Can a team go undefeated?

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Perfection, triple negatives … and free tacos!

Before he gets to his Week 8 picks, Bill Simmons goes through his e-mail to see what you all have to say.

Let’s rip through a mini-mailbag before we get to the Week 8 NFL picks. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: After that Miami game, the Patriots officially scare me, OK? I’m actually personally terrified of them — as in, I’m afraid of going to see them play live and doing something inadvertently to tick off Belichick, and then the Patriots will show up on my doorstep on their bye week.
–Dennis, Middletown, N.J.

SG: That was the most creative e-mail I received after the Dolphins game. The rest of everyone’s thoughts fell into one of these five categories:

  1. The Pats make it look like they’re playing “Madden” at the Rookie level.

  2. Watching the Pats is like watching a pickup football game where (A) Brady got the first 10 picks, or (B) the teams are too unfair but they haven’t switched sides yet.

  3. The Pats have to be the first NFL team ever to score an “Eff You TD” in the first half.

  4. Can you run up the score in the first half? I’ve never seen this before.



Last week, I was getting coffee with my friend Robyn and the barista was kind enough to point out maybe I shouldn’t drink coffee because I’m pregnant. I thanked him for his concern and told him that I start my day with coffee and finish it with a glass of red. Then I told him to consider wiping down his counters since the risk of me getting a virus from them would be far worse for my unborn child than a cup of Joe in the morning. He shut right up. As you can tell, I have a short fuse after nine months of carrying a living being; biting my tongue just isn’t in the cards anymore. So I wanted to send out some apologies for my behavior over the past few days.

Sorry to the guy who thought it was OK to stand in my potential parking spot so his family could get the prime spot in front of Pinkberry — I wasn’t really going to run you over. Sorry to the lady who thought it would be cool to talk on her cell while swerving into my lane, cutting me off and then driving 10 mph under the speed limit while I tailgated her and slammed my horn. Sorry to the guy who cuts our lawn — I’m still not sure why you thought it was OK to move our Halloween props and ruin them, but I’m sorry just the same and you’re not really fired. Sorry to the guy in front of me at Ralph’s who had 20 items in the 10 item express lane. Sorry to the lady who thought it would be a “good idea” to balance her checkbook at the Citibank ATM. And sorry to the guy in the Astroburger drive-thru line who changed his order six times.

Sorry to the woman at the doctor’s office who coughed 20 times without covering her mouth, then asked to borrow my magazine — you don’t know why I’m sorry, but I am. Sorry to Bill for erasing the NBA games from 20 years ago that hogged our valuable Tivo space, then pretending it was an accident. Sorry to the female driver who accused me of not planning to pick up my dog poop when I was already holding the poop bag in my hand and figuring out how to bend over when I’m pregnant, and sorry for threatening to throw the poop at her car when that’s probably against the law. Sorry to my daughter for everything you’ve witnessed lately. And sorry for everyone who has to read this lame rant. Just don’t complain to Bill about it if you know what’s best for you.

Here are my Week 8 picks: Browns -3, Bears -5, Colts -7, Giants -9.5, Raiders +7.5, Vikings +1, Steelers -3.5, Jets -3, Bucs -3.5, 49ers +2.5, Chargers PK, Pats -16, Broncos -3.

Last Week: 10-4
Season: 52-43-8

Q: Would you like to hear my true story about the $14 Million Grand Slam? My brother was attending a wedding with limited TV access. The DJ at the wedding announced J.D. Drew hit a grand slam. My brother promptly called me to confirm since not a single person at the wedding believed the DJ.
–Rich, Canton, Mass.

SG: I’m telling you, we’ll be telling our grandkids about that grand slam. You know what’s really crazy? Drew has been so hot lately when he got nailed on the ankle by a Game 2 pitch, I actually found myself saying, “Oh, no, I hope he’s not hurt! What will we do without J.D. Drew???” This would have been my most shocking moment of the World Series if the Sox weren’t playing a team that has Willy Taveras and Kaz Matsui hitting 1-2 and a No. 1 starter who looks like he should be wearing a sports coat and standing on his desk at the end of “Dead Poets Society.”

