Note: If you missed the Mailbag that led the Week 3 picks, CLICK HERE.
Home teams in caps.
BILLS (+8.5) over Patriots
Q: I can’t fight it anymore. I love watching the Patriots. They are a bunch of nobodies playing as the ultimate team. What I mean by nobodies are players who no one else thought much of. That qualifies for Brady, Welker, Haynesworth, their RBs, their WR’s other than Ocho, and pretty much everyone else. They play so well as a team in whatever set, and they don’t care who gets the ball. Its fun, I give up.
— Cole in Des Moines
SG: Thank you, Cole! I’m taking the points only because Buffalo and Carolina are this season’s Backdoor Cover teams — you don’t want their frisky offenses driving against you in garbage time of a 14-point game when you’re lying between 7½ and 11. (Cut to everyone who bet Green Bay last week nodding sadly.) Throw in a banged-up Pats secondary and I’m going to feel great about this pick right up until the point when they flash that “NEW ENGLAND HAS BEATEN BUFFALO 15 STRAIGHT TIMES” graphic.
TITANS (-6.5) over Broncos
Texans (+4) over SAINTS
Q: The Back to the Future trilogy is on T.V. today and I never realized how much Marty get knocked out cold in a matter of a few days. Given all the concussion awareness these days, what do you think Marty’s quality of life is like as an adult? I’m surprised he’s not a drooling vegetable by the end of the third movie. A stiff breeze would give him vertigo.
— Michael, Kingston, Ontario
SG: Sounds like he’s eligible to play for the 2011 Broncos. Did Josh McDaniels curse Denver when he left or something? How many injuries can one team have? Speaking of concussions, I think I have one because I told someone this week, “Forget about covering, I think Houston can WIN in New Orleans!” It’s becoming an annual September tradition: The Texans sucking me in against my better judgment and burning me, then me angrily picking against them for the next 13 weeks while running out of new ways to make fun of Gary Kubiak. Let’s just make it Week 3’s upset special: Houston 34, New Orleans 31.
Dolphins (+3) over BROWNS
Q: If you went back in time to Shawshank and told Red that when he got out of prison he was going to make a shitty movie about a dolphin with a prosthetic tail, don’t you think he would have just hung himself like Brooks?
— Eric, Steubenville, OH
SG: I look at it another way — with the reeling Dolphins finally escaping their home-field disadvantage and looking at a make-or-break game in Cleveland, is it a good omen or a bad omen that Hollywood is releasing a movie about a dolphin with a prosthetic tail that same weekend? I say it’s a good sign. Remind me that I said that eight weeks from now when it’s showing on your airplane right as you’re reading about Tony Sparano’s firing.
Lions (-3.5) over VIKINGS
Q: When do you think Donovan lost it? Because if anyone had actually been watching Eagles games and not just the highlight reel for the last 4 years I can tell you he had nothing of real value left after the ’07 season. Go watch the games and tell me he wasn’t a shell of the player he used to be then. After ’07 he landed serious playmakers around him who artificially boosted his stats in ’08 and ’09, but the proof is on the tape. He should have been benched or traded in ’08. He had games like the one in Baltimore when he did get benched when he was simply unwatchable and yet we actually had a DEBATE as to if the Eagles should be allowed to bench the mighty McNabb. He was awful the last two years in Philly. Only now that he is out of Philadelphia is anyone allowed to say the problem is HIM not every other excuse around him.
— Ted, Philly
SG: It’s hard to refute any of that, Ted, just another reason why the “TRAP GAME!” sign is flashing in neon lights. Think about it: Everyone loves the Lions, everyone’s down on the Vikings, nobody believes in McNabb and meanwhile, the Vikes desperately need a win and have their second-best defensive player (Kevin Williams) coming back. I’d grab them if I didn’t believe in the 2011 Lions of Detroit. As long as they’re healthy, I’m riding them.
EAGLES (-7) over Giants
Q: Dear Philadelphia Eagles,
Thank you for recent purchase with us. Here is your purchase statement:
Qty: 1 Quarterback Price: $100,000,000.00
As always, all sales are final.
Thank you again for your business.
