Welcome to the Week 12 Thunderdome

Joe Robbins, Bob Levey/Getty Images

When your mailbag question inspires me to email multiple friends and colleagues asking for their answers, then congratulations — you’ve completed the Mailbag Video Game. There’s no parting prize other than my eternal respect. A reader accomplished that feat this week with a question involving Rob Gronkowski and J.J. Watt. Before we answer it, let’s rip through a couple of undercard questions relating to those chiseled maniacs first.

Q: I have a six year old son. He is basically like a boney ball of energy that just wants to wrestle, run, jump, and climb everywhere and all the time. As a dad, it’s fun to horse around and let him win like a WWE style match. He loves it. But sometimes he gets a bit out of control and I need to pull him off a bookshelf or off my back. For everyone’s safety. He always has the same stunned reaction, like “How did you do that? You must be the strongest man in the world!” Watching the Pats game and Gronk’s ridiculous man handling of the Colts it reminded me of well, me as a dad. Gronk looks like he is just playing with a bunch of little kids. Its all fun and games, until he gets pissed and decides to toss defenders around like a dad that just took much crap. You’ve got a boy, ever go ‘Gronk ‘on him?
—Jim, Wharton, NJ

BS: We have the same son — I’ve been pulling a Gronk on mine at least four days a week for two straight years. There’s nothing funnier than fake-wrestling a completely fearless little boy who weighs three times less than you. They’re like a cross between a pinball and the amped-up dog in There’s Something About Mary. So as the dad, your job is to make sure neither of you get injured. That means you’re always straddling the line between “I’m gonna let you keep beating me up because that’s my job here” and “OK, if you hit me in the balls one more time, I’m throwing you into some sofa pillows.”

That’s Gronk in every football game when he’s 100 percent healthy, with one crucial difference — when I’m “wrestling” my son, I’m carefully picking him up by his chest and throwing him into a bunch of pillows. When Gronk turns the tables on an opponent, the word “carefully” isn’t involved. That dude ends up getting bowled over or “thrown out of the club” (Gronk’s words) like poor Sergio Brown getting introduced to NBC’s cameramen last Sunday. He’s my favorite Patriot of all time. It’s not close, actually.

Here’s how much I love Rob Gronkowski: I haven’t written a full-fledged Gronk column because I can’t risk putting the Simmons Stink on him, seeing him suffer another dumb injury because yet another safety cowardly took out his legs when Gronk wasn’t looking, watching in horror as another Lombardi vanishes into a puff of smoke, then sentencing myself to a lifetime of head shakes from my father and caustic emails from bitter Patriots fans. No way. There will be no Gronk column.

Q: The QB is the NFL’s most important position. Because of that, a QB is going to win another MVP in 2014. Shouldn’t the NFL create a different award to recognize the non-QB who offers the most value to his team? If this award was reality it would be a five-player race right now between Gronk, Watt, Antonio Brown, DeMarco Murray and maybe Justin Houston (if he breaks the sack record). Why not a non-QB MVP? It’s a better idea than sending teams to London, that’s for sure.
—Patrick, Rhode Island

BS: And you didn’t even mention this wrinkle — in a 30-year span from 1956 (when the award was created) through 1986, only 17 QBs won the MVP. From 1987 through 2013, QBs won or shared the award in 20 of the 27 years. And it’s not like that number is dropping; not after they changed basically every rule to benefit quarterbacks. I’m with Patrick — we need an MVQ and a MVP. Just know that, through 11 weeks in 2014, the MVQ is Aaron Rodgers and the MVP is Gronk.

(The quick case for Gronk: When he’s 100 percent healthy, the Pats immediately become a genuine Super Bowl favorite that drops 40 points a game on anyone and everyone. No other non-QB alters a 2014 NFL team’s destiny that severely. Also, I’m a giant homer.)

Q: After watching Gronk’s extracurricular pancake block followed by his ridiculous touchdown in Sunday’s game, we came up with a new word. LeBronk: A player who plays the game with such a unique level of swagger that you continue to watch lopsided games just to see if they do something outrageous. At any given time, there are only a few LeBronks out there. Who’s on the LeBronk Mount Rushmore right now? We’ve got LeBron, Gronk, The Brow, and J.J. Watt.
—Sam and Noam, Brooklyn

BS: It took two people to come up with that email! You need to tweak the concept a little — it should measure greatness combined with disdain combined with an absolutely overpowering physical component, otherwise every great athlete would qualify. And I think you need the aforementioned Dad/Gronk factor: When an athlete looks like he’s plowing through little kids even though he’s actually playing with highly trained adults.

