. Take a bow. You should be really proud. I just want to make sure that Cincinnati is this year’s good Bad Team — there’s a chance it could be Miami (frisky these past two weeks), Minnesota (might be overqualified), Tampa Bay (slightly underqualified) or St. Louis (gaining steam). We need a couple more weeks to flesh this out. Prediction: Miami pulls off a pseudo-upset and throws its hat into the good Bad Team ring.

Q: Why is every fantasy article about Brian Hartline’s 12-catch, 254-yard game explaining why it wasn’t a fluke? It happened against Arizona (and Patrick Peterson). He now leads the league in receiving yards. Even in his one awful game, when he only had one catch, he still led his team is targets. Why was Jordy Nelson the 10th ranked WR on Yahoo, below his teammate Greg Jennings, when Nelson finished second in fantasy points among WRs last year? When will a sports writer just say what we’re all thinking, “He played well, but history has taught us that white RBs and WRs do not tend to maintain their dominance, so we don’t trust him.” You’re telling me Brian Hartline isn’t picked up in twice as many leagues this week if he was black? And don’t use Welker as an example — he has been doing it so long that we have had no choice but to recognize it is likely to continue. Why can’t people just say it? There’s a White Guy Corollary here.
—Kevin W., Toronto

SG: I threw this question at ESPN’s Matthew Berry, who actually listed Hartline as a “deep sleeper” before the 2012 season. Here’s what Berry wrote back: “The fact that some people think it’s a fluke (and I actually believe in Hartline’s talent) has nothing to do with Hartline’s skin color but rather his rookie QB, his injury history and his lack of consistent production. When something happens out of the ordinary, like Hartline’s huge game, you have to say ‘I believe in it and here’s why’ or ‘I don’t and here’s why.’ Fantasy guys don’t see color, we see numbers. Welker was ahead of [Brandon] Lloyd in preseason ranks, for example. And play fantasy on ESPN next year, dammit.”

Notice how he ducked Jordy Nelson completely! Just kidding. I agree with Berry and think it’s more of a Bad QB Bias than anything. There’s nothing worse than having a “franchise” receiver and nobody to throw him the ball; after enduring The Debacle That Was Larry Fitzgerald’s Fantasy Season last year, I now make a concerted effort to avoid receivers with bad QBs in both of my leagues. I just didn’t want to go through it again. You want me to say it? I STILL DON’T BELIEVE IN HARTLINE! But it’s because of Tannehill, not Hartline’s skin color. Give him Aaron Rodgers or even Peyton Manning and Peyton Manning’s noodle arm and I’d be thinking differently.

Packers (-7) over COLTS
Bears (-6) over JAGUARS

Q: You are gonna buy Schilling’s bloody sock, aren’t you? You want to keep it away from Yankee fans who will have it tested and figure out that it is ketchup. Good luck on selling this one to the Sports Gal. You are screwed! That whole dream season is going to be tainted for you. This is like finding out somebody was juicing after the fact. Red Sox suck ass and will for quite a while … and now this?? Just wait, that sock will land somewhere you don’t want it! I CAN’T wait!!
—Ronnie S., Bakersfield

SG: One problem: It’s the sock from Game 2 of the World Series. Schilling actually threw out the bloody sock, probably because it was covered in his sticky disgusting blood. While we’re here, here’s the problem with the ketchup theory: Schilling had Fox’s cameras on him the entire time. How could the blood have slowly spread on the sock when he was either pitching or sitting in the dugout in plain sight? You’re telling me that Schilling hired some special effects person to explode tiny pellets of blood in his ankle every inning? I actually think Schilling’s Bloody Sock Game has become wildly underrated as time goes on. Game 6, Yankee Stadium, Greatest Series Comeback Ever, surgically repaired ankle, blood oozing out of it … how can that NOT be one of the best pitching performances of all time? I hope a Yankees fan wastes his money overpaying for the sock and running some elaborate DNA test on it. Seriously, go for it. You’re going to lose. Speaking of the Red Sox …

