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The Mailbag–Week 2 Combo Platter

The Sports Guy empties his inbox while making his NFL picks

My readers were dumbfounded when I picked the 2012 Seahawks to make the Super Bowl. By Sunday night, I was equally dumbfounded. Somehow, Seattle couldn’t hold a fourth-quarter lead against an ice-cold Kevin Kolb. An ice-cold Kevin Kolb??? I spent Monday and Tuesday regrouping, and by Wednesday, I was ready to start cranking out excuses. (Come on, you knew this was coming — it was a bigger lock than Adrian Grenier being available for the new Entourage movie.) Climb into the Excuse Machine with me, would you?

I thought about using these first three excuses before realizing they were total reaches:

Excuse No. 1: Spending a month in London and immersing myself in the Olympics inadvertently murdered my feel for the 2012 NFL season. That’s four weeks without SportsCenter, the NFL Network, sports radio, NFL Live, and USA Today Sports Weekly. That’s four weeks of missing out on Skip and Stephen A forcing each other to argue about Tebow. That’s four lost weeks of Grantland office arguments — including multiple chances for me to say, “I’m thinking about picking Seattle to make the Super Bowl,” followed by Robert Mays recoiling in horror and saying, “Are you on bath salts again?”

Excuse No. 2: In London, they call soccer “football” and get snotty anytime you refer to the NFL or college football as “football.” By embracing London and English people in general, that meant I was embracing their definition of “football.” Maybe the real football gods took it personally. That means I have to renounce London, deny that I ever considered moving there permanently, stop saying things like “one of my biggest regrets is never studying abroad there,” and go back to despising British people and making Revolutionary War jokes. Consider it done.

Excuse No. 3: Had either Doug Baldwin or Braylon Edwards held on to game-winning touchdown passes on totally catchable throws, the Seahawks would be 1-0 and I’d be selling tickets for obstructed seats on the sold-out bandwagon. Even if you might debunk this by saying, “Isn’t that a bad sign that your Super Bowl sleeper threw game-deciding passes to Doug Baldwin and Braylon Edwards?,” I can pick that argument apart in three words: Yeah, but still.

(This next excuse might have some legs, though … )

Excuse No. 4: We’re 14 weeks away from the Mayans being proven wrong about 2012, but one of their less-ballyhooed predictions came true: “In 2012, Bill Simmons will suffer a prolonged and humiliating gambling swoon.” A quick recap …

• In August of 2011, I made a Patriots/Super Bowl wager (5-to-1 odds) and eventually ended up with a dream gambling scenario for Super Bowl XLVI — the Patriots being favored by three points, making it impossible for me to lose if I hedged the right amount with the Giants. Did I hedge? Of course not! You can’t hedge with your favorite team! But hey, at least the Pats didn’t blow the game in the most agonizing way possible.

• In March, I bought my daughter a $20 Stanley Cup ticket for the Kings (15-to-1 odds!) that, of course, she lost during the playoffs. Disappeared in her room. Vanished. The good news — I became the first father in history to console a sobbing 7-year-old girl after she lost a $300 Vegas ticket. Welcome to gambling, sweetie!

• My post-lockout NBA strategy of “Keep going the other way against Miami, they’ll eventually choke” couldn’t have worked out worse. I lost not once, not twice, not three times … oh, and don’t think I didn’t have a series bet on the Spurs trouncing Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.

• On the B.S. Report, my buddy JackO and I made a Yankees/Red Sox victories wager with the following stakes: The winner gets to pick a framed photograph that the loser HAS to display in his living room for one solid year. That’s right, not only did I just endure the single worst Red Sox season of my lifetime, but I’m going to have to spend the winter staring at a framed “CORE FOUR” photo, a giant oil painting of a shirtless Roger Clemens, or even worse, a painting of A-Rod as a centaur. Just shoot me.

• Three weeks ago in Las Vegas, a city that I once considered a friend, I suffered my biggest one-night blackjack/craps shellacking — one of those “You know it’s bad when the dealers are apologizing to you” nights. I even came out of retirement and smoked four cigarettes trying to regain my old gambling mojo. Didn’t work. Instead of winning my money back, I won three days of bronchitis.

