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The Sports Guy’s NFL preview

Playing the Shell Game

Shell Game

There are three forms of comebacks: The ones when a team or player overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds; the ones when a player recovers from a debilitating injury to regain his previous form; and the ones when a memorable personality retires or fades away, then splashes back onto the scene with “not only am I back, baby, but you’re gonna remember this moment for a long freaking time” vigor.

Those aren’t even comebacks, actually. They’re more like resurrections. And you only need a few words to describe the best resurrections. Like MJ dropping 55 in New York. Elvis electrifying Vegas in the leather jumpsuit in ’68. Vito Corleone’s chilling “but I’m a superstitious man … ” speech. Cosell introducing Sinatra for “The Main Event” at MSG. Ali dropping Foreman in Zaire. Shannon Tweed and Andrew Stevens getting it on in “Body Chemistry 4.” It’s a short list.

And that’s what made Art Shell’s comeback so beautiful. He picked up right where he left off, as a glorified caretaker for a fading franchise. Apparently I was the only writer who remembered why Oakland canned him 12 years ago — because he single-handedly submarined the Super Bowl chances for a loaded stretch of Raiders teams, to the point that nobody ever hired him again — but that didn’t stop people from playing the race card and pretending that Art would be installing discipline/intensity/consistency/professionalism with the 2006 Raiders. Um, why would things be different this time around? Hearing the Raiders rehired Shell was like reading that J-Lo and Ben Affleck were engaged again. Wait, what????

Each week, as part of Monday Night Surround, Bill will preview the Monday night game and make some predictions and observations. The challenge is for you decide whether Bill will be right. Can you beat the Sports Guy?

Week 2: Steelers at Jaguars

In last week’s column, I mentioned two silver linings for Art’s comeback: The gambling implications (with Aaron Brooks involved as well, it felt like the Perfect Wagering Storm) and the comedy implications (because an entire generation of NFL fans under 22 could enjoy the Art Shell Experience for the first time). But I never imagined how Monday night’s game against the Chargers would play out. San Diego completely obliterated the Raiders from the first snap, to the point that Marty Schottenheimer opted for the three-runs-and-a-punt routine for the entire second half, content to let his defense protect a 13-0 lead that seemed more like 93-0. The Raiders couldn’t have looked more disjointed, mismanaged and untalented. It’s not possible.

Here was the best part: Shell standing motionless on the sidelines, rarely moving, rarely blinking, seemingly oblivious to the ongoing apocalypse on the field. One of my readers wondered if ESPN was looping the same Shell shot for four quarters, kinda like how Keanu Reeves rigged the bus camera in “Speed.” And just like the old days, Art was wearing a headset, only it’s unclear if the headset was on or off since he never said anything into it; for all we know, the headset was playing show tunes. There was one moment during a commercial timeout when he was listening to Randy Moss, who suddenly looked up and nudged him toward the field, like he was saying, “Yo, Coach, the game started,” followed by a jolted Shell scampering back toward the sidelines like a nursing home resident who just realized he was late for BINGO. That’s the only time we saw him move. In other words, it was just like old times.

And my readers were delighted. I ended up receiving 10 times as many Art Shell e-mails as Dream Team e-mails after USA’s loss to Greece. (If you’re interested, you can read the best ones HERE.) There were the requisite “Weekend at Bernie’s” cracks, jokes about the music selection in his headset, dozens of descriptions of the Art Shell Face, people honestly wondering if he’s really alive, even younger readers simply thanking me for taking the time to warn them. Although we weren’t able to see Art work his magic with a two-minute drill, everyone agreed that it remained an immensely enjoyable TV experience … and that’s even before the Governator’s 3rd quarter cameo when he lauded Art Shell for pulling off a “miracle” with this Raiders team, followed by Ron Jaworski doing a legitimate double take and looking like he just smelled a noxious fart.

You know what? In a roundabout way, Arnold was right. This WAS a miracle. See, I wasn’t old enough to remember Elvis in Vegas or Ali in Zaire, but I’ll always remember watching a rusty MJ drop 55 on the Knicks, and I’ll always remember the night Art Shell came back and may or may not have been alive. So thank you, Gambling Gods, and thank you, Comedy Gods. Some things are better the second time around.

