NFL Week 3: Peterson, Picks, and the All-Outrage Mailbag

Elsa/Getty Images

Editor’s note: We made the mistake of holding this column for one hour because we thought Roger Goodell might actually say something interesting, thoughtful or sincere in today’s days-too-late press conference. I left my thoughts on my Twitter timeline as that wretched, defensive, unconfident mess of an ordeal unfolded. We knew it might be bad, but THAT bad? The only thing that press conference was missing was the camera panning over to Jon Lovitz dressed as Michael Dukakis, then Lovitz shrugging and saying, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy.” The best part was when Goodell admitted that he never thought of resigning — not once, not at any point. Really? Not once? Not one time??? He’s the most overmatched professional sports commissioner we’ve ever had. But hey, we knew that already. Time for my column.

Anytime I unleash a special-edition mailbag, you know something bonkers happened on the level of Bernard Karmell Pollard taking out Tom Brady, Tiger Woods crashing his Escalade in his own driveway, Manti Te’o getting catfished, or the NFL’s overmatched replacement officials reverse-peaking during the apocalyptic Golden Tate Game. A special-edition mailbag is really saying three things:

1. WTF???
2. My readers sent along so many good emails that we HAD to do a mailbag.
3. Seriously … WTF???????

So you couldn’t have been surprised when last week’s Rice/TMZ/Ravens mega-debacle earned its own special-edition Goodell-Must-Go Bag. The latest NFL Debacle Of The Week didn’t quite earn its own Peterson-Might-Have-To-Go Bag, but at the very least it earned a half-mailbag before we tackle Week 3 picks. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: This Peterson debacle has to catapult Vikings fans to the top of your Tortured NFL Fan Base list, right?
—Mike, Boulder, MT

BS: I once believed Bills fans and Browns fans were the MJ and Russell of this category — two unassailable résumés for “Best Ever” that couldn’t be leapfrogged unless something truly astounding happened. Well, think about how these past few months have played out.

• The city of Buffalo saved its franchise, found a local owner, started out 2-0, cheered on Jim Kelly as he improbably fended off cancer, just savored one of the most emotional home wins in recent NFL history (Week 2, Miami), and even inspired a possible change to the “Don’t bet against God, puppies or gambling theories hatched in Pakistan” rule (hold that thought).

• The city of Cleveland dented its perpetual malaise by bringing LeBron back, drafting Johnny Football, getting fictionally rejuvenated in the ridiculous Draft Day, shocking the Saints at home in Week 2, and starring in 20,000 LeBron-inspired “I’m Coming Home” montages on YouTube. You wouldn’t say Browns fans are flying high, but they aren’t moping around and questioning why God hates them so much, either.

• The state of Minnesota just limped through another four-sport belly flop; saw Donald Sterling sell the Clippers and inadvertently give the “Least Competent Current NBA Owner” championship belt to Glen Taylor (belated congrats, Glen); saw Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf grab the “Sketchiest NFL Owners” championship belt after they had to pay an $84.5 million fine for real estate fraud (congrats, fellas); lost Kevin Love AND Jared Allen; lost their greatest superstar since Kevin Garnett indefinitely because of a child-abuse scandal; and realized retroactively that they committed more than $400 million of public funds to a football stadium for a franchise run by a crook and starring someone who thrashes the living crap out of defenseless 4-year-old kids with a branch. Oh, and they’re 0-4 in the Super Bowl with no chance of that flipping anytime soon.


Fine, I’m not ready to leapfrog ANYONE past the Browns (no Super Bowls, had their team stolen) or Bills (four straight Super Bowl losses, no sign of any real hope during the 21st century). But at the very least, can’t we say the Vikings have turned it into a three-way battle? And that they’ve figured out a way to break new ground here in one of the most depressing ways possible? Check out this next email.

