What happens when you genetically breed my NFL picks and mailbag columns and create a new species of Friday column? You enter the Island of Dr. Simbeau. When I first tried this gimmick last season, four readers were killed and another 53 were injured. The second time, we limited the casualties but earned a few emails of the “Hey, Dr. Simbeau, that column nearly broke my brain” variety. You know, a little like how I felt after the first time I watched this scene:
So, please, be careful as you read along. If you get lost within the column, or start to feel queasy, keep searching for bolded matchups with the gambling spreads until you regain your equilibrium. If that doesn’t work, just start screaming and we’ll come find you. Let’s tackle the Week 11 picks.
(Home teams in caps.)
TITANS (+3) over Colts1
I nailed this one last night: “Feels like the Colts either lose or win by 3.” An apt description of what happened! Although I should have included, “When in doubt, know that Ryan Fitzpatrick thrives when he’s down 10 in the last three minutes.”
Q: Your own Robert Mays writes, “The Colts have spent this season mixing staggering wins (San Francisco, Seattle, Denver) with confounding losses (Miami, San Diego, St. Louis) … ” Does this mean Indy managed to become the NFL’s first-ever Bad Good team?
—David C., Oakland
SG: Had they blown that Titans game last night, the answer would have been yes. And it almost happened! That reminds me — the Panthers can no longer be considered the Good Bad Team after winning in San Francisco. Instead, they passed the torch right to the 49ers, whose last five wins came against the Texans, Jags, Titans, Rams and Cards.
Such a crazy season. Ron Rivera is the new Bill Belichick. Alex Smith is 9-0. Geno Smith is 5-4. The 3-6 Giants and 4-5 Browns are improbably lurking. The Falcons and Texans are having two of the all-time grenade seasons. Lions fans are saying things like, “Wait, is this what hope feels like?” We haven’t had a single coach fired yet. Evil Peyton Manning is going for a 6-6-6 season (600 points, 6,000 yards, 60 TDs). Nick Foles is pitching a perfect QB game. The Bucs mysteriously got rid of their 25-year-old starting QB but can’t get rid of staph infections. We nearly had two 0-16 teams before they both screwed it up last Sunday. Our biggest stories of the season involved (a) one of New England’s top receiving threats allegedly leading a double life as a prolific murderer, and (b) a bullying situation between two gigantic offensive linemen who exchanged hundreds and hundreds of texts like they were 13-year-old girls. I could keep going.
Q: I’m not a Pats fan and wasn’t familiar with the legend of Bernard Karmell Pollard until your last article. I asked Google Now for a search and I was given a picture of three Patriots crumpled over in pain. Thank you for introducing me to this.
—Deon Woods, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
SG: And thank you to the Titans for continuing to lose so I don’t have to worry about a Titans-Pats Round 1 playoff game.
Q: Would there be any bigger scandal in professional sports than if it came out that Dr. James Andrews was on the take for certain teams? Think about it — every time a high profile professional athlete goes down with a major injury, 99 times out of 100, Dr. Andrews is brought in. Imagine the devastation and harm he could inflict on franchises for years to come if Evil Dr. James purposely botched diagnoses and surgeries? One look at his wikipedia page and the list of athletes he has had under his care is staggering. I’m sure you could crank out 5,000 words analyzing a world with Evil Dr. James. You know, if you actually wrote articles anymore.
—Matty Loop, New Orleans
SG: Whoa! We were going so well before the drive-by cheap shot at the end. I still write articles, mister! For the record, Evil Dr. James Andrews is the single best idea for a new FX drama that’s ever happened. I’d use real athletes for it, too — it could be a cross between Nip/Tuck and Arli$$. And I’d just call it Evil Dr. James. Can we get James Spader to star in this? Can James Spader carry two shows at once? Or what about getting ambitious, doing this show with HBO (which has gobs and gobs of money), and throwing some serious bank at Jack Nicholson to play Evil Dr. James? Who’s not watching that show? Ask someone in your office or dorm right now, “Did you hear HBO has a show coming with Jack Nicholson playing Evil Dr. James Andrews?” and see what the reaction is. There’s only one TV idea better than that one …
Q: Now that Better Call Saul has the green light, it seems like the right time to pitch a Wire spinoff called Clay Davis Goes to Washington. The idea: Clay Davis gets elected to the House and takes Washington by storm. The marketing for the series is already done — the character of Davis already subliminally willed the spinoff. The show would need to be more comedic than The Wire, but it could still have a dramatic edge. There would be lots of opportunities for Wire character cameos — McNulty testifies before Congress or Slim Charles walks in the background as Clay Davis eats a sandwich. It’s been long enough, right?
SG: You had me at Clay Davis Goes to Washington. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-it. Where is AMC on this one? AMC needs shows! Buy the rights from HBO, AMC! DO THE DAMNED THING!
EAGLES (-4) over Washington
Q: Is there a more awkward moment in football than the part after a touchdown where the scorer does his little dance or move or schtick, and the rest of his teammates are just standing around haphazardly and waiting for him to finish so they can congratulate him?
