Walking Dead, Signs of Life

MLB Postseason Wrap

Brian Bahr/Getty Images San Francisco 49ers

Something to Believe In

The Sports Guy shares his faith in football before going through his inbox and making his Week 6 picks

Things I trust through five-plus weeks of the NFL season: New England’s offense; Chicago’s defense; San Francisco’s everything; Houston’s running game; Atlanta’s no. 1-seed potential; Minnesota as a legitimate playoff team; Denver as king of the good “Bad Teams”; Miami as prince of the good “Bad Teams”; the Giants in any back-to-the-wall game or “Nobody Believes in Us” Game; Percy Harvin as this year’s non-QB MVP candidate; Reggie Wayne officially replacing Marvin Harrison as “The Receiver Everyone Was Bored of Taking and Who Fell Way Too Far in Your Fantasy Draft”; Branvan Boldley and Aarob Gronkandez; Seattle’s defense and special teams; Andrew Luck being ready sooner than we thought; Christian Ponder being better than we thought; God hating Cleveland; everyone hating Roger Goodell.

Things I’ve given up on through five-plus weeks of the NFL season: Pittsburgh, Philly and Green Bay being contenders (they aren’t); New Orleans or San Diego doing anything in 2012 (they won’t); Detroit’s special teams; Denver’s running backs; Arizona’s offensive line; St. Louis’s receivers; Buffalo’s everything; Mike McCarthy and Mike Tomlin in tight games; Houston’s philosophy of running Arian Foster into the ground; Ron Rivera, Norv Turner, Chan Gailey and Pat Shurmur in any game; Arizona’s sleeper chances; the Buffalo/Oakland/Detroit/New Orleans/Tennessee defenses; any QB named “Matt,” “Mark” or “Mike” who doesn’t have the last name “Ryan” or “Schaub”; 28-year-old rookie QBs; interim interim coaches.

Things I’m wavering back and forth on: Could Philly and Seattle contend if they promoted their backup QBs? Should we really pour dirt on Dallas yet? Who are the fifth and sixth best AFC teams right now? Is Fourth and God: God Willing actually going to happen, and if it did, how effing weird would that be? Why can’t I totally commit mentally to this Alex Smith thing? Is Cam Newton the Tyreke Evans of football? Why do I keep circling back to the Dolphins when I’m thinking about the AFC playoff picture? Shouldn’t Al Jefferson be allowed to buy a $23,000 bed without taking shit for it? And how cool would it be to have a $23,000 bed? We shouldn’t be making fun of Al Jefferson — we should be applauding him, right? Doesn’t it make more sense to spend $23,000 on a bed than $400,000 on a car? Do your thing, Big Al.

Let’s hit the Week 6 picks mailbag, sponsored as always by Dr. Moreau …

(Home teams in caps)

TITANS (+7) over Steelers

I won another Skunk of the Week! Two in a row! And to think, just two weeks ago, I was feeling like the guy in this clip.

Q: You can’t say the Turkish movie death scene is the best ever, not when Charles Bronson’s The Evil That Men Do bar scene is out there. Watch Bronson defend a much larger man with gigantism over a dame’s safety — he knocks the guy to the ground, puts his boot on his throat, and two-hands his old peckeroo to death. Now, my question is, why isn’t there more dong-grab death in Hollywood anymore? You tell me why women wouldn’t swoon over a man who chokes a man to death by grabbing his junk?
—Mark R Sheehan, Quincy

SG: It’s a great point. Just remember, these things come in waves in Hollywood. You know how we’re on a run of “found video footage” horror movies right now? We could easily go on a run of dong-grab death movies any year now. Keep your hopes up.

Colts (+3.5) over JETS

Q: I loved a tease with the Packers all week, and got completely talked out of it after hearing Chuck Pagano’s leukemia story. Did the Colts have any business at all beating them? Absolutely not. But every time something like this happens, the underdog ends up winning. Remember the Jets winning their season opener on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. (You might as well have changed the Cowboys’ name to the Al Qaeda Cowboys for this game, because if the Jets had lost, the terrorists would have won.) Remember the Saints’ first game back in the Superdome after Katrina? (23-3 Saints win over Falcons.) Never underestimate the “The Tragedy Factor,” it’s the biggest lock in sports betting.
—Doug Raney, Atlanta

SG: What happened with the Colts last Sunday was genuinely inspiring — I found myself rooting for Indy instead of the Packers (whom I had picked). But since the purpose of this column is to successfully pick NFL games against the spread while relying on research, gut feelings, history, intuition and even a series of convoluted theories and corollaries that may or may not work … well, had I remembered Pagano’s situation when making picks last week, I probably would have picked Indy. Football is a game of emotion, right? That has been proven over and over again — in a league of relatively even teams (save for a top three and a bottom three), every little edge counts. There appears to be real legs to this “Chuckstrong” story line, which is great on a macro level (it’s inspiring) and fascinating from a football level. Could their coach’s health issues band the Colts together and push them toward 10 wins and a playoff spot? Could that actually happen? I mean …

