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A victory speech (and picks) from the Sports Gal

After being mathematically eliminated this season by his wife, Bill Simmons hands over his NFL picks column to The Sports Gal. Week 17 picks

Bill told me I could take off the final week of the season, go 0-for-whatever and still beat him even if he picked every game correctly. I looked up the records and, sure enough, I’m leading him by 17 wins with 16 games remaining. I thought this was really funny and demanded to write his “picks” column this week. He agreed, although he probably loved the chance to skip writing so he could spend time on more important stuff, like watching NBA games that happened in 1985, or sending taunting e-mails about his latest League of Dorks championship.


(Home teams in Caps)

Patriots (-14) over GIANTS
Bills (+7.5) over EAGLES
Panthers (-2.5) over BUCS
DOLPHINS (+2.5) over Bengals
REDSKINS (-9) over Cowboys
Niners (+10.5) over BROWNS
PACKERS (-3.5) over Lions
TEXANS (-6) over Jaguars
BEARS (+2) over Saints
RAVENS (+3.5) over Steelers
FALCONS (-1) over Seahawks
Vikings (-3) over BRONCOS
Chargers (-8) over RAIDERS
Rams (+6) over CARDINALS
JETS (-6) over Chiefs
Titans (-6.5) over COLTS

Last week: 8-8
Season: 110-121-9

Hold on, I have a quick holiday story: On Christmas Eve, the last night of the L.O.D. playoffs, we went to an X-mas party and Bill checked his BlackBerry all night to make sure his guys did better than the other team’s guys. I don’t think I have ever hated him more, which is a strong statement considering all the crap he’s pulled over the years, but I feel pretty good about making that claim. He said that I shouldn’t care because he won first prize — making it “our” money — but I would have paid the same amount of money for him not to have been in the league.

The worst part? This particular league has a huge trophy that will now be moving in with us. Awesome! Who needs a new piece of art or a vase when you can showcase an ugly 3-foot-high trophy? I can’t wait to clean his office and accidentally “bump into it” and break it into 10 pieces — this will be the highlight of my winter other than any time our son pees on Bill during a diaper change.

Anyway, you probably wondered why I’ve been doing so well with my picks. According to Bill, my record is 127-104-9, putting me 23 games over .500. I have no idea what the “over .500” part means or why it matters but Bill seemed to think it was really impressive. What’s the big deal about .500? Who cares? Why not just say that I picked 59 percent correctly or whatever the number is? Bill said that “we don’t do it that way” and that .500 equals 50 percent. OK, why not say that I’m 23 games over 50 percent? Or 23 games over 50/50? I don’t get the .500 thing at all.

I also don’t get how I’m doing so well at picking these games. For the first two months of the season, I was pregnant and angry and feeling like one of those bouncy castles they have at kids’ birthday parties. Then I passed a 9-pound human being out of my body. Then I didn’t sleep for the next seven weeks and had to feed that same baby for 24 hours a day except for the 13.2 minutes per day he doesn’t eat. I have probably seen a total of six minutes of football and never turn on ESPN because I’m always afraid two sportswriters yelling at each other are going to make one of my kids cry. After 16 straight weeks of not watching football, then finding out at the end of every weekend that my picks had beaten Bill’s picks, I came to realize that it’s an advantage not to know anything and continue to ignore all things “football.”

Then there’s Bill. He goes to a friend’s house on Sundays so he can watch five games at once. He watches “Monday Night Football,” Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football and Saturday Night Football (two more nights than we agreed on in our prenup). He’s in two fantasy leagues and a picks league that, combined, somehow involve everyone he’s met during the past 25 years. The worst thing about these leagues is how he and his friends come up with these super-lame names for their fake teams. Like his friend Dave Dameshek — Dave’s League of Dorks team is called “The Kool Kats.” The Kool Kats? That sounds like a Nick Jr. cartoon, doesn’t it?