Q: Came across this. A lunch with Bobby Valentine, 4 Sox tickets, and he even signs a hat! Is he still obligated to attend? Could this best the lunch ever? Awkwardly sitting across from Valentine. Earing in total silence. Only looking up from underneath your signed Bobby V Sox hat to shake our head and occasionally sigh. You gotta bid on this. Come on Bill, it’s for charity!
—Ryan M., Charleston, SC

SG: Sadly, tragically, “This item is now closed.” I’d say that should be the DVD title of the 2012 Red Sox season, but since we only won 69 games (the lowest total of my lifetime), the DVD should obviously be called “The 69 From Hell.”1 Since I can’t overpay for this Bobby V lunch, I’m going to spend some of that money teasing the Packers with the Bears — remember, the NFC is a sterling 13-4 through four weeks against the AFC. It’s clearly a better conference. And the Bears and Packers are clearly playoff teams (in my opinion, anyway). So why not tease two playoff teams in a superior conference against two also-rans from an inferior conference? What am I missing?

Browns (+8.5) over GIANTS

Q: As if Pat Shurmur wasn’t bad enough on his own (slowly becoming Norv Turner East), have you taken notice of who the assistants are for this awful Cleveland team!? It’s nearly the Mount Rushmore of horrible assistant coaches! Your boy Brad Childress is the offensive coordinator, Dick Jauron is running the defense, and they even made Ray Rhodes a senior defensive assistant. I mean, WOW! If the world doesn’t end in December, We have to get Jim Caldwell to submit his resume and get on this staff for next year.
—Eddie, Long Beach

SG: Why wait until December? And where is Raheem Morris during all of this? He couldn’t sign on this weekend to coach their secondary? I’m grabbing the Browns and the points this week only because the Giants have proven — steadfastly, violently and relentlessly over these past few years — that they shouldn’t be allowed to give more than a touchdown at home under any circumstances. I’m predicting the week’s biggest mail-in performance that doesn’t include the words “Obama” and “debate.”

Q: I have been reading a lot of the commiseration about the end of a horrid Red Sox season. One thing that keeps coming up is Fenway’s phony sellout streak. You know who had the longest sellout streak before this streak? Cleveland. We legitimately sold out the Jake every day for 7 years, 455 games to be exact, and it was massive pride for us. When it ended, it ended. Then the Red Sox had to come in and ruin everything. Feel you no shame?! And yes, this is reason #75,428 why God hates Cleveland.
—Anthony Gatti, Cleveland

SG: Reason #75,429 — everything that happens in the NFL Network’s excellent documentary, Cleveland ’95, which tells the story of the last Browns season before they moved to Baltimore. I can’t believe I forgot about Browns fans bringing in saws so they could take their seats home after the final home game, or the Dawg Pound becoming so unruly that they could only finish that last game on one side of the field. The stuff about Belichick’s coaching tree was fascinating. And Mike Lombardi’s collection of ghastly 1990s sweaters should really win an Emmy. Definitely watch that one if you missed it. And while you’re going on a sports documentary viewing splurge, watch 9.79 (our second 30 for 30) Tuesday night at 8:00 pm on ESPN! Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson highlights! Blood doping! One of the more memorable races in Olympic history! Listen to today’s BS Report with Malcolm Gladwell (coming soon) if you want a complete breakdown.

Q: I was ruminating recently on how much God Hates Cleveland, and realized that the Browns, Cavs and Indians have actually been something of a trifecta of heinousness. Note the 8 most recent seasons of the three major “professional” teams:

2010 Indians: 69-93 .426
2010 Browns: 5-11 .313
2010-2011 Cavs: 19-63 .232
2011 Indians: 80-82 .494
2011 Browns: 4-12 .250
2011-2012 Cavs: 21-45 .318
2012 Indians: 68-94, .420
2012 Browns: 0-4 .000 (in progress, but since they’re the Browns I’m closing the book on this one)

That’s good for an average winning percentage of .305 over the past eight “seasons.” Has any city with at least 3 major teams ever endured a run like this before?
—Will, Pittsburgh

SG: I could have either spent three hours painstakingly researching the answer to be sure, or just saying “No.” Going with the latter.