Some other subplots I enjoyed from Week 1:

1. Near the end of the early games on Sunday, I liked imagining the look on the faces of everyone who drafted Shaun Alexander (whose O-line legitimately couldn’t block Detroit’s D-line last week) and Larry Johnson (whose KC team looked inept even before a concussed Trent Green was wheeled off on the Hannibal Lecter stretcher) in the top three of their drafts. From what we know after Week 1, if everyone did their drafts all over again, LT goes first, Peyton Manning goes second (those Indy RBs stink; he’s throwing for 5000-plus this season), Stephen Jackson goes third and LaMont Jordan goes 755th.

2. Let the record show that the first prolonged camera shot of Jay Cutler with a “Holy crap, should I start warming up?” look on his face came with 11:08 remaining in the second quarter of the Rams-Broncos game. This should be loads and loads of fun as it plays out. Would you bet against Jake Plummer suiting up for a CFL team within the next two years?

3. The best part of the Manning Bowl was the never-ending shots of the traumatized parents, both of whom looked like they were waiting for kidnappers to call back with a final ransom figure for their missing kids … only they looked that way for three straight hours. They didn’t cheer, smile, pump a fist, nothing. Which begs the question: What was the big deal? Really, they couldn’t have just rooted for both offenses? The night demanded an SNL sketch — either the Mannings openly rooting for one son and booing the other, or Olivia wearing an Eli jersey and Archie wearing a Peyton jersey, then the two of them coming to blows in the box. Or you could have had Horatio Sanz playing the Manning’s imaginary fat/drunk/obstinate/black sheep son, Leo Manning, and wreaking havoc in the luxury box. Endless possibilities there. If only SNL was still alive.

4. Speaking of the Mannings, my Mom revealed that she never realized Eli Manning and Peyton Manning were different people; she thought “Eli” was Peyton’s nickname. I know this sounds improbable, but trust me, you have to know my Mom. It’s entirely possible. Remember, this is the same woman who called Dwyane Wade “Wayne Dwyane” last summer. Anyway, during the Manning Bowl on Sunday night, she sent me this e-mail: “Now I’m really confused. There’s an ARCHIE Manning too?” I love football season.

5. Seattle made one of the all-time panic trades, barely beating the Lions in Detroit, then panicking and ponying up an unprotected No. 1 for Deion Branch 24 hours later. Now, I like Deion Branch. Great teammate, great guy, came through in some big playoff games. But he’s a possession receiver, rarely makes big plays (only five TDs last year) and dropped a surprising number of balls last year. He’s a slightly better, younger version of Bobby Engram … who’s already on the Seahawks. Since when did teams start trading No. 1’s for possession receivers? Why would Seattle think it’s a good idea to shell out a No. 1 pick, a No. 3 pick and $18 million in guaranteed bonuses to two non-No. 1 receivers (Nate Burleson and Deion Branch) when it could have used that money to re-sign Steve Hutchinson, saved the picks and gone with some patchwork guys? It’s like Isiah Thomas took over the team.

(As for the Patriots, apparently their season is over because they don’t have an elite receiver anymore … even though they won the Super Bowl five years ago with Troy Brown and David Patten as the starters and Fred Coleman as the No. 3 guy. Gimme a break. I wrote last week that I would have taken a No. 2 for Branch and been done with it. Getting a No. 1 was gravy. He was valuable, but he wasn’t invaluable. There’s a difference.)

6. The Packers were crushed at home by Chicago, then decided it would be a good idea to sign Koren Robinson … a guy who’s struggled with drinking problems over the course of his career. Now he gets to live in a city where there’s nothing to do, there’s no black people and everyone loves to drink and eat bad food? Is this signing sponsored by Bad Idea Jeans? Normally I wear protection, but then I thought, “When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?”

7. We had a second scenario when a coach didn’t throw a challenge flag in time — this time, with Bill Parcells, who accidentally forgot that he was keeping the flag in his cleavage after a disputed red zone play in the Jags game. By the time he chucked the flag, the ball was already being snapped for the next play. Since this keeps happening, my friend Ace came up with a way to solve the problem: Give every head coach one of those T-shirt cannons (like the ones cheerleaders use at basketball games), and when they want to challenge a play, they have to hoist the cannon and shoot the flag onto the field (preferably right at one of the officials). Not only would this be fun to watch, it would be more riveting to watch someone like Parcells trying to operate the cannon. I love this idea. Somebody plug Roger Goddell in, wake him up and pitch it to him.

