A series of unrelated, one-paragraph thoughts about the Week 8 games, disguised as picks (home teams in caps) …
Broncos (+2) over Niners
The reason: Any time an AFC team gives up 59 points and then plays in London against a 1-6 NFC team starting Troy Smith, you have to pick them. It’s just the rule. Especially when the AFC is 17-12 against the NFC this season (and has eight of the 10 best teams).
Afterthought: You could call this game the “What Coulda Been Wouldn’t Have Been So Great Either” Bowl. Had the Broncos kept Jeff George 2.0, things wouldn’t have been any different for them. Had the Niners given up on Alex Smith and traded for Donovan McNabb last spring, same thing. Both teams were screwed either way. So … yeah.
Prediction: You will be flipping channels in 2015, stumble across some Division III playoff game on ESPNU and say to yourself, “Wait a second, isn’t that Josh McDaniels?”
Dolphins (+1.5) over BENGALS
The reason: A dream matchup for me. The Bengals are wildly overvalued; the Dolphins are wildly undervalued. You get five gambling gifts per year like this one. Crap, I hope I didn’t just jinx it.
Afterthought: Miami’s three losses came against the Steelers, Patriots and Jets … only the three best teams in the league. I’m just sayin’.
Prediction: The Dolphins cruise to a 27-10 lead, then Carson Palmer heats up in garbage time to pad his stats and throw everyone off his rancid scent for another week. I’m on to you, Palmer.
CHIEFS (-7.5) over Bills
The reason: A good home team that runs the ball exceptionally well (5.0 yards a carry) against a bottom-feeder that can’t stop the run (4.8 yards a carry)? Sounds like a fourth-quarter blowout. And yes, I know Gus Johnson is calling this game, and by the Law of Gus Johnson, something will happen in the second half that makes him flip out and makes us think the underdog has a chance to win. I know. You don’t have to tell me.
Afterthought: Big fall for Harvard! Ryan Fitzpatrick finds himself starting for fantasy teams, Jeremy Lin makes the Warriors (Harvard’s first NBA player in 57 years, once he gets into a game) and “The Social Network” becomes a hit movie … I’m starting to think that school might make it.
Prediction: In this year’s NFL preview, I created the word “creeper” for teams that jump at least five wins and earn themselves a first-round bye. It’s happened every year since the NFL went to four-team divisions in 2003. Well, I couldn’t figure out this year’s creeper before reluctantly settling on … (gulp) … San Francisco. Just because of its division. Did I have the right logic and the wrong team? The Chiefs have one of the creamiest-puff schedules in years. Maybe they don’t seem like a 12-4 or 13-3 team, but again, EVERY season since 2003 has had a creeper. And they’re the only candidate unless you think the Jets or Steelers can go 14-2.
RAMS (-3) over Panthers
The reason: I like this Rams team. Solid at home (3-1); solid defensively (Week 5 excepted); three of their losses (Arizona, Oakland and Tampa) were giveaways down the stretch. It’s a good bad team. If that makes sense.
Afterthought: I love looking at the schedule every Monday and predicting the “Charles Davis and Dick Stockton” game. I’m 8-0.
Prediction: Not one, but TWO Rams touchdowns that don’t come from their offense, followed by the obligatory shot of Steve Smith pacing the Panthers’ sideline like he might punch someone.
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JETS (-6) over Packers
The reason: Introducing my Due For A Blowout Theory! Let’s see, the Packers aren’t one of the best 10 teams in the league … they’re banged up on the defensive line … they don’t have a running game … they have turnover/penalty/sack issues … five of their seven games were decided by four points or fewer (including all three of their losses) … they’ve played three tough games in a row (OT loss in Washington, OT loss versus Miami, then Favre Bowl III) … and now they’re on the road against a top-2 contender right after that team’s bye week, and as the kicker, it’s an AFC-NFC game? Sign me up!