Q: I’m 25 and I have been Vikings fan my whole life. I was there for the Gary Anderson Game and for Brett Favre’s season-ending interception in the stomach puncher to the Saints. I also had to watch the 2010 Packers — a team I hate with my heart and soul — win the Super Bowl while I was trapped in Wisconsin and surrounded by cheeseheads. Until this week those were the three worst moments of my football fan life. This Adrian Peterson situation trumps them all and then some. Suddenly, my favorite player of all time — the sole reason I have been able to hold my head up as a Minnesota fan for the last 7 years — may have played his last snap for the team I love. I was sure he was going down with Sweetness and Barry Sanders as one of the greatest to ever play the game, maybe THE greatest, but now I don’t think I can ever wear his jersey again. Hell I’m not even sure I want to watch football anymore. This has to be like a new Level of Losing right?
—Jeremy, St. Paul

BS: I can relate to some of this. Eight months after the 18-1/Helmet Catch/Spygate/Tom Brady–Pat O’Brien Pregame SB Handshake/Ruined-My-Dad’s-60th-Birthday/Every-Giants-Fan-Smugly-Smiles-At-Me-For-The-Rest-Of-My-Life season, I lost Tom Brady from my real team and my fantasy team eight and a half minutes into 2008’s suddenly aborted We’re Getting Revenge Liam Neeson–Style On Everyone And Their Brother season. My entire football season ended before 2 p.m. ET in Week 1. I continue to feel guilty about (a) not appreciating the three Super Bowl seasons more, (b) drafting Brady in fantasy that year, and (c) not seeing the whole thing coming because everything from 2001 to 2007 had turned Patriots fans into the football version of Yankees fans and we never wanted to believe it happened (but it did).

So that hurt. All of it. You know injuries happen, you reconcile them, you blame the karma gods, you blame the person who caused it (whether it’s fair or not), you bank on a quick rehab and do whatever else you need to do. But losing your signature player (and one of the league’s most entertaining players in general) because he intentionally injured his own son? How do you bounce back from that? How do you root for him again?

Important: I don’t believe Peterson should lose his football career. Eventually, the man will publicly exhibit the proper level of contrition (we’re not even close yet) and turn this situation into a positive (pretty easily, he could become one of our most visible advocates against child abuse, as soon as he successfully deals with whatever baggage he’s carrying). And there’s clearly a cultural component to what happened here, as Charles Barkley clumsily tried to argue on CBS last Sunday.

At the same time, I am raising two kids — my daughter (9) and my son (6) — both of whom were 4 once. If you haven’t raised a child yet, please understand the following things:

1. Kids can be annoying as hell.

2. Kids can be frustrating as hell.

3. Little boys are dumber than little girls.

4. Four-year-old boys might be lovable as hell, but they’re also operating within the perfect storm of “Why did you do that?,” “What are you thinking?,” and “You can never do that again!!!!!” Four-year-old boys will absolutely try to jump down a flight of stairs, dive into the shallow end of the pool, punch you in the balls, inadvertently run across the street when you’re not looking … they are just complete dumb-asses at all times. I have multiple friends who had or have little boys; all of them, at some point, said to themselves, “Wait, is there something wrong with my son?” And I was right there with them.

Sometimes, you have to discipline them so they know right from wrong — mainly so they don’t hurt themselves or someone else, because, again, little boys are lovable dumb-asses. And that’s something every parent handles differently. You can yell, you can scream, you can take away their favorite toy/show/activity, you can even play the spanking card (some do, some don’t). You do whatever it takes to get from Point A to Point B. Within reason.

But HURTING your own kid?

Or leaving still-bleeding-after-six-hours welts all over the lower half of his body?

I mean …

When you’re a parent, you constantly identify with other parents in every situation. You recognize the same defeated looks, you recognize the same look of panic when a parent can’t control a kid in public, you recognize the same look of utter horror on an airplane when a shrieking kid is gaining steam and there are still three hours to go. And on the flip side, when some parental experience is spiraling out of control, you might see a veteran parent glancing your way with one of those “Hang in there, it gets better” looks. There are dozens and dozens of ways you bond with other parents, day in and day out, and that’s just how it goes. It’s almost like an unspoken language that you can’t speak in unless you’ve been there.

For me, the problem with what Peterson did, and everything it represents, is that I fundamentally can’t understand why someone would injure their own kid. My children have injured themselves unintentionally a handful of times. When your child is in pain, it’s just about the craziest experience you will ever have as a human being. It’s like your head comes off your body. When my son was 2, my daughter accidentally slammed a shower door on his index finger and nearly chopped it off. That thing was dangling. And if you’ve ever heard your own child scream in pain and terror, you never forget the sound. You just don’t.

We threw some clothes on him — blood dripping everywhere — and he was crying so hard that his eyes were practically rolling back in his head. If that wasn’t bad enough, my daughter was sobbing and blaming herself for what happened. And everyone was covered in blood. We packed into the car and pulled off a 15-minute drive in about eight minutes. I was weaving between lanes and passing people on the wrong side of the road like a NASCAR driver. It was insane. I wanted to make sure he didn’t lose his finger, but also the crying was just about the worst noise I had ever heard. Four years later, I can still hear it.