• We should mention that, in the weeks leading up to that Vegas trip, I fully intended to lay serious wood on the Niners for the NFC title, then backed off because of Bill Barnwell’s now-infamous “The 49ers will regress!” column, as well as the Las Vegas Hilton’s sportsbook manager telling me that an inordinate number of sharps had jumped on San Francisco (dropping their Super Bowl odds dramatically as a result). Well then! I switched my focus to Seattle and Seahawks cult leader Russell Wilson … and the rest was history.

• I tied every Week 1 NFL parlay to the Seahawks, only to be foiled by Kevin Kolb. Did I mention that my entire weekend was foiled by Kevin Kolb? I mentioned that, right?

So why am I carrying such an unlucky stink these days? My convoluted theory: For the past year or so, I’ve been playing full-court basketball pretty regularly, even though it’s the fourth most reckless thing you can do in your early 40s behind smoking heroin, skydiving and dating Lindsay Lohan. I’ve been on borrowed time for a torn ACL or Achilles for a solid year. Every human being carries a certain amount of luck; it’s just a question of how you disperse it (or how the Luck Gods choose to disperse it for you). With me, the Luck Gods clearly decided, “He loves playing basketball so we’re giving him this, but NOTHING ELSE.”

Even Grantland has been afflicted: During a week that kicked off with my dog crapping all over my house, we lost my Week 1 “Guess the Lines” podcast with Cousin Sal thanks to a hard-drive crash, then 75 percent of Bill Barnwell’s mammoth NFL Preview disappeared after his computer was stolen in Boston. Should I sacrifice a live animal to turn things around? Should I douse my laptop in chicken blood? Should I burn the Super Bowl XLII/XLVI Blu-rays and scatter their ashes in the Pacific Ocean? If you have any ideas, e-mail them to us — we might even film a few for Grantland’s new YouTube channel.

In the meantime, avoid being swayed by my football picks until I shed this invisible miasma. Oh wait — you always went against me, anyway? My bad. Last night was a great example: I wrote a Triangle post picking the Bears in Lambeau and making the case that Brandon Marshall was their first great receiver. What happened? Marshall totally no-showed the game, surfacing only to drop a wide-open touchdown pass that doubled as the biggest moment of the night (well, other than the 19 picks that Jay Cutler threw). That prompted a reader named Bolu to e-mail me …

“You have an amazing gift this NFL season that needs to be exploited in massive capacities. In your first three NFL pieces, you have been incredibly wrong. You have not just been wrong, you have predicted the direct opposite of what actually happened. Do you think you should just write the opposite of what you are thinking or do you think once you write it, even if its the opposite of what you are thinking the opposite of that will happen therefore what you are thinking actually happens. Last question, what is the over/under of what your readers can make if they go with the inverse of what you predict. Actually if you answer that, the opposite will happen. Ah! Its all confusing.”

I agree. My head hurts. Consider this pseudo-mailbag crossed with Week 2 picks as a token of my appreciation during these trying times. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers — except for a couple that I clearly made up.

Home Teams in Caps

BENGALS (-7) over Browns

Q: After reading your column predicting various NFL outcomes and ranking quarterbacks, I lost sight in my left eye from the stupidity of your thoughts. I can only hope that God will damn the person who coerced me into following this link to the un-ending colon of hell.
— Brad, Chico

SG: Or, to become a Cleveland fan. There’s a decent chance that “The Un-Ending Colon of Hell” will become the DVD title for the 2012 Browns season.

Q: Brandon Weeden got lost underneath an American flag. Can that please be worth some points in the BQBL?
— Brian, Quincy

SG: We’re kicking ourselves — we thought we covered every “Bad Quarterback” scenario, never anticipating anyone getting attacked by a flag and then going 12-for-35 with four picks. This should have been worth between 500 and 700 points. And really, earning a reader e-mail like the next one should have been worth an extra 200.