Speaking of Parcells, he’s officially losing his touch. The guy has coached Bledsoe not once but TWICE. Really, coach, with your team dominating the Jags on the road, second-and-20 on your own 40 with less than two minutes in the half, you thought it was a good idea to have Drew drop back and potentially force one of his classic Bledsoe passes into triple coverage (which is what happened)? Why not run the ball twice, punt it and go into the locker room up by seven? What’s wrong with that? You’re on the road! How does Parcells not know how to handle Bledsoe at this point? For instance, we can’t leave my daughter alone in a room anymore — not even for a minute — because she will immediately climb onto a chair, scale the biggest table or desk in the room, then stand on the edge and rock back and forth like she’s water-skiing. A little dangerous, right? Well, any second-and-long or third-and-long situation with Drew is like that. You’re asking for trouble. I don’t get it.

(Meanwhile, Bledsoe’s complete collapse — three INT’s in the last 32 minutes and another one that was stupidly reversed on a challenge — was shocking only for its timing: I didn’t think he would start cracking for another 6-7 weeks. Now the Tony Romo watch is on.)

8. Three TV-related things I enjoyed about last weekend:

First, Fox decided to replace James Brown as its studio guy with Joe Buck, who’s also its lead play-by-play guy, so it has to go on location for every studio show now — meaning that it’s a lot of added expense every week, plus extra money for Buck, plus they quintupled the odds of technical difficulties during the show, plus the studio guys can’t watch games on 10 plasmas in a cozy Green Room anymore (instead, they’re in a customized trailer watching everything on tiny little screens). All so Joe Buck could host the pregame show over Curt Menefee. Which raises the question: Was there one person who was on the fence about which Sunday studio show to watch, heard that Fox hired Buck, then said to himself, “Well, my choice has been made, I’m now a Fox guy?” This seems like a colossal waste of money to me. Maybe I’m crazy.

Second, we all made such a fuss about ESPN’s new Monday night announcing team … and they ended up getting upstaged by the makeshift team for the second game (Brad Nessler, Dick Vermeil and Ron Jaworski). Those guys sounded like they had been doing games for 20 years together. They were fantastic. That was, um … what’s the word … ironic.

Third, NBC spent about a billion dollars on Michaels and Madden and its four-man studio crew when it could have just used Marv Albert (the best play-by-play guy alive) and Collinsworth (the best football analyst alive) as its broadcast team, then had Costas, Bettis and Sharpe host the studio show. But that would have been far too logical. The whole thing reminded me of the Batman movie where they kept bringing in more and more big names — Uma Thurman! Alicia Silverstone! Tommy Lee Jones! Arnold Schwarzenegger! Chris O’Donnell! — and by the time everything shook out, your head felt like it might explode.

(Note This may have been Dick Ebersol’s “I’m Keith Hernandez” moment. The guy had a fantastic career and even produced SNL during the Eddie years; the Sunday night football move may have been his last big move for NBC before he retires; and money was clearly no object at all. You can almost imagine him presenting everyone with Rolexes after the Manning Bowl.)

9. It’s hard to fully grasp how many Manning-related commercials there were last weekend unless you were watching the games in a place with multiple TV’s. (Note: My friend Jimmy had nine TVs going, five in one room and four in the other.) Every two seconds, there was Peyton Manning again. You couldn’t get away from him. He was like a cold sore. One good thing: Jimmy pointed out that, in the ad where Peyton wears the fake mustache, he looks just like Sean Penn in “Falcon and the Snowman.” Unfortunately, none of us could remember any “Falcon and the Snowman” quotes to shout out during the ad.

But I liked this argument from Patrick from Providence: “If you were trying to market a product why would you ever have Peyton Manning as your spokesman? I mean unless the product was Ipecac. Everytime I see him pushing a cell phone I think, “Great, that phone will fail when I need to make the most important call ever.” AM I WRONG?”

FYI: We just released the paperback version of my Red Sox book (“Now I Can Die In Peace”), which includes a 20-page afterword (with footnotes) that I made just long enough that you can’t read it in a bookstore without starting to feel uncomfortable because you’ve been standing for so long. Also, I handed in the afterword in June, about six weeks before Boston’s season fell apart, making it the first afterword that was already dated before the book was released. So that’s always fun. (You’ll especially love my glowing words about Josh Beckett. Shoot me.)

Just for kicks, we even included a photo of me and my buddy J-Bug holding the 2004 World Series trophy (with matching deer-in-the-headlights looks, no less). And there’s a shocking story about the time I punched out Johnny Pesky at the Cask and Flagon. All right, I made that last one up. But you can find the paperback in any bookstore, or you can order it on Amazon.com for a measly 10 bucks. So get the thing already. Come on. I don’t ask for much.