Q: Have you seen Indy’s next 5 games? Jets, Cleveland, Tennessee, Miami, Jacksonville. They could be 7-2 heading into New England in Week 11. Have you seen New England’s schedule? Dont answer that. Seahawks, Jets, Rams, Bills. They could be 7-2 also. Week 11 also happens to be the first week of flex scheduling. But there’s a problem. Baltimore plays Pittsburgh on Sunday Night. What in the hell will the NFL do? Fireworks or Bodybags? I vote Fireworks!
—Shawn, Indianapolis

SG: Come on, Shawn, don’t get carried away with the idea of NBC ever flexing out a Steelers-Ravens bloodbath … but if the Colts sneak by this ugly Jets team this weekend, they could absolutely rip off six straight, right? Hasn’t Andrew Luck shown enough potential that it’s not unrealistic? And in the top-heavy AFC, is it really far-fetched for the Colts to finish 10-6? I’m riding the Colts until they lose. Oh, and buy a Chuckstrong T-shirt already.

Q: Following the 666th installment of Monday Night Football, Mark Sanchez has 6 TD’s, 6 interceptions, 6.6 YPA, and most remarkably a passer rating of 66.6. Will this game inevitably mark the height of his Satanic villainy when he is Tebow’s foil in Fourth and God II: God Willing?
—Blake N., Sioux Falls

SG: Roughly 431,345 people e-mailed me those satanic Sanchez numbers this week, implying that Sanchez is the grown-up Damien from The Omen or something. For the record, I’m totally against the idea of crossing Fourth and God 2 with The Omen or The Devil’s Advocate and making it a combination sports movie/horror movie. They didn’t need to do that with Rocky II, D2: The Mighty Ducks, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training, Major League II … actually, it might not have been a bad idea for Major League II. But you definitely don’t need it here. Sanchez can be a villain without also being the lord of the underworld. I nominate that Sanchez drops the satanic wrinkle and just goes back to making snide Tebow comments and sleeping with celebrity cougars.

(Follow-up note: Grantland editor Dan Fierman read this and vehemently disagreed that we don’t need evil Sanchez for the sequel, arguing, “He’s the perfect foil! Tebow goes to New York, basically Sodom and Gomorrah combined, then conquers the town only to find that Satan is actually lurking in his own locker room. It’s Rosemary’s Baby meets Rudy!” Crap, he might be right. I need to think about this some more.)

Q: I work in the finance dept of a very conservative Fortune 100 Company. It’s 8:40 on Tuesday morning and I hear a very distinct TEEEBOOOWWW!!!! Shout from across the floor that is then echoed by 3 or 4 response TEEEBOOOWWWs from different directions. There is no chance any other athlete elicits this reaction following a 5 carry, 19-yard performance. Isn’t that all the Jets need to know to put the wheels in motion for Fourth and God II?
—Pat, Hartford

SG: The Jets don’t seem to understand what they have with Tebow, even if that totally follows the rules of the first 35 minutes of a sports movie sequel. But here’s what they have: On Monday night, they were down six with four seconds left and needed 91 yards for a touchdown. Incredibly, they left Tebow on the bench for the 20-laterals/Hail Mary play that never works. Who would be better during a frantic sequence of backward passes than Tebow? And wouldn’t every Texans fan have secretly gulped, “Uh-oh, Tebow’s out there” and been nervous during those final four seconds even though the Jets were 91 yards away? Anyway, it feels like we’re headed for one more crummy Sanchez game (a semi-shocking loss at home to Indy), followed by Rex Ryan showing up at Tebow’s apartment at one in the morning, saying “Let’s do this” when Tebow opens the door … and then, the inspirational music kicks in.

Jaguars’ Bye Week (PK) over Panthers’ Bye Week

Q: Ron Rivera reminds me of when you play that late night Madden game against your buddy who is on the verge of passing out. His guys are moving, but not really. His play calling is obvious and conservative because he is just “Asking Madden.” Instead of saying “Eff it, I’m hammered, it’s late, let’s go for the W any way possible,” he plays “not to lose.” Except in reality, Rivera is a bad coach and with a secondary that might not start for my intramural flag team, so he’s really just playing “to lose.” Every year I convince myself in the offseason things like “Matt Moore has the intangibles, this is our year” or “Charles Godfrey is about to step on the scene in a major way” …and then usually 2-3 weeks into the regular season I question not only my Panthers fanhood, but my priorities in life. Help me Bill, help me.
—Chip, Hoboken, NJ

Q: We picked Blaine Gabbert one spot ahead of J.J. Watt. I don’t even have the energy to phrase this in the form of a question for your next mailbag.
—Mark, Jacksonville, FL

SG: As you can see, we had a heated battle between Carolina’s bye week and Jacksonville’s bye week from the standpoint of “which fan base is more excited that it’s a bye week.” I went with the Jags, if only because the two-day span of Gabbert throwing touchdowns to Chicago’s defense immediately followed by Watt wreaking havoc on Monday night was one for the ages.