Q: What is the deal with Joe Buck introducing himself and McCarver as “I’m Joe Buck and THAT’S Tim McCarver.” The guy’s right next to him. Is it supposed to suggest McCarver is some towering, monumental figure looming over Joe Buck? This really infuriates me.
–Charley L., Queens, N.Y.

SG: See, I always thought Buck is making it clear McCarver needs to be described the same way you would describe a Rubik’s Cube. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Speaking of McCarver, did you know Hideki Okajima’s head jerk makes his delivery deceiving to batters? I’m beginning to think Fox records all of McCarver’s comments ahead of time, the same way EA Sports records John Madden for his video game.

Q: You mentioned the significance of Oct. 16 for Red Sox fans (in a bad way) with the Boone home run in 2003, the 19-6 loss in 2004 and the Game 4 loss to Cleveland in 2007. Guess what else happened on Oct. 16? In 1941, Tim McCarver was born!!
–Timmy, Groton, Conn.

SG: You couldn’t make this stuff up. You really couldn’t. At the rate we’re going. I’m waiting to see McCarver pop up in a Chevy commercial right as John Cougar Mellencamp is giving out free Taco Bell tacos and “Transformers” DVDs to poor people from the bed of a Chevy Silverado.

“John, here’s the thing about our country — it might be a country that belongs to folks like you and me, but the key to this country is that we fought two major World Wars in the 20th century, and each time, we defeated foes who could have potentially conquered democracy inside our borders. Had we NOT won those wars, this might not be our country right now. (Dramatic pause.) But we DID win those wars. And when you win wars, usually, with very few exceptions, you get to keep your country. That’s why … This is ouuuuuuur country.

Q: Should the ’72 Dolphins skip the champagne this year and go straight to shots of whiskey?
–Tom B., Honolulu

SG: It’s probably for the best. Although nobody is mentioning a crucial monkey wrench in New England’s quest to go 19-0: In Week 17, they’re playing in New York against the Giants. Let’s say they’re 15-0 at that point and have home field locked up. And let’s say the Giants need that game to either clinch their division or a bye in the first round. Could the Pats possibly justify playing Tom Brady against a top-five team with one of the best pass rushes in the league?

In my opinion, they have to play him because the goal for this particular Patriots season transcends the Super Bowl: They have a chance to be remembered as one of the greatest teams ever (if not THE greatest team ever) and live on like those ’72 Dolphins have lived on for the past 35 years … and that’s before getting into the “shoving it in everyone’s face who tried to discredit the first three Super Bowls” and “being vilified for stealing signals when everyone in this league cheats to varying degrees” components. If they’re going to embrace the role of the Cobra Kai Yankees, then they have to try for a 19-0 season, right? No mercy. No mercy.

Q: An interesting fact was revealed during the Vikings-Cowboys game: Did you know Tony Romo and Jason Witten room together for road games? This is the kind of information we need to know before fantasy football drafts!
–Brad C., Lynnfield, Mass.

SG: I just love the fact someone like Romo has to have a roommate on the road. Would there be a worse guy to room with than a good-looking, single, famous football quarterback? How many times this season do you think poor Witten has been sitting uncomfortably outside a hotel room that has a sock on the doorknob at 2 a.m.? I see his fantasy production dropping as the season goes along simply from lack of sleep and bad posture.

Q: After the Pats beat Miami, Boomer Esiason was asked about the possibility of New England going undefeated. Here was his answer: “Well, I’m not gonna say it’s not impossible.” Was that the first-ever triple negative in a sentence? I don’t know if it even makes any sense and I’m even less sure of which position he was advocating.
–Jeff, Ludlow, Mass.

SG: I’m not so sure Dan Dierdorf isn’t furious right now that you didn’t mention him here! Come on, Dierdorf created the triple negative! I’m not so sure Dan Dierdorf isn’t wondering whether he shouldn’t sue Boomer Esiason right now!