Bill told me that Dave has two teams, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, and calls them “Kats East” and “Kats West.” So Dave has nicknames for his fantasy teams’ nicknames? Ohhhhhhhh-kay. Eventually he corrupted Bill, who named his L.A. team after the bar in “Road House” and nicknamed them the Double D’s, then wrote about this in a column like it was something to be proud of. He should have called his team “Sperm Bank,” because that’s about all he’s contributed to our two-child house during football season.


32. Miami

31. Atlanta
30. Kansas City
29. St. Louis
28. Cincinnati
27. Baltimore
26. Oakland
25. NY Jets
24. Detroit
23. San Fran

22. Denver
21. Houston
20. Chicago
19. Carolina

18. Philly
17. Arizona

16. Buffalo

15. New Orleans
14. Minnesota
13. Cleveland

12. Tennessee
11. N.Y. Giants
10. Washington

9. Tampa Bay
8. Pittsburgh

7. Seattle
6. San Diego

5. Jacksonville

4. Green Bay
3. Dallas
2. Indianapolis

1. New England

Anyhoo, Bill claims that being in all these leagues “helps his column.” I call B.S. because he was in all these leagues when we met and he was a bartender. He also claims that checking magazines and newspapers and Web sites for NFL info helps his picks column (we know this isn’t true) and that his annoying phone calls with his annoying friends help his column (sounds like a stretch, right?). So when Bill complained that his picks stunk recently because we were swamped on the homefront with the second kid and it affected his preparation, I had to call B.S. again. Last week I caught him making a “What if Sports” baseball team even though he claimed to have “quit” that site two years ago. Wait, Bill, I thought you were so swamped that your picks were suffering? Now you have time to make a fake team of dead baseball players? They should change the name of that site to “What If I Had A Life?”

Don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was in for when I married him. Still, it’s been nice to trounce him this season and humiliate him on a famous sports Web site. Even though he claims that this was the point of our ongoing picks experiment — “the more you know, the less you know” — I say he’s lying through his teeth and he’d much rather be the one who is 23 games over 50/50. What kills him is that he knows how little thought I put into my picks. Here, watch. I’ll take you through my picks process and “think out loud.” I looked at each game, jotted down my thoughts and quickly made the pick, then expanded them for each pick after the fact.

If I didn’t make it clear enough, I never spend more than 90 seconds total on my picks. So pretend that everything you’re about to read crossed through my brain in 90 seconds. These are my picks for Week 17:

(Home teams in CAPS)

EAGLES (-7.5) Bills
I usually take the Bills when they’re home because I went to college in upstate New York and know firsthand how much the Bills mean to everyone there. These people have gnomes on their lawn dressed in Bills paraphernalia. Even though Philadelphia is a nice walking-around city, I’ll take Buffalo because its probably under 4 feet of snow right now and there’s nothing to do there but drink and shovel and root for the Bills.

BUCS (+2.5) over Panthers
I don’t care about either of these teams and don’t know what cities they play in. (Bill thought I was kidding when I asked if the Panthers were “the Detroit Panthers” a few weeks ago. Nope.) Whenever this is the case, I take the home team as long as the spread isn’t too big. A good rule of thumb for ya.

Bengals (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
If it’s an all-animal matchup, I always try to weigh that accordingly. Dolphins are cuddly and nice. I don’t understand why any NFL team would wear aqua blue unis and call itself “The Dolphins,” then not expect to get its butt kicked. They should go with the Spearfishers. I would have taken them if they were the Spearfishers.

Steelers (-3.5) over RAVENS
Bill was excited to watch the Steelers-Pats game a few weeks ago, so that means they must be good. Speaking of good, I have to weigh in on Jamie Lynn. My favorite part of this fiasco is that Britney is going to be an aunt and possibly even the godmother. Somehow this is scarier than her being a mom. At least moms can lose custody — if you’re an aunt, you’re always an aunt and this means Brit will always be around during the holidays. “Uh-oh, hide the cigarettes, Aunt Britney just pulled into the driveway!” I’m stealing a joke from Bill here but I think Jamie Lynn should name the baby Nochance Spears.

