Week 14 College Football Viewing Guide: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The New Pippen

Getty Images Manning, Reid

All the Fixins

Devour the Sports Guy's mailbag and (deeply cursed) picks before a double helping of holiday football

Can I interest you in a Thanksgiving trip to Dr. Simbeau’s Island? Before we feast on a 25-pound turkey that was bred with a deer, let’s bang out Week 13 picks and some of your emails. For a holiday special, we’re answering a whopping 49 emails this week, so we’re going to be moving quickly. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

(Home teams in caps.)

Packers (+6.5) over LIONS

Q: If the Giants are the All-Time “Nobody believes in us” team, then are the Lions the All-Time “everyone believes in us” team?  The moment people think or say their good, they lose.
—Crocker J., Fort Collins

SG: Very true. This season, they’ve been more like the all-time RedZone channel team. And not just because of Calvin Johnson. They’ve led or were tied in the second half of every 2013 game except one — Week 5, when Megatron couldn’t play in Green Bay. They’ve also been tied or trailing in the second half in eight of their last 10 games. They’re not reliable. I can’t lay a TD against a Packers team playing for its whole season, even with the words “Mike McCarthy,” “Matt Flynn” and “super-short rest” involved. How ’bout the Packers? They just lost their best player for a solid month, they didn’t win a single game, their coach made history with the first-ever OT screw-up under the new rules that confounded/angered/antagonized the advanced-metrics guys, and they’re somehow hanging around in the NFC North. Couldn’t you see them eking this one out, followed by Packers fans hopping online on Black Friday looking for deals on “FLYNN LIVES” and “FLYNN KNOWS” T-shirts?

Q: Liked your Megatron article. As a Cowboys fan, I did not even hate him while putting up record yardage on Dallas. So who was the last universally beloved NFL player?  They seem super rare.  I had to go back to Walter Payton.  Am I missing anyone else?
—MC Wright, Fort Worth

SG: By my calculations, only five NFL players achieved a 100 Percent Approval Rating: Megatron, Sweetness, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers and someone who was eventually banned from the list … that’s right, Mr. Orenthal James Simpson. When the DNA evidence says there was a 99.9999 percent chance you killed your ex-wife and a waiter, and you don’t have an alibi other than “the LAPD framed me for this homicide while simultaneously mishandling the blood evidence because they were totally incompetent,” you can’t stay on the list. As for coaches — you’d think John Madden had a 100 percent approval rating as a coach, but people held the Raiders thing against him. You know which coach may have gotten there? Dick Vermeil. Who didn’t enjoy Dick Vermeil breaking down like it was the last 10 minutes of Brian’s Song in the locker room after every win? Poor Dick missed out on the YouTube era — he would have been the Justin Bieber of football coaches.

Q: Just finished your Megatron article.  You missed the #1 fact that proves he is the best WR ever — even Matt Millen was able to recognize his talent.
—CJ Davis, Kansas City

SG: Good call. When you’re the saving grace of Matt Millen’s GM career, that needs to go in the first paragraph of any gush piece.

Q: In your Calvin Johnson piece you stated that only 5 non-QB players ever felt like their game had no ceiling, and yet you didn’t mention Randy Moss. Seriously??? YOU (like me) WATCHED HIM FOR THREE YEARS WITH THE PATRIOTS AND SAW HOW EFFING GOOD HE COULD BE. I’d love to hear your defense for omitting the greatness that is Randy Moss from that list because as of right now, I’m 100% baffled. I thought I liked you Simmons, I really did.
—Charlotte, NC

SG: I blew it. Just forgot to throw him in there. While we’re here: Megatron has done some unbelievable things, but this Brady-Moss deep ball from 2007 remains my no. 1 touchdown catch ever. I think he runs 75 yards before he hauls in the catch. Without stopping. When this specific moment happened (in Week 1), I remember thinking, Oh my god, Randy Moss might catch 40 touchdowns this season. (He ended up with 23. Still a record.) I remember calling my dad right after the catch — my dad answered the phone cackling like Vince McMahon. Afterward, I wrote that “the ceiling has been removed for the 2007 Patriots.” So … yeah. I think that moment qualifies.1Q: A full column dedicated to the brilliance of Megatron … immediately followed by Calvin coughing up the football to lose the Tampa game. You not only sprayed Calvin with your stink, you wiped with his jersey afterward. Feel free to walk into oncoming traffic, Simmons. You have no idea what it’s like to be a Lions fan. Imagine being stuck with the ’90 Pats for your entire adult life … that’s what it’s like being a Lions fan. Every time you bitch about how your poor Patriots got screwed, or how bad your receivers are, I want you to know the Lions have made it to the NFC championship game ONCE and NEVER played in a Super Bowl. God may hate Cleveland, but he flat out ignores the Lions.
—Tad Dixon, Portage, MI

SG: If I had the power to jinx a player or a team, why wouldn’t this happen more often? If I had elaborate jinxing powers, then why didn’t my love for Russell Wilson jinx the Seahawks last season? Huh? I’m not a jinxer! YOU HAVE NO REAL PROOF!

Q: If Derrick Rose turns out to be the second coming of Penny Hardaway after this injury, then I’m completely devastated already. By the way you picked the Bulls to win the title — YOU F–KING JINXED US SIMMONS!!!!!!!!
—Taylor, St. Louis

SG: Dammit. Forgot about that one.