Afterthought: Best moment of Favre Bowl III: Favre leaving Lambeau as the crowd booed him so loudly it sounded like the WWE was piping in fake booing. If you had shown me that clip as recently as four years ago, I would have turned into Jim Caldwell.
Prediction: Lots of fourth-quarter shots of LaDainian Tomlinson laughing happily on the sidelines with his helmet off while seething Chargers fans complain about A.J. Smith.
LIONS (-2.5) over Redskins
The reason: Finally healthy, the Lions might become a Late Bloomer (aka, the team that quietly comes on right around Halloween) because of their division (wide open) and their schedule (six home games plus two winnable games at Buffalo and Dallas). They’re 1-5 and 8-8 might take the NFC North. Could they go 7-3?
Afterthought: Can a 2010 NFC team get to 11 wins? (I’m leaning toward no.) Will we see 9-7 division champs in the NFC North and NFC West? (I’m leaning toward yes.) Will we see two 9-7 wild cards? (Yes, unless New Orleans gets it together.) Will we see an 8-8 division champ? (Fifty/fifty chance.) Will we see an 8-8 wild card? (Amazingly, it’s in play.) And if you had to bet your life on an NFC team making the Super Bowl, which one would you pick? (I’d go with Atlanta … although I wouldn’t feel great about it.)
Prediction: On Monday, at least 150,000 Washington sports fans will have the obligatory, “Wow, remember in July when we were so excited about Wall, Strasburg and McNabb? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?” conversation.
Jaguars (+6.5) over COWBOYS
The reason: This e-mail from Scott in St. Louis on Monday night: “Dallas is done. Romo broke his collarbone and now we’re stuck with Jon Kitna. Our secondary is awful. They’re completely worthless. Mike Jenkins is the Alex Barron of cornerbacks, and somehow they’re both on the same team. Not only can Jenkins not cover but he is also a horrible tackler. This game against the Giants has been so bad I’ve found myself looking at YouTube videos of curb stompings. I simply searched ‘curb stomps.’ That’s how bad this performance is.”
Afterthought: I liked Terry Bradshaw’s quote about Dallas last Sunday: “The world is full of talented unsuccessful people.” Every time he has a lucid moment on television, shouldn’t the show be stopped as balloons are dropped from the ceiling?
Prediction: Jim Nantz and Phil Simms become bitter about being stuck with this game by the third quarter and just start talking about golf.
CHARGERS (-3.5) over Titans
The reason: People are a little too excited about the Titans right now. And also, aren’t the Chargers due for one of those home blowouts when Phil Rivers throws for 380 yards and four touchdowns and does a ton of grinning and pointing?
Afterthought: I was so convinced that Tennessee was done last Sunday that I posted the following tweet: “Kerry Collins’ body language says, ‘I came back this year for one more paycheck, I never thought I’d actually effing play.'” Philly let them off the hook last week by completely falling asleep with Kenny Britt. And you’re not selling me on Vince Young on the West Coast, either. Sorry.
Prediction: The Chargers win their next three (this one, at Houston, then Denver) as their fans wonder, “Wait a second … does this mean we might not fire Norv? Should I start rooting against us? What do I do?”
PATRIOTS (-4) over Vikings
The reason: Either Brett Favre will start on a broken ankle or Tarvaris Jackson will start on two healthy ankles. Say no more.
Afterthought: I couldn’t be more excited that the Patriots have returned to the days of spreading it around, breaking out the bend-but-don’t-break defense, having guys I’ve never heard of make huge plays, getting lucky breaks, coming up with huge halftime adjustments, making overly aggressive coaching decisions that somehow work out (note: I hated the fourth-and-1 call in San Diego, not that they did it, but because they ran such a crappy play when they hadn’t been running the ball well all game, and yet, it worked out), and pulling out close games that make me feel sick afterwards. It’s my No. 2 highlight of the fall, trailing only my son climbing on my wife’s head last week, squatting on top of it while wearing a poopy diaper and screaming, “STINKFACE!”
Prediction: My dad calls Danny Woodhead “Woodhead,” “Woodside,” “Woodman” and “Woodland” this season.
