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The mail, the picks and the cheaters

Bill Simmons dips into the NFL mailbag before making his Week 2 picks.Story

Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let’s bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
— Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that’s a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they’d lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you’re going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What’s the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. … By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone’s talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. … Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it’s still my team. You can’t disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can’t disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we’re moving on. At least until Belichick’s version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
— Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I’m thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We’re giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmitt Smith’s offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
— Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he’s just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on “Arli$$,” then her next TV gig was a starring role on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Going from “Arli$$” to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte’ Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann’s painful “Worst Person in the NFL” segment. Since it’s my idea, I’ll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
— Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I’ll take the under! I’m going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it’s not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC …


Right now, I’m eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can’t sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone’s kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can’t hold a bag of groceries at this point. I’m always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I’m not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I’m very emotional and can’t watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don’t want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don’t blame me — blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend’s house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that “it’s my job.” Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I’m extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won’t be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I’ll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he’ll be pretending to care while he’s really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they’re administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can’t decide on a name. We’re having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he’s a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one — sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we’ll name it after you. That’s an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D’Bill or LaBill so he’ll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I’m eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill’s performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he’s watching sports every spare second and saying things like, “Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?”, then I’m naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I’m sorry this week’s rant isn’t about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
— Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It’s an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who’s great). But here’s where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don’t want the head boss to say, “Gee, that was weird, Bob didn’t come up with a single idea in today’s meeting.”

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea — mainly because they couldn’t think of any other ideas — and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn’t feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn’t like. And that’s how situations like “Let’s do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing” end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it’s not their money, they’re always going to end up spending it … even if they’re spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that’s what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn’t, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena’s confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we’re facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here’s the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they’re excited about it, the head of the company says, “Pull out all the stops, let’s have a great night of TV, money is no object!” And that’s what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn’t anybody learn! According to “During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D’Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about ‘shutting me down.'” And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith … one with and one without trash talk?
— Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It’s soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn’t know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
— JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It’s funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again — he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman’s comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was “big from the waist down.” Holy. Freaking. Crap.
— Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner’s pool. “Antonio, Jack says you have a great big (bleep), may I see it? (Stares in disbelief for a few seconds.) Thank you, Antonio!”

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
— Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We’ve always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince’s situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn’t his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him — he just wanted to leave. In Moss’ case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don’t remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn’t about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out “This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry”???
— Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It’s really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing “Turn It On” for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn’t they have given GMC “Sussudio?”

Q: I’m so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the replay of Kevin Everett’s injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing “perfect form” for a “form tackle.” No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a “million times.” Really? From the tight end position?
— Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn’t notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson’s downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we’re here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots’ spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That’s the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during “Hard Knocks.”

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
— Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for “most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person.”

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again … then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas … OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
— Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don’t feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in ’05, Moss’s first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci’s character in “Black Snake Moan.” So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a “leader”, but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn’t keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
— Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn’t be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used “a,” “2” and “d” as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
— Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn’t hide the look on his face that said, “Good, This couldn’t have worked out any better for me and my career?” You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
— Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, “Come back, we’ll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2,” so Tiki said “Screw it!” and came back … and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups — $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don’t even feel good about it. There’s something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I’m going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don’t deserve him.

(Note: I’m not waiving Brown. I’m starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: “Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: “Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. ‘I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can’t root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'”

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn’t get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years — they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven’t had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the ’02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in ’03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I’d be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
— Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I’m not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley … but you’re right, we’re getting pretty damned close. If the ’07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the “Love Boat” in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, “He was a junior Bob Redford in his day.” That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you’re selecting a play in Madden.
— Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that’s just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn’t play video games — it’s too difficult to hold the controller while he’s wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the “Art Shell Face” to Romeo Crennel?
–Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn’t sell it to Romeo — he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate — not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, “Gate” gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with “CameraGate.” Everything bad ends with “Gate.” I hate it. What if Nixon’s burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been “CameraCarlton” this week? Or “CameraRitz?” I don’t think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
— Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there’s a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what’s your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, “This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham.” Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
— Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes “Dirty Dancing” effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it’s time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)


32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

28. Atlanta

27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

17. Detroit
16. Houston

15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

12. Philly
11. New Orleans

10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

2. New England

1. Indianapolis

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I’m blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it’s a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, “Wait, are you guys crazy? He’s J.P. Losman! Let’s run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!” They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week’s Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver’s head. This actually happened. In a related story, he’s starting for the Browns this week. I’m laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we’ve reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it’s just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they’ll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he’s in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor’s rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from “The Shining” covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what’s happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I’m extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It’s going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn’t pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn’t seem confident enough about the season. I’m an idiot. Meanwhile, it’s time for this week’s Gambling PSA: Kids, don’t ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, “Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I’m not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in ’05? Don’t let that happen again.” That’s fine. I’m still taking Houston. Let’s hope Dunta Robinson doesn’t make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory “What’s wrong with the Saints?” article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running “Worst Head Coach” conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can’t throw the ball. Sometimes it’s that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday’s night Giants-Cowboys game: “I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches’ calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn’t have the phones on. So funny.” Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: “In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces.” I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, “What, that’s the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.”)

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said … (hold on, this is a doozy) … I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they’re terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you’ve wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn’t legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they’re also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you’ve wagered on the Lions. But something’s happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it’s either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it’s a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn’t want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn’t see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the ’07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I’d love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time — you couldn’t have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn’t knock the fumble out of the end zone … which, of course, wasn’t mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, “Hey, why didn’t he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?”

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week’s we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: “Jay Cutler, I mean, I’ve been involved in a lot comeback victories of John’s over the years. And, man, I’m not sure anything compares to this.” Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin’ for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a “Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle” stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can’t think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He’s definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he’s definitely thought about it. You can’t convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about “CameraGate,” the “Patriot Act,” “Snaps, Lies and Videotape” or whatever you want to call it — everyone had broken out the popsicles for this ’07 Pats team, and now, they’re back into “Us against the World” mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick’s head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds’ head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren’t watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I’m feeling it. Just know that they’re not screaming “Boooooooooooooo,” they’re screaming “Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!”

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped “Sports Guy’s World” site here.

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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