—Andy, Cleveland, Ohio
SG: Sure — the first four or five seconds after every Riley Cooper TD. And there have been a lot of them lately. Did anyone else notice that Riley’s fantasy season took off the moment Richie Incognito supplanted him as the 2013 NFL season’s resident racist? I have Riley carrying my East Coast fantasy league right now — it’s been interesting to share the same confusing “mildly excited/mildly conflicted” emotion after every big Riley play that Eagles fans and even Eagles players are feeling.
Q: I cannot say that I am a tormented Philly fan because we won the World Series in 2008, which wasn’t that long ago, even if it feels like it sometimes. But you could definitely call me a tormented Eagles fan. Even when things go well with the Eagles, I always assume it cannot stay that way because they are the Eagles. So, you can only imagine how I am handling Nick Foles going for 16 and 0 in Chip Kelly’s offense. I keep waiting for him to get hurt or turn into Bobby Hoying. Should I enjoy this Foles season more than I am? You don’t have a dog in this fight, what’s your take?
—Kenny, Wilmington, Delaware
SG: First of all, kudos for subtly dropping a “you don’t have a dog in this fight” moment into a mailbag question about an Eagles QB and laying off the obligatory Michael Vick follow-up joke. You’re a better man than me. But I passed along your question to Grantland’s Triangle editor and resident Philly fan, Chris Ryan, who’s finally talking to me again after I offended him in a Grantland meeting by saying that the Wu-Tang Clan is “overrated” and “living proof that great nicknames can go a long way.” Here was Chris’s take on Foles:
Did someone say great nicknames?! Are we talking about Nickfoleon Dynamite!? Nick Foles is not the perfect Philadelphia quarterback, but he might be a perfect Chip Kelly quarterback. He has great timing, can be a human tackling dummy when the line falls apart, and generally makes good decisions. Mike Vick has (or had) that nobody-likes-us/underdog/last-chance-saloon vibe that sells faster in Philly than beer at the Mummers Parade. Nick … let’s just say he’s lacking in that department. But whatever he lacks in swagger he makes up for in Dan Marino Tecmo Bowl numbers. Chip seems convinced, and that’s good enough for me.
Me, too! I think Philly will win the NFC East comfortably by three games, setting up a fascinating Round 2 matchup against either Carolina or New Orleans. An Eagles-Saints Round 1 shootout? Drew Brees outdoors? Chip Kelly trying to out–Sean Payton Sean Payton? Philly fans going bonkers and doing Philly-fan things? I’m in! How weird would these four Round 1 games be, all of which are in play: a shootout (Eagles-Saints); two bitter rivalry games (Lions-Bears, Pats-Jets); and one of the all-time gambling anomalies (Denver favored by 14.5 in Cleveland). Now that’s a Round 1, my friends.
Jets (PK) over BILLS
Q: Admit it simmons — you’re scared of Ed Reed on the Jets! Ed Reed owns Tom Brady! See you in Round 1.
—Jonathan, New York
SG: Did that email feel a little like a Pats fan posing as a Jets fan to jinx the Ed Reed signing, or was it just me? Although I guess you couldn’t blame Jets fans for being overconfident — since the last time they played a football game, they were gifted with TWO Titans losses, a Chargers loss, a season-ending Dolphins scandal, exit stage rights from Buffalo and Houston, and the Ravens simultaneously staying alive for the second wild card while making everyone feel worse about their 2013 chances. You couldn’t have asked for a better series of breaks. Now the Jets head to Buffalo to play the struggling Bills, who’ve won three games all season by a total of six points. And it’s only a pick ’em? Thank you, Vegas!
(Fast-forward to 3:10 p.m. on Sunday: “What the hell was I doing taking Geno Smith on the road? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME????????”)
As for Ed Reed, I was rooting for him to quit football and sign with The Walking Dead. Can you think of a better fit? I’ve been dying for a real-life professional athlete to show up on that show, anyway. And it’s not like Ed Reed would have to get into character — he already looks like he hasn’t slept, shaved or showered in 15 weeks. He’s a loose cannon. He’s fearless. He’s funny. He could probably kill 29 walkers in less than a minute. He could give the Walking Dead crew some much-needed leadership and maybe even wrest control of the group from that stammering loser Rick. What am I missing? This is my second-favorite idea to make The Walking Dead better, narrowly trailing my idea to have Carl endanger the tribe by becoming a serial masturbator. (FYI: I wrote about this idea in Grantland’s Sunday-Night TV Precap today.) Wait, we’re not done with The Walking Dead.
Q: How many crossbow arrows does Daryl have?
SG: The short answer: Somewhere between 500 and 2,500. But that’s one of the four Walking Dead questions that every viewer is afraid to ask because they don’t want to ruin the show.
Non-Question 1: Don’t think about Daryl’s never-ending collection of crossbow arrows.
Non-Question 2: Don’t think about the fact that nobody needs a haircut except for Carl.
Non-Question 3: Don’t think about Hershel moving around like he’s Russell Wilson on some random prosthetic leg that mysteriously showed up in Season 3.