Q: I sent my best friend — who is a die-hard Browns fan like me — the article where Cardinals’ guard Daryn Collegdge described their team as ” … not the prettiest girl at the dance.” After reading the article, he immmediately wrote me back and said, “In that case, the Browns are like the chick with the back brace that dances like she’s drunk.” Is there really a better way to describe how unbelievably bad the Browns are?
—Alex, Chicago

SG: That’s what will make this weekend’s near-upset so remarkable! Your final score: Giants 24, Browns 23, God Hates Cleveland 5.

Dallas’s Bye Week (+4.5) over Detroit’s Bye Week

Q: Has no one made the Jerry Jones/Walter White comparison yet? Both guys come into a business, literally clean house, come up with a product that is as pure as it can and the dollars are flowing. Then, when shit starts to hit the fan, both start to go crazy and make irrational, mind-boggling decisions, start cleaning house, until they both sit atop their thrones with no one to interfere with them. Their worlds are completely f’ed, yet they sit around and don’t care as the dollars keep piling in. The success that their products once brought have blinded them so much and left everyone around them in a pathetically, helpless position. Oh, and here is the kicker: THEY BOTH HAVE ALLITERATIVE NAMES!!! Does anyone else not see this???
—Varoon, Cupertino

Q: Is Jerry Jones in Dallas approaching Al Davis territory like with Davis’s final years in Oakland? Jones has been throwing around draft picks with no regard the last few years, seems to be getting weirder by the week, and his teams are not having success. It won’t be long before he starts looking like a decrepit monster.
—Charlie F, Minneapolis

SG: As you can see, we had a two-way tie in the “Least Flattering E-mail About Jerry Jones” contest this week.

Q: Watching the Cowboys-Bears game, I was struck by how much Jason Garrett looks like Sgt. Brody of Homeland. Is it possible that Jason Garrett was sent by Al Qaeda to infiltrate America’s Team and destroy it?
—Nick McLain, Indianapolis

SG: I mean … we can’t rule it out yet, right? Can we at least make sure that he’s not spending an inordinate amount of time in his garage? If Garrett ever wanders into a Q&A session for season-ticket holders and inexplicably shoots a police horse, we’re going to have to at least interrogate him. More important, did you ever think we’d top Kevin Kolb and the Boogie Nights masturbation solicitor as the best football/pop culture look-alike in this column?

STEELERS (-3.5) over Eagles

Q: How could the universe possibly deprive us of a classic Andy Reid moment like Sunday night’s Giants-Eagles game presented? If that second field goal goes in, where does Andy Reid secure his spot as worst time manager for the rest of eternity?
—Kyle G., Santa Barbara

SG: Don’t worry, he’s still no. 1 — something like 255,328 people tweeted the same, “Who’s controlling the clock in tonight’s debate, Andy Reid?” joke during Wednesday’s Obama-Romney showdown. Andy Reid owns bad clock management like Mike Napoli owns the Angels. I’ve been writing this Friday football column since 1997 — he’s the only coach who would ever elicit an e-mail like the following one.

Q: Fact: Andy Reid ALWAYS wins after a bye week. Problem: There’s only 1 bye week and 1 Andy Reid. Solution: We need 2 Andy Reids! Then we can swap them out every week for guaranteed victories and twice the challenge-flag abuse. We just need to clone Andy Reid, maybe insert a few genes for better timeclock management, start growing him in a test tube, then feed the clone lots of HGH and Big Macs to quickly get him up to adult size. It should be easy to convince the current Andy Reid that the NFL just went to a 8-game schedule with games every other week, and then use the clone. I can’t see any flaws in this plan at all. By the way, I may or may not be a biochem major who just learned how to splice DNA, so if you see a story on SportsCenter about a bizarre incident where some random guy stabbed Andy Reid with a syringe and took some blood, it totally wasn’t me.
—Carl, Johnstown, PA

SG: And I’m supposed to think the Steelers aren’t covering this week? Here’s all you need to know about the 2012 Eagles: They’re 3-1 with a minus-17 point differential. In other words … sell! Sell! Here comes the Steelers’ six-game winning streak that you didn’t think they had in them.