Q: Hang on there, Mister Fancy Pants Sports Czar! You haven’t been doing your job. A pass-swatting, QB-sacking defensive lineman named J.J. Watt? And he’s white?!?! think it’s time to invoke skip the standard “play 10 years, then retire, and then wait five more years” routine and induct this in the Reggie Cleveland Hall of Fame NOW.
—Mike, NYC

SG: Settle down — if we didn’t change the Reggie Cleveland Hall of Fame induction rules for Khalil Greene, we’re not changing them for J.J. Watt.

Cowboys (+3.5) over RAVENS

Q: How far away are we from an ESPN documentary about the Ryan brothers where Rob is interviewed from prison and Rex steps out of his trailer wielding a shotgun telling Jeremy Schapp to get the f**k off his property?
—Dustin, Charlotte

SG: Probably about five and a half years. I’m saying 2018 to be safe. For some insane reason, I love the Cowboys coming off a bye this week — as long as their offensive line isn’t getting trampled by an elite defense (like the Seahawks or Bears, both of whom undressed them), they’re fine.

BROWNS (+2) over Bengals

Q: I’m sitting in my dark basement after the Browns blew a 14 point lead (21 if you took the points) to the Giants and realized three things.
1. The Browns will have the 1st pick in the 2013 draft.
2. The Browns will draft QB Geno Smith.
3. The Browns essentially traded Julio Jones for Brandon Weeden … our 29 year old backup QB.
… huffing leaded paint never sounded so good.
—Jeremy, Cleveland

SG: I thought Jeremy was kidding, but looked it up just to be sure. He’s right! Cleveland dropped from no. 6 (Jones) to no. 27 (defensive tackle Phillip Taylor) in the 2011 draft, picking up no. 59 (WR Greg Little) and no. 124 (fullback Owen Marecic), as well as a 2012 first-rounder (Weeden) and a 2012 fourth-rounder (traded when Minnesota fleeced them into giving up three picks to jump a spot to take Trent Richardson, whom the Vikings weren’t taking, anyway). Just for fun, can we pay-per-view a phone call of Cleveland’s Mike Holmgren calling Atlanta and seriously offering Taylor, Little, Marecic and Weeden for Julio Jones, with all proceeds going to Chuckstrong?

Q: Last year around this time, we started the Suck for Luck sweepstakes. Isn’t it time we start this year’s sweepstakes? The best idea my facebook friends have come up with is “Torpedo for Geno.” I cede to you, Sports Czar, on blessing the name.
—Alexander Y., Brooklyn

SG: Thanks for not going blue and pushing “Suck a Peno for Geno.” As much as I like “Torpedo for Geno,” let’s give this a week and see if my readers can come up with something better. I have Simmons’s readers as eight-point favorites over Alexander from Brooklyn’s Facebook friends.

Q: You know why else God hates Cleveland? Picking the best Browns head coach of the “new franchise” era leads to a Romeo Crennel vs. Butch Davis debate.
—Braxton, Columbus

SG: I couldn’t resist researching this. Romeo (Mc)Crennel went 24-40 in Cleveland, but did give you that epic 10-6 season in 2007 when Derek Anderson was fleetingly confident (3,787 yards, 29 TDs!), Jamal Lewis ran for 1,304 yards and you lost a tiebreaker for the sixth playoff spot to Tennessee because, you know, God hates Cleveland. Davis finished 24-34, peaking in 2002 when the 9-7 Browns somehow snuck into the playoffs with Kelly Holcomb before getting beat by Pittsburgh. Since that’s your only Browns playoff game since 1994, doesn’t that make Davis the best head coach in Cleveland 2.0’s history?

Since we’re here, the complete list of Browns coaches since they fired Bill Belichick (who turned out to be the best football coach of the past 25 years) and moved to Baltimore (where they won a Super Bowl five years later and have remained a perennial contender ever since):

Butch Davis: 24-34
Romeo Crennel: 24-40
Eric Mangini: 10-22
Chris Palmer: 5-27
Pat Shurmur: 4-17
Terry Robiskie 1-5

(I don’t even need to say it. But here’s some good news … I think the Browns finally win a game this weekend thanks to the fairly obscure “Look, the 2012 Bengals shouldn’t be favored on the road over ANYBODY” gambling rule.)