But you nailed the current LeBronk Mount Rushmore, even if you omitted Mike Trout, who’s been patiently waiting for one of those four spots to open. (Thanks for being such a trouper, Mike.) If you’re thinking about historical LeBronks, overpowering freaks who pop right into my mind include Bo Jackson, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Lawrence Taylor, Mark Bavaro, Serena Williams, Earl Campbell, mid-’80s Boris Becker, Wilt Chamberlain, Young Eric Lindros, Reggie White, Andre the Giant, College Jadeveon Clowney, Georgetown Patrick Ewing, post-1998 Barry Bonds, and Bo Jackson a second time. If you want to make the case for anyone else, drop me an email. All right, let’s answer our main-event mailbag question.

Q: If Rob Gronkowski and JJ Watt fought each other in the Thunderdome and it was scored like a football game, what would the betting line be? My friends and I thought that the public would probably push the line to Watt -6.5, so I’d take Gronk with those odds. Sure Watt has the size advantage, but I think Gronk’s hands would help him grab the weapon needed to give him the upper hand. What’s the line and how would you bet?
—Alex MG, NYC

BS: Yes! Yes! Yes! This is a GREAT mailbag question. I sent it to eight friends and coworkers asking for short responses. Here’s what they wrote back.

The J-Bug (Pats fan): “Gronk by 1½. And Gronk wins. This already happened less than a year ago — Pats-Texans, Pats won, Gronk had 1 TD and 130 yards.”

Gus Ramsey (Broncos fan): “Watt by 4. Gronk is sure to get hurt during the fight or at least stunned when Watt says ‘Bet you can’t spell my first name.’ (Watt wins.)”

Cousin Sal (Cowboys fan): “This is Vegas Zone — Gronk by 4½. And the Pats beast prevails.” (Note: We had to delete the follow-up joke here, but it was really funny and let’s just say that one of Gronk’s former teammates was involved.)

Robert Mays (Bears fan): “Watt by 4½ — he gets an extra point-and-a-half for the 30-pound advantage, and instead of homefield advantage, I’m giving Watt what I’ll call a Maliciousness Advantage. Gronk comes off like a genuinely affable guy (to people that aren’t Sergio Brown) that happens to SMASH for a living. I get the impression that Watt actually enjoys wiping people off the face of the earth. Oh, and he once said this to me.”

Dave Jacoby (Pats fan, Tebow fan): “Watt by 7. He was born in a Thunderdome. (Gronk wins.)”

Andrew Sharp (Cowboys fan): “Watt’s definitely favored by 3½ because he’s real-life Bane and his quotes to Mays still scare the crap out of me. But my heart will never let me pick against Gronk. In anything. (Gronk covers by +3.5 bodyslams.)”

Joe House (D.C. fan): “This really strikes me as the classic ‘Bull (Gronk) vs. Bear (Watt)’ conundrum for which, according to the internet, the line should be ‘Bull by 1’. But I like the bear’s claws against the bull’s relentless charge so Watt BARELY wins.”

Kevin Wildes (half-baked idea enthusiast): “Watt by 6. But Watt grew up with two giant younger brothers; Gronk grew up with two giant older brothers. Gronk now has the physique of an older brother and the mindset of a younger brother. Unstoppable combo. (GRONK WINS.)”

My take: It’s a dead-even matchup, which means Watt is favored by three because you get three points for playing at home. Mays tapped into the crucial point — J.J. Watt is just meaner than Gronk. I could see Gronk jumping to an early advantage, heading to the precipice of finishing Watt off, then backing off because he’s such a happy guy. And that’s when Watt would turn into Bane and flip the fight — with Gronk as Arnold in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, just refusing to lose even as parts of his body are coming off. And at some point, even Bane Watt would gain so much respect for Gronk that he’d decide NOT to finish him off, so we’d have one of those Sean Penn/Esai Morales/Bad Boys–type endings with Bane Watt passing up the final death blow as the crowd watches in respectful silence, then helping a bloodied Gronk to his feet, then trying to raise Gronk’s arms