Q: Hard to believe that no NFL talking head has pointed out yet that all 3 undefeated quarterbacks were once living in Michael Vick’s shadow. Ryan was drafted to replace Vick in Atlanta; Schaub and Kolb signed to be starters after backing Vick up. Either karma’s telling Andy Reid to play Nick Foles, or that he’s supposed to help him open a steak house to compete with Vince Young.
—Nick J, Stewartville, MN

SG: Too soon.

Ravens (-6.5) over CHIEFS

Q: Near the end of last year you kept kidding that you hoped the Chiefs would finish strong so they’d bring back Romeo Crennel, then you could bet against him in 2012 and clean up. They brought him back in 2012 and got killed in 3 of their 4 games. And yet — you picked them to cover their last 3 games. The lesson, as always …
—Thomas, Kansas City

SG: I know, I know. The NFL Network’s next documentary should be called, How The Hell Did Matt Cassel Win 11 Games? That was one of Bill Belichick’s greatest coaching feats, right up there with three Super Bowls, 21 straight wins, 16-0 and resuscitating Vinny Testeverde’s career and continuing to lead playoff teams while looking like a hobo.

Falcons (-3) over REDSKINS

Q: Right now Matt Ryan is like Stan’s dad in South Park when he gets testicular cancer and his balls get so big he has to wheel them around in a wheelbarrow. Is Atlanta’s defense good enough to win the big one?
—JT Sanders, Dyersburg, TN

SG: The short answer — no!!!!!!! But since when did having a mediocre defense stop NFL teams from winning the big one? Here’s why I love Atlanta this Sunday: Last week’s game was basically a loss. Carolina outplayed them and fell asleep in the final two minutes. So if the Falcons really ARE a Super Bowl contender (and I think they are), then that means Mike Smith spent the week playing up the “we got lucky last week, we deserved to lose, I don’t want to see us play two bad games in a row, show me something this week, I thought you guys wanted to be great!!!!!!” card (and I think he did). No chance of them looking past the Skins this week. Oh, and Matty Ice’s pseudo–Hail Mary from his own 1-yard line required giant, giant, giant balls. I don’t know if they were on par with Stan’s Dad, but they were at least on Cisco Adler’s level.

(The bigger question: Through four weeks, has anyone ever had a larger MVP lead than Matt Ryan? Who’s the no. 2 pick right now? In Mike Sando’s always enjoyable MVP Watch this week, he listed Brady, Rodgers and Flacco as the next three guys. Brady, Rodgers and Flacco???? Are we really ready to live in a world where a Boston College grad wins the NFL’s MVP?)

Q: I saw your tweet the other day about watching the Ryder Cup with your dad and your Uncle Bob. It got me thinking, how the hell does everybody have an Uncle Bob? I have an Uncle Bob, you have an Uncle Bob, I feel like I have heard others talk about their Uncle Bobs, and it just seems like the amount of Uncle Bobs is disproportionate to the amount of Bobs in the country. Does anyone else notice this or am I just crazy? Can’t this be incorporated into the 2020 census?
—Hank T., Durham

SG: I sent out an e-mail to 39 friends and co-workers asking if they had an Uncle Bob. Eight had an Uncle Bob. Including me, that’s nine of 40 people — close to 25 percent. Is that a high number or a low one? I have no idea. I just enjoy sending out e-mails that only say things like, “Do you have an Uncle Bob?” But as Grantland’s Molly Lambert points out, it has to mean something that Wikipedia has a page called “Bob’s your uncle,” or that it’s a phrase commonly used in Britain, right?