Q: You will say that Rose’s injury wasn’t your fault and maybe it wasn’t. But you refused to write a Red Sox column all season because — your words — you didn’t want to jinx what was going on. You waited until after the 2013 World Series to write about them. Yet you like Rose and you did what you did? Chicago hates you. This is your fault.
—Andy, Naperville

SG: Why do I have a feeling that, three years from now, I’ll be suing someone who made a smash-hit horror film about a sports columnist loosely based on me (Will Bimmons? Simon Williams?) who begrudgingly realizes that he’s a cross between the SI Curse and the Madden Jinx, then starts using his powers for evil?

COWBOYS (-9.5) over Raiders

Q: Do you think Jerry Jones has become the new Al Davis in the NFL? I hate asking this because it feels like an insult to Al Davis.
—Jimmy Bender, Owensboro, KY

SG: Al Davis was never harmlessly relevant — he was either great, interesting or terrible at all times. Even late in his career, when an aging Davis started acting like a Paul Thomas Anderson character that absolutely would have been played by Philip Baker Hall, Rich Gannon’s Raiders seriously contended in 2000 (lost the AFC title game), 2001 (lost the Snow Game)2 and 2002 (lost the Super Bowl to Tampa). Sure, the Raiders went 40-93 from 2003 through the week Davis died (in October 2011), and sure, Davis turned into a sea monster over that time, as his Raiders lost at least 11 games in seven straight seasons.

But that one last stretch of real relevance was better than anything the Cowboys have done since their last Super Bowl title in 1995 — since then, they have a 146-146 record. They’re harmlessly relevant. Al Davis was never harmlessly relevant. That’s the difference. Tell me this Cowboys finish doesn’t make a ton of sense: They’ll beat Oakland handily this week; lose in Chicago; lose at home to a returning Aaron Rodgers; beat Washington; then blow the NFC East in Week 17 at home against Philly to finish with their third straight 8-8 season (and a record of 148-149 since 1996). FREE ROMO!!!!!!!!!

Q: So what’s the over/under on Prince FielderTexas BBQ jokes that we can expect from you in the next four months? My guess would be somewhere over the number of Khloe Kardashian BBQ jokes but under the Andy Reid Kansas City/rib jokes that you have used.
—Bryce, Atlanta

SG: I can’t make fun of Prince after what he did for my beloved Red Sox in the 2013 ALCS. Without his shoddy defense, wretched baserunning and terrible plate appearances, we don’t reach the World Series. I even felt bad after tweeting about the Tigers-Rangers trade, “‘It’s time to pay for what happened in the ALCS, Prince Fielder.’ —Tigers GM Michael Corleone.” Why kick a gift horse in the mouth? So Prince is off-limits for me. You’ll never see me making a joke like, “Prince is good for 650 plate appearances in Texas next season — not counting the 500 plates of BBQ.” I just won’t do it. 

RAVENS (-3) over Steelers

Q: I’m sure you’ll get a few thousand variants on this, but for the sake of my in-laws from Pittsburgh, please continue to bet against the Steelers.  Ignore their run from 0-4 (and then 2-6) to the playoffs — check out their remaining schedule compared to the Titans and Ravens … no, actually, don’t do that.  In fact, let’s pretend I didn’t send this e-mail at all.
—Alex, Burlington, Republic of VT

SG: Don’t worry, Billy Zima has your back. The Ravens are 37-8 at home during the Flacco-Harbaugh era? And the Steelers are 2-6 in their last eight road games, with those two wins coming against Geno Smith and the two-headed monster of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden? I’m happily laying the 3. Although this game probably ends up being a push — as reader Justin from Hoboken points out, nine of the last 12 Ravens-Steelers games (including the 2011 playoffs) were decided by three points, with the others decided by four, seven and 28. Justin suggests teasing the game both ways, pointing out that it’s “the most automatic bet in all sports just in time for the holidays” and would have won 11 of the last 12 times. By the way, the further away we get from that 2011 playoff game, the more apparent it becomes this was The Last Great Hard-Hitting Game before the Concussion Awareness era kicked in. Remember how many dudes got knocked out or wobbled in that one? We’ll never see another football game like it.

Q: You mentioned “retroactive cringe NFL hits” on YouTube (in Week 11’s mailbag). Here’s the all-time winner. Just google “Turkey Joe Jones Terry Bradshaw.” So much of the last 27 years is explained by that hit. 

—Jim Haug, Williston

SG: OK, lemme find this right now …


Q: From ESPN: “Flacco didn’t hide his dislike of the Wildcat when he lined up at wide receiver. He was so disinterested that he kept his hands in his front pouch and barely moved off the line after the ball was snapped.” Now. Substitute “Dez Bryant” for “Joe Flacco.” Watch the sportswriters salivate.
—Scraps, Seattle

SG: I’ve always said this about Scraps — he speaks the truth. My newest B.S. Report character, Talking Head Guy, would have been fired up about this email: “If you’re Joe Flacco, YOU ARE THE LEADER OF YOUR FOOTBALL TEAM. I don’t care how much money you’re making, Joe Flacco — they pay you to LEAD BY EXAMPLE IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE! If your coaches call the Wildcat play, then you have got to do a better job selling that Wildcat play AND THAT IS THAT! I DID NOT LIKE WHAT I SAW FROM JOE FLACCO THERE, GUYS!” 

CHIEFS (+4.5) over Broncos

Q: After watching The Flabbergasted Four cartoon from your last mailbag, it occurred to me that three of the Flabbergasted Four (Andy Reid, Herm Edwards, Romeo Crennel) have recently been the Chiefs’ head coach. I took this as a bad sign.
—Dave G, Kansas City, MO

SG: Hold on, this gets better. 