Q: And now, for your reading pleasure, a list of performances that are better than Brandon Weeden’s QB rating from Sunday (5.1 out of 158.3, 3.2%)

• Caddyshack II’s Rotten Tomatoes rating (8 out of 100)
• Michael Jordan’s 1994 Batting Average with the Birmingham Barons (.202)
• Eli Manning’s “Man Coverage” rating in Madden 13 (8 out of 99)
• Number of bullets the cow from Me, Myself and Irene survived (9)
• Number of kayaking medals Hungary won in the 2012 Summer Olympics (6)
Master P’s Zombie Shuffle score on Dancing With The Stars (8 out of 30)
• Number of disambiguation entries in Wikipedia for the word “panini” (7)
• Shaq’s career 3-point percentage (1 of 22, 4.5%)
• Number of days David Arquette was the WCW World Heavyweight Champion (12)
• Nick Swisher’s Swinging Strike Percentage … as a Pitcher (8%)
• And finally, Colt McCoy’s worst-ever QB Rating (27.0)
— Travis Marttila, Roseville, MN

SG: Weeden also led Week 1 in the unofficial categories of “Most Passes That Made Any Group of Buddies Watching Football Together Immediately Laugh Out Loud” and “Most Certain You Felt That Someone Was Going to Throw a Game-Ending Pick.” Weeden’s game-ending pick was so obvious, I was toggling channels, forgot to switch back to the Browns in time, then thought to myself, Crap, we’re going to miss Weeden’s game-ending pick during those two seconds of darkness before the next DirecTV channel comes up … and, of course, we missed it. You can’t rest for a second with Brandon Weeden.

Then again, has there ever been a better match between a QB and an NFL team? In their last 14 games dating back to last season, Cleveland has scored just 14 offensive touchdowns (with four coming in garbage time). In their last 65 games dating back to September 2008, Browns quarterbacks have only thrown for 250 yards or more six times (including just three 300-yard games). Over that same time, they threw under 200 yards 39 times (including 27 times under 150 yards). People joke about Weeden being a ghastly pick; I think he was perfect. If you’re going to flame out at quarterback every season, why not find the biggest Duraflame log you can get? I applaud Cleveland’s courage and resilience with the Brandon Weeden Era. Sometimes you just have to embrace who you are.

Chiefs (+3) over BILLS

Q: So what’s my excuse this season? I can’t use the cracked ribs one anymore.
— R. Fitzpatrick, Buffalo, NY

SG: You don’t need excuses! You’re Ryan Fitzpatrick! You’re the $59 million man! You can’t cover a measly field goal at home against Romeo Crennel and the mediocre Chiefs? Really? That’s it, I’m parlaying “Chiefs +3” with “Eric Berry getting at least one massive revenge hit on Steve Johnson.”

Q: I am one step closer to being in the Gordie Howe Sex Club (GHSC). Gordie played during five different decades of the NHL; my goal is to sleep with a woman who was born during five different decades. This past weekend I finally slept with a woman from the 1990s (I had ’60s, ’70s, ’80s). I am really excited now that I have knocked out four different decades. After sharing the news we got to debating whether I should suck it up and go for a woman that was born in 1959 or wait until 2018. I figured I needed to get the Sports Guy opinion. Should I go old or go young?
—Mark J., Los Angeles

SG: Hold on, I’m not done cleaning the vomit from between my teeth after realizing that my daughter was born in the 2000s. I say you go for the 1950s — you only have a couple more years of leeway there. Then you can grab the 2000s down the road and beat Gordie. By the way — when I saw the subject of Mark’s e-mail said “Gordie Howe’s Sex Club,” I took a deep breath before clicking on it. I was prepared for anything: Ice Storm–type key parties from the 1970s, Eyes Wide Shut–type parties with the entire Red Wings team, a gay hockey version of Fight Club, you name it.

Vikings (-1.5) over COLTS

Q: Is my Vikings team sneaky-good or am I crazy?
— A. Peterson, Minnesota

SG: You might be sneaky-good. More important, the Colts are sneaky-bad and can’t block anyone; I clearly picked the wrong AFC sleeper to stumble into 10-6 and a playoff spot. Then again, we’re heading into Week 2 and I still can’t figure out for the life of me who the right AFC sleeper is. How are we squeezing six playoff teams from the AFC? Other than Baltimore, New England, Houston, and maybe Denver, do you trust any other team? The NFC seems much deeper this year, so we’re swinging into “When in doubt, pick any NFC team over any AFC team” mode until further notice.