Seahawks (+3) over PANTHERS

Q: Can we please re-name the “Art Shell Face” the “Ron Rivera Face?”
—Terrence, Rock Hill, SC

SG: Come on, that’s crazy. You can’t change the name of the Art Shell Face any more than you can change the name of Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon.

Q: Also, is Ron’s headset even plugged in? On every sideline shot of him I have yet to see him speak a single word.
—Terrence, Rock Hill, SC

SG: It’s probably not plugged in. I’m not sure it matters.

Q: There is a reason Rivera was interviewed 8 times before he got the Panther job.
—Terrence, Rock Hill, SC

SG: That’s actually true — Ron Rivera was interviewed for eight different head coaching positions before Carolina hired him. Here’s what bothered me about how he handled the last two minutes of that Falcons’ loss — you know, other than the fact that his secondary somehow allowed a deep pass from Atlanta’s own 1-yard line in the final 59 seconds when the Falcons didn’t have any timeouts left. The Panthers weren’t a playoff team. They had just been embarrassed by the Giants on national TV. If any team ever needed to give itself a collective boost with the words, “Eff you, we’re going for the upset and ramming this down your throat” on fourth-and-1 — on the road, against a divisional rival, no less — it was the 2012 Carolina Panthers last Sunday. They should have gone for it.

Q: I shared your same feelings that Seattle was gonna have a great year and took their over for wins. And you know what? I am ready to start Matt Flynn. If you look at tape, Wilson leaves the pocket before it even breaks down. He doesn’t have a strong arm, he is not fast and he cant see over his line and the D Line. Bill, stop drinking the cool aide!!!! He is horrible. Since you, like me, are a gambling man, dont even think of taking them on the road. In reality, they should be 1 and 3. Russell Wilson is a 5’10” quarterback mind trapped in an accountants body. Kind of like you Bill, an NBA two guard trapped in a journalist body. I give Carroll 2 more weeks, then he pulls the plug on Wilson for Flynn. Wilson will be selling Life Insurance in 3 years. Book it!
—Dave, somewhere in south Florida

SG: Man, when I compared Russell Wilson to a cult leader in my preseason preview, I didn’t realize it would be one of those cults that ended up with everything exploding. This is terrible. Even worse, I found myself nodding throughout Dave’s e-mail. I’ve watched nearly every minute of every Seahawks game. (I wish I were making this up.) Wilson just doesn’t look ready yet. I’ve had to watch this Levi’s ad 220 times just to keep myself from bailing on that Seahawks Super Bowl pick.

Q: What is it going to take for the Seahawks to realize that Matt Flynn is the best option at QB right now? Russell Wilson is Tavaris 2.0. Why has yet another Seattle team been doomed with a horrible offense? Is it something that I’ve done? Am I dating the wrong person or working at the wrong place? Why can’t Seattle have one good offensive team?
—Richard, Burien, Washington

SG: Let’s give this one more week. Come on, you, me and Russell. We can get through this. If he can’t light up that putrid Panthers defense, then I’m lowering the Russell Wilson bandwagon into a fiery pit of hell while sobbing like Ed Furlong at the end of Terminator 2. Maybe Russell can even give me the sad thumbs-up as he’s engulfed in flames like Arnold back in the day. It’s do-or-die week for you, Russell Wilson. Let’s see something.

VIKINGS (-5.5) over Titans

Q: I’m sure I’m not the first to point out the eerie parallels between Tiger Woods on the Ryder Cup this year and Chris Johnson in fantasy football. Just like the millions of fantasy football players who saw Johnson sitting there late in the first round or early in the second and thought “Shit. It’s Chris Johnson, I have to take him. If I don’t, I know it will come back to haunt me all season”, the US saw Tiger Woods was available and thought the same thing. Last weekend at Medina were the first 3 weeks of this NFL season.
—Kevin Geraghty, Bridgewater