Q: I’m watching Broncos-Chiefs — they just showed Brad Childress in the Kansas City box wearing his K.C. pullover and bad white turtleneck (bar none the worst look in the National Football League).  NBC flashed his job title across the screen and I was delighted to learn that he is the “Spread Game Analyst/Special Projects.”  I task you with naming the Special Projects that Brad Childress has had to take on for the Chiefs this season.  I’m convinced he was the one Andy Reid sent to the police station when Dwayne Bowe was arrested.

—James Petroskey, Groton, MA

SG: The fourth star of that Flabbergasted Four cartoon … that’s right, Brad Childress! He’s helping Reid out with special projects like “Is there any way to waste more than two challenges in the same game?,” “What’s the worst fourth-and-short play we can call short of just fumbling the ball forward to the other team?” and “How do you run a silent snap count at home when your own fans are booing?” The good news for Chiefs fans …

Q: Before this season, Andy Reid was 13-0 [Editor’s note: he was 13-1] after a bye week?  13-0!  How is that possible? I think Andy Reid is a bear.  What do bears do?  They hibernate.  With the bye week, Andy uses that weekend off to finally get the rest that bears need when they hibernate.  And that’s the problem during the season, especially at the end of each half when Andy seems like he’s sleeping and not paying any attention whatsoever to the game or the clock — he’s hibernating.  He’s tired.  That all gets solved during the bye week, after which he’s refreshed and awake for the whole game.  Andy’s kryptonite of course is that the season is during the fall and winter, when bears hibernate.  Imagine how successful he’d be if the season was during the spring or summer.  He’d be the winningest coach in the history of the NFL! Undefeated!  Of course, as bears get older, even hibernation is not enough, hence the end of the perfect record this year.  It was fun while it lasted.

—Mike, Atlanta

SG: So you’re saying we might see this scene before Sunday’s game between Evil Peyton Manning and Von Miller?

Or maybe even this scene?

Q: Are we all just missing the fact that Peyton’s number is 18, or in other words, 6 + 6 + 6?  Clearly this is the final piece of proof that is needed to conclusively identify Evil Manning.

—Zoe, Tampa, FL

Q: In this era of Evil Manning should we consider the inflamed red triangle on display on his forehead after every clinical touchdown drive to be the “mark of the beast”?
—Spencer, Boston

SG: We’re getting closer and closer to Evil Manning getting his own website. Here’s the picture for the masthead.

As for this Chiefs-Broncos game: I’m grabbing the points only because the line should be “Broncos by 3” and I’m getting an extra 1.5 points. That’s it. Are we sure either of these teams is that good? (Actually, are we sure ANY team in the AFC is that good?) Are we sure we trust Evil Manning outdoors in cold weather after all those wobblers he offered into the wind on Sunday night? (Only 150 yards on 36 passes against a team that doesn’t have a pass rush?) Are we sure we trust Jack Del Rio in any big game after we just watched him blow a 24-point lead? (And also, because he’s Jack Del Rio?) Everyone’s selling on the Chiefs defense because Phil Rivers carved them up last Sunday, but did you watch that game? Phil Rivers was GREAT. He played out of his mind. Shit happens. Billy Zima thinks the Chiefs beat Denver or come close.

Bucs (+8.5) over PANTHERS

Q: Is Dan Orlovsky the Quarterback Mush? 2005 Lions: 5-11. 2006 Lions: 3-13. 2007 Lions: 7-9. 2008 Lions: 0-16. 2009 Texans: 7-9. 2010 Texans: 6-10. 2011 Colts: 2-14. 2012 Buccaneers: 7-9. 2013 Buccaneers: 3-8.
—Ross, Seattle

SG: He’s the Takeo Spikes of backup QBs! By the way, what in God’s name is going on with the Bucs??? Football Outsiders claimed they were the best 0-8 team in NFL history, then they ripped off three straight wins and even have people saying things like, “Is Mike Glennon not that bad or am I crazy?” and “Don’t tell anyone, but I kinda like Mike Glennon.” What happens if they finish 6-10 or 7-9? Do they have to keep Greg Schiano? In September, if you could have wagered on the question, “What will be the last thing to survive in Tampa Bay this season — Greg Schiano, Josh Freeman or staph infections?,” would anyone have taken Schiano? He had to be a 10-1 underdog, right?

Anyway, I see the Bucs hanging tough for this entire game and taking the lead late, followed by Riverboat Ron converting five straight fourth downs on Carolina’s game-winning drive. Do you think this aggressiveness is spreading to other parts of his life? Is it like when Walter White started cooking meth in Season 1, turned all aggro and started having sex with his wife constantly? How much fun would it be to play blackjack with Riverboat Ron right now? DOUBLE DOWN! DOUBLE DOWN RIGHT NOW! Now he’s spawning other coaching characters, like this recent Forbes column that compared Riverboat Ron to Falcons coach “Meek Mike.” I love it. Mike Smith is going to have to go for 100 straight fourth downs to get rid of the nickname “Meek Mike.” And even that might not work.

Q: PRINT SOME EMAILS FROM WOMEN!!!!!!!! I mean that without the intention of sounding like a crazed feminist.
—Rachel, New York

SG: Come on, what about the one from Zoe in Tampa? In all seriousness — I’d love more mailbag fodder from female readers. Just know that I never look at the names until after I pick the emails. It’s a meritocracy. Er, a mailbagocracy. Still, I’d love to get enough emails to pull off another Fe-mail Bag. We’re nearing the 10-year anniversary of the last one (a two-parter!).