And yeah, we saved the finger, and there’s barely even a scar because little kids have healing powers that transcend just about anything. Adrian Peterson’s kid probably won’t have scars, either. That Peterson can live with himself for causing that sound, with no apparent remorse, disturbs the shit out of me. I can’t look at him the same way.

But that’s just me. So we remain in that excruciating vortex where sports (the escape from real life) intersects with real life — yet again — and we’re just sitting here looking at each other and waiting for the perfect answer, which is never coming. Eventually, someone will convince Peterson that he needs therapy, and that he needs to become an advocate against child abuse. Peterson will follow that person’s instructions for one of two reasons: He wants to save his football career or he understands that he failed as a parent and a human being (and needs to fix it going forward). One or both of those reasons will be genuine. Let’s hope for both.

(In other words, to be continued.)

Q: Can I pass along a suggestion for anyone who thinks what AP did was okay? I say we get a current NFL player to grab a switch and give them a beating on the butt, thighs and groin until the switch breaks, and see if their opinion changes. If it’s okay for a 4 year old then it must be okay for them, right?
—Diane, Greenwood Lake, NY

BS: What Diane said.

Q: Don’t you miss David Stern already? You know he would have proudly strut around Levi’s Stadium this past Sunday, defiant grin on his face while he gave death stares to whoever interviewed him at halftime and dared to bring up the ongoing controversies. Long live the King! Will we ever see anyone like him again in our lifetimes? Meanwhile, Goodell appears to be in hiding while teams like Minnesota blunder openly and apparently with no league guidance whatsoever!
—Vern, Chicago

BS: Come on, Goodell only went into hiding until today’s too-little-too-late press conference for eight days! That’s not hiding, that’s … oh wait, that’s totally hiding. But you made a great point. If 1990s Stern were running the NFL right now, he’d be growing a scruffy beard, giving two sarcastically abrasive interviews per day, vowing to clean up the league and demanding a 10-minute exclusive interview before every Thursday-night game on CBS. We would make jokes about him, but we’d begrudgingly respect him too. His heart would be in the right place.

Meanwhile, Roger Goodell is handling this entire month like an overwhelmed bartender who falls 10 drink orders behind, can’t handle the rush, and finally decides to hide in a backroom until customers start leaving. And you know what? I think the owners love it. As long as people are discussing Goodell’s many inadequacies, nobody is talking about the 32 owners who run the league and order him around. Baltimore’s owner clearly lobbied Goodell last summer to take it easy on Ray Rice because Ray Rice is a good guy and Ray Rice made a mistake. Minnesota’s owners clearly botched their Peterson decision, then had to do a 180 once sponsors started ditching them. But it’s much easier to blame Goodell than the owners, even though he works for them and obviously can’t think for himself. What a mess. Say what you want about David Stern — during his prime, he always stood up for himself, he always remained accountable, and he never would have allowed himself to become the sacrificial patsy to a bunch of bumbling owners. (That only happened later, and well after his prime.)

Q: Why isn’t there a sportsbook willing to take my bet on when Goodell gets fired? With sponsors voicing concern, the ball has to drop sooner than later. Has to happen by Thanksgiving, right? Open a book, Bill!
—Max, Minneapolis

BS: I don’t see it. We’re at least two more debacles away. You’ll know that Goodell is about to get fired when Peter King finally turns on him. Peter King is like Abe Vigoda in the last hour of The Godfather — as soon as he breaks, you’ll know shit is about to go down.

Q: Check this out.

Did this picture in Madden 25 predict the future of the NFL?
—Kevin Gray

BS: Amazing. All roads lead back to Madden.

Q: Can we come up with a new nickname for Roger Goodell? I was thinking of “Revenue Roger” because you can’t go wrong with alliteration, and because creating revenue for the league seems to be his first priority. Actually do not think there is a second priority. I am 95% sure that when he read the job description eight long years ago, under “responsibilities” it said two words: “Create revenue.”

BS: All fair points. I’ll give that nickname a test spin during the next email answer and see how it goes.