10. Finally, an NFL team trailing by 10 in the final minute successfully executed the old “Madden” trick, where you drive inside your opponent’s 30, immediately kick the field goal to slice the lead to 7, recover the onside kick, then have enough time for a couple Hail Mary cracks at the end zone. That’s the only way to play it, and I can’t remember it happening in a real game until Coach Hitler and the Niners pulled it off in Arizona last week. And sure, they ended up screwing Arizona backers (including myself) by covering the 7.5-point spread. Whatever. I feel vindicated.

On the flip side, Giants coach Tom Coughlin became the latest to screw up the whole “how to use your timeouts when you’re trailing” routine, losing a timeout against the Colts in the final three minutes. Here’s what happened: The Colts ran a play that finished with 2:48 on the clock, followed by Coughlin calling time at 2:45. Well, that didn’t do any good — thanks to the 45-second play clock, the Colts took the next play right through the 2:00-minute warning. If Coughlin waited until two minutes, then called timeout on the next Colts play, he would have saved about FORTY seconds.

So here’s my question: You know my whole spiel about how every team should hire a “VP of Common Sense” to talk them out of decisions like, “Hey, instead of making our fans happy with Reggie Bush, what if we took Mario Williams?” and “I know Nene’s coming off major knee surgery, but maybe we should just give him the $64 million as a sign of good faith?” Well, why couldn’t NFL teams hire a common sense coordinator — just a logical person who stands near the coach and handles timeouts, the two-point conversion chart and any scenario involving the challenge flag? For instance, let’s say the Raiders wanted to hired me as the common sense coordinator for Art Shell. I’d ask for a first class ticket to every game, one night’s lodging and $3,000 per game, and because they needed me, they would probably agree. You know much that would cost them? About $60,000 a year. That’s nothing!

Anyway, that’s my fee — you want Simmons on your sidelines as your common sense coordinator, pony up 60 grand. And I want it in cash.

Onto the Week 2 picks…


RAVENS (-11) over Raiders
They can’t make this line high enough. And yes, I’m more than willing to reconsider this whole Ravens thing. The Schedule Gods gave them Chris Simms and a banged-up O-line in Week 1, a Raiders team in Week 2 that could end up being historically atrocious, then Chaz Frye and a patchwork Browns line in Week 3. What if they start the season with three straight shutouts? What then? Plus, from the quotes after Sunday’s game, these guys believe they’re good. You can just tell. They seem hungry. I’m riding them as long as McNair stays healthy. Which could end up being another 48 hours. Yeah, but still.

(Two more Raider e-mails: Joe in State College, Pa., points out, “Lost in last week’s column was the fact that Aaron Brooks actually did throw a ball about 35 yards backwards. And Sam in NYC says, “I officially nominate ‘Porter seen pumping fist, laughing as Brooks is sacked’ as the early favorite for Best Headline of the Year.” I agree.)

BENGALS (-10.5) over Browns
The Browns can’t block anyone. That’s a problem. More importantly, how ’bout the return of the Mohawk! Were Chad Johnson and Clinton Portis watching “Vision Quest” on Starz and ogling Kooch’s haircut, then made a pact to bring it back? Any chance this will spread to the NBA? Imagine Ben Wallace breaking out a Mohawk for his first Bulls game? Or Ray Allen sporting a modified one because he didn’t have enough hair in the front? Endless possibilities here. I haven’t been this excited about a hair development in sports since Moochie Norris’s mushroom ‘fro.

DOLPHINS (-6.5) over Bills
Sorry, J.P. Losman isn’t covering two straight games on the road. That’s ridiculous.

Here’s an uplifting Bills e-mail from Tom in Gouverneur, N.Y.: “I was watching the Bills-Pats game with my mom, a die-hard Bills fan, and the fumble recovery for the TD didn’t even faze her. She just said, ‘That’ll probably be the highlight of the season for us.’ Sure enough, she was right. I’d like to nominate Bills fans as the most downtrodden franchise in the NFL. Sure, they made it to four Super Bowls in a row in the 90s, but they lost all four. That’s got to be more rough than not making the playoffs for a decade or so. After all, perennially losing teams don’t expect to win. And now they’re stuck with a QB from Tulane. I think I’d better stop before all 17 Bills fans reading this that haven’t already killed themselves do so.”