Non-Question No. 4: Definitely don’t think about how bad it must smell in the Georgia prison that’s become their home base. Think about it: backed-up toilets, unwashed clothes, no deodorant, hundreds of gallons of dried blood and zombie guts, the stink of dozens of living people who haven’t showered combined with hundreds of decomposing zombie bodies, and if that’s not enough, that miasma of smells is fermenting in the suffocating Georgia heat every day. So why doesn’t everyone look like they’ve smelled the worst fart ever at all times? If I were a character on this show, it would dominate every conversation I had.
Rick: “Hey, we need to go into town to find medication to try to stop this virus, it’s gonna kill everybody.”
Me: “And if it doesn’t, don’t worry — the smell in here is gonna do it. Instead of medication, what if we go into town to find a few cases of Right Guard and some scented candles?”
Rick: “Do we have enough gas for the car?”
Me: “Speaking of gas, Daryl farted five minutes ago and it actually improved the smell in here.”
Rick: “You get the car, I’ll get a couple of the others to come with us.”
Me: “Great, let’s cram as many smelly people in our hot car as possible. We couldn’t have found a convertible?”
Seriously, does anyone ever mention the has-to-be-staggeringly-horrendous-to-the-point-that-you-can’t-think-of-anything-else-miasma-of-a-smell on this show? NO! NEVER! It never comes up! Drives me crazy. Sorry, back to football …
BEARS (-3) over Ravens
Q: What’s your favorite Ray Rice fact? I didn’t make up any of these: 1) The main topic on Baltimore talk radio this week is how Bernard Pierce (2.8 ypc, 3rd-last in the NFL) should be playing more than Ray Rice; 2) Chris Ivory is the 25th-ranked RB in terms of YPC, but Chris Ivory is closer to first place in YPC than Ray Rice is to Chris Ivory; 3) Ray Rice has averaged more than 3 YPC once this season (the game when he had 5 carries for 17 yards); 4) four players have tripled Ray Rice’s total rushing yards through 10 weeks; 5) Ray Rice has 24 more rushing yards than Alex Smith does.
—Tony in Baltimore
SG: What about (6) Ray Rice has ruined 1,496,712 fantasy seasons? It has to be close to 1.5 million, right? Figure 15 million people play fantasy football and at least 1.5 million of those people either paid way too much for Ray Rice or picked him way too early. I say 1.5 million. He’s the odds-on favorite for this season’s Daunte Culpepper Award — it’s worse than Julio Jones or Aaron Rodgers because Rice missed only one game with an injury. You just had to keep starting him and hoping “This is the week!” Nope. It’s never the week. We might as well give him the Culpepper now.
Anyway, that’s just one of the many reasons I can’t believe the Ravens are hanging around the AFC playoff race. They’re 1-4 on the road. They can’t run the ball. Their most reliable possession receiver is (gulp) Dallas Clark. They can’t block for Joe Flacco, who’s the league’s most-blitzed QB. Football Outsiders has their offense ranked 29th in DVOA. And they’re getting only three points in Chicago this weekend? I don’t get it. I actually kinda like Josh McCown — the Bears would have beaten Detroit last Sunday if they played him. I love the Bears giving anything less than four.
Q: Last weekend I ordered food online at a local Indian food restaurant by using a credit card. Four hours later I was charged again, but this time by something called “SHAKEY S PIZZA.” Three thoughts: 1) don’t ever order food on shady local Indian restaurant websites; 2) being from PA, I had never heard of Shakey’s Pizza until I read your column; and 3) some guy had free reign over my credit card and spent it on $50-worth of Shakey’s pizza! From your accounts, it’s terrible. That has to be one of the worst usages of a stolen credit card number, right?
—Mike W., Warminster, Pennsylvania
SG: I don’t know if it’s THE worst usage of a stolen credit card, but it has to rank among the most depressing usages. Thanks for the segue, Mike — here’s our Shakey’s Pizza Watch for Week 11:
The Saints outdoors (cannot be forgotten) … Mike Munchak … Dallas’s secondary … Dallas’s defensive line … Dallas’s linebackers … the possibility that Rashard Mendenhall has incriminating photos of Bruce Arians … K.C.’s offense on the road (unless the Chiefs are playing possum) … Matt Ryan without Julio Jones … all goal-line carries called for Danny Woodhead … Seattle’s run defense against the wrong team … Lamar Woodley’s franchise pass-rusherness … every Randy Bullock kick … every Christian Ponder Hail Mary … Terrelle Pryor’s last four games (8 INTs, 18 sacks, 50.8%) … Josh Freeman’s CFL potential … Arian Foster IPO’s … Real World unbelievably changing its format (Jacoby and Juliet were all over this) … Mike Shanahan since 2006 (48-58) … C.J. Spiller’s chances of being a $50 fantasy running back in this lifetime or the next six.
Browns (+6) over BENGALS
Q: I hate myself for ever believing in Andy Dalton.
—Patrick, Sharonville, Ohio
SG: Well, I think you’re going to hate yourself more this week. Cleveland beats the banged-up Bengals outright: Browns 20, Bengals 16. HERE COME THE BROWNS! And if that’s not enough, the Trent Richardson trade is shaping up to be the most one-sided sports trade of the 21st century that didn’t involve the words “James Harden” or “Carl Crawford.” Speaking of Trent …
Q: Thanks to TMZ Sports, I just learned that there’s a Trent Richardson orgy sex tape being shopped that stars Trent and “at least” three ladies. I also learned that Trent has “a lot in common” with the Colts mascot. FYI: The Colts mascot is a horse. Has any football player ever become a legend and a bust in the same month?