Q: You mentioned Jim Irsay’s deranged Twitter account (in your Friday column). I had never seen it before, so I found it and this is the first thing I read: “Charles Manson fell N2 blender with Andy Kaufman,1972! SeriousFunGuy was pasteurized;although institutionalized 4 times,his flavor is Stable”
— Jacob Kalish, Akron

SG: You’re right, “deranged” might not have been strong enough.

Q: I’m writing to formally welcome you to the Off List**. In retrospect, I should have made this official long ago. There is no excuse for vacillating as long as I did, except to explain that by nature the Off List requires contemplative, nuanced thinking. It demands more than decent taste and fairly accurate vision. But the important thing is that I got here, and it feels great (really looking forward to laminating this and keeping it in my purse). There are a myriad of reasons why you’ve been tossed around as a potential Off Lister, the crux of which is to simply wax ‘I love the way you write.’ But the lynch pin was a casual footnote found in one of your Olympics columns. When you referenced having recently completed The Dream Team and The Presidents Club I got irrationally excited for several reasons. First of all, great books. Secondly, it warms the cockles of my soul to hear someone is out there buying Nancy Gibbs’ work. But the clincher was that I had just finished the former and was about to dive into the latter. Call it a small world, call it kismet, call it no big f-ing deal (this being the most popular line of reasoning for my friends). Either way, I was sold. HE JUST READ THE BOOKS THAT I READ/STARTED? PLUS, [and cue the litany of things I could rattle off]? Uh, yes please.

So congratulations? (I temper this with a question mark because in all likelihood you are infinitely creeped out. Personally I would be ecstatic.) Chris Hayes, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel and Seth Meyers are ready for the initiation rite when you’re free.

**The Off List is your five celebrities that cause others to raise their eyebrows and look at you quizzically (in juxtaposition with the List, that of which consists of empirically good looking stars that are universally deemed bangable). It’s deeper than lust, profounder than aesthetic, more fun than a chiseled physique!
— Jessica D., Minneapolis

SG: And the road to my first Texted Dong Photo scandal begins …

DOLPHINS (+2.5) over Raiders

Q: You hiring at Grantland? I feel like I could be the next Lombardi for you guys. Lemme know … soon. Like, within the next two weeks.
— Jeff Ireland, Miami

SG: There will never be a “next Lombardi!” How dare you! Nobody combines hard-core NFL wisdom, Mad Men references, Mafia movie references, Andy Reid jokes, and a five-decade appreciation of doughnuts like Mike Lombardi. Important note: I’m picking this crummy Miami team for three reasons: Carson Palmer is involved; the Raiders played late Monday night (and now they’re coming back east for a 1 p.m. game); and it’s supposedly going to be suffocatingly sunny and humid, with Miami smartly forcing Oakland to bake in their black jerseys for three hours. Do you want to take a dehydrated Carson Palmer on the road? Me neither.

Q: With all the talk in soccer about utilizing goal line technology, where is the talk of using it for football? Is there another sport where this could have more use? Every weekend, a couple portly guys in polyester pants trundle out with the chains, make potential game changing measurements that are frequently specific to less than a centimeter and no one ever discusses putting a chip in the ball? How is this possible??
—James Park, Seattle

SG: You’re saying it’s a mistake to use the same system we used back in the 1920s, before we had penicillin and airplanes that could fly across the Atlantic? Look, it’s much more important for the NFL to concentrate on things like suddenly pretending to care about player safety right now. That technology crap can wait.

That reminds me, my favorite part of last Sunday was seeing all the random lead officials who were pulled out of their random jobs, then thrown into a baziillion-dollar league and forced to explain calls 25 to 30 times per game to a stadium of 60,000 people as well as a TV audience of millions. I thought the announcers should have said their real jobs every time they threw it to them, as in …

“To find out if the touchdown has been overturned, let’s go to Jerry Smith, the general manager of three Chik-fil-A’s in Orlando.”

“Was it a fumble? Let’s hear from Bob Johnson, who owns his own insurance agency in Plano, Texas.”

PATRIOTS (-14) over Cardinals

Q: Uh-oh … people are counting on me again.
— K. Kolb, Phoenix, AZ

SG: Yup.

Q: Not including The Real World/Road Rules/The Challenges, where does Nick’s lead-up and decision to keep the money rank on the all-time greatest moments in reality t.v. history? If it’s top-3, can we officially refer to that as “The Decision” now?
— Ben, Washington D.C.