Q: During Bountygate, Sean Payton stated that he was not aware of an “injure-for-cash” bounty system in place. In levying the one-year suspension on Payton, Roger Goodell claimed that, “Ignorance is not an excuse.” Roger now says he “never saw the video” (of Rice). Well, Mr. Commissioner… according to you, “Ignorance is not an excuse,” right? It’s been extremely enjoyable watching Roger try to wiggle himself out of this latest, and most hypocritically damaging debacle.
—Brian M, Leesburg, VA

BS: If and when the Game of Shadows guys write a Revenue Roger book, I demand they call it Ignorance Is Not an Excuse. That also sounds like a great title for a potential 2017 documentary that ESPN will abruptly cancel. I’m excited on all fronts.

(PS: I like Revenue Roger! Fun test spin! I’m in!)

Q: A cultural trend in recent years — having fans/viewers/etc. help large entities make decisions. For example, American Idol has viewers vote for singers who advance to the next round, or teams have fans weigh in on social media about what jersey to wear for upcoming games. With the recent NFL punishments handed out (Rice, Peterson and Hardy), it seems as if Goodell and/or the owners make their initial decisions, see how the public reacts, and THEN makes their final decision. Almost as if their first decision is simply to test the waters. Can you remember people with this much power being so reactionary in their decisions?
—Derek Linn, Franklin

BS: And it’s not just the NFL. For two years now, I have become convinced that certain NBA teams leak trade possibilities just to see how their fans react. Example A: The Warriors wavering on putting Klay Thompson in a potential Kevin Love deal. Example B: Sacramento tossing around the possibility of trading for Josh Smith. Example C: Every single Knicks decision. Fan crowdsourcing is a thing — there’s no question. I don’t think that happened with Rice, but it’s almost definitely what happened with the Vikings and Peterson. You can always make a light punishment tougher; you can’t go the other way. I think the Vikings started out light while secretly hoping nobody would flip out (so they didn’t lose Peterson for too long), then corrected it accordingly after everyone flipped out. Brilliant! Except for the part where everyone now thinks they are bumbling morons with no moral compass and no compassion for children.

Q: Now that the NFL has gone so far downhill, isn’t this the right time for a Nathan Thurm comeback? I wish Martin Short would dust off his old chain-smoking character to “defend” the NFL’s latest problems.
—Miguel, Hermosa Beach

BS: The world absolutely needs this to happen. Roger is fine and the NFL is fine. Why wouldn’t they be fine? You’re the one saying they aren’t fine, I never said that. Why do you think I said that? I don’t think that. You think that. You’re the one saying that. (Pause.) It’s not him, it’s me, right?

Q: Is it too early to speculate on the Last Place finisher in Sportsman of the Year for 2014 (or as you once dubbed it, the Anti-Sportsman of the Year)? We’ve got ourselves a real barn-burner here between Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, Adrian Peterson and Donald Sterling alone. Factor in Oscar Pistorius, Aldon Smith, Greg Hardy, Jim Irsay AND Dustin Johnson, you may have the strongest class of all time. We’re only eight months in and we’ve yet to have our annual college football scandal. Who’s it gonna be this year?
—James, San Francisco

BS: Come on, this isn’t the 1994 Best Picture race for the Oscars; we won’t be arguing about it 20 years from now. Donald Sterling is our 2014 Anti-Sportsman of the Year. The race ended last spring. It’s over. He just put up stats on the level of 2001 Barry Bonds, even if we’ve been blessed (or unblessed) with an impressive array of second-place candidates. You know what my favorite part of that email was? James is right — history says the annual college football scandal is still coming! It’s been an all-you-can-eat buffet of Anti-Sportsman moments for nearly nine months, and they haven’t even served the prime rib yet.

Q: When you wrote that Goodell was the worst sports commissioner of all-time, did you forget that Isiah Thomas once drove the CBA into bankruptcy? The trophy should be called the Isiah Thomas Sports Executive of the Year. And Goodell is winning in 2014.

BS: Forgetting to include Isiah on Lousy Commissioner Mount Rushmore was like forgetting to include Jay Z on Mount Rapmore. I have no defense. I need to retire soon.

Q: IF Goodell stays on as commissioner, do you think he has the balls to announce ANY draft picks at the 2015 NFL draft? And if he does, how loud are those boos on a scale of a library to Russell Wilson captaining a rocket launch in CenturyLink?
—Tom, Stow, MA

BS: You just mentioned the best reason to defend Revenue Roger — we need him to stick around until next spring just for the boos. That’s going to be the funniest four hours of 2015. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Should he just turn himself into a wrestling heel? What if Goodell kept walking onto the stage before every pick with Vince McMahon’s “No Chance in Hell” entrance music blaring? Can’t somebody doctor a YouTube clip from last year’s draft so that we can know what it sounds like? I don’t ask for much.