RAIDERS (-2.5) over Seahawks
The reason: Violates my “never pick a non-playoff team after they’ve just played their greatest game in five years” rule … but the thought of taking Seattle on the road is too frightening.
Afterthought: The Raiders went 29-83 from 2003 to 2009. Somehow, my Patriots have their No. 1 pick during the one year they’ll probably finish 8-8. This makes me angry. Really, really angry.
Prediction: I won’t start Michael Bush over Darren McFadden again like I did in my West Coast fantasy league last week. By the way, McFadden was my fantasy herpie for three years — the guy who kept ending up on my team every year even after I told myself I wasn’t going to draft him — but I think he finally cleared up.
CARDINALS (-3) over Bucs
The reason: You realize the Cards are 2-0 at home, right? Four 2010 teams become three times more competent at home: Arizona, Seattle, Kansas City and Atlanta. It’s true.
Afterthought: If Darren McFadden is my fantasy herpie, then Larry Fitzgerald is my fantasy staph infection. Come on, Larry. For the love of God. Don’t make me bench you for Danario Alexander or Mike Thomas. That’s worse than Allen Iverson signing with a team in Turkey or Dirk Diggler soliciting dudes in a church parking lot. You can’t let it happen. Big week this week. Do it for us.
Prediction: I couldn’t think of one for this crappy game, so I asked the Sports Gal if she had anything sticking in her craw. Here’s what she said:
“I’ve gone to two Halloween parties, two Halloween field trips and a pumpkin patch with our kids already; I spent a weekend putting Halloween decorations outside my house and carving pumpkins; I have to attend a harvest festival with our kids plus two grown-up Halloween parties; and I haven’t even mentioned trick-or-treating with the kids or buying candy for trick-or-treaters yet. When did Halloween become more work than Christmas?”
Steelers (PK) over SAINTS
The reason: Playoff game rules in effect because of the situation — Halloween night, NBC, the last two Super Bowl champs — and in a playoff game, you pick the team you think is better. I think Pittsburgh is better. And also, there’s this e-mail from Tom in New Orleans …
“I remember when football was fun. You could tailgate, walk into the Dome with Bloody Mary in hand, and make comments like ‘that Marshall Faulk sure is good’ all the while having a great time while your team pissed away game after game. You never told me that winning the Super Bowl would ruin everything.” Actually, I did. With this column.
Afterthought: Hey, Sheriff Goodell? Instead of overreacting to hard hits to prove to everyone that you want to reduce concussions and make the game safer, why don’t you start investigating why your athletes routinely tear biceps and triceps muscles (like Pittsburgh’s Aaron Smith did last Sunday)?
Prediction: NBC’s cameras will be panning the crowd coming out of a timeout, inadvertently catch a Saints fan wearing a horribly inappropriate Ben Roethlisberger Halloween costume, accidentally linger on this person for two seconds too long … and this brief clip will get 3 million views on YouTube the next day.
COLTS (-5.5) over Texans
The reason: Houston can’t really sweep the series against Indy, right? And also, I don’t care how banged up the Colts are … you don’t go against Peyton Manning at night. You just don’t.
Afterthought: Liked this idea from Allan in Ontario: “Just decided I was going to be Roger Goodell for Halloween. I’m going to wear a suit, complain about everybody drinking too much, but make the party last two hours longer than it should so people will just drink more!” Zing! I love being one of the only mainstream sports writers who isn’t totally in the bag for Roger Goodell. It’s so liberating.
Prediction: I have three. First, I don’t know the name of Dallas Clark’s replacement, but he’s definitely catching two touchdowns and causing a fantasy stampede. Second, it’s going to be a 25-blink game for Jim Caldwell, which would be his career high. And third, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski are going to get into a third-quarter fistfight over who gets to shower Manning with more effusive praise. I can’t wait. And on that note, happy Halloween.
Last Week: 8-6
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller “The Book of Basketball.” For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy’s World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.