Q: Since you’ll probably find a way to rationalize Tom Brady’s “In & Out & In Again” routine during the Miami blowout, let me put the question to you this way: If you were playing “Madden” and a friend did something similar to you, how would you react? Would you laugh it off, pat your friend on the back and buy him a beer? Or would you slowly turn your head to look at him, fake laugh, then break his nose in seven places? Admit you just might storm out of the room/apartment/house and not talk to the guy for a few days.
–Teddy V., San Diego

SG: I don’t see how the Pats could get killed for putting Brady back in. They were on the road, their backup QB looked like crap, they couldn’t run the ball and the Dolphins had pulled within three scores with a good chunk of time remaining. How was that game locked up? If anything, Belichick pulled Brady too early. Did you see what happened in the Titans-Texans game? You never know what might happen in the NFL — take your foot off the gas pedal for 10 minutes and suddenly Sage Rosenfels is connecting on “Hail Mary” passes with Andre Davis and you’re wondering what the hell just happened. So, no, I wouldn’t have been mad at my buddy. There are only two reasons to get upset at a friend during a video football game — if you feel like they’re sneaking a peek at your plays, and if they go for the Eff You two-point conversion in a game that’s already locked up. That’s it. The Eff You two-point conversion has led to more fights, near-fights and shouting matches than anything else in the history of video games.

Q: Let’s say for argument the NFL had made the Patriots forfeit the Week 1 game against the Jets. What happens to all the bets on the game done legally in Vegas? Does this become a push or would those who bet on the Jets win?
–Ted, Providence, R.I.

SG: You just inadvertently gave the answer to another question, “Why didn’t the NFL force the Pats to forfeit that Week 1 game against the Jets?” The league didn’t want to deal with the gambling overtones of a reversed victory in Vegas. I will always believe this.

Q: I am a Giants season-ticket holder and want to follow up on the Tiki Barber chemistry comment you made in your Week 7 column: Not only have Tiki’s post-football comments galvanized the team, but they galvanized the fans as well. Twice this season during TV timeouts, the Giants have shown clips of the best running back performances in team history — the No. 1 performance is Tiki’s 200-plus game last season against the Skins. Both times when they’ve shown this, the entire stadium booed incredibly loud. He has brought everyone together in hatred. Eli must love hearing that!
–Jason F., New York

SG: I love it! We are headed for a Giants-Pats Super Bowl and another hallmark moment for the Ewing Theory. It’s going to happen. Anyway, you know what’s weird about Tiki’s decision to do TV? For all the hype about what he might do and which network might sign him, he turned out to be the least interesting player-turned-TV guy we’ve had since Joe Montana. He leaves me with absolutely no opinion at all. I can’t think of a single thing to say about him.

Q: Who is the iceberg guy in the seats at Fenway behind home plate? He always wears a sports coat and white shirt and never moves no matter what happens. Everyone else is going wild after a Dice-K strikeout and he just sits there as if waiting for the opening pitch.
–Bob H., Sacramento, Calif.

SG: Thanks to the miracle of HD, I’ve been staring at this sourpuss all season and wondering how someone who doesn’t eat, drink, smile, laugh, cheer, boo, clap, stand, stretch or move somehow managed to land first-row seats behind home plate for every playoff game. He doesn’t wear any Boston stuff, he doesn’t seem to care what happens … I mean, why is he there? I always felt like he was trying to win a bet or something, like he said to one of his hedge-fund buddies, “I bet you that I can sit behind home plate for every Sox playoff game without moving once — 500 G’s says I can do it!”

Anyway, I did some digging — turns out the man in question is special Red Sox advisor Jeremy Kapstein, a former player agent who helps the team with scouting and personnel moves. That’s why he looks so serious. See, aren’t you glad I’m here?