SG: You know what I really hated about that Ryder Cup other than, you know, having my country submit one of the biggest chokes in recent sports history? I found myself liking Europe’s team 10 times more than the team for which I was supposed to be rooting. If you were just doing a “Guys I Enjoy Watching” draft of 2012 Ryder Cup golfers, America would have had two of the first 10 picks (Mickelson and Tiger) and that’s it. That reminds me: We need to add Rory McIlroy to the Roger Federer All-Star team of “Guys Who Aren’t From America, But We Treat Them Like They Are” team. It felt absolutely bizarre to root against him last week. Can’t he just move here and get a dual citizenship? Do we have to trade Ireland something? What if we gave them Bono and The Edge back? Would that do it?2

As for the Vikings, even if this looks like one of those textbook “Team coming off a smoking stretch who had everyone patting their backs all week and thought they just had to show up to win — à la San Francisco in Week 3 or Atlanta and Arizona last week — I’m going against the grain here. I say the Vikings are legitimately good and overdue for one blowout home victory before their inevitable letdown game (Week 6 in Washington, and yes, I will be staying away).

PATS (-6.5) over Broncos

Q: You trashed Peyton Manning last week and picked the Raiders to win. Insanity, Bill. Manning went 30 of 38 for 338 for three touchdowns and no picks. Say you’re sorry. Say it. We deserve that much. We’re coming to your house next. Tell me you’re not the least bit worried about Manning. I dare you.
—Matt Beaudin, Boulder, CO

SG: Of course! Manning could be wearing Steve Grogan’s 30-pound neck brace from the ’89 season and moving around like Hugh Hefner and I’d still be worried. He’s Peyton Manning. Just seeing the “18,” seeing the audible-ing at the line, seeing that giant red splotch on his forehead after every series … that stuff will always make me uneasy no matter how old he is. But right now, every Manning throw wobbles in the air with barely enough juice to get where it needs to go. It’s just a fact. My buddy Gus (die-hard Broncos fan) and I have been joking about it for weeks — he keeps texting me, “You don’t want the Noodle!” and I keep texting back, “GIVE ME THE NOODLE!” Even the Broncos fans know. Deep down, anyway. But as Greg Schiano would say, that doesn’t mean it’s not not fun.

Q: Peyton nearly brought his team back from 20 twice after his coaching staff finally lets him off the leash and runs his type of offense. His passes have looked weak at times but somehow they still end up in the right place at the right time. You won’t see that though. That’s what’s so charming about you, Sports Guy! You commit to your biases and hold onto them like Commandments, regardless of facts. You’re kind of the ideological sports equivalent of Bill O’Reilly!
—Soren The Solipsist, Augusta

SG: Now that’s not fair! Take that back! I said this in Thursday’s podcast and I’ll say it again: Peyton’s passes look absolutely awful, but clearly, there are larger forces at work here. Watching him thread the needle at 40 mph or squeeze sure interceptions through three guys and somehow find the open man … I mean, it reminds me of when I used to play golf with my father, who was the master of the “drive that hit a tree and somehow bounced right into the middle of the fairway” shot. I used to call it “Dad Luck.” Manning has enjoyed an awful lot of Dad Luck with some of these throws so far. I can’t imagine the Patriots letting him pick them apart with short stuff — they’re going to make him throw over the top on them. I don’t think he can do it against them or any other good team. We will see. (I’ve been wrong before. Thousands and thousands of times, actually.)

Q: When I think about Sunday’s Broncos-Pats game, I keep thinking back to the scene at the end of Rocky III in the empty gym. Rocky in his mangled voice “Wanna ring the bell?” Apollo in his annoying arrogant voice, “Ding, Ding.”
—Brian Clark, Dudley, MA

SG: Couldn’t agree more. Here’s the part that everyone keeps forgetting about Sunday: Brady shredded Denver’s defense 10 months ago. That defense is a little better this season, but not by much. So Denver needs to score 30-plus to win AND get some breaks to win. Seems farfetched. Throw in another breakout performance from star Patriots running back Branvan Boldley and I’m thinking 37-27, Patriots.3

Tampa’s Bye Week (-2.5) over Oakland’s Bye Week

Q: You’re WARM stat is a perfect evaluation for coaches, but you totally botched the coach it should be named after. You picked Raheem Morris. How could it not be “Wins Above Rod Marinelli”? The guy literally led a team to a winless season. That should automatically earn him the title.
—Dan W., Shelby TWP

SG: This delights me to no end. Now we have the flexibility to platoon WARM with “Wins Over Raheem Morris” or “Wins Over Rod Marinelli” depending on what kind of mood you’re in. Is it too late for Romeo Crennel to change his name to Romeo McCrennel?