The Ticking Time-Bomb Store
SG: I wanted to laugh then I remembered that I ended last week’s column with a gushing section about having Vick on both of my fantasy teams, and 48 hours later, he was concussed. Since he’s back for this week, I’m laying the seven more because I dislike the more Giants than because I like the Eagles. The Giants don’t look right, do they? Something’s off. By the way, do you think Archie Manning called Peyton’s sponsors this month and had this exchange with them?
Archie: Hey, I was just wondering — it would be weird if Peyton did ads for you guys, what if we slid Eli in there this year and he did the ads instead?
Sponsor: Ah, jeez well um let us get back to you on that ”
PANTHERS (-3.5) over Jaguars
Q: Say this about Cam Newton — if you’re watching four TV’s at the same time on Sunday, you will find your eyes repeatedly drifting towards Cam Newton’s TV. You could call it the Four TV’s Test. He passes it.
— Bill S., Los Angeles.
SG: Fine, I wrote that one. I predict one more monster week for Cam before he slides into that “league catching up to him”/”there’s no way he’s going to throw for 6500 yards”/”his signed Topps rookie card is going for WAY too much on eBay” phase of his season. In other news, I’m already getting emotionally prepared for my son telling me, “Dad, I don’t want to root for the Patriots, I want to root for the L.A. Jaguars like all of my friends” in five years.
Packers (-3.5) over BEARS
Q: Fox is making up fake Jay Cutler headlines to make Jay Cutler look bad? Do you really need fake headlines to make Jay Cutler look bad?
— Mike, Hoboken
SG: Next thing you know we’re going to find out that Celebrity Rehab makes up their fake headlines. Unrelated: Green Bay is gonna kill the Bears. They haven’t played a killer start-to-finish game yet. It’s coming.
RAIDERS (+3) over Jets
Q: I’m a big Jets fan, but have to admit I can’t wait for a defender to fake shoot themselves in the leg. Name a better celebration?’
— John C., New York
SG: I can’t. I really can’t. We might see it happen this weekend — I’m taking the Raiders because of that stupid Mark Sanchez/hot dog story. Give me a team that’s fired up over something extremely dumb and I’m in every time.
BENGALS (-3) over 49ers
Q: Where do you stand on Andy Dalton’s nickname, “The Red Rifle?”
— Frank, Cincinnati
SG: In! One hundred percent in! I’ve never felt better about anyone with red hair, with the possible exception of Christina Hendricks and David Caruso during Season 1 of NYPD Blue. I like the Bengals in general — there’s an overwhelming chance they might be the Good Bad Team this year (a.k.a. the Bad Team that either covers or beats the other bad teams).
SEAHAWKS (+3.5) over Cards
Q: Seeing Bodie in an FedEx commercial may be one of the saddest things in my life.
— @sdotsom7 (via Twitter)
SG: Ditto. It was the NFC West of commercials. PS: This was a combo Qwest Field/Seattle’s-back-is-to-the-wall/”the Cardinals secretly stink” pick. Do I feel good about it? No. No I don’t.
Ravens (-4) over RAMS
Steelers (-10.5) COLTS
Q: On your podcast recently you talked about how the Colts have sucked at drafting in the first round for the last 5-6 years. The Rams are a blueprint for how things will go downhill if you keep missing high picks. From the year after they won the Super Bowl (2000) until the year the new regime began to take over (2007), here were their first rounders: Trung Canidate, Damione Lewis, Adam Archuleta, Ryan Pickett (note: Lewis & Pickett were mediocre with the Rams), Robert Thomas, Jimmy Kennedy, Steven Jackson (their only good pick in the 2004 draft), Alex Barron (false start machine), Tye Hill, Adam Carriker (traded for a 5th round pick 3 years later). Eight drafts, 10 first rounders and only one ever did anything for the Rams. The Colts are headed in this direction.
— Josh, St. Louis
SG: Headed? Unrelated: The only thing that could redeem the NFC West this season would be the Rams starting out 0-7 and still winning that division. I am now rooting for this.
CHARGERS (-14.5) over Chiefs
Q: I know it’s gorgeous year round here in San Diego. But I think it’s time to officially apply for top-ten status in your “most depressed sports city” rankings. Mike Tolbert is 5’8″ 250 pounds. On the biggest play of the Patriots game, he ran backwards like he was Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson for no apparent reason. I’m certain I will never see a championship. Never.