CHARGERS (-2) over Bengals

JETS (-1) over Dolphins

Q: Did you know Ed Reed is 0-9 this season? Instead of joining the cast of The Walking Dead, tanking NBA teams should be falling over each other to sign him. 
—Hassan, Detroit

SG: Don’t give the Jazz any ideas — they’ll absolutely start Ed Reed at point guard after the All-Star break. If Ty Corbin can last for the entire season after all the coaching atrocities he’s inflicted, then Ed Reed can play point guard for the Jazz. By the way, I like both of these picks. The Jets are due for an ugly home victory, Phil Rivers is red-hot, and I’m not sold on Andy Dalton on the road in any capacity. He was dying to give away that Browns game two weeks ago. Still seems shaky to me. That reminds me …

Q: Your “Shakey’s Pizza Watch” got me perusing the company’s Wikipedia page. Turns out the restaurant is named after founder Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson, who got the nickname as a result of nerve damage following a bout of malaria suffered during World War II. When your pizza is associated with malaria and nerve damage, you know you’re on the right track.

—Jeremy Ziskind, L.A.

SG: Here’s our Shakey’s Pizza Watch for Week 13: every game-altering Stevan Ridley fumble … Ben Tate’s free agent contract push … Hakeem Nicks’s contract push … Cam Newton’s deep passing (0-for-7 on passes over 15 yards in Miami) … Meek Mike … Matt Ryan without Julio Jones … Andrew Luck without Reggie Wayne … Andy Dalton with everyone … all trash-talking from the 2013 Giants … the Adidas basketball sneaker line after Derrick Rose went down again … Trent Richardson (last five games: 42 carries, 96 yards) … the inordinate number of times that Colin Kaepernick seems totally confused by a defense he doesn’t recognize … Geno Smith’s Rookie of the Year campaign … Chicago’s run D … Chicago’s run D even if it were playing in the Big Ten … dark turkey meat … expensive cranberry sauce (always has too many things in it) … mashed potatoes that aren’t mashed enough … stuffing that’s too bready … any expectations my wife has for me tomorrow that go beyond “Sure, I’ll leave the TV for two and a half minutes to carve the turkey.” 

Patriots (-8.5) over TEXANS

Q: Cris Collinsworth coldly affirming, “Belichick takes the wind” after the Sunday Night Football overtime coin toss while Belichick is walking to his sideline back-to-the-camera is one of the best commercial lead-in teases in a while. There probably hasn’t been a better one since the “Ozymandias” episode of Breaking Bad.
—Tony, Baltimore

SG: Great point. Everything about that game felt scripted until the goofy ending — I kept picturing NBC executives sobbing with joy. Usually they’re just sobbing. You know what that game made me realize, though? I love watching football played in freezing-cold weather. I love the gloves and turtlenecks, love their frozen breath clouds, love everyone struggling to stay warm, love the bundled-up coaches, love the fans fighting the elements, love the ball bouncing off the rock-hard ground, love how the wind affects the throws, love watching returners try to figure out the topsy-turvy punts, love kickers trying to boot rock-hard footballs … it’s just great theater, all of it. So why won’t the Jersey Super Bowl be fun? The colder and windier the better, I say.

Would I be writing this if Manning hadn’t looked shaky for prolonged chunks of Sunday night’s game? NO! Not in a million years! You caught me. Speaking of catching, the Pats caught the Texans at the optimal time — right after they blew two home games in a row as double-digit favorites, right as their fans are shifting into Mariota/Bridgewater mode, and only a few days after I tweeted the words, “Next time I made fun of a coach or GM, remind me that I started Case Keenum in fantasy for two straight weeks.” I’m feeling good about the Pats right now. Weak conference and Brady is starting to look like Brady again. If they can get a 2-seed, look out. 

Q: Is it bad that the first thing I did after reading about Gronk teasing an Asian man inappropriately was to email my friend with the subject, “At least he didn’t murder him.” Ladies and gentlemen your 2013 New England Patriots.

—Brian Sena, San Mateo

SG: Even Brian Sena can’t throw a wet blanket on me right now. My Pats just came back from 24 down to beat Evil Manning. Your barbs are bouncing right off me!

Q: Two people in our fantasy league made a bet and the loser had to start Aaron Hernandez when they played each other.  The loser of the bet paid up and then lost by 0.1 points in Week 12 which knocked him out of our playoffs!  Aaron Hernandez  killing fantasy seasons from behind bars!!!
—Sean, Astoria

SG: OK, that barb knocked me backward … but I got back up and I’m still riding high! MY PATS CAME BACK FROM 24 DOWN TO BEAT EVIL MANNING! 

Q: If the playoffs started today, Bernard Karmell Pollard’s Titans would play the Patriots in the first round! He’s coming for you. Hide your kids, hide your wives …
—Eric Bigness, Nashville

SG: Now I’m depressed. Let’s just move on. 

Jaguars (+7) over BROWNS

Q: Where does the Browns first round of 2012 rank in the all-time worst drafts in NFL History? 