—Name accidentally deleted
SG: Move over, Greg Oden, there’s a new sheriff in Putthatthingaway Town! I might break my vow of never watching a male athlete’s sex tape just to see this one. I mean, OF COURSE Trent Richardson’s sex tape was going to be an orgy! Nobody has more experience having three people on top of him at all times. Do you think the tape starts with Trent seeing a pile of naked people, running into it and falling down? Did they have to stop filming because Trent couldn’t find any holes? Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.
Q: Can you make the all-time “Hide Your Girl” men in sports history? The guys that under absolutely no circumstances can leave your wife or girlfriend alone with these men due to fear of your girlfriend or wife leaving you for them. Of current players, I nominate Chandler Parsons, Matt Kemp, Colin Kaepernick, Miles Austin, and CJ Wilson, with Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson and Derek Jeter as our first ballot Hall of Famers. Who am I missing on this list?
—Donald C., Chesapeake
SG: You mean, other than Trent Richardson? For first-ballot Hall of Famers, you’re definitely missing Dr. Jerry Buss (the Hef of sports owners), Joe DiMaggio (married Marilyn Monroe in her prime!), Joe Namath (the second most famous sports bachelor ever), Wilt Chamberlain (our most famous bachelor, and unlike Joe, he never got married), Michael Jordan, and Michael Jordan a second time because he can’t believe Donald C. left him off this list and might fly to Chesapeake tomorrow just to find Mrs. Donald C.
Lions (-2.5) over STEELERS
Q: If you had to run a fourth-and-1 play and your life depended on it, what would the play be?
—Bill, Los Angeles
SG: Fine, I wrote this one. And here’s my answer: I’d run the lob pass into the corner of the end zone for Calvin Johnson. It’s unstoppable. Normally I hate that play more than Miley Cyrus hates clothes. But when it’s Megatron? I feel like it’s always going to work. How can it NOT work? Who’s stopping Megatron? I’ve been watching football for 40 years — the only receiver I can ever remember being more unstoppable around the goal line was Philly’s Harold Carmichael, a 6-foot-8 receiver who seemed like he was 7-foot-8 because he was playing in the late ’70s. Ron Jaworski (yes, THAT Ron Jaworski) would throw him alley-oops and none of those late-’70s D-backs had a chance.
Random Carmichael tangent: I was surfing for a YouTube clip of those alley-oops and stumbled across this clip of Dallas’s Dennis Thurman knocking Carmichael into la-la land with a cheap shot that would earn him a four-game suspension in 2013. You know what’s really interesting? How happily Thurman celebrates afterward. Woo-hoo! I knocked that guy out! He might be dead! We might have to make this a running YouTube series on Grantland: “Football Hits That Make You Retroactively Cringe.”
Q: Would you rather have Dick LeBeau, Monte Kiffin or Regis Philbin as your defensive coordinator right now? I am going with Regis — even if he’s the oldest of the three (I think he is anyway), at least he’d be energetic on the sidelines.
—Parker, Austin, Texas
SG: I’m taking Regis as well. At this point, Dick LeBeau and Monte Kiffin should be sitting on a porch in Florida playing canasta together and waiting for Blue Bloods to come on, not engineering NFL defensive plans every week. Speaking of Blue Bloods, CBS kept running a promo last weekend that may not have been on the level of Ron Silver yelling, “HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!” but still, I thought it was pretty outstanding. I BELIEVE IN YOU!!!!
St. Louis’s Bye Week (+4.5) over Dallas’s Bye Week
Q: No Cowboys fan that I know is freaking out following this blowout loss in New Orleans (and I know MANY). The reason: because we’ve come to expect this from the Cowboys, a once-proud franchise now mired in mediocrity because of the short-sightedness and incompetence of our General MisManager (trademark pending), Jerry Jones. We are exactly 21-21 since the start of Jason Garrett’s first full season in 2011, and an incredible 133-133 since the start of the 1997 season. Look it up. It’s true. Until Jerry kicks the bucket, or decides to hire the next Sean Payton/Chip Kelly to replace The Red Robot, I am mentally prepared to continue this monotonous existence as the most-exciting .500 team in sports. There’s no freaking out, because we’re used to it. It’s The Cowboy Way.
—Benjamin Porter, The Colony, Texas
SG: Jerry Jones, everybody! It’s nice to get a thoughtfully scathing email about the Cowboys that somehow didn’t cross any lines.
Q: Last night was my third ‘Lifetime Movie game’ of the Cowboys season so far. By that I mean that being a Cowboys fan is equivalent to [DELETED BY THE GRANTLAND EDITORS].