Q: I’m a die-hard Oakland A’s fan who happens to be a medical student. I can’t watch most of the A’s play-in game today because I have to learn to perform a male genital exam. For those keeping score at home, this includes palpation of the testes and shaft, and a rectal examination of the prostate. To recap: I’m missing a shot at the AL West because I’m grabbing a dude’s penis and balls and then shoving my finger up his rear end. Can I have some help with a witty pun to try to lighten the situation? (note: Moneyballs has already been taken).
—Sam, Sac-town

SG: The sad part is that I reached the end of that e-mail and said, “Dammit, someone already took Moneyballs!”

49ERS (-9.5) over Bills

Q: Seriously? First I watch the epic debacle that was the Pats annihilation of the Bills, and then I open your mailbag only to find that our team can’t even win the Bernie Lomax Award?!?!?
—Todd, Buffalo

Q: How dare you for not naming Ralph Wilson the new sports Weekend at Bernie’s owner? That distinction is all the Bills have anymore.
—Ryan, Buffalo

SG: You know, I felt guilty about running these (and trust me, there were more) until I remembered that Ralph Wilson is 93 years old. Ninety-three! If you offered me 93 right now, I’d grab it in a heartbeat. Sign me up. Plus, the Bills fans need a win, right? Look at this next e-mail, for God’s sake.

Q: The only thing more dissappointing about 2012 than the Buffalo Bills is scolling through the channels, seeing Face Off on SyFy, getting really excited, clicking on it, realizing its a show about make-up, and then watching it anyway.
—Will, Burlington, VT

SG: I’d probably avoid this week’s game — there’s a decent chance you might lose by 40 points. Also, you’re not the only one who’s excitedly clicked on Face/Off on SyFy multiple times before realizing you’ve been duped. This would be a smart move for the NBC Sports Network, which literally has no programming right now without the Olympics and the NHL — they should give all their motocross and outdoors shows names like Rocky and Road House and Shawshank (and any other movie that TNT and TBS show constantly) just to cheat their ratings. It would be the Bleacher Report of sports network strategies, right?

Chargers (+3.5) over SAINTS

Q: Here’s the official Bad Defense List for 2012: Washington, Carolina, New Orleans, Tennessee, Buffalo, Kansas City. None of those six teams should be giving up more than 3 points under any circumstances against a half-decent team or better, right?
—B. Simmons, Los Angeles

SG: I actually wrote that one myself. Here’s a good rule of thumb: Any time you can take a team averaging 25 points a game against a team giving up 33 points a game, and you’re getting more than a field goal, you grab the points and don’t get caught up thinking about things like “Norv Turner on a Sunday night,” “Norv Turner staring grimly out toward the field after remembering that he doesn’t have any timeouts left,” or even “Cris Collinsworth drawling the words, ‘I gotta be honest, Al, I don’t know what Norv Turner is thinking there’ on a Sunday night.”