DOLPHINS (-4) over Rams

Q: It really bothers me that Taken 2 wasn’t titled Taken Again because then we could look forward to Taken For a Third Time!
—Dan-O, Dallas

SG: I would have added a question mark and called it Taken Again? By the way, I’d like to congratulate the Taken franchise for earning coveted Simmons/Carolla status — there was just no question that we were (a) seeing it within 120 hours at the ArcLight, and (b) eventually doing a podcast about it (coming next week). Stick any number or Roman numeral behind the words Fast and Furious or Taken and we’re there within 120 hours. Oh, and since we’re on the subject of movies — skip Taken 2 and just wait for its HBO premiere in 10 months, but don’t skip Argo (an old-school political thriller that’s simply superb). And don’t skip the chance to wager on the sneaky-good Dolphins on Sunday against a dome team playing outside that can’t throw the ball.1

FALCONS (-9) over Raiders

Q: Last week saw a major turning point in Atlanta sports history. After seeing one of the worst calls in baseball history, during a sudden death playoff game, Atlanta fans reacted the way Philadelphia/Boston/New York fans would have reacted: by chucking shit onto the field. It was the wrong thing to do, of course, for safety and other reasons. But at the same time, I felt proud of my city. Atlanta fans are notoriously soft, not nearly as passionate as other fan bases. But raining trash on the field showed that we cared, we really cared.
—Dan, Atlanta

SG: I’m a Red Sox fan who defended when we threw stuff on the field after the umps screwed us in Game 5 of the 1999 ALCS at Fenway, so don’t expect me to judge you or throw any stones from this glass house. But I’d say Atlanta’s turning point started earlier with the Joe Johnson trade. Remember, nobody captured the malaise, aimlessness and relevant futility of Atlanta sports quite like Joe — he was just good enough to keep your team interesting, while also making you relatively uninterested and angry that you had been sucked in by them in the first place. Once you dumped him and his undumpable contract, you had one of those “Will Ferrell running down the street naked in Old School” moments and it never really stopped. Can Matty Ice lead the Falcons to 15-1? Why the hell not? Could the Hawks be this year’s sleeper in the East? Sure, what the hell? Should we just sit there and accept one of the worst calls in recent baseball history because we’re Atlanta fans and everyone thinks we’re weak? NO!!!!!!!!! I like living in a world with edgier Atlanta fans — I’m excited for Rembert Browne (Grantland’s resident Atlanta fan) to start missing deadlines and snapping at editors to screw off.

(Speaking of Rembert — here’s our latest “Rembert Explains” video, in which we break down the immortal “Apache” video. If you’ve never seen it … I mean … just click play … trust me … )

Q: Can you please stop coddling the Raiders? I love your continued insistence that the Raiders 35-13 loss in Week 2 to Miami was because ‘they were wearing their black jerseys in the Miami sun’. Really? You are better than that. What’s the blowout excuse this week? The air conditioning was too low in the Georgia Dome? You can’t put any lipstick on this pig. White jerseys, black jerseys … The Raiders have lost 35-13 and 37-6 on the road this year. When the Falcons take the Silver and Black behind the woodshed this weekend, let’s all agree it’s because Carson Palmer just isn’t that good, okay? Let’s keep the “color of the jerseys” routine to the lucky lady who won my office pool last week.
—Danny, Atlanta

SG: I stopped coddling the Raiders two weekends ago when they submitted that three-hour shartfest in Denver. I’m a little dumbfounded by this line, to be honest. According to Football Outsiders, Atlanta has a 29.1 DVOA (fourth in the NFL) and Oakland has a -31.3 DVOA (29th in the NFL). That’s a 60-point difference! And if Atlanta is really headed for a no. 1-seed and 13 or 14 wins (and it sure seems like it), don’t they need a couple of blowout home wins as part of that package? They haven’t blown out anyone at home yet. And aren’t we overdue for a monster Julio Jones fantasy week? Aren’t we overdue for the defining Carson Palmer BQBL game? I’m going all out with this pick: Atlanta 55, Oakland 17.

Q: As I was watching the A’s/Tigers playoff game, I realized baseball is the only sport where the coaches/managers wear their team uniforms. How much funnier would all the other sports be if the coaches had to wear the uniforms? If you could choose 2 coaches each from the NFL and NBA that had to wear their team uniforms, who would you pick? My NFL picks would be Andy Reid and Tom Coughlin and NBA would be Erik Spoelstra and Greg Popovich. I would pay an extra five bucks for tickets if they would get coaches to do this.
—Chad Tanner, Gilbert, AZ

SG: An extra five bucks? What about an extra $50??? After spending way too much time thinking about this, I’m picking Popovich (a no-brainer, just because he’d be so angry about it), Mike Woodson (the thought of him cramming into a Knicks uniform cracks me up), Mike Shanahan (for the same reasons as Popovich) and Andy Reid (who should probably start doing this, anyway). Hey, speaking of Andy …