—Michael, Southington, Connecticut
SG: See? It’s hard to sum up this Cowboys season without crossing a line. I have one more Cowboys email to answer, but we have to take it to the footnotes because it includes a Breaking Bad spoiler. Don’t read it if you haven’t finished the series yet.2
Q: I’m a huge New York Giants fan and I’ve rooted against Tony Romo for most of my life, but at this point, I just want to see him run away from the Cowboys Jesse Pinkman–style — leaving the Dallas parking lot laughing and crying in joy. I want to see him go to a different team and have success. I can’t be alone, right?
—Chris Agar, Felton, DE
SG: I feel the same way. But to keep the analogy going, even if Romo ends up getting away, it might be like the Jesse situation in that a happy ending would be impossible — there’s just been too much damage.
BUCS (+2) over Falcons
Raiders (+7) over TEXANS3
Explanation for these picks: Still feels like there’s a little more rock bottom left in these Texans/Falcons seasons. I don’t think we’ve hit the bottom of the pool yet.
Q: You keep putting Kiko Alonso on your Reggie Cleveland All-Stars (for white guys with names that make you think they’re black). Kiko has some serious superpowers, but I do not think turning his Cuban father’s genes and his mother’s Colombian genes into white genes is one of them. Maybe you need to start the Kiko Alonzo All-Stars?
SG: Done! That’s one of the great names of all time — I thought he was a white guy with a name that made him sound African American, but instead he’s Hispanic? Unbelievable! Who knew?
Q: One of your readers mentioned a Cialis commercial with an exceptionally large plate of nachos. I was familiar with the commercial but hadn’t noticed the nachos. Were the nachos huge and I just hadn’t been paying close enough attention? Or, god forbid, had it not jumped out at me because it seemed like a normal serving — meaning the plates of nachos I typically consume are actually large enough to be shared by Vince Wilfork and William “Fatman” Conrad? Upon further review, I’m alarmed to say it’s the latter. I’ve routinely polished off plates of nachos that big all by myself, let alone shared with one other person. Anyway, here’s the commercial. You be the judge.
—Chad Snow, Tempe, Arizona
SG: All right, I watched the commercial between five and 30 times. It’s definitely a lot of nachos. But here’s how I would analyze it: For whatever reason, we see the nachos right when the ad starts, as if they’re trying to establish in our heads just how freaking gigantic that nacho plate really is. At the 39-second mark, inexplicably, they travel backward in time and the girlfriend BRINGS OUT THE SAME NACHO PLATE. So clearly, the nachos were super-important both to the director and the commercial itself.
OK, so why? What’s so important about this particular heaping plate of nachos?
Here’s the key: If you watch the boyfriend’s reaction at the 42-second mark, it could be loosely translated as, “Jesus, honey, you really went all out for me. That’s a shitload of nachos — damn! Thank you! I can’t believe this! Look at those nachos!”
So why did she go all out? Why so many nachos? Because he finally listened to her and started taking Cialis, that’s why! There weren’t nearly enough boners in her life; now there are boners galore, and she’s so damned happy, she’s gonna watch football with him even though she hates football, and if he wants nachos she’s gonna make him the biggest plate of nachos he’s ever seen. And for everyone watching this at home, this could happen to you, too. More boners = more football, more smiling and more nachos. Who knew?
JAGS (+9) over Cards
Q: Is it weird that I have my Twitter account set up so that every time you Tweet, it sends a text message to my phone? Its like we’re buddies. After you get the next mailbag over with, I think we should get an apartment together.
SG: Only if you bring me a heaping plate of nachos every week. Even if I don’t trust Arizona on the road (especially laying this many points), let’s at least agree that this is the weekend you’ll either say (a) “I like Arizona’s defense and I really like Andre Ellington. That frisky Cards team might sneak into the playoffs!” or (b) “I can’t believe I thought Carson Palmer had a chance to make the playoffs.” It’s one or the other. I vote for “(a)” — Ellington isn’t even sneaky-good anymore, he’s openly good. Andre Ellington, I BELIEVE IN YOU!!!!
As for the rest of the Sneaky Good Watch for Week 11: any human being with a fantasy team who didn’t waive Tavon Austin for nine weeks, then started him in Week 10 … a returning Shane Vereen’s impact on New England’s offense (my favorite “sneaky-good” example of the season) … The Conjuring as a pay-per-view rental … Nick Folk on any field goal when an opponent doesn’t lightly push a teammate in the back … Aaron Dobson’s breakout potential … the Gronk–Jimmy Graham battle for tight end supremacy … New York’s D-line … Case Keenum’s Romo 2.0 potential … Golden Tate’s kick returns … all bombs thrown to Kenny Stills … all surprise onside kicks … Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram in garbage time … the footnote in Jay Kang’s feature about Brian Holloway in which Holloway insanely claims that Michael Jackson made the ’85 Pats throw Super Bowl XX (whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat????????) … all McCown brothers.
Chargers (-2.5) over DOLPHINS
Q: Admit it, you had Richie Incognito in your racism fantasy league.
SG: First round, baby! Wait a second … why is this line so low? Who’s taking the Dolphins this week, or any week? And why does Billy Zima continue to believe the Chargers can make a belated wild-card run when they’re already 4-5, they have three games left against the AFC West juggernauts (one against Denver, two against Kansas City), they keep killing themselves in close games, they have the NFL’s worst defense according to Football Outsiders, and it’s looking more and more like Mike McCoy is Brad Childress 2.0 as a game manager? Someone needs to save me from myself.