Q: A question for you and Cousin Sal for the next podcast: What would be the spread for “Patriots’ regular-season total wins” vs. “rest of the AFC East’s regular-season total wins”? If gambling were legal, I’d take the Patriots minus-2.5.
–Sean, New York


32. Miami
31. St. Louis
30. Atlanta
29. N.Y. Jets
28. San Fran
27. Oakland

26. Houston
25. Philly

24. Minnesota
23. Buffalo
22. Detroit

21. New Orleans
20. Cincinnati
19. Denver

18. Baltimore

17. Arizona
16. Chicago
15. Cleveland

14. Seattle
13. Carolina
12. Tampa Bay
11. Tennessee

10. Kansas City

9. Pittsburgh
8. Jacksonville
7. Washington
6. Green Bay

5. San Diego

4. N.Y. Giants
3. Dallas
2. Indianapolis

1. New England

SG: I think you’d have to make that line higher. Right now, the rest of the AFC East is a combined 3-17 with 28 games to go; they play each other four more times (two Bills-Jets games, one Jets-Dolphins game, one Bills-Jets game), so their lowest possible win total can be seven. I don’t see the Bills and Jets finishing with more than five wins, and I can’t imagine any scenario in which the Dolphins win more than three games. If anything, I could see the three of them combining for something in the 10-11 range. So you’d have to open the line at “Pats by 3.5,” and there’s a good chance it would get wagered up to “Pats by four” within a few hours. I want to come back in my next life as a bookie.

Q: Has there ever been a season when one team (in this case, the Patriots) would be a two-touchdown favorite against an All-Star team made up of the rest of its division? Who would start at QB for the AFC East All-Stars? I’d lay 14 points and take the Pats. Maybe you could talk the NFL into this game instead of the Pro Bowl.
–Matt L., Boston

SG: Cool, another line I get to make up! Let’s assume this game happens in Hawaii one week after the Super Bowl, and the AFC East All-Stars get to start practicing together from the moment the regular season ends. They’d have Chad Pennington at QB, Marshawn Lynch at RB, Laveranues Coles, Jericho Cotchery and Lee Evans as the receivers, Roscoe Parrish and Leon Washington as kick returners, Dick Jauron as the head coach, Cam Cameron running the offense, Eric Mangini running the defense and some legitimately good guys on the defensive front seven (including Jason Taylor and Aaron Schobel). Still, I’d have the Pats favored by nine … and I’d be laying the points.

Q: Is it just me or does Manny not like keeping his batting helmet on when he is running the bases? Pretty sure I just saw him toss his helmet off before trotting into third and almost getting thrown out for overtrotting the base.
–Steve, Madison, Wis.

SG: Funny you should mention this. I had the following conversation with my Dad during Game 2:

    ME: You notice how Manny always flips his helmet off every time he runs the bases? He does it every time now.

    DAD: Yeah, so?

    ME: Well, why would you wear a batting helmet if you’re going to flip it off every time you have to run? Isn’t the whole point of the batting helmet to give protection and keep you from getting hit in the head by a ball on a close slide? Why wear the helmet at all? Why not just wear a cap?

    DAD (thinking): Wait, why are you asking me this? It’s Manny Ramirez! I’m supposed to explain something strange Manny Ramirez does??? He’s Manny Ramirez!

Q: Before you think that you’re headed for the craziest week for a single city in sports history (your words), just remember what happened in the final week of October 1989: The heart of the 49ers dynasty improved to 10-0 to start the season on the way to another Super Bowl title, and Candlestick Park was busy hosting the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s (winners of three consecutive AL pennants) that was interrupted by … ummm, oh yes … a massive and deadly earthquake. Also, rookie Tim Hardaway was about to usher in the “Run TMC” days in Golden State. I think the Bay Area still holds the title for craziest sports week, no?
–Brian S., Santa Clara, Calif.

SG: You’re absolutely right. The fact that a deadly earthquake leveled San Francisco minutes before Game 3 of the only Giants-Athletics World Series has to be the single most unbelievable thing that has ever happened in the history of sports. The odds of this happening had to be three billion to one. That will never be topped.

Q: How upset were you during Game 2 that Fox cut away from the Fenway crowd giving Schilling one last standing ovation just to squeeze in a couple more commercials? Seriously, did they need the extra money so badly they needed to cut away from that moment?
–Derrick M., Simi Valley, Calif.