SG: I’m totally fine with calling it Decision 2.0. I have to be honest … I thought it was the single greatest reality-TV moment of all time.1 Nick was like Kevin Spacey at the end of The Usual Suspects — suddenly, he wasn’t walking with a limp anymore, and he had a legitimately evil glow to him. It was awesome. (Note: I made this connection before reading Dave Jacoby’s reality TV column today — he also wondered if Nick pulled a Keyser Söze, which means we’re either hanging out too much or Nick should change his name to Nick Söze.) More important, it was the first time in Chris Harrison’s life where he promised something would be the “most shocking episode ever” and actually delivered. For years and years, he was like the reality show host who cried wolf. Then he finally came through. All in all, we’re in the middle of a reality-TV boom — between Bachelor Pad, the season finale of The Onion‘s Sex House (a tour de force), Brandon’s untimely demise on Real World (see Jacoby for details), and the debut of The Challenge (America’s fifth professional sport, which kicks off again on Wednesday), this might have been the single best reality-TV month ever. By the way, I turn 43 in two weeks.

Bucs (+7) over GIANTS

Q: Why am I always more worried when we’re playing at home than on the road?
— Every Giants Fan I Know, Tri-State Area

SG: Dating back to the beginning of the 2006 season, the Giants are 32-17 on the road and 25-23 at home. That’s why.

Q: Why hasn’t Vegas fully picked up on this yet?
— Every Giants Fan I Know, Tri-State Area

SG: I … I don’t know.

Q: Grew up in New Jersey listening to the FAN for my whole childhood — first Dog leaves, then Francesa falls asleep on air. Can you and Sal just take over the show with your Mike and the Mad Dog impressions?
— Jordan, Boston

SG: See, I’m going the other way — if there was ever solid proof that we need a full-time Mike and the Mad Dog reunion next year when Dog’s Sirius contract expires, wasn’t it Mike falling asleep during a show? He’d never be able to fall asleep with Dog five feet away! Why are we fighting this? Can’t they just get back together? Reason no. 3,890 why we need a Sports Tsar. (And by the way, reason no. 3,891 is “Somebody needs to stop Pacquiao and Marquez from fighting a fourth time.”)

PANTHERS (+3) over Saints

Q: Here’s a conspiracy theory: Drew Brees had his contract deal locked up for months prior to his signing, allowing [him] and Sean Payton to talk every day while he remained an unsigned player and not an NFL employee. I choose to believe in this theory for three reasons: 1) Sean Payton would do anything to influence this team under the table as both a coach and as an Eff You to Goodell; 2) Drew Brees still signed an absurd contract that shows no sign of any actual negotiating technique; and 3) it gives me some hope that the Saints may not be incompetent.
— Trey, New Orleans

SG: I co-sign any and all conspiracy theories involving the 2012 Saints. Although my theory that Sean Payton would spend the season secretly barraging his coaches with advice from dummy Gmail accounts was disproven last Sunday when the Saints showed up totally unprepared for the Redskins, then never made any adjustments whatsoever as the game went along. Just to be safe, I’m adding “Never lay more than seven points with a team being led by an interim interim head coach” to my Gambling Manifesto. By the way, I’m predicting one of the all-time Eff You performances from Steve Smith in this one. He tried to throw us off the scent this week — I’m not falling for it. The over/under on “big Steve Smith catches followed by him pounding his chest and violently trash-talking the nearest Saint” in this game is 4.5 … and I’m banging the over.

Ravens (+2) over EAGLES

Q: I’m pissed off! Sunday had all the makings of a textbook Andy Reid road defeat — we were playing a dreadful team on the road, a team we should have killed by 30 points, and yet, we played recklessly, turned the ball over a bunch over multiple times, refused to keep giving the ball to our electric running back when he couldn’t be stopped, and even had our erratic QB throw 56 times for reasons that remain unclear. And yet, this freaking Brandon Weeden guy, he just wouldn’t let us lose! What the hell? Am I losing my touch here? I really wanted to start the 2012 season off by having my team take a gigantic shit. Instead, we’re 1-0. What do I do now?
— A. Reid, Philly

SG: Don’t let that game keep you down, buddy. Keep doing what you’re doing. The Ravens are really good. If you execute last Sunday’s game plan again, you have a chance to lose by 25-30 points. PS: This might be your last chance to grab the Ravens at a discount price to win the Super Bowl. Right now they’re 12-to-1 … to put that in perspective, New England (+450), Denver (+800), Houston (+700), Green Bay (+700) and San Francisco (+500) all have significantly better odds. Wouldn’t you put the Ravens up there with anyone? What am I missing?