Q: In the ongoing discussion of Mr Incognito’s locker room behavior, will someone please bring up the alleged stories of “The Naked Warrior,” Charles Haley. All I can think about when I hear about the Incognito situation is Charles Haley turning to Joe Montana while masturbating and asking for assistance. How can it get any worse than that?
—John B., Rochester
SG: And that wasn’t even Joe Montana’s greatest moment involving masturbation!
Q: On Nov. 11th’s Monday Night Countdown, did you see DeMaurice Smith used a triple negative about Incognito’s infamous voicemail? He said, “I haven’t met a player who didn’t believe that the words that were being used weren’t offensive.” Huh?
—Jeff, Ludlow, Massachusetts
SG: DeMaurice Smith needs to get off Dan Dierdorf’s corner. I’m not so sure that nobody hasn’t taken a more brazen run at Dan Dierdorf’s corner than DeMaurice Smith just did.
Q: After watching the Dolphins do what the Dolphins do, I starting thinking of ways they could have unembarrassed themselves when I came up with the “secret timeout”. This is how it works, every team gets one secret timeout a year and it can be busted out at any time, no questions asked. It would add a new dimension to coaching and probably make 10 more football games interesting a year. Who wouldn’t want that?
—Alex, Pembroke Pines
SG: I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: That’s one of the greatest ideas I’ve ever heard. I wouldn’t call it the “secret timeout,” though. I’d call it “The Lifeline.” And there are six certainties about The Lifeline. First, Marvin Lewis would absolutely use it in Week 1 for no good reason whatsoever. Second, the general discourse about which coaches should have/shouldn’t have used their lifelines from week to week would be way too much fun; Bill Barnwell would get an extra 17 columns and 240,000 words per season from it. Third, it would be an unbelievable monkey wrench for the end of every game — imagine last night if the Titans, facing the end of their season, could have used their lifeline to force a Colts punt with 40 seconds left? Fourth, every season, one team would get screwed when multiple teams randomly used their lifelines against them. Fifth, there’s a 100 percent chance that team would be either the Browns, Bills or Jets. And sixth, at least one coach (probably Mike McCarthy) would go his whole season without using his lifeline, to the utter dismay and derision of his fan base. I love this idea so much. Alex from Pembroke Pines, you’re a genius.
Packers (+5) over GIANTS
Q: Fantasy football sucks. Let’s keep reminding one another of this and commit to not play next year around August, ok? Thanks.
A guy who spent $90 on Julio Jones and Aaron Rodgers
—Philip, Denton, Texas
SG: I’m starting Case Keenum in both leagues this week. Five weeks ago, you could have told me that Case Keenum was a new TNT drama about a rule-breaking attorney played by James Van Der Beek. So yeah, sign me up for this quitting-fantasy-in-August thing. By the way, this is another textbook “Looks Too Easy On Paper” home game for the Giants — I could see Green Bay winning outright, followed by every Giants fan giving up on the season for about 15 minutes, then realizing that they’re still just two games out.
Q: If the Giants rebound from their 0-6 start to make the playoffs, go on the road through Seattle and New Orleans (bar none the two toughest places to play in the NFL) and win the NFC, then Eli beats either Peyton or Brady for a THIRD time in the Super Bowl and they get to celebrate their championship IN Giants Stadium, does that not become the greatest sports story of all time?
SG: Especially during the same season when Eli threw 30 picks and broke the single-season pick-six record! You’re right, that would be incredible. But the 2004 Red Sox coming back from 0-3 in the ALCS to beat the baseball bully that had been religiously kicking their asses for eight solid decades was the greatest sports story of all time. How is anyone ever topping that? What scenario would top that one? The Browns winning a championship by beating Pittsburgh in Round 2, Baltimore in Round 3, and then the Super Bowl over the Giants by coming back from 20 down in the fourth quarter? The Cubs winning the NLCS by coming back from three games to none against the Cardinals, then beating the White Sox in the World Series? Tiger Woods winning the Masters 15 years from now as his third wife, Paulina Gretzky, sobs happily from the side of the green? Seriously, how are we ever topping the 2004 ALCS?
SEAHAWKS (-12.5) over Vikings
Q: Christan Ponder is like a girlfriend you broke up with, but keep waking up next to after drunk nights because your drunk self always returns to the conclusion that you can’t do any better. The worst part — when you take someone else home, they always seem to make your ex seem that much better, right? You might even try to get back together with them, but after a few weeks, you realize they are just making you feel bad about yourself again. The most surefire way to know that Ponder is every Vikings fan’s bad ex girlfriend: when your other friends hear you try and justify “making it work,” they cringe and talk trash behind your back.
SG: Does this analogy change when the ex-girlfriend is playing with a dislocated left shoulder? Either way, I’ll be laying the two touchdowns — Billy Zima is making picks for the rest of 2012 while operating under the premise of “The Seahawks are finishing 15-1.”