— Josh, San Diego
SG: It could be worse — you could be a Chiefs fan, right? This line feels three points too low. Meanwhile, check out San Diego’s next four weeks: Kansas City, Miami, at Denver, Bye Week. We’re headed toward one of those, “Wait, San Diego is 12-2????” situations in December. It’s coming. In other news, I think Andrew Luck should have trademarked “Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.” We’ll be hearing it during every Kansas City, Indianapolis, Seattle and Miami game for the next three-plus months, right?
BUCS (-1.5) over Falcons
Dumping the e-mail gimmick for this one. In 2010, everything broke my way for picking games; I even had a chance to finish in the top five in the Hilton’s SuperContest heading into Week 17. Three days before the New Year, I flew to Oklahoma City to see a Durant game, stayed at a supposedly haunted hotel called the Skirvin, then got woken up in the middle of the night by the ghost and the ghost’s baby who haunt that hotel. (I swear, on the souls of my kids, that something woke me up. I’ve narrowed it down to a ghost or the hotel nefariously pumping in the sound of a crying baby through the walls.) That Sunday, my picks went in the toilet on the same day that the LAPD mistakenly rousted my man cave as my buddies and I were watching football, then made us spend 10 minutes lying on a rain-soaked ground with our hands behind out head. Everything crested with Sunday night’s Seattle-St. Louis game — I had the Rams
at home on the road, and, of course, the Seahawks shellacked them. My playoff performance was spotty at best, personified by Cousin Sal and I unsuccessfully middling our “Steelers to win the Super Bowl at 12-to-1” bet even though they made the Super Bowl. This year, I’m somehow two games over .500 in this column but 2-7-1 in the SuperContest; nothing has gone my way.
There’s a really, really good chance that 2011 just isn’t my year for picking football games. We’ll know for sure after this Bucs-Falcons game. I love the Bucs and think they’re undervalued. I dislike the Falcons and think they’re overvalued. If you believe those two things, “Bucs -1.5 at home” is really a perfect storm of gooey gambling goodness. If the Falcons win this game, there’s only one way I can turn 2011 around: by flying back to Oklahoma City and begging for forgiveness from Effie the Ghost. Which, by the way, would be totally ridiculous and I’d never do that. Basically, I’m screwed. So come on, Jaaaaaaaaaaash Freeman. Save me from football hell.
Redskins (+4) over COWBOYS
Q: Is this the worst season of Monday Night Football ever? Skins-Cowboys is the best matchup of the first three weeks, then check out the rest of the slate: Colts-Bucs, Bears-Lions (admittedly watchable), Dolphins-Jets (why in the world would Miami get two Monday night games?), Ravens-Jags, Chargers-Chiefs, Bears-Eagles, Vikings-Packers, Chiefs-Pats, Giants-Saints, Chargers-Jags, Rams-Seahawks, Steelers-Niners, Falcons-Saints. Counting the first Monday, at least ten of the 17 Monday Night Football games in 2011 could have a spread of more than a touchdown!
— Kyle, Cleveland
SG: That’s brutal. The six worst teams in football (Seattle, Kansas City, Miami, Indianapolis, San Fran and Jacksonville) are headlining eight of the last 13 weeks? I think the guy who programmed Monday Night Football stayed at the Skirvin last winter. In other news, I believe in the Skins to be something. They’re somewhere between a playoff team and the Good Bad Team maybe the Good Mediocre Team? Washington 23, Dallas, 20. And if the Falcons beat the Bucs, you might want to go against me.
LAST WEEK: 8-7-1
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.
Previously from Bill Simmons:
NFL Week 2: The NFL Stock Market
NFL Preview: It’s All About Continuity
Summer of Mailbag V: Passing the Buck
Summer of Mailbag IV: Dawn of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag III: Attack of the Mailbag!
The Glorious Return of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag: The Revenge
Red Sox Report Card
‘Good Lord! That’s His Music!’
To submit questions for next week’s mailbag, click here; to comment on this story through Facebook, click here.