SG: The answer, apparently, is “Yes.” Hey, it was only the most dramatic moment of the game. The good news is we have a free Taco Bell taco coming! Is it possible to eat a free taco when you’re in the middle of a full-fledged riot? We’ll have to see.

Q: Shouldn’t there be an investigation into whether or not Bill Belichick or anyone related to him is betting on games? They’re 7-0 against the spread! There was no way Miami could come back last week, but the Dolphins probably would have beaten the spread if that final Brady TD didn’t happen, right?
–Steve N., Tacoma, Wash.

SG: In Belichick’s defense, he might be trying to recoup the money from his $500,000 fine. If he bets $33,000 a week on the Pats, he could potentially break even after Week 17. I hope this happens if only for Gregg Easterbrook’s reaction afterward.

(By the way, I received roughly 10,000 e-mails asking me to react to Easterbrook’s “Good vs. Evil” column this week and zero e-mails asking me to react to the man who screamed at me that I was going to hell as I walked on LaBrea Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. Just so you know, I had the same opinion on both moments: “I’m just gonna keep walking.”)


Favorites against spread: 44-51-8

Home teams against spread: 49-46-8

Road favorites: 14-21-1

Underdogs covering and winning: 34 of 51

Q: Me and a friend were talking about what “somewhat realistic” scenario would be the biggest possible sports-related story. He went with Tiger Woods failing a steroid test. I countered with LeBron James getting caught shaving points. His scenario kills off the most popular golfer in history, mine might mean the end of the NBA. Our last thought was a megastar announcing he was gay and dating a teammate. Any comments or other ideas for huge stories?
–Joey H., Lawrence, Kan.

SG: I’ve actually had arguments about this question before and might have even answered it in a mailbag (I honestly can’t remember). The key is the phrase “somewhat realistic” because that rules out farfetched scenarios that could surpass the likes of “a famous retired superstar killing his wife and a waiter and somehow getting away with it.” But here’s the top-eight in inverse order:

8. The Mitchell Report comes out, and it’s revealed most of the key guys on the 2004 Red Sox were using performance-enhancing drugs. I feel sick just typing this.

7. A major NBA star is caught shaving points — either Kobe, LeBron or KG. Like the Donaghy story multiplied by 20. Or, you could go in this direction: A famous athlete or former athlete is found murdered, and it turns out he might have been murdered because of his extensive gambling debts to “the wrong people,” turning it into a massive murder investigation.

6. During the Jets-Pats game in Week 15, after the Pats win by a 77-3 margin, Belichick sucker-punches Mangini in the postgame handshake, followed by a 200-person brawl that leaves two dead and 45 others injured. The funny thing? This falls under the “somewhat realistic” guidelines. That’s why I’m flying back for this game.

5. Either LeBron or Greg Oden turns out to be eight years older than he claimed. We’ve been joking about the Almonte scenario here for years, but imagine if it actually happened and “Oden” graduated from some remote high school where he didn’t even play basketball, then grew 11 inches right after college and decided to just start the whole process over and enter the eighth grade again using a different name?

4. A declining George Steinbrenner announces he’s replacing Joe Torre as the Yankee manager, then proceeds to manage them for the entire 2008 season and everyone else is powerless to stop him because he’s still the managing partner. Seriously, what could MLB do if this happened?

3. In a bench-clearing brawl, a star hitter (like A-Rod or Pujols) charges the mound, throws a punch and inadvertently kills the pitcher. This one would have a ton of life because ESPN could show the video 700,000,000 times and there would be a trial.

2. It comes out Tiger has been doping his own blood and using performance enhancers since he was in high school. I just think people would be floored by this one.

1. I’m taking Joey’s aforementioned “star athlete comes out of the closet and announces he’s dating one of his teammates” scenario a step further: What if this happened on the Colts and two of their starters came out of the closet as a couple and announced they wanted to get married right before the playoffs, only Tony Dungy is already on the record as being against gay marriage, so the players decided to stop playing for the Colts again until Dungy changed his stance? Now that’s a gigantic sports story! That one has everything! You aren’t topping two Indianapolis starters falling in love, getting engaged and refusing to play in the playoffs until Dungy accepts their love for one another. Even “The View” would be talking about this.