COLTS (-13.5) over Texans
Biggest mistake of the 2006 Draft: The Colts not moving up to make sure they got Laurence Maroney, who’s about two more big runs away from convincing me to buy a #39 Pats jersey online. On the bright side, everyone who picked Manning, Harrison or Wayne in a fantasy league is ready to throw a keg party. Good times!

Lions (+8.5) over BEARS
Here’s why I hate Week 2: Detroit’s front four looked like the ’85 Bears against Seattle; in particular, Shaun Rogers was wreaking havoc and bowling guys over like a kid who just overdosed on PCP in one of those “ABC Afterschool Specials.” He was completely out of his mind. So does this mean Detroit’s defense is THAT good, or the Seahawks offensive line is much worse than we thought? Hmmmmm.

(And yes, I’m fully aware that I’m taking Jon Kitna, on the road, against a good defense. Don’t remind me.)

EAGLES (-3) over Giants
So wait … everyone but me and a few others wrote off the Eagles before the season, they crushed a crappy Houston team as 6-point favorites, and now everyone thinks they’re for real again? Really, you didn’t think they were beating Houston? I love Week 1.

(Question for Texans fans: Was it weird watching your team get blown out without repeated shots of Dom Capers looking on in disbelief? You kinda missed him, right? When the NFL Network reruns Texan blowouts, they should splice in stock footage of Capers looking stunned on the sidelines. It’s just too soon. I’m not ready to move on.)

VIKINGS (+2) over Panthers
I’m willfully and recklessly ignoring the “Monday Night Letdown” and “Don’t Overreact to One Bad Loss” red flags here. And since I can’t think of anything else to say … allow me five comments on “Rock Star.” If you didn’t watch the show, just skip to the next game. You won’t hurt my feelings. Anyway…

1. You have to love any show where people get voted off and say final words like, “it was an honor being here, I grew up idolizing you guys, you’re all legends” … and the legends are Tommy Lee, Gilby Clarke and the dude with weird ears from Metallica.

2. Not only did the winner (Lucas) go from cooking chicken wings at Hooters to headlining a band of washed-up rock stars, but his original song “Head Spin” sounded like one of those haunting, Cure-like, romance-gone-bad tunes … well, until he revealed that the song was actually about his mother. I’m telling you, stuff like this happened every week on “Rock Star.”

3. The girl who should have won and didn’t — Dilana — may or may not have been a dude. We’ll never know. And frankly, I’m fine with that.

4. There wasn’t a more mesmerizing summer TV presence than Storm Large (not a stage name, she claimed), who looked like the cute sister from Heart crossed with Jennie Finch, only with Mark Madsen’s personality from every 2003 Lakers game thrown in. If she ever reproduced with Dane Cook, their kid would just stomp around holding its arms in the air, screaming “yeahhhhhhhh!” and making weird hand gestures until its head exploded. I am not prepared to live life without her. Couldn’t she replace Elisabeth Hasselbeck on “The View”? I want to see Storm show off her pelvis tattoo to the girls, followed by Barbara Walters keeling over and falling to the ground.

5. Tommy Lee can’t be calibrated on the Unintentional Comedy Scale anymore. It’s impossible. Every time he decided to sit in on a performance and play drums, I couldn’t handle it and had to leave the room. I’m not kidding. Watching him reminds me of being tickled as a kid, then the tickling going on for about 15 seconds too long, until you almost feel like you’re going to throw up if it doesn’t stop. That’s Tommy Lee drumming for me. I can’t handle it. Back to the column.

FALCONS (-5.5) over Bucs
The best team I watched in Week 1: Atlanta. Everyone finally gave up on Vick as a fantasy force — he didn’t go in either of my drafts until the late rounds — and now it looks like they finally figured out how to use him. Go figure.

PACKERS (-2) over Saints
We’re about three weeks away from the first “Mike McCarthy is the white Art Shell” joke. But here’s the thing about Reggie Bush, as well as the No. 3 reason Houston should have drafted him behind No. 1 (“Every Texan fan wanted to root for him”) and No. 2 (he’s infinitely more marketable than Mario Williams): he didn’t even have a big game on Sunday, but you noticed him every time he was on the field, and it certainly seemed like the Browns were worried about him no matter where he was lined up. Well, how many skill players force opponents to (A) specifically plan for them, and (B) panic every time they run onto the field? Other than LDT, can you think of a single guy? Lord was that Texans pick dumb. I can’t get over it.