Lions (+3.5) over EAGLES

Q: I think I understand the Eagles’ game plan now. Watch in horror as Michael Vick plays like absolute garbage for the first three quarters of the game, turning the ball over as many times as possible. Get the defense to play well enough to somehow keep them in the game. Piece together one of the worst looking, sloppiest drives in the fourth to somehow score and take the lead. Make sure you leave the other team with PLENTY of time left on the clock after this drive so that you can switch to a prevent defense and let them march right down the field to within field goal range. Finally, just pray and hope they miss the field goal as time expires. And this all goes without saying, make sure you use all of your second half timeouts on as many stupid challenges and bad situations as possible along the way so you have no shot of stopping the clock at the end of the game. Do you think more teams will try to start imitating this new strategy?
—Danny Foster, Mission, KS

SG: That wasn’t even one of this week’s top-10 most venomous Andy Reid e-mails. Hey, here’s a thought: Maybe the Lions aren’t as disappointing as we thought? Week 1’s ugly home win against the Rams team doesn’t look as bad as it did at the time. Week 2’s spirited loss in San Francisco looks better now. Week 3’s ridiculous Tennessee game when the Titans scored all those crazy touchdowns remains ridiculous. Week 4’s loss to the Vikes doesn’t look as bad because the Vikes are good. Now they’re coming off a bye week and trying to save their season against this semi-fraudulent Eagles team that zero percent of the Philly fan base trusts right now … I mean, if the Lions have even a shred of dignity, they’ll either win or lose by a field goal, right? I’m grabbing the 3½ points. Oh, and I’m grabbing the under in “Total number of Michael Vick starts remaining this season” as long as it’s under five.

Chiefs (+4.5) over BUCS

Q: Is Kansas City the new Philadelphia? Their fans booed Robby Cano mercilessly during the home run contest. Enough to totally get in his dome and hit exactly 0 home runs. (And I loved every second of it) Then they cheer when Cassell gets hurt? That’s pretty low.
—CP, Des Moines

SG: Come on, do you really think we’d ever have a show called It’s Always Sunny in Kansas City? I think Kansas City is more like the kid who was bullied for a few years before finally snapping, not much different from Warriors fans snapping during Joe Lacob’s speech on Chris Mullin night. They were so frustrated by the Scott Pioli era and the last few years in general that a few of them handled it wrong. (Jason Whitlock’s take nailed it.) Besides, there can never be a “new” Philly — what would we do with the old one?

Q: Please dont buy into the idea that Chiefs fans were cheering with the hope that Matt Cassel would be injured to the point that he would have to be taken out of the game, let a lone the accusations of the barbaric idea that we were cheering for him to be severely injured. We arent that bad. Yes, there was a small contingent of a combination of drunk, dumb, and immature fans that cheered him being hurt. And shame on them. But there were also fans cheering the fact that he got up and was able to walk off. We are not dumb. We have the worst professional sports teams out there, rip us on that fact. But please dont question our character, it is all we have left. (And because I know this email is too long, and you wont run it, Im going to email this to you everyday, if not twice everyday, with hopes that you put it in your column. And yes, I;m putting a Shawshank reference in here to better my chances).
—Ryan, Kansas City

SG: I wish I could tell you the Chiefs fans fought the good fight, but football is no fairy tale world. Football consists of routine, and then more routine. Every so often, the Chiefs fans would show up with fresh bruises. And that’s how it went for them — that was their routine. I do believe those first two years were the worst for them. I also believe that if things had gone on that way, this league would have gotten the best of them …

Q: I loved Eric Winston’s quote on Cassel: “Hey, if he’s not the best quarterback, he’s not the best quarterback, and that’s OK, but he’s a person.” Ladies and Gentleman, your 2012 Kans — eh, you know the rest.
—Patrick, LA

SG: Do you realize the Chiefs have played 20 quarters this season (including OT in New Orleans) without ever having the lead? How is that possible? Even Cleveland’s had a 14-point lead this season! Don’t they have any pride at all? And should the Bucs really be favored by more than four points over anyone right now? I’m going with a Chiefs upset: Chiefs 16, Bucs 10.

Bears’ Bye Week (-7.5) over Saints’ Bye Week

Q: You know how athletes stop doing the little things that made them famous once they get famous? Like how Eric Davis stopped stealing bases once he became a superstar, and Mike Haynes stopped returning punts? Have we reached that point with Brody’s wife on Homeland? Last season she wore clothes less often than Jenna Jameson, and I loved every second of it. This year, two episodes and nada. Please tell me she hasn’t reached superstar stage.
—G Money, Scituate, MA

SG: No way — she’s not nearly famous enough yet. You’ll get your totally creepy, semi-emotionally scarring sex scene with Brody and Mrs. Brody soon, just be patient. Fantastic first two weeks of Homeland, by the way. How great is Sunday going to be? Eleven hours of football games, two baseball playoff games, Homeland … I might just lock my kids in the shed.