Q: I just took a look at ESPN’s homepage and here are the top stories:

• Orioles’ Davis suspended 25 games by MLB
• Pistorius found guilty of culpable homicide
• OTL: In June, Rice told Goodell he hit fiancee
• Ravens roll past Steelers | Fans support Rice
• Stanton struck in face by pitch | SweetSpot
• Source: NFL, union close to drug agreement
• Source: NFLPA gets Rice suspension letter
• Pacers’ Bird: George’s tweets ‘thoughtless’
• Recording confirms Ferry’s racial comments
• Eagles’ McCoy left 20-cent tip as ‘statement’
• Fantasy: Week 2 advice on every NFL team
—Dane G

BS: Hold on …

Q: Checking the front page of SportsCenter is a daily exercise, despite the fact that I rarely actually read any of the stories. There are always four banners under SC topics. Today is the first day i’ve ever seen four off the field related topics on the bar (keep in mind this month has consistently had about 50-75% of the SC Topics highlighting off the field incidents). Today’s banner read:

• Cards Dwyer Arrested
• Fisher on Jameis Winston
• Adrian Peterson on Exempt List
• Rivera on Hardy Decision
—Sam Foshay

BS: I received those emails less than a week apart. Amazing.

Q: I’m not about to defend the recent actions off specific NFL players. There is no excuse. Just watch this:

If that doesn’t pump you up for Sunday’s game then fuck you. You’re not a Patriots fan anymore.
—Matthew S., Middlebury

BS: Bless you, Matthew from Middlebury. Bless you. A couple of thoughts …

1. I can’t believe we had the balls to throw the ball from our own 17 with 81 seconds left and no timeouts and a first-year starting QB.

2. I can’t believe the officials said J.R. Redmond got out of bounds.

3. I can’t believe the Rams left Troy Brown that wide open.

4. I can’t believe how quickly Madden flip-flopped during the drive.

5. I can’t believe the Patriots actually won that game after the defensive TD got called back, which had all the makings of The Next Devastating Post-Buckner Boston Sports Moment, only it got washed away and now I never think about it.

6. I can’t believe I was there. JESUS. I was there. In the same end zone where the winning kick landed. Amazing. Incredible. I am not ashamed to admit that it was one of the 10 best moments of my life.

7. I can’t believe a measly seven-minute clip washed away these past two weeks and got me fired up for football again. I’m so easy. On to the Week 3 picks …

(Home teams in caps)

FALCONS (-6.5) over Bucs
I nailed this Thursday pick on Instagram. All Thursday picks will be made on my Instagram feed this season (including Thanksgiving). If that doesn’t change my Thursday luck, then we’re moving to Pinterest next year. I am going to keep changing social-media platforms until I turn this Thursday curse around. But you know what’s not turning around? The 2014 Bucs’ season! My God! I haven’t been that wrong about something since I predicted Adam Brody was going to be the next Tom Hanks. Uh-oh, the readers want in.

Q: What makes you feel worse … hypothetically cheating on your wife. Just hypothetically. Or picking Tampa Bay as a possible playoff team?
—Matt, Cleveland

BS: It’s dead equal. I feel equal amounts of shame, confusion, regret and hypothetical self-hatred.

Q: How are you feeling about the Vikings and Bucs bandwagons you climbed on three weeks ago? Good call. Who’s your new NFC team?
—Joey, Arcata, CA

BS: Sorry, I can’t count out Minnesota’s Ewing Theory potential yet (how many playoff games did they win with Peterson?), especially in that division and especially when Teddy Bridgewater is lurking. But I actually counted out the Bucs last Sunday after they got beaten by a backup QB for the second straight week. They stink. At least I realized it after Week 2 and not Week 12. As for a new-and-improved NFC sleeper … hold that thought. You’re not gonna believe it, but I have a convoluted opinion on this.

Q: Stating the obvious — 2014 Good Bad team: ladies and gentlemen, your Atlanta Falcons. Walking over the Bucs like The Greatest Show on Turf reincarnated.
—Alec, Denver

BS: Come on, Houston is 2014’s Good Bad Team. They might win 12 games and still end up being six-point dogs at home in Round 1. Atlanta is 2014’s Much More Fun As a Fantasy Team Than A Real Team team. That’s their destiny.