Q: Had Jack Horner stood by the Colonel, they’d be tearing down his statue, right?
— Tacks, Clarence Center, NY

SG: (Nodding.)

JAGUARS (+7) over Texans

Q: We just beat the worst team in football by 20 points at home in Week 1, mainly because they screwed up and let Ryan Tannehill loose for reasons that remain unclear — suddenly, people are treating us like the ’85 Bears. We’re laying more than a touchdown outdoors against a half-decent Jags team that always plays us tough. My career record is 48-49. Oh, and I’m 4-14 on the road against AFC South teams. Tread carefully. That’s all I am saying.
— G. Kubiak, Houston

SG: And you left out one thing — it’s Shad Khan’s first home game! As the son of someone with long hair and an awesome ‘stache, you really think I’m picking against Shad Khan during his first home game???

Shahid Khan

RAMS (+3.5) over Redskins

Q: Alfred Morris!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ha ha ha! I did it again! Enjoy Helu and Royster on your fantasy team! Suck it, Simmons! SUCK IT!!!!!!!!
— M. Shanahan, Washington

SG: He might be evil. Like, genuinely evil.

Q: I noticed a misspelling in your NFL quarterback rankings last week. RGIII’s name is spelled “Robert Griffin III,” not “Russell Wilson.” You can thank me later.
— Scott, Austin

SG: Look, you’re preaching to the choir on RG3 — he played with a ton of poise in New Orleans and even passed the Four TV Test (when you’re watching four games at the same time and a player is so exciting that your eyes keep gravitating toward his TV). That doesn’t mean the Skins should suddenly be giving more than a field goal, on the road, to a Rams team that played well in Detroit. The Redskins pulled off something of a gimmick offense last week (Bill Barnwell broke it down on Tuesday, Chris Brown on Wednesday) to minimize Griffin’s potential for mistakes — it’s hard to imagine the Rams studying that Saints tape without unearthing a few easy ways to contain it. And the Redskins got super-duper lucky in Week 1: They recovered all four fumbles AND lucked out when the Saints dropped a pick. Let’s see the Skins win one that everyone thinks they’re going to win — if they pull this off, I’m sold.

SEAHAWKS (+3) over Cowboys

Q: I hate you Bill Simmons and I hope your Romo bias leads to you getting raped to death by a pack of marauding bikers. Please exit life screaming and in agony.
— Baz Murphy, Dublin, Ireland

SG: Now that was some hate mail! Hold on, it’s only going to get worse.

Q: I was drunk when I first read your NFL predictions column so I am about to read it again. I have some hazy memory of you picking a Pete Carroll-coached team with a rookie QB to go to the Super Bowl. Clearly, this was just the vodka talking and not what you actually wrote. Am I right?
— Nick, New York

Q: On a scale of 1 to Randy Travis, how drunk were you when you made your Seahawks SB pick?
— Greg, Denver

SG: If you were wondering, the words “drunk” kept popping up during the readers’ reactions to my Seahawks pick.

Q: “Keyser Soze … KEYSER SOZE.” We all remember the french fried Hungarian laying in a hospital bed … DYING … screaming Keyser Soze over and over. I think that is going to be you by about Week 12 of the NFL season. After weeks of lost teasers and the realization that your NFC West division champion bet is impossible to win, Cousin Sal is going to set you on fire. As the Sports Gal, House and Barnwell huddle around your bed crying you will be screaming “RUSSELL WILSON … RUSSELL WILSON!” A nervous Cousin Sal will be pacing back and forth in the hall in front of your room muttering “Russell Wilson is Seneca Wallace, Seneca Wallace is Russell Wilson.” In the end I hope you recover enough to watch Brady crap the bed in the playoffs. Get well in advance.
— Jax Joseph, Los Angeles

SG: The best part of that e-mail was the subtle demolition of Brady right near the end, after I had already been set on fire by Cousin Sal. Like Jax was saying, “This e-mail might not have been over-the-top enough, I wonder if I can work in a Patriots potshot just to really bring it home?”