SEAHAWKS (-7) over Cardinals
One of these games feels like an Upset Special…

JETS (+6) over Patriots
And I think it’s this one: Jets 16, Pats 13, WEEI panic calls 345,000. This seems like a good time to mention that Matt Berry and Chad Pennington shoved it in my face last week. You might need to start watching The Fantasy Show every week.

(That’s right, it’s the Fantasy Show, on ESPN2 every Thursday at 6:30 p.m.! Did I mention that Will Carroll has a segment called “Medicine Man” where he breaks down key injuries every week? Sadly, they rejected my idea to surround him with smoking-hot nurses wearing garter belts, but it’s still a good segment and you get to hear him use words like “medial collateral.” Just TiVo the show for three weeks. Come on. I don’t ask for much.)

The Sports Gal Speaks
Last Saturday afternoon I took our daughter to La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills. There was a kid’s soccer game going on and I noticed a big circle of paparazzi crunching around two people. So we moved towards them and it was Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes! The first thing I noticed was that they were the same height — he must have been wearing lifts and either she was wearing flats or he had her ankles removed. No way they’re the same height. His hips were five inches higher than her hips. But I ended up feeling really bad for them. The photographers were literally two feet from their face and moving as they moved. They just wanted to watch his kid’s soccer game. Then I was thinking about Katie and what her life is like — she just lost the baby weight and probably still feels fat all the time, but every time she leaves her house, she has to look good enough to be photographed from two feet away. This would drive me nuts and now I understand why most female celebrities end up being nuts. No wonder Kate Bosworth hasn’t eaten since 2003. I also felt bad for the other kids in the game. They’re just trying to play soccer and then 40,000 photographers show up. That’s not fair. All the celeb kids should be forced to play in celeb youth leagues so normal kids can play soccer in peace. Celeb kids are just going to be screwed-up adults some day, it’s not like they have a chance. Normal kids do.

Anyway, I felt bad for Tom and Katie for two days until Bill showed me how they were sitting in the front row of the Redskins game and obviously hoping to get shown on TV over and over again. Now I’m wondering if they alerted the paparazzi ahead of time about the soccer game. They probably did. I hate Hollywood. We need to get out of here.

Here are this week’s picks: Ravens -11; Colts -13.5; Browns +10.5; Dolphins -6.5; Bears -8.5; Vikes +2; Giants +3; Falcons -5.5; Saints -2; Rams -3; Seahawks -7; Pats -6; Chargers -12; Broncos -11; Cowboys -6; Steelers -1.

Last week’s record: 5-11

BRONCOS (-11) over Chiefs
One thing worries me: Broncos/Chargers/Ravens looks like the most obvious three-team tease of all-time. Always a red flag. On the flip side, there’s a Huard brother starting on the road in this game. So that’s always fun. Does Herm Edwards still think he’s coaching the Jets? Has anyone broken the news to him that this is a new team?

CHARGERS (-12) over Titans
Put it this way: If you’re not selling me on the whole closer-by-committee gimmick, you’re definitely not selling me on QB-by-committee. Did we ever figure out what happened to Jeff Fisher? He’s like the M. Night Shyamalan of NFL coaches.

Rams (-3) over NINERS
Brief announcement: We’re out of first-class seats on the Rams bandwagon, but we still have business class and coach available.

(Random note: Other than LDT, the best running back I watched in Week 1 was Frank Gore. Just an absolute dynamo. You’re about five weeks away from reading a stale Sports Illustrated profile about him. Consider yourself warned.)

Redskins (+6) over COWBOYS
Reuben in Indy wonders, “Do you think Daniel Snyder and Tom Cruise were hanging out together on Monday Night Football to make each other feel tall?”

Could be. But I was more fascinated by Cruise’s demeanor during the game — it was like he met advisors to determine the best way to act in the luxury box, with everyone agreeing, “behave as serious as possible, seem like you’re legitimately enthralled by the nuances of the game, definitely don’t cheer, high-five anyone or pump your fist and just make sure you don’t let go of Katie’s hand, not even if there’s an earthquake.” And then he pulled it off. Probably his best dramatic performance since “Magnolia.” You know what? I’m not giving up on the Tom Cruise Era yet. I’m willing to work with him. We’ve shared too much over the years.

JAGS (+1) over Steelers
Fact: Unless you have a really good reason, you always want to back a home team on Monday nights. It’s one of the oldest gambling rules we have, right up there with “avoid the most obvious parlay on the board” and “never bet on a Huard brother.”

Fact: Home teams are 0-2 on Monday nights this season.

(In other words … giddy up!)


Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book “Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.

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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