SEAHAWKS (+4) over Patriots

Q: The Patriots have redefined the hurry up offense and commentators are discussing what exactly to call it. How about the Uber-up Offense? “Hold on to your seats, fans, Brady likes this defensive match-up and is switching on the Uber-up”
—Nate, Salem, CT

SG: But here’s the thing — it’s not a “hurry-up” offense because Brady takes his time and methodically shreds the defense with his play calling on the line of scrimmage. They’re just trying to keep the same 11 defensive players out there for as long as possible, so really, it’s a no-huddle without that hurry-up mentality. But calling it a “no-huddle” doesn’t do it justice, either. Shouldn’t we call it the “never-huddle”?

Regardless, I’m worried about this game: Seattle’s defense and special teams are significantly better than New England’s defense and special teams. We already know they love playing home. The Pats just slapped together three of the greatest offensive halves in the history of football: 80 points, 10 touchdowns and fifty-one first downs … there’s just no way that can keep going; they’re due to regress a little, right? There’s some serious “Pete Carroll Revenge Game” potential here, as dopey as that sounds. And after torturing me for five weeks, wouldn’t it be fitting if my pick for the NFC’s Super Bowl QB (Russell Wilson) ended up torturing my favorite team? This game frightens the living hell out of me. I hate this game.

Q: Do you realize Liverpool is off to its worst start EVER through the first 7 matches and has a new manager (Brendan Rodgers) who’s already on the hot seat and could soon be joining Bobby V in the unemployment line. That means in the last 18 months, the Fenway group oversaw:

• The biggest late season collapse of all-time (Red Sox 2011)
• Worst ever season (Liverpool 2011-2012)
• Fired most successful manager in team history (Terry Francona 2011)
• Fired club legend turned coach (Kenny Dalglish, 2012)
• Worst Sox season since 1965 (2012)
• Worst ever start to Liverpool season (2012-2013)

Those results must rank among the absolute worst “seasons” for an ownership group — especially considering the expectations and history of both clubs. I don’t even have a comment/joke/analogy like most of your emails. That is just a fantastic run of incompetence that needs to be acknowledged.
—Paul, Boston

SG: Six silver linings …

1. Every A-Rod playoff at-bat has been the most fun moment of the 2012 Red Sox season. It’s seriously the first time I’ve enjoyed baseball in five months.
2. At least we don’t have Carl Crawford’s contract on the books.
3. At least we don’t have A-Rod for the next five years.
4. After how Josh Hamilton finished the season, at least we know we won’t be overpaying when we inevitably panic-sign him.
5. Bobby V’s breach-of-confidentiality tell-all book is going to be an incredible read 18 months from now.
6. (Still under construction.)

Bills (+4.5) over CARDS

Q: Just broke out Madden 12 for the first time in 4 months. Fired up a Cardinals franchise. Larry Fitzgerald breaks his collar bone. Who tackled him? BERNARD KARMELL POLLARD
—Jon H, Mountain View, CA

SG: This isn’t the first “Bernard Karmell Pollard injured one of my Madden guys” e-mail I’ve gotten. Did the Madden people put something into the game that made Pollard much more likely to injure opponents during franchise seasons? And if so, is there any doubt that the boss who made that request to the game designers was either a Giants fan or a Jets fan? By the way, this line is too high — a team with a devastated offensive line, Kevin Kolb and no running backs shouldn’t be favored by more than four over anyone right now.

Q: I was watching an episode of TMZ the other day (I’m not proud) and it struck me that the Grantland office probably looks, sounds and operates a lot like the TMZ office: older, unhip, slightly out-of-touch guy who is the center of attention and who has surrounded himself with a bunch of wise-cracking 20 year olds even though they often belittle and befuddle him. I bet you’ve even got yourself one of those sweet tumbler/straw combos, too. Please confirm.
—Joe, San Francisco

SG: (Searching for a comeback.)

REDSKINS (+3.5) over Vikings

Q: Gary Bettman’s middle name is Bruce. Yes, Gary Bruce Bettman has been murdering NHL games since 1994.
—Fabian, Lafayette, CO

SG: I love the idea of calling Bettman by his full name for the full-fledged serial-killer parallels, and it’s a shame we didn’t think of this sooner. Speaking of murders, we’ve known this game was coming for two weeks: That’s right, it’s the old “Too Many People Believe in the Vikings Right Now and History Shows That’s Never a Good Thing” road game! Either they’ll lose or they’ll grind out a hairy three-point victory, but either way, they’re DEFINITELY giving up a special teams touchdown (lock it down), and they’re definitely taking two weeks off every Vikings fan’s life by the time it’s over.