Vikings (+10) over INDOOR SAINTS

Q: Purely as a sports fan, aren’t you eagerly awaiting Matt Cassel’s final TAINT? It even has a special name, the TAINTTFCMZTMTBTSQB, or the Touchdown After Interception That Finally Causes Mike Zimmer To Make Teddy Bridgewater The Starting QB.
—Jordan, Springfield, MA

BS: Against the Pats last week, Cassel threw eight passes that went 10 or more yards; all eight were incomplete and three were picked off. The TAINTTFCMZTMTBTSQB is going to be epic. We should be able to wager on which Saint gets it. (I want 20 bucks on Kenny Vaccaro.) So why grab the points? Because it’s the Year of the Dog, because Minnesota was clearly affected by the Peterson saga last week, because there’s no way Cassel can suck that much two weeks in a row, and because there’s enough of a chance that New Orleans might be 2014’s Unexpected Year From Hell team that a double-digit spread frightens me (even in the Superdome).

Q: How long until Jerry Jones tries to trade for Adrian Peterson? Do you think he already has? Do you think he’s left an inordinate amount of messages but the Wilfs are ignoring him like a crazy ex-girlfriend? What do you do if you’re the Vikings? It’s basically the governor and your sponsors versus you having a chance at a winning season. Hold on, I think Cassel just threw another pick. We want Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!
—Jordan, Springfield, MA

BS: If you ever want to fluster a Cowboys fan, ask them if they’d trade DeMarco Murray for Adrian Peterson right now. Wouldn’t that be the jerryjonesiest move of all time? And shouldn’t jerryjonesiest be a word? As in, “Did I tell you about the time I almost sold my condo under market, then some crazy guy made me the jerryjonesiest offer ever?” Or, “I told my wife I’d be home at 10:30, but then we went to another bar and it turned into the jerryjonesiest of nights … and now I’m sleeping in the garage.”

BILLS (-2.5) over Chargers
Important: I love the Chargers and still think they’re going 11-5. Just know that something special is brewing in Buffalo. I loved this Corey Graham quote about Sunday’s Miami win: “We played for them, and we played with them. It was just an amazing, amazing day. It was beyond what I expected. The fans were so amazing today. I felt the energy the whole day today. It never let up. It was unbelievable. I never in a million years dreamed it would be that special.” Let’s run this back! YOU CAN DO IT!

Q: You once unveiled your “Don’t bet against God and puppies” theory during Arizona’s Super Bowl run. What about “grown men crying?” When the new Bills ownership announced the team wasn’t moving, grown men called into radio stations crying with joy. If the Bills keep it up and break their playoff drought, maybe the theory should become, “Don’t bet against God, puppies and grown men crying?”
—Gordon, Pasadena, MD

BS: I want to see them beat the Chargers first. My one red flag with Buffalo: EJ Manuel isn’t accurate. It’s a problem. They can cheat it, they can work around it, they can survive it … but at some point, they’re going to be trailing by four against a good team and he’s gonna have to make some throws. His balls sail all over the place. As any Sammy Watkins fantasy owner can tell you.

BENGALS (-7) over Titans
Ravens (-1.5) over BROWNS

Two unequivocal “I just think these teams might be really good” picks. I loved this next email …

Q: What would happen if the Browns brought a championship to Cleveland before LeBron? My buddy and I were discussing this, thinking it wouldn’t happen. How much would it neutralize LeBron’s Great Return To His Home Town To Deliver A Championship plan? I know it’s early in the season, but these are things that come up in conversation.
—Nick, Lancaster, PA

BS: You mean, if you’re slammered?

LIONS (-2.5) over Packers
It’s the I Don’t Trust Either Of These Teams Bowl. I don’t know who will win this game, but bad clock management will definitely be involved. Our Shaky Watch for Week 3: Every EJ Manuel pass, the Colin Kaepernick era, the Mike McCarthy era, the Marques Colston fantasy era, Tampa’s play calling, Tampa’s everything, Pitt’s lines, the Titans/Raiders run defense, Detroit taking Eric Ebron over Aaron Donald and Kyle Fuller (yikes), the Marques Colston fantasy era, Jacksonville’s O-line, the NFL’s 10-second runoff injury rule, the Eddie Lacy Fantasy Support Group, the KC/TB/Det/Cincy kickers, the Jets’ secondary, New Orleans’s second CB, the Drew Brees Superstar QB Era, Cincy without A.J. Green, any “First Coach Fired” wager that’s not Dennis Allen.