Q: 49ers: 1
Seahawks: 0
Sports Guy: -1
— Anshirk, Munster, Germany

SG: Wait, now I’m getting heckled from Germany?????????

Q: Are you really hopping off the Seahawks bandwagon that quickly? It was one game! You said they would go 11-5 or 12-4, so that’s just one loss. Even if you really don’t think the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl (I can’t blame you after that performance), can you just pretend and give it three or 4=four weeks. If at that time they are winless with Wilson hurt, you can say you were being threatened or something. Seattle has had enough heartbreak, you know that, please spare us this. We need someone to believe. Thanks from a disgruntled and depressed Seahawks fan.
— Robert, Seattle

SG: I have a news flash for you, Robert — I’m not even considering a bandwagon exit until Seattle loses a home game. The Seahawks have the best home-field advantage in football. If they can go 8-0 at home and 4-4 on the road, that’s 12-4, right? And how can anyone pick against the ‘Hawks during the same week they basically locked down a new NBA arena? My pseudo-upset special: Seattle 22, Dallas 20.

Jets (+5.5) over STEELERS

Q: In your Book of Basketball you created new stats for the NBA. For the NFL we also have to make a new stat called “Roethlisbergers.” A Roethlisberger would be when a quarterback on 3rd and long (at least seven or more yards) converts the 3rd down after scrambling around or breaking away from a sack. Against the Broncos it didn’t matter that it was 3rd and 15: my buddies and I knew that Ben would convert — we were hoping that the o-line would continue with all those false starts just so Pittsburgh would have a longer down to convert. And time after time he converted. Please we need this stat!!
— AJ Turk

SG: Put it this way: This is a much better use of the phrase “Pulling a Roethlisberger” than the one we had these last three years. By the way, I think the Jets win this game outright. All the preseason scorn and ridicule inadvertently pushed them into “Nobody Believes In Us” mode, right?

Q: In honor of Mike Trout’s night against Tigers I would like to propose the following: If a player hits a home run and steals a home run in the same game, that should be called a “Mike Trout.” I would really appreciate your help in popularizing this.
— Colin, Wegener, Whittier, CA

SG: So if you’re scoring at home, we now have to keep track of “Roethlisbergers” and “Trouts.”

Q: The script for 4th and God Part Two (scroll to bottom) is coming along nicely — our hyped young hero (Tebow) came up short in the opener while the hotshot bad guy (Sanchez) played a flawless game. Now, people are beginning to doubt our hero and even worse maybe he begins to doubt himself. I can’t wait for Tebow taking over in Game 5, turning the team around, suffering a terrible injury in Week 12 (while also losing his girlfriend and mourning the death of a close relative) then making an improbable comeback (Cue: “You’re the Best … Around”) leading the Jets into the playoffs as a truck load of manure piles into Mark Sanchez’s convertable. It’s going to be a great season, God willing. Actually, that should be the subtitle, Fourth and God II: God Willing.
— Adam Tomlinson, Toronto

SG: Am I devastated that Adam Tomlinson thought of Fourth and God II: God Willing before I did? And then some. Let’s recalibrate my 2012 predictions by switching my Jets and Colts predictions, then adopting Adam’s Fourth and God II scenario. Only one possible nitpick: Should we steal a page from Rambo: First Blood Part II here and call it Tebow: Fourth and God, Part II? (Thinking.) Nahhhhhhhhh. Fourth and God II: God Willing is better. I just hope it comes out before I get raped to death by a gang of marauding bikers.

CHARGERS (-6) over Titans

Q: Why hasn’t “the PUP list” made the leap into everyday conversation? It’s a versitile catch-all for when somebody can’t come through. “I thought it would be great, but he drank too much and ended up on the PUP list.” Or, “I wanted to go to the gym but couldn’t get myself off the PUP list.”
— Heather B., Washington Twp., NJ

SG: Or even, “I was looking forward to his football picks this year, but he backed the Seahawks and eventually ended up on the PUP list.” By the way, I’m predicting a blowout San Diego victory followed by a batch of “Maybe Norv and the 2-0 Chargers have finally figured out September!” stories, followed by the Chargers turning the ball over 29 times against the Falcons in Week 3.