Giants (+6.5) over 49ERS

Q: Apparently Tom Coughlin is playing the “nobody believes in us” card for this Sunday’s game against San Francisco? Wha-huh?! As a diehard 49ers fan, I’m terrified. If our lord and savior Jim Harbaugh isn’t even playing that card anymore after playing it during our entire 13-3 season, what right do Coughlin and his red face have? And yet now I must watch in horror as Victor Cruz goes for 6 touchdowns and somehow breaks all of Vernon Davis’s legs in the process. Man, I love football. Also, I’m unemployed.
—Dan Gilbert (no, not that one), Savannah, GA

SG: I had the Niners penciled in until Dan sent this e-mail and I found this article. Do you realize we had the first “Nobody believes in us” cockblock this week? Check out these excerpts.

“Nobody gives us a chance to win,” Coughlin said when asked about how many consider the 49ers a favorite to win the NFC. “We’ll see.”

(Translation: “Please don’t ask me any follow-up questions. Just let me have this, it’s kinda my thing.”)

When asked to elaborate, Coughlin said, “I just sense it.”

(Translation: “I told you, no follow-up questions! Can’t I just sense it? Fine, here’s your answer: I haven’t played the Nobody Believes in Us card all season, we’re overdue — it always works. I can’t help myself. You’d do it too.”)

“Why do I think they feel that way? Probably because [people] think that the other team is playing very well,” he said.

(Translation: “Also, I looked at the line. We’re getting 6½ points? That’s f-ing crazy! We won the Super Bowl last year! We beat this same team in San Francisco 10 months ago!”)

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh replied, “Yeah, I think that is probably an exaggeration.”

(Translation: “Go to hell, Coughlin! That’s my move! How dare you say nobody believes in you! Watch this, I’m gonna tell my team that nobody believes in us because nobody believes in you, which means everybody believes in you because every time nobody believes in you, you guys win, so really, people are believing in you because you initially believed nobody believed in you! HA! I FOILED YOU! DON’T BRING THIS SHIT INTO MY HOUSE!”)

Coughlin admits to playing the underdog card and using it as a motivational ploy for Week 6.

(Now I’m confused. How can the “Nobody Believes in Us” ploy work if you’re admitting you’re doing it as you’re doing it?)

“It’s basically how it goes for us every year,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “Nobody picks us to win. We’ve always got our backs against the wall, which is I guess in a sense how we like to play. It really brings out the best in us, so we’re fine with that.”

(So wait … do you really believe that nobody believes in you, or are you just going through the motions of believing that because that’s the move that always worked for you guys? Whatever the case, I’m still grabbing the points if only because the line was three points too high — so if any of the Giants are reading, please know that I don’t believe in you. I just believe the line was too high. You guys suck. The Niners are going to dominate you and somehow win by four because Eli will get a couple of late garbage-time TDs. Hear me, Giants? The Niners are going to own your asses! NOBODY BELIEVES IN YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Q: My boyfriend and I are pretty thrilled by your “noodle arm” Peyton observations. We’ve been calling Eli “Spaghetti Legs” around our house for a couple years. My Giants-fan boyfriend came up with the nickname after observing that Eli always looked really unstable in the pocket, like — as the name suggests — his legs were made of long noodles. Sometimes when he takes off on a scramble, he inexplicably and spontaneously collapses like he’s lost the bones in his legs. We’re likely to get a lot of joke mileage out of the Pasta Brothers this season, so thanks.
—Liza, Chicago

SG: On the Spiteful Scale, where does me deliberately seeking unflattering e-mails about the Manning brothers for every Friday NFL mailbag rank? It’s at least a 6 out of 10, right?

TEXANS (-3.5) over Packers

Q: Have defenses figured Rodgers out and how to stop him? Was his year-and-a-half ridiculous run a fluke? He seems off in almost every aspect: his throws aren’t pinpoint, his decision-making is questionable, he’s back to holding the ball too long and he locks onto receivers too early in the play. Did Tom Brady ever go through a phase like what Rodgers is going through?
—Jarrett, Milwaukee

SG: It’s not a fluke — he misses Greg Jennings, he doesn’t have any semblance of a running game, he’s not getting anything from Jermichael Finley (the Tyrus Thomas of tight ends), his offensive line is mediocre at best, his team is pretty banged-up, and as Steven Hyden theorized in the Triangle this week, there’s a chance that Green Bay’s 2012 NFL season was built on an Indian burial ground.