Texans (-9) over JETS

Q: Have we really reached a point where the Texans are becoming the gold standard for how to run an NFL team? The last 2 off seasons they’ve chosen cap space instead of over paying quality starters (Williams on D-line and Winston on the O-line, both underperforming on their new teams); stuck with Schaub instead of getting dragged into the Peyton Manning sweepstakes; kept Kubiak who seems to have matured as a coach; and signed Wade Phillips and given him the defensive personnel he needed. In 2 years they’ve gone from an AFC South laughingstock to a juggernaut that won a playoff game with a backup QB and hasn’t lost in 2012. Did the Mayans really predict this?
—Jared, Seattle

SG: You make a great point about the Texans — in baseball or basketball, or even hockey back when we used to have hockey, people love focusing on the big-picture successes/failures for how teams were built. We don’t do that as much in football because the rosters are so big, because there aren’t that many trades, and because the records fluctuate so wildly from year to year. But if the Texans were an NBA team, writers like John Hollinger and Zach Lowe (Grantland’s newest hire!) would be raving about Houston right now. It’s just a fact. Meanwhile …

Q: I just received this email from one of my friends and fellow Jets fans in response to the fact that they are currently 2-2 and in 1st place in the AFC East:

“We have no NFL level WRs
“And one CB
“And no pass rush
“And no legitimate running game
“And about to have a starting QB that everyone says can’t throw the football
“With no offensive line
“Our LBs are old and slow
“Other than that this is the best team Rex has ever coached.”

Ladies and Gentlemen … Your 2012 NEW YORK JETS!!!!
—Steve Aponte, New York

SG: Hey, you stepped on my line! How dare you!

Q: Here’s my idea for Halloween: “The Mark Sanchez Pumpkin.” Just overpay for a rotten pumpkin and cut a #6 on the back. Keep it on your porch until your neighbors complain about the smell and refuse to throw it away, asserting it is your pumpkin.
—Matt Davis, Putnam

SG: You left out the part where you have a fresher pumpkin right behind it that’s been blessed with holy water.

Q: Around the 35 minute mark for “Fourth and God II: God Willing,” you will hear Mike Tirico say, “And after the third consecutive Arian Foster touchdown, it looks like … wait a minute … here comes Tim Tebow running onto the field! No one saw this coming!” (Cue Hans Zimmer music and thunder from the heavens)
—Colby, Chicago

SG: Yup. But here’s the question — will that be enough for the Jets to cover this spread, or will the Tebow magic start next week when they’re home for the Colts? I spent between two and 10 hours staring at their schedule and trying to figure this out. Some factors to consider …

1. The AFC really, really sucks this year. You might see a 9-7 wild card. It’s in play. 10-6 definitely makes it.

2. As amazing as this sounds, the Jets are only 2-2 right now. Their inevitable Houston shellacking will make them 2-3. So they’d have to go 7-4 down the stretch to sneak into wild-card range.

3. Again, we all agree that last year’s Tebow season was a successful Disney sports movie (which I ended up calling Fourth and God) and lent itself to a sequel pretty easily. If you were making Fourth and God II: God Willing (an idea first mentioned in this space three weeks ago), you’d want our hero (Tebow) and his downtrodden team (the Jets) to hit rock bottom before the inspirational “Things are turning around!” scene. Last week’s Niners shutout and this week’s undoubtedly disastrous Monday-night game certainly qualified for rock bottom. You can almost imagine Chris Evans (playing Tebow) wandering sadly through the streets of Manhattan at 3 a.m. on Monday night in the inevitable “our hero is super sad right now and questioning everything he ever believed in” scene.

4. The Jets host Indy in Week 6, then play in New England, then host Miami. Let’s say they’re 3-4 heading into the bye. From there: at Seattle (Tebow!), at St. Louis (TEBOW!), home on Thursday for New England (TEBOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Suddenly they’re 6-4 and we just had the “Tebow turned everything around!” montage. From there: home for Arizona, at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, home for San Diego, at Buffalo. See any tough ones on that schedule? Me neither. Just start emotionally preparing yourself now. I’m telling you.

Q: Had a stroke of genius the other day; using “vacate the wins” to mean “taking a massive dump after grossly overeating.” Ex: “Nothing sucks more than having to vacate the wins after a championship dinner” or “My memories of that awesome meal were tainted when I had to vacate the wins.”
—Chad Whittaker, Poughkeepsie

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 7-8
Season: 32-31-2

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, People, Simmons

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

Archive @ BillSimmons

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