Q: The other day I am relaxing, watching the Saints lose again when my 7-year-old daughter walks out of her room and says “Daddy, I can put my whole fist in my mouth,” and then proceeds to give a demo. Can you imagine this? By far, this was the worst experience of my life. I am so glad we are having another daughter …
–Vince, Seattle

SG: Yup, these are my readers. Onto the Week 8 picks (home teams in caps) …

Browns (-3) over RAMS
Everyone spent the past two weeks saying, “Lemme tell you something, Derek Anderson is a pretty good QB,” and “The Browns could be faced with a Brees-Rivers scenario down the road here,” but nobody seems to be asking why Anderson couldn’t win Cleveland’s starting job two months ago over Charlie Frye — the same Chaz Frye who played one bad half in Week 1 and quickly became the third-string QB for the Seahawks.

Well, what the hell happened to Anderson in July and August? How could he not beat out Chaz Frye? Was he nervous? Did he not get enough reps? Did Romeo Crennel just completely botch that decision? Or did Anderson just play three good games against two horrendous defenses (Miami and Cincy) and one overrated defense (Baltimore)? I actually like Anderson and don’t think he’s pulling a 2002 Kelly Holcomb on us, but he needs to light up the Rams if we’re supposed to believe this has the makings of Brees-Rivers Part II.

Lions (+5) over BEARS
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: When you’re playing at home and winning by four, you can’t give Brian Griese 97 yards, no timeouts and 117 seconds on the clock and not expect him to kill you. He’s going to kill you. That’s just who he is. Meanwhile, does it seem even remotely conceivable that God’s Team could end up 5-2 after this game? Probably not. When in doubt, take the points.

BUCS (-3.5) over Jaguars
Quinn Gray alert! Quinn Gray alert! This seems like a good time to mention Gray started his NFL career as the scout team receiver on Jacksonville’s practice squad. So I’ll say it again … QUINN GRAY ALERT!!!!! Meanwhile, Earnest Graham is quietly threatening to break James Thrash’s single-season record for “Most combined times one guy was picked up or waived in a fantasy league in one season.”

Colts (-7) over PANTHERS
Overwhelming “Obvious Game” potential here if not for the whole “Colts playing a Sunday afternoon road game following a Monday night road game” thing, which explains why the line was suspiciously low. Maybe it’s not a great reason to take the Panthers, but it IS a reason, dammit! More importantly, if I had told you before the season, “I know for a fact, by Week 8, Carolina’s season will be in the hands of David Carr and Vinny Testaverde,” would you have hopped on a plane to Vegas that night or the following morning?

Bills (+3) over JETS
“And your head coach for the 2008 San Jose SaberCats … Eric Mangini!”

BENGALS (+3.5) over Steelers
I thought Kenny Watson gave the Bengals a little juvenation last week. So there. By the way, everyone and their brother has made the Mike Tomlin/Omar Epps joke at this point, but I’m taking it one step further: During one of the 46,000 “House” promos during the baseball playoffs, I was thinking about the Tomlin/Epps thing and decided they look more alike than any athlete and celebrity have EVER looked alike. It’s incredible. You can’t see one without thinking of the other.

Which leads me to my question: In the past 10 years, have two non-related celebrities ever looked more alike than Epps and Tomlin? Can you think of anyone? The closest I could come up with was either Tiger Woods/T.J. Ford or Ron Jeremy/Stan Van Gundy, but even in those cases, you could still tell those guys apart, right? I really want to see if someone out there can top Epps and Tomlin. It’s my little weekend challenge for you.

VIKINGS (+1) over Eagles
I’m riding Adrian Peterson and Tarvaris Jackson’s sub-50 QB rating when they’re home for the rest of the season. By the way, have you seen Minny’s passing stats? In six games, the Vikings have completed 83 passes total for 990 yards. Their leading WR is Bobby Wade … yes, the Bobby Wade with 19 catches, 219 yards, 0 TDs. The next best guy is a running back (Peterson) with 11 catches for 187 yards and a TD. Their fifth-best receiver is some guy named “Shiancoe.” How deep would your fantasy league have to be for somebody to pick up a Vikings receiver? Twenty-five spots per team? Thirty? Forty?