PATRIOTS (-14.5) over Raiders
JAGUARS (+7) over Colts
The Colts can’t run the ball, they can’t rush the passer, and they have a dangerous multiseason habit of giving up gobs of unanswered points in short periods of time. And the Patriots love mailing in home games when they’re favored by too many points against an atrocious opponent. As reader Ryan B. in Maryland points out, “Belichick’s forte is figuring out what your team does well and game planning to take it away. This Raiders team does NOTHING well. We have your Pats right where we want them!” One of these teams isn’t covering. I wish I knew which one.

In other news, the Pats are 1-0 since I started running mean Tom Brady emails. So for karma’s sake, I’m gonna keep that gimmick going.

Q: Billy Boy, here’s our 2014 Douchebag Champion Weekly Pic! Joe Montana may be the G.O.A.T., but it looks like Tom has a goat of his own wrapped up in some handsome little mittens. (Nice tractor, Tom!) Just stop and consider for a second — what the hell drove him to take this picture? Can you see any other athlete posing for this picture? Me neither. That’s why Tom Brady is the 2014 Douchebag Champion.
—Eric, NYC

BS: Wait a second, wait a second. Did you just ask “Can you see any other athlete posing for this picture?” when Alex Rodriguez is still alive? How dare you. HOW. DARE. YOU.

Texans (-2) over GIANTS
Washington (+6) over EAGLES

Do you realize that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Texans might be 8-0 heading into a Week 9 showdown with Nick Foles and the 7-0 Eagles? Look at their respective schedules; it’s not insane. You know what WAS insane? Eli saying the 2014 Giants are better than the 2013 Giants. They are equally awful, actually. Speaking of Eli …

Q: Let’s say the 32 NFL starting quarterbacks are dropped into a Hunger Games like scenario? Who wins? Which unlikely two make an alliance? Is Eli Manning for sure the first to go?
—Gabe, Louisville, KY

BS: Are you crazy? Eli never misses games! He’d make an alliance with J-Law in the first hour and last until the bitter end. We’re never getting rid of Eli. The first to go, without question, would be Robert Griffin III. Here, look.

Q: Is fate trying to tell Washington who its best quarterback is?

BS: It’s like one of my favorite Mike Lombardi sayings: “We’re only one injury away from having a good team.”

Q: Did you see Jay Gruden at the press conference after Washington’s win over the Jags? As the body language doctor, do you think he looked like a guy that just lost his franchise QB to a devistating injury? I think he looked more like a guy who was trying to figure out how to break up with his girlfriend without looking like a d-bag, only to find out that she cheated on him.
—Andy W., Collegeville, PA

BS: It’s a fantastic point. Imagine Chuck Pagano’s demeanor if Andrew Luck had just gotten knocked out indefinitely … and then, think about how Jay Gruden and every D.C. fan is handling this RG3 thing. Are you ready for Kirk Cousins to be the QB of 2014’s NFC sleeper? It’s in play. My Week 3 Upset Special: Washington 36, Philly 31.

RAMS (+1.5) over Cowboys
As the world’s biggest proponent of the “Succeeeding at QB is 75 percent personality/charisma/coolness/intelligence/competitiveness/leadership and 25 percent talent” theory, I feel obligated to pimp the Austin Davis era. First, read his teammates’ quotes in this postgame piece from Sunday’s Tampa Bay win. Second, I lost money on Sunday because of that dude — you don’t truly know someone until you’re betting against them, and for whatever reason, I was scared of Austin Davis on that final drive. I really was. I don’t know what to tell you. The dude was making throws. And third and most important … this.

(Translation: We’re laying less than a field goal to that crappy Cowboys team? FUCK YEAH! FUCK YEAH!)

DOLPHINS (-4) over Chiefs
But hey … how ’bout those Royals! Here’s an email from Florida …

Q: Who am I?
1. I have lots of raw talent and good intentions but suffer at least two or three major blunders a year

2. My fans had high expectations for me when I took over but I have disappointed them for the past six years.

3. There are large factions of people that hate me (especially in Texas)

4. The media loves to criticize me while taking tons of cheap shots.

5. I may have checked out for the year

6. Because of my contract my team is stuck with me for two more years.

Am I ….