—Sean M, Columbus OH

SG: I can’t imagine anyone beating it. Right now, third overall pick Trent Richardson is averaging 2.9 yards per carry (44th out of 47 RBs) and inspiring jokes like, “Should we stop calling him Trent 3.0 if he can’t get to 3.0?” and “If this were Pop Warner, the coach would have moved Trent to left guard by now.” And 22nd pick Brandon Weeden is 33rd out of 34 QBs in QB rating (66.0), 36th out of 38 in QBR (23.9) and 40th of 41 in DVOA (-40.7). He also inspires emails like this one … 

Q: So yesterday, my two-week old son is getting circumcised and I’m in the room trying to remain calm. The doctor is giving us a non-requested play-by-play of what’s happening, and as the clamp goes on, I’m still hanging in there. Then, I start imagining things the doctor say that would freak me out. It starts with a soft “Oh no …”, then I imagine a loud shriek from my son. Then, for some reason, I imagine the doctor saying “And here comes Brandon Weeden …”

—Joe, Cleveland

SG: I received that email just a few days before the four most chilling words in football happened again: “Here comes Brandon Weeden … ” So in summary, yes, that was probably the worst first round ever. This Jags-Browns line was too high. I don’t think Cleveland wins again in 2013. Nor should it want to. It needs to finish 2013 with a top-five pick, it needs Indy’s pick to land in the teens, it needs to come out of next May with a franchise QB, and it needs the state of Ohio to pay special attention to this next email.

Fact:  Weed is legal in Colorado and Washington.

Fact:  The Seahawks and Bronco’s have yet to lose a game at home.

—Vic, The Bay Area

SG: You know what you have to do, Cleveland. Start pushing your local government right now. 

COLTS (-4) over Titans

Q: When we used to play sports as kids, usually one of our dads was the coach. Sometimes, however, the head coach couldn’t make it to the game for whatever reason, and maybe the assistant coach was out of town, too. So someone else’s dad would step in and coach for the day. In youth sports, you can spot this guy pretty easily: looks slightly out of place, feels sort of exhilarated by his sudden increase in power, but mostly he just tries to conceal the fact that he has no idea what he’s doing. This is Mike Munchak, only it’s been two and half years.

—Will, Nashville

SG: That’s one reason why you shouldn’t grab the points this Sunday — you’d be backing Mike Munchak and Ryan Fitzpatrick on the road. Yikes. Here’s another: The Colts fell behind by 18, 38, 14 and 31-point margins these last four weeks; if anyone’s overdue to play a decent start-to-finish game and catch some breaks, it’s them. By the way, if the Chiefs beat the Broncos this weekend, and Indy wins this game, we’re pretty much locked into “Manning goes back to Indianapolis again” for Round 1. For that alone, root for the Chiefs and Colts this weekend, right?

(Fine, you caught me — I made this pick with my heart and not my head. I want no part of Pollard in Round 1. None. It’s too realistic right now. COME ON, ANDREW THE GIANT! TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS THIS SUNDAY!)

Q: We’re not sure if you have seen this clip of Andrew the Giant endorsing Indianapolis loudspeaker company “Klipsch.” If you haven’t consider it a top priority.

—Adam Dietz and Anthony Ruscitto, Roscoe Village (Chicago)

SG: It took two people to write that email! By the way, I have a fetish for poorly produced commercials starring athletes — this should have been turned into its own website years and years ago. Every time the OKC Thunder guys make a local car ad, or Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter make a semi-creepy commercial with local high school girls in San Antonio, wouldn’t you want to know?

Bears (-1) over VIKINGS

Q: I think people are forgetting that Josh McCown is 34 YEARS OLD!!! He was actually the starter for the Cardinals in 2004(!) for 13 games. Here are a few other things that happened on the Cardinals in 2004: Larry Fitzgerald was a rookie, Emmitt Smith ran for almost 1000 yards, and Dennis Green was still the coach. THATS how old Josh McCown is. Even the Vikings wouldn’t sign him to a long term deal right now … (thinking) … okay maybe the Vikings would. But nobody else.
—Danny Pelisek, Pasadena

SG: I gotta say, I did a quadruple-take when I read this email. Josh McCown has been around for so long that I never realized he was THAT Josh McCown. Now I’m worried nobody is going to stupidly overpay him this summer. Did you know Josh McCown leads football in QBR right now? What the hell is going on here? How has there been an inexplicable performance hike like this without the Seahawks being involved?

Q: I have a new idea to make the NFL 8% more interesting.  I really enjoyed the weather-delayed Chicago-Baltimore game (in Week 11).  It’s kind of fun to have a game still in the 1st half at 1:40pm MST. Why couldn’t we stagger the start times of the games all day long? I want to add this to the already wildly popular idea of having a 6:30pm MST (NBC game), and having a west coast game starting at 8pm MST (like the Raiders game from a few weeks back). Football all day!!!

—Dean Dominguez, Albuquerque, NM

SG: Or at the very least, just have the random 2 p.m. ET start time for one of them (just to keep that 5-5:30 stretch lively before the Sunday-night game), followed by the late-night straggler in Oakland, San Diego or San Francisco that starts at 8 p.m. PT. There’s no reason we can’t watch 13 straight hours of football on Sunday without any break whatsoever. 

Q: Here’s the solution for Minnesota’s QB problem: Sign Tim Tebow, then keep all four quarterbacks on the active roster (Tebow, Ponder, Freeman and Cassel). Each week, have Vikings fans vote to determine who starts, who plays the second quarter, who leads the charge after half time, and who finishes up the game in the all important fourth quarter. Imagine the fantastic entertainment! When are they going to name me Commissioner of the NFL? Or at least General Manager of the Vikings?