As for Brady, he struggled during the middle of the 2006 season for similar reasons — no running game, nothing from his tight ends, shaky offensive line, even worse receivers than what Rodgers had (that was the year they traded Deion Branch and left Reche Caldwell as Brady’s no. 1 target), which led to a disastrous two-game skid in November when Brady threw four picks against Indy (no TDs, either), then put up just 14 points against Pennington and the Jets (rock-bottom), followed by everyone in New England freaking out. His next game? Four TDs, zero picks in a 35-0 shellacking of Green Bay. Rodgers will be fine. Just not this week. I say Houston trounces Green Bay (Rodgers’s rock-bottom moment), then the Packers right the ship with three straight wins over St. Louis, Jacksonville and Arizona heading into the bye. Still don’t think Green Bay is a playoff team, though — don’t like their mojo this year.

Q: First the replacement ref curb stomping on Monday night, now this ChuckStrong. It’s official — the Packers have become the “other team” in every sports movie ever. I figured we were destined for bad karma after Rodgers sold out his title belt move.
—RC Weich, Mequon, WI

SG: Repeat: not crazy about Green Bay’s mojo this year.

Q: Is there such a thing as a good bad coach? If there is I feel that Mike McCarthy needs to be in the conversation for the top five. Last week it appeared that he had been taught how to use his challenge flags by none other than Andy Reid. He has been out coached five weeks in a row, by Pete Carrol, an interim-interim-head coach, and an interim head coach in the last three weeks. I know he won a Super Bowl two years ago, but halfway through the season he was on the hot seat. With the talent that team has, there is no excuse he’s not on the hot seat again. My only hope is Rodgers doesn’t go down this year, and McCarthy gets a free pass due to that injury.
—Ryan Westaby, Thorp, WI

SG: You missed the obvious parallel there … really, there’s a chance Mike McCarthy might be Andy Reid 2.0. Just think, he’s at the peak of his powers right now. Wait until he gets older, heavier and more worn down, and wait until he adds a mustache. Is it weird that I’m excited for this?

Broncos (+1.5) over CHARGERS

Q: Norv Turner’s resume:

• Coached more games than any other coach with an overall losing record.
• Started 2-0 only once (this season) in 15 seasons as a head coach
• 49-68-1 in 1 possession games; 2nd worst all-time
• Only coach to ever lose to an interim’s interim coach
—Eric, Spokane

SG: (Nodding.)

Q: Last week you cited some statistics, then used logic and reason to talk yourself into taking the Chargers over the Saints. How could you? Don’t you know by now that Norv Turner is completely immune to logic and reason??? The only thing more likely than an end-game coaching fiasco involving Norv was a Phillip Rivers meltdown, followed by him giving his teammates annoyed looks on national television. If you offer any analysis this week beyond “Norv Turner vs. Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football”, I’m going to have to assume that this column is being written by an interim-interim Sports Guy and that the real Sports Guy is serving a 16-game suspension.
—Matt, Astoria

SG: I can’t pick the Broncos violently enough. You’re preaching to the choir. And for the record, Denver follows this game with a bye week, then hosts New Orleans, goes to Cincy and Carolina, hosts San Diego, goes to Kansas City, hosts Tampa and plays Oakland on Thursday night. Could we really see Mr. Noodle taking a 9-3 record into that Oakland game? Absolutely! Pass me the grated cheese and the red pepper: We’re riding Peyton’s linguini arm these next few weeks. Starting with Monday night. Thank you, gambling gods, for making Peyton Manning an underdog to Norv Turner on a Monday night in my lifetime. You’re too kind.

Q: I just watched The Terminator for the very first time and I figured out that Sara Connor having relations (sex) with Kyle Reese is the first documented human case of Cougarism. With our understanding of time travel in the Terminator series, Kyle Reese is 28 years old in 2029, and Sara Connor, who is 28 years old in 1984, would actually be 73 years old in the year 2029. This means a 73 year old Sara was banging a 28 year old Kyle, who was bff’s with her son. Banging your adult son’s friends is one of the primary indicators of Cougarism. At the time Sara was 28 in 1984, Kyle Reese obviously was not born yet, making their sexual intercourse the ultimate case of zygote robbing. Kyle was likely conceived in 2000, and if his parents were in their mid 20s (say 25), this means in 1984, when Sara Connor was having relations with Reese, his parents were 9 years old, and likely had not reached puberty, double zygote robbing if you ask me. Finally, Sara Connor was dead in the year 2029, having died in 1997 according to the tombstone in Terminator 3, four years before Reese was even born. As a 28 year old, Reese had sex with a woman who had been dead for 32 years, a blatant case of necrophilia if I ever saw one. So there you have it, the theme of the Terminator franchise is Cougarism, Zygote robbing, and Necrophilia.
—Silver, NYC

SG: Yup, these are my readers.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 8-6
Season: 40-36-2

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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