A. Tony Romo
B. Barack Obama
—Dan S., Miami

BS: Heyyyyyyyyyyyy! Whoa!!!!! That’s our president! YOU DO NOT COMPARE OUR PRESIDENT TO TONY ROMO! THAT WAS UNCALLED FOR!!!! YOU APOLOGIZE RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Steelers
Thursday night, September 11, 2014 … the night Steelers fans realized that their team stunk.

CARDS (+3) over Niners
Sunday night, September 14, 2014 … the night Niners fans officially started worrying about Colin Kaepernick. He’s just good enough to take your breath away and just sloppy enough to take your breath away — in other words, he’s the rich man’s Geno Smith. Andre from El Cajon writes in, “Kaepernick just had one of the worst performances for an ‘elite QB’ on primetime in a while. If throwing 3 INTs and losing a fumble seems so rare, will we ever see another Full Delhomme? You created that term after Jake had 5 INTs and a lost fumble in a home playoff loss — is that ever happening again?”

The short answer: Absolutely. Eli threw five picks against Seattle just last year. We’ll see another Full Delhomme sooner than you think. But anytime your star QB gets successfully compared to Geno Smith AND Jake Delhomme, you’re probably in trouble. I think the Niners might be in trouble. Our Unexpected Year From Hell candidates have been narrowed down to New Orleans, Indianapolis and San Francisco. (I’m counting out Kansas City because that was an Expected Year From Hell.) One of those three teams is going 6-10 or 5-11.

On our most positive note, here’s our Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 3: Philip Rivers’s Hall of Fame chances, the Chandler Jones era, Cris Carter coming at Ray Lewis, Austin Davis’s Poor Man’s Kurt Warner potential, Dallas’s running game, 2014 first-round D-backs, all Mike Sando columns, Bobby Rainey, Lombardi’s Brian Hoyer call from three years ago, anyone who kept their Darren Sproles and Devin Hester stock, Le’Veon Bell, Kelvin Benjamin, ANDY DALTON!, Sammy Watkins, Sammy Watkins a second time, Buffalo’s everything except for QB, Carolina’s defense, all Austin Davis “Fuck Yeah!” GIFs.

SEAHAWKS (-4.5) over Broncos
We’ve seen two wilting-in-the-heat September losses so far: New England in Miami, and Seattle in San Diego. Don’t overreact to wilting-in-the-heat losses, don’t go against Seattle at home, and don’t think Denver did enough during the offseason to change everything that happened in the Super Bowl. Because they didn’t. By the way, this email intrigued me.

Q: Since multiple Chargers publicly labeled Sherman as “exposed” after the win against the Seahawks, do you think it was a coordinated effort by the Chargers to get the Seahawks pumped up for their division foes (the Broncos) this weekend? Do you think this is a scheme put in place by the Chargers? Or have I just created a conspiracy that no one really cares about?
—Ross, Virginia Beach

BS: Come on, I’m the king of conspiracies — like you weren’t getting me to bite on that one? Smart move by San Diego for two reasons: (1) It’s definitely firing up Seattle and Sherman this week, and (2) couldn’t you see Seattle and San Diego meeting in the Super Bowl five months from now, but not before we spend an hour at media day with reporters asking Richard Sherman if he’s still mad about what the Chargers said about him? Savvy all the way around.

Q: You know how you and Sal mentioned being unable to tell Julius Thomas and Demaryius apart? Here are a few clues:
1. Orange cleats = DT, White/Blue = JT
2. Orange gloves = DT, Blue gloves = JT
3. JT shoulder pads have padding going farther down to the lower back.

Hope this helps!
—Mark Kirk, NYC

BS: How the hell am I supposed to remember that? Can’t one of them just switch their number to 13? How many confusing 80/88 moments are we supposed to have? These are two of the 10 best fantasy receivers in football — they have the same name, they’re built the same and their numbers look the same. It’s ridiculous. I can’t take it anymore. I’m adding this to the list of Roger Goodell failures — no competent commissioner would allow this!

Bears (+2.5) over JETS
Booooooooooooooooooo! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I can’t wait.)

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 18-15


This column has been updated to correct an error. The original version misstated the nature of the Wilfs’ real estate fraud case; it was a civil, not criminal, case.

Filed Under: NFL, Adrian Peterson, Roger Goodell, Ray Rice, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals


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.

Archive @ BillSimmons