—John Farrell, St. Paul

SG: What a year for John Farrells! First a Red Sox World Series, now this life-altering email. TEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-BOWWWWWWWWWWWWW! My votes: Cassel, Freeman, Ponder, then Tebow closing out the fourth. There’s still time to pull off this plan! It’s only Week 13!!!! Don’t the Vikings need to distract their fans from another depressing December? Check out these next two emails.

Q: All I can think about after the Packers game — this tie is going to cost the Vikings the number one pick. Shit!
—Steven B, Iowa

SG: It’s a great point. Here are the reverse standings right now …

Atlanta: 2-9
Houston: 2-9
Jacksonville: 2-9
Minnesota: 2-8-1
Tampa Bay: 3-8
Washington: 3-8

Tampa will definitely finish with more than three wins. Same for Washington, a team that doesn’t have its first-round pick and has the Shanahans trying to save their jobs (so they might keep playing hard). The Jaguars like playing for Gus Bradley, and still have Cleveland, Buffalo and Houston (at home) left. They’ll finish with at least three wins. I could see Atlanta losing their last five (at Buffalo, at Green Bay, Washington, at San Francisco, Carolina) unless Washington just lays a stink bomb in Week 15.

But the Texans? Now that’s a problem. They have New England, Indy, Tennessee and Denver left on their schedule, as well as a Week 14 Thursday-night game in Jacksonville. Throw in the housecleaning that’s coming, the can’t-end-any-way-other-than-horribly end to the Schaubiak era, the abject hatred of their fans of everything Texans right now, and their fundamental need for a franchise QB, and it’s hard to imagine the Texans winning again unless the thought of them starting 2-0 then finishing with a 14-game losing streak seems impossible to you. (And it kinda does.) My advice to the Vikings: Make sure you blow Sunday’s Bears game by having Christian Ponder throw 50-plus times in lieu of Peterson carving up Chicago’s putrid run defense, and then it’s smooth sailing (at Baltimore, home for Philly, at Cincy and home for Detroit). A 2-13-1 record awaits. That’s enough for the no. 1 or no. 2 pick. You can do this.

(And remember … you still have one of the best tanking assets in football right now: the one, the only, Mr. Leslie Frazier! Here, look.)

Q: While watching a Minnesota Vikings game with my friend, he said “Who is that ‘walker’ coaching the Vikings?” He was of course referring to the lifeless demeanor of Leslie Frazier. You’ve had some great Walking Dead cameo ideas, and here is another one for you: CELEBRITIES CAMEO AS WALKERS. Imagine this: Rick decides he needs some time alone to clear his thoughts. He takes one of the cars and goes for a little drive. He ends up on a bridge over a river. While sitting on the hood of his car, a walker comes stumbling across the bridge. He’s still wearing the remains of khakis and a purple jacket. Oh, and he still has on his headset!

—Spencer Kraker, Seattle

SG: See? You’ll be fine, Vikings fans. Bridgewater or Mariota awaits. If that doesn’t get you fired up, maybe this postgame speech from UVA wrestling coach Steve Garland will do it (I loved this).

Cardinals (+3.5) over EAGLES

Q: Cardinals fans are taking to calling Andre Ellington “Juke” Ellington due to his elusive running style.  We need a figurehead to really get his nickname up and running. 
—Rob L, Whitehall, PA

SG: I’m right here! Done! Juke Ellington it is! I genuinely like this Cardinals team — I don’t even care that the table is set for one of those fork-in-the-road “Too many people believe in a Carson Palmer team right now, we’re right at the point where everyone should be running for their lives” moments that has burned us all over and over again these last few years. Billy Zima is plowing ahead with the Cards and their sneaky-good defense.

As for the rest of the Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 14: Keenan Allen (double-covered by KC last Sunday!) … St. Louis’s running game … the RG3 trade from St. Louis’s perspective (I may have been wrong about that one) … anytime Phil Rivers gets super-duper excited about anything … every Andre Brown run … NBC flexing to Carolina vs. New Orleans on December 8 (good one) … Cordarrelle Patterson’s fantasy stock … Cordarrelle Patterson’s Poor Man’s Moss potential … the Mike Glennon era … the faint possibility of betting against Ryan Fitzpatrick or Geno Smith in Round 1 … Tony Romo’s belated kinda-sorta-maybe clutchness … Percy Harvin on kickoffs … all Justin Tucker field goals … turnips … warm pecan pie … gluten-free stuffing (not nearly as bad as you’d think) … cheap cranberry sauce (especially from a can) … my turkey carving (one of my only domestic talents) … sweet potato casserole cooked with brown sugar on it … how this entire paragraph is starting to make me hungry.

Q: While I think you may be right about Riley Cooper feeling better now that Richie Incognito has taken over the NFL racist guy tag, I think you’re missing the wider point: Nick Foles is definitely a racist. All but one of Cooper’s TD passes have come from Foles. We’ve gotta face the truth here: Michael Vick did not want Riley Cooper to do well, but Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Nick Foles is all about WHITE PEOPLE MAKING PLAYS!!!

—Anders, Cleveland

SG: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q: I wanted to avoid being remiss if I did not mention how much I won’t miss not hearing Dan Dierdorf broadcast NFL games. One can’t avoid feeling a void after his presence will be no longer present.

—Aaron McClintic, Lansing, MI

SG: I’m not so sure that we won’t miss Dan Dierdorf more than we didn’t think we wouldn’t miss him.

Giants (-1.5) over DC DACEYS

BILLS (-3.5) over Falcons

Q: The Giants are one and a half back. Really … go look … I am serious … The team led by Eli “I can’t throw a TD pass without a pick” Manning is one and half games behind the Eagles. GET F–KING BILLY ZIMA TO CURSE THESE PAIN IN THE ASS GIANTS! I WANT THIS TO STOP! OUR CHILDREN ARE CRYING!

—Chris, Regina, Saskatchewan

SG: I received that email a week ago, right before I picked the Giants to cover at home against Dallas. See? I can use my powers for good sometimes.

Q: Relegating your NFL picks to a sidebar (like you did in Week 12) as self punishment misses the whole point.  We don’t read your picks every week because they’re so good.  We read them because they SUCK!  Now get back in there, and go to it. 
—Dan Salvaterra, Roseland, NJ

SG: Thanks for the pep talk, Dan. I love the Bills at home this Sunday even if (a) they’re playing in Toronto instead of Buffalo, and (b) Jets offensive lineman Willie Colon complained after losing to Buffalo two weeks ago, “We’re not a playoff team until we’re in the playoffs. Right now, we just lost to the f—ing Buffalo Bills.” As crazy as this sounds, the f—ing Buffalo Bills aren’t out of the wild-card race yet. Settle down, Willie.

You know what really delights me? After six weeks of watching the disjointed Raptors and the woefully run Maple Leafs, Toronto fans get to watch a well-coached home team for three hours. Did anyone see the epic tic-tac-toe match between Jason Kidd and Dwane Casey last night? Kidd’s phenomenally lethargic Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead in the last three minutes before Casey upped the ante, wasting 10 solid seconds down one before getting his guys to foul, then calling a timeout so he could run the play everyone knew was coming (Rudy Gay waiting way too long to do anything, then dribbling into a double-team) before somehow ending up with a corner 3 from AMIR JOHNSON. I wish the NFL and NBA did a Coach Swap during the first weekend of December. Imagine Casey blowing challenges and timeouts, J-Kidd flatlining on the sidelines, Mike D’Antoni sticking with the run-and-shoot no matter what personnel he had, Mike Brown trying to play 53 guys in one half …

Q: You know your Antoine Walker theory about players who cant shoot free throws avoiding contact and becoming less efficient scorers? It’s the same with you and NFL picks … you’re now in that psyched out zone … you’re the Antoine Walker of sports journalism! Congratulations!
—KD, New Delhi, India

SG: Why, thank you!

Q: I’d like to commemorate the whopping 74 points I scored this week to knock myself out of playoff contention with a brief list of things I hate less than I hate fantasy football. I hate fantasy football more than I hate: Christmas music being played before Thanksgiving … Canadian mayors who smoke crack (but only during their “drunken stupors”) … Nuclear weapons treaties that don’t involve anyone getting rid of any nuclear weapons … Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un … Derrick Rose’s knees … Charles Barkley’s golf swing … The Albert Pujols signing … The Josh Hamilton signing … Douchebags who double-park their Beamers …
Honey Boo Boo … Myself (for drafting C.J. Spiller in the first round) … Myself again (for drafting Rashard Mendenhall over Eddie Lacy, Knowshon Moreno, Zac Stacy, Rashad Jennings, Andre Ellington, and Diane Sawyer — I mean, for real) … Anything associated with the words “Miley” and “Cyrus” … Tom Brady (for the deal he made with The Devil). But I’m sure as hell gonna play again next year.  I’m pathetic.
—Caleb, Irvine, CA

SG: I enjoyed that email even if we had to edit 33 percent of it for some line-crossing. I’m going the other way — I love fantasy football right now. Last week, I traded Le’Veon Bell and Kenny Stills to Steelers fan (and occasional B.S. Report guest) Dave Dameshek for Josh Gordon and Arizona’s D. What happened? Josh Gordon ripped off 29 points last weekend, followed by my fighting off the urge to taunt Dameshek in emails afterward — I had to go the other way and do the “pretend to feel sorry the trade worked out that way” routine. But that trade saved my West Coast season. Now it’s do-or-die for me in my West Coast league — me against the random guy who runs Jon Hamm’s team because Jon Hamm is too famous and busy to run his own fantasy team. If I win, I’m in the playoffs. If I lose, I’m probably out. According to the CBS Sports fantasy guru, I’m a 2-point underdog right now.3

Me: Phil Rivers, Alfred Morris, Zac Stacy (Andre Ellington if Stacy is out), Anquan Boldin, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Rob Gronkowski, Justin Tucker, either Seattle’s D (vs. New Orleans) or Arizona’s D.

Hamm’s Proxy: Tony Romo, Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Succop, Chiefs D (vs. Denver).

(Hmmmmm … I think I know what to do.)

Hamm’s Team (-2) over Simmons’s Team

Billy Zima needed to get involved. Take us home, Billy Z.

49ERS (-7.5) over Rams

Saints (+6) over SEAHAWKS

Q: On the heels of the Brooks/Brees hit, it’s clear the inconsistency in the calls is just hurting the game. Don’t these hits and calls deserve their own game-show called “Penalty and/or Fine?” This week starring: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Jason Campbell, Tony Romo and Josh McCown! No NFL Fan (or Referee) would get 5 out of 5 and that’s a problem and is sad.
—Joe McGrogan, Santa Cruz

SG: If I had my own talk show called SIMMONS that erratically appeared in 19 different time slots on ESPN2 and ESPN News every night, “Penalty and/or Fine?” would definitely be one of my running segments. That’s also one of the biggest reasons I like the Saints in Seattle on Monday night — they’re gonna be able to throw the ball, their defense is just good enough to avoid getting blown out, and if that’s not enough, you’re not allowed to hit Brees unless it’s somewhere between his nipples and his hips. (And even that might not be legal.) You shouldn’t take an underdog in a big game if it’s getting more than four points unless you think it can win … and I think the Saints can win or come damned close.4

Q: There’s no way that House and Sal winning the Supercontest the year after “House Eats 3” would be a coincidence.  Clearly, God wants them to use the money as a reparations fund.   $367,500 divided by 93,783 (# of views currently) = $3.92 per view.  $3.92 wouldn’t change my life, but it would at least give me tangible evidence that they’re sorry about the whole thing.
—Jim, Charlottesville, VA

SG: They’re not even remotely sorry. Kudos to Sal and House for being tied for second place right now! We need Apollo Creed’s trainer so he can tell them, “Simmons was like my son, I raised him. And when his picks died, a part of me died, too. But now you’re the ones. You’re the ones who’s gonna keep his handicapping spirit alive. You’re the ones who’s gonna make sure his picks didn’t die for nothin’ … you know what you have to do, so do it. DO IT.”

Q: The reason the Saints list Jimmy Graham as a Tight End and not a Wide Receiver is easy. He’s set to be a free agency in 2014 and they will likely apply the Franchise tag. This year, a WR franchise tag would pay him about $10.54 million, but a TE franchise tag is worth $6.07 million. Jared Cook’s agents tried to get the Titans to use the WR tag on him. 

—Ullas, Seattle

SG: Intriguing! ESPN Stats & Info sent me some fascinating numbers on this one. Through 12 weeks, Graham has played 486 offensive snaps — 317 pass routes and 169 other snaps (either pass or run blocking). So let’s split up his receiving stats into these three categories: lined up on the line as a TE, in the slot, or on the outside as a WR. Here are the numbers …

On line as TE: 63 routes, 21 targets, 13 catches, 314 yards, 4 TDs
Slot receiver: 158 routes, 49 targets, 34 catches, 423 yards, 4 TDs
Wide outside: 96 routes, 26 targets, 18 catches, 209 yards, 3 TDs

So he has run 80 percent of his pass routes as a slot guy or receiver. Wait, it gets better. Forty-one tight ends have run more routes on the line than Graham, including such luminaries as Jeron Mastrud (71), Allen Reisner (70) and Vance McDonald (70). Graham’s 13 catches lined up on the line as a tight end are 23rd in the league. Graham has 632 yards from the slot or split wide, 49 more than any other TE. Graham’s 52 catches from the slot or split wide are tied with Tony Gonzalez for most among TEs. And Graham’s 75 targets from the slot or split wide are second in the league (Gonzalez, 77). So you tell me … is Jimmy Graham really a tight end?

Q: It’s not quite on the Jailblazers level of specific sport team nicknames, but is there a better current insult/joke than the Seadderall Seahawks? This team has been caught breaking the substance abuse policy more times than Lamar Odom.
—Marty Ward, Australia

SG: I’m torn on this one — I love Seattle, I love their fans, I love the 12th man, I might move there someday if they ever get the Sonics back, I picked them to win this year’s Super Bowl, I don’t have a bigger sports man-crush right now than Russell Wilson, etc. etc. etc. I’ll always ride for Seattle. But the Seadderall Seahawks is REALLY funny. Is it all right if I jokingly call them that while still riding hard for the 206? I feel like it is. In case anyone from Seattle gets mad, I’m going to defang them with this picture of Jeff Ament wearing a Sonics jersey in OKC during a Pearl Jam concert last month. No Seattle fan can stay mad at me after this.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsQ: First there was TAINT (Touchdown After INT). Then there was FART (Fumble And Return Touchdown). And now, I present to you, PUBES:  PUnt Blocked, Eventually Scored (or Punt Undertaking Blocked, Eventually Scored, but I’m partial to the first one)
—Grant, Columbus

SG: Wait, we’re already in range? 

Q: Read what you wrote about the Cialis/Nachos commercial (in Week 10’s column). From somebody who is in the pharma industry — here’s what is really going on with the Cialis commercial. Viagra — their main competitor — has been out marketing them. All of their commercials feature lots of sexual metaphors (stuck in the mud, fixing the mast on a boat, etc). Even sneakier, Viagra commercials show the guy coming home to a house with lots of triangles. You know — the shape of female sexuality. So, the cialis commercial shows a woman bringing her man LOTS of triangle shaped snacks. Hmmm. This is  followed by a woman reaching into her BOX in an attic. Afterwards, a 3rd man gets a new coat of paint for his wood (en bench). Later, the woman happily sits on his new wood. Later the guy is VERY excited by all the triangles she is bringing him. You get the idea … Cialis is trying to keep up with Viagra in the symbolism contest. Don’t believe me? Watch both commercials with your high school english lit hat on
—Name Withheld, L.A.

SG: Almost there … 

Q: So a friend of mine and I are getting ready to go over to our buddy’s house to watch a game and we hear that his wife just got a boob job. What do you do when you get to buddys house?

A — Congratulate buddy on wife’s new boobs

B — Congratulate wife on her new boobs

C — Play dumb and ask buddy if his wife changed her haircut or something

D — Ignore the boobs completely

E — Other

—Jason, San Antonio, TX

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

(PS: Happy Thanksgiving!)

Last Week: 7-7
Season: 75-94-6

Filed Under: Bill Simmons, NFL, People, Simmons, Sports

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.

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