49ERS (-7) over Lions

Q: How is this study on West Coast teams playing night games on the East Coast going to affect your (fictional) betting this year?
— Diane Raetz, West Milford

SG: Positively! I already loved the Niners in the Awkward Handshake Bowl — this just pushed it to another level.

Q: I’m sure you’re getting killed by numerous folks for your Seahawks Super Bowl prediction. I’m not trying to pile on, but how many of your own gambling manifesto rules did you break with that Seahwaks pick for Week 1 & the Super Bowl? A rookie quarterback making his first NFL start on the road no less? A 61-year-old coach? A 61 year old coach named Pete Carroll ?!?! The flip side of that coin: writers like you and Barnwell gave Jim Harbaugh all the ammunition he needed for a “Nobody believes in us!” start to the 2012 season. Did you see Patrick Willis’ interview on NBC before Sunday night’s game? I’m paraphrasing here, but he said “all the people out there sayin’ that we’re not gonna get back to where we was, they don’t understand, we’re on a mission.”
— Brian Aveson, San Francisco

SG: I have run out of ways to hate myself for last week’s column, especially when I’m the self-appointed “24-Hour-a-Day Watchman for the ‘Nobody Believes In Us!’ Teams. Just one question: What happens now? We swung from “Nobody Believes In Us!” to “Everyone Believes In Us” within three hours at Lambeau. How does Harbaugh manipulate that situation? What if they start out 13-0 — a possibility when you check out their schedule and realize they might be favored every week until their Week 15 showdown at New England? Maybe it becomes “Nobody Believes In Us … That We’ll Go 16 And 0!!!!!” Regardless, Jim Harbaugh for president in 2016.

FALCONS (-3) over Broncos

In your argument against Peyton Manning carrying Denver to a Super Bowl, you forgot Kurt Warner with Arizona. He was clearly a “35+ year old QBs who carried a contender’s offense, right?”
— CJ, Boston

SG: He sure was. And to think, I thought I had run out of ways to hate myself for last week’s column. My apologies to Kurt, God and puppies.

Q: After watching Manning beat the Steelers opening night I couldn’t help but think of the parallels of Manning with your favorite wrestler Shawn Michaels. Both suffered career threatening injuries; both missed extended time and seriously considered retiring because they were unable to do even the simplest of tasks their professions demanded; both saw eras they helped usher in take off without them and were quickly replaced by young stars (HBK with Austin and the Rock, Manning with Rodgers and all the 4,000 yard passers); everyone hoped they would comeback as good as before but feared their returns to the ring/field for their physical safety; both came back as changed men who appreciated their second chance; and both ended up being better than we thought. Keeping with that theme — do you think we’ll get a Manning vs. Brady playoff showdown a la Undertaker vs. HBK at WrestleMania, or will we see a Manning-Luck playoff battle reminiscent of the Jericho-Michaels feud?
— Adrian Escalera, El Centro

SG: First of all, you killed that e-mail. Great job. The Manning/HBK parallels are legimately eerie and you didn’t even include the belated championship ascent of Manning’s brother (Eli) and HBK’s “brother” (his best friend and D-Generation X cohort, Triple H). If you’re right, then we’re destined for a Brady-Manning AFC Championship showdown à la Undertaker-HBK at WrestleMania. I need to see more, though. Manning coming through at home in a night game (once upon a time, the biggest lock in sports) against an overrated Steelers team didn’t totally sway me — they barely touched him that whole game. Even if he charges into Atlanta’s dome on a Monday night, then no-huddles their crowd to death and outguns Matt Ryan, I’m not going to be totally sold.

Here’s the week for me: Week 5 in New England against Brady, Belichick and a rejuvenated Patriots defense that will go after him for three hours. It’s not quite WrestleMania, but it’s definitely the Survivor Series at the very least. If Manning wins that game, I’m sold.

Q: Your preseason selection of Russell Wilson as the most important QB of the season … I’d bet my dick against you being right. Literally. Then I’d have to spend the whole NFL season figuring out what to do with my 2nd dick when I won my dick bet.
— Jack, Cleveland

SG: Yup, these are my readers.


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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