Q: Has Leslie Frazier become the next Art Shell? He doesn’t smile, cheer, yell at the refs, shout at players, walk up and down the sidelines, move … hell, the man doesn’t even really talk! Instead he just stands there with a half-scowl on his face as if Bill Musgrave just shit in his pants. Which also probably isn’t a stretch considering they both have to watch Christian Ponder play QB. If you look at Frazier, you can just read his thoughts saying “Just great Christian, you missed another guy who was wide open. Thanks to my GM my only other option is a washed up 26 year old. Ugh … Bill just pooped em’ again. I hope I get fired soon.”
—Brandon, Mankato, MN
SG: One of the NFL’s strangest running subplots: the Vikings finally being saddled with a boring head coach. That used to be a Vikings staple — maybe they never won the Super Bowl, but they always had an entertaining coach. Bud Grant was the poor man’s Tom Landry. Les Steckel lasted just one season and goes down as one of the least-liked NFL head coaches ever — he was like Greg Schiano on steroids. Jerry Burns made you say things like, “Wait, is that their coach or the head groundskeeper?” and gave us one of the 20 most underrated clips on YouTube.
After Burns, Denny Green showed up, and Denny Green was who we thought he was!!! IF YOU WANT TO CROWN HIM AS THE MOST ENTERTAINING VIKINGS COACH EVER, THEN CROWN HIS ASS! HE WAS WHO WE THOUGHT HE WAS!
After Green, the immortal Mike Tice showed up. How bad was Mike Tice? Dan from Minneapolis once sent me this email: “Now, Mike Tice sucks as an NFL coach. That much is obvious. But, in his defense, I think that he’d win an all-NFL coaches version of Survivor. He’d be one of those guys who nobody thinks can go anywhere and insults everyone during the course of the show and somehow wins the whole thing. Thoughts? By the way, I’m 13.”
Who followed Mike Tice? The one, the only … Mr. Brad Childress! We’ll remember him for being one of the worst clock managers of all time, spawning 275,000 “he looks like he’s about to walk into Chris Hansen’s house with a case of beer” jokes, starring in “The Flabbergasted Four” and getting annihilated in one of those “anonymous players crush their coach” pieces that included quotes like “He has absolutely no people skills,” “We’re playing for us, and we’re winning despite him,” “As much as I hate Childress, I will keep playing,” and “We know that Childress doesn’t have our backs, so why should we have his?”
So Leslie Frazier just coaching them toward 3-13 while impersonating a slightly angrier Art Shell … I mean, that’s just not cutting it. Step it up, Leslie.
SAINTS (-3.5) over 49ers
Q: Don’t we need to stop calling Jimmy [Graham] a tight end? If all you do is line up and run routes, you are a wide receiver. Dude is lined up in the slot or out wide 90% of the time. HE NEVER BLOCKS!!! I can’t be the only person that thinks this. Deion Sanders tackles > Jimmy Graham blocks.
SG: Phenomenal point. The Eye Test sure says he’s a receiver only, although I’d love to see the data on it. (We’ve learned never to totally trust the Eye Test.) Regardless, I’m not picking against the Saints in the Superdome again this season. Doesn’t this game have “Saints 42, Niners 10” potential combined with “Alex Smith is 10-0 and Kaepernick is falling apart … um, did we keep the wrong QB?” potential?
Q: Was this the pinnacle of Jalen Rose’s acting career?
—Jimmy, Newark, Delaware
SG: There’s no question. Look, I asked a lot from you during this column. You had to read two different column gimmicks that were genetically bred into a third column gimmick. You had to watch multiple Vine videos, YouTube clips, Cialis commercials and old SNL sketches. You’ve had to endure my terrible football picks and the terrible logic behind them. You had to think about Charles Haley’s penis, Trent Richardson’s penis, and young Carl from The Walking Dead pleasuring himself. You’ve been a trouper for nearly 6,500 words. You really have. But if you do anything today, watch that Jalen clip. If it were up to me, we’d scrap tonight’s NBA Countdown show (7:30 ET, ESPN!) and run that Jalen clip seven straight times.
Chiefs (+7.5) over BRONCOS
Q: As a lifelong Chiefs fan, there’s nothing better than being 9-0 while somehow STILL being the “Nobody believes in us” team.
—Luke Younger, NYC
SG: You couldn’t have played it any better. Hold on, there’s more.
Q: Top 5 reasons to pick KC to win the game Sunday night at Denver.
5. The league’s scariest pass rush is taking on a hobbled mediocre-to-bad O-Line.
4. Said O-Line will be protecting a hobbled 37-yr old QB.
3. The temp will be in the low to mid 30’s around kickoff time.
2. Andy Reid is 13-1 in games following his bye week.
1. The “Nobody Believes In Us” factor has never been stronger for a 9-0 team.
SG: And you left out these …
8. “Jack Del Rio is prominently involved.”
7. “The whole ‘everyone is down on the Chiefs because of their schedule, but Denver’s schedule has been 93 percent as easy” thing.
6. “A hobbled Manning going against a ferocious D that’s going to keep coming and coming all game.”