BROWNS (-10.5) over Niners
See the Bills section — the same goes for everyone in Cleveland. Also, I usually try to pick the Browns because my friend Teresa grew up there. I wasn’t kidding when I said that there wasn’t a ton of thought put into these picks.

PACKERS (-3.5) over Lions
See the Bills/Browns section — then throw in “eating heavily” with the drinking/shoveling/rooting part.

TEXANS (-6) over Jaguars
I always pick the Texans and I’m not sure why. I think I drank a few Texans in college. Bill said he wanted to move to Austin once and I got really excited, then he took it back five minutes later. He always does stuff like that. Bill’s great at throwing out a cool idea and then backing off five minutes later.


If you want more of Bill Simmons’ thoughts on the Week 17 matchups and the playoff picture, check out this week’s podcast and fast-forward to the NFL segment with Cousin Sal.

BEARS (+2) over Saints
Normally I’d pick the Saints because I love New Orleans, but they practice in warm weather and Chicago is cold. Bill went back to Boston last week and kept mentioning how cold it was the whole time he was there. That’s what the Saints will be like during this Bears game. Chicago is cooooooooooold.

Cowboys (+9) over REDSKINS
I feel bad for Tony Romo — he should fire his P.R. team and demand a new arranged celebrity relationship. Cameron Diaz is available. Snap her up, Tony! I think Tony has something to prove this week so I’m taking Dallas.

BRONCOS (+3) over Vikings
A tough one because I’m choosing between two of Bill’s closest friends: Geoff (a Vikings fan) and Gus (a Broncos fan). I usually try to pick both of their teams as long as it doesn’t interfere with any rules. Let’s go with Plan B — I’d rather visit Denver than Minnesota.

Seahawks (+1) FALCONS
This was an easy one: I really love Seattle so I usually pick the Seahawks, and I rarely pick the Falcons because I don’t like their name. If I had to pick five American cities that I’d live in other than Boston, I think I’d go Seattle, San Fran, New York City, Austin and Portland, Ore., in some order. I can’t tell you the No. 1 city where I wouldn’t want to live because I already hurt Dameshek’s feelings once in this column. But let’s just say it rhymes with “Schmittsburgh.”

Chargers (-8) over RAIDERS
Two California teams! I would much rather visit San Diego than Oakland, so this was easy.

Rams (+6) over CARDINALS
Please, a Ram would destroy a Cardinal. Also, I don’t even know where the Cardinals play. Baltimore? St. Louis? I told you, this is why I’m 23 wins over 50/50 — I don’t know even the basics.

JETS (-6) over Chiefs
I dated a guy whose father had Jets season tix and he said everyone would just go to the games and get plastered. I like taking the Jets when they’re home for this reason. Don’t you almost wish that you didn’t know my thought process for picks now?

COLTS (+6.5) over Titans
Even I know that there’s something wrong with this line. Is something wrong with Peyton Manning? Maybe he hurt himself filming a commercial. Well, I usually pick Manning and the Colts, so I’m sticking with that. That’s another one of my rules — never waver from my system.

GIANTS (+14) over Patriots
Uh-oh! I pick the Pats and Giants every single week because I lived in Boston for nine years (duh!) and the Giants are my dad’s favorite team. Well, blood is thicker than water and I’m going with the Giants because my dad would never forgive me.

Hold on, one more thing: After I made my picks, Bill laughed at the list because apparently some of the better teams are resting players and Romo isn’t even playing. (This also explains the Colts’ line.) I don’t know if this screws up my “foolproof” system but we’ll see. If my picks stink this week, I can just blame the fact that I took over Bill’s column and his column is obviously cursed (as his record proves). The good news is that I can go 0 and 16 and still beat Bill for the season. I just had to mention that again.

Have a happy New Year and, remember, don’t have a baby during football season.

Last week: 7-9
Season: 127-104-9

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column — as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more — check out the revamped Sports Guy’s World.

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