Raiders (+7.5) over TITANS
The single-worst gambling moment of the season: Taking the Texans, writing the game off, having them rally back to take the lead with a 29-point fourth quarter on an onside kick and a pseudo “Hail Mary,” then having Kerry Collins thread the needle on third-and-a-million to set up a game-winning field goal. Kerry Collins? Really? Has the quality of the quarterback position dropped so significantly that guys who were once useless (like Collins and Testaverde) can now be described as “competent?” And if so, what the hell are Drew Bledsoe and Jake Plummer waiting for?

49ERS (+2.5) over Saints
One of my many Sunday goals: to avoid watching a single play from this game. By the way, if you were an offensive coordinator and your players were grumbling about your conservative play-calling (like the Niners did with Jim Hostler this week), wouldn’t you overreact the following week and call a bunch of crazy plays just to shut them up? I’d be good for two flea flickers, two reverses, a hook-and-ladder, a halfback option pass and the delayed hook-and-ladder to an offensive lineman that James Van Der Beek’s team used to win at the end of “Varsity Blues.” YOU STILL THINK I’M CONSERVATIVE??? HUH???? DO YOU?????

Giants (-9.5) over Dolphins (in London)
Here’s what I don’t get about the resurgent Giants: After all these years of being such a humorless hard-ass, how did Tom Coughlin suddenly loosen up and become a jovial, wise-cracking, personable head coach who everyone likes? Check out these quotes in Jim Trotter’s piece about Coughlin:

    Michael Strahan: “The guy actually is a personality now. He’s funny. He has jokes. He gets the room laughing.”

    Plaxico Burress: “He’s giving us more rest … you’ve got to love it because he’s showing that he cares about us and is taking strides to take care of us.”

    Shaun O’Hara: “We’re talking about a coach who has basically taken everything he’s always done and said, ‘OK, I’m going to change.’ He almost reinvented himself.”

    Trotter: “Coughlin got the players’ attention when he held a casino night at Giants Stadium in the offseason. In training camp, he backed off his grueling practices and even canceled one night of meetings to take the players bowling.”

Back to my question: At age 62, how did Coughlin suddenly reinvent himself as a human being? Don’t people get crankier as they get older? This guy wakes up one morning after something like four decades of coaching and says, “It’s time to unleash my funny, warm, cerebral side that I’ve been hiding all these years!” I feel like there’s more to this story. Either he’s on a special drug that hasn’t been approved yet, or he left his wife for a 23 year-old former stripper, or somebody has been slipping him pot brownies and he doesn’t know it … whatever, SOMETHING is happening here. I demand more information.

Redskins (+16) over PATRIOTS

Just a gut feeling. The Pats can definitely go 19-0, but they’re not going 19-0 against the spread. That’s not happening. That will never, ever, EVER happen.

(Speaking of New England juggernauts, the fans from a certain New England college continue to be outraged that I won’t acknowledge a particular undefeated college season that’s happening right now. And you know what? You’re right. I need to be the bigger man here. So let’s acknowledge it … congratulations to Curry College for your 8-0 start!)

Packers (+3) over BRONCOS
After what I wrote about the Broncos last week, dozens of Denver fans e-mailed me following the Steelers game just to say, “FORK YOU!” Guess I deserved that. Well, you’re not going to like this: Monday night is set up for a possible Denver sports apocalypse — a Broncos home loss coupled with Josh Beckett clinching the World Series in Game 5 in Coors Field. That looks so tasty on paper, I can’t resist.

Chargers (PK) over Texans
No line for this one since we don’t know where it’s being played (or when), so we’re making it a pick ’em because that’s the rule. Best of luck with the recovery process to everyone in the San Diego area.

Last week: 8-6
Season: 46-49-8

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 ravamped Sports Guy World.

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