Did you know Kansas City’s defense has given up just 11 touchdowns all season and somehow scored six itself? My rule with huge football games: If the line creeps over four, don’t take the road team unless you think it can actually win. The Chiefs could absolutely steal this one. And yes, they could also lose 42-20 as Alex Smith implodes into 450 different pieces; that’s why the line drifted so high. Denver at home is like New Orleans at home in this respect: When it starts to go wrong for the road team, suddenly it’s going REALLY wrong. But I believe the Chiefs have been playing possum, sticking to missionary-position football and waiting to unleash themselves in this specific game for four weeks. Total Kitchen Sink game for them. If the Chiefs win this one, they’re effectively locking up the no. 1 seed. And they’re never getting a gimpier Manning than the one they’re getting this week, as Barnwell pointed out in his Chiefs-Broncos breakdown today. Of course …
Q: Are you throwing your “never bet against Peyton Manning in a night game” rule out the window for this one?
—Dave S., the Ozarks
SG: That’s the rub. Going against Manning at night …
Q: The picture below is the ultimate Evil Peyton theory proof. Staring with an evil look in his eyes and rubbing his hands like he’s plotting. Also, why is there a ball between his legs? How does that play into his plans for the “6-6-6” season?
—Tom, Oxford, Ohio
— Denver Broncos (@DenverBroncos) November 11, 2013
SG: And even worse, going against Evil Manning at night. Yikes. Let’s keep going before I change my mind.
PANTHERS (-3) over Patriots
Q: Does it concern you that, if the Patriots lose to Carolina and Denver, they might be tied with the Jets?
—Greg Maxwell, NH
SG: (Nodding grimly.)
Q: You’re the expert on faces: Manning Face, the Art Shell/Jim Caldwell Blank Face, etc. What do you call the Tom-Brady-just-threw-a-pick-but-it’s-clearly-not-HIS-fault-it-must-be-these-receivers face?
—J.C., Geneva, NY
SG: It’s just the Tom Brady Face. By the way, this was the most common Patriots-related email that people have been sending me the past few weeks, narrowly edging everyone who read this ridiculous (and ridiculously enjoyable) Reddit thread about Bill Belichick being an NFL double agent.
Q: Michael Jordan named the teammates he would take if he was the captain of an all-time pickup game: Scottie Pippen, James Worthy, your buddy Magic Johnson, and Hakeem Olajuwon. MJ said this team would be “unbeatable.” OK Sports Guy, with those players off the board, pickup five all time greats and explain why they’d beat Jordan’s team. Oh, and since you’re Billy Zima now, work this into a football picks column.
SG: I thought “unbeatable” was a little strong. I’d take my chances against MJ’s dream team with Russell, Duncan, Bird, Kobe and LeBron playing point. Is that enough rings for you? I just counted 25. I’d make MJ’s team slight favorites just because of the 27 percent chance that Kobe would become overcompetitive with MJ and shoot his team out of the game. But MJ’s team definitely isn’t “unbeatable.” The biggest mistake he made: picking James Worthy over Bird and LeBron? Really, MJ? On his greatest day ever, Worthy could barely begin to touch LeBron. That was a total “I’m only picking guys from my era” move. And by the way, don’t think Larry Legend would take kindly to Jordan picking Worthy over him, either. This game would be incredible. My favorite hypothetical about it: Kareem realizing, “Wait a second, I’m one of the five greatest players of all time, how did I not get picked for this game?” and then spending the next two months complaining about it. Sorry, Kareem — you’re out.
And speaking of “out,” I think the Patriots might be out of luck this week. The Panthers can run the ball down their throats and harass Brady on defense. Also, it’s going to be their biggest home game since those halcyon days when Jake Delhomme could throw a 20-yard pass to his own receivers. I hate this matchup for the Pats. And I don’t think I’m alone. (Thinking.)
Hey, wait a second …
Pats (-3) over PANTHERS
Q: The Pats playing a night game in which everyone is overlooking them and assuming they’ll lose to a hot team? I think I’ve been here before!
—Bill S., Los Angeles
SG: Haven’t we learned over the years to take the Pats anytime they’ve become underappreciated underdogs? Take us home, Billy Zima.
Q: Just played a game of kings with weed instead of alcohol, and this spoken-for-redhead with a sinus infection is putting on the full-court press. I’d say she’s a solid 6 at the moment (loses a 1.5 points for sinus infection). What’s the play here? The sinus infection subplot is admittedly disgusting, but this is a 7.5 in a vacuum. Plus, I just realized I have some leftover antibiotics from my last sinus infection. Answered my own question.
SG: Oh boy, we’re in range …
Q: Me and my friend just had the “Who Would You Go Gay For” debate. My friend’s answer was Ryan Gosling, which is an easy go-to nowadays. I suspect a majority of straight men in this country would go gay for Gosling. Anyway, after much consideration, I went with Bill Simmons. Why? Rabid Patriots and Red Sox fan? Check. Encyclopedic NBA knowledge? Check. Racial identity crisis re: wanting to be black? Check. Just know that if the Sports Gal ever becomes boring, I’m here.
—Ethan G, D.C.
SG: Yup, these are my readers.
This Week: 0-0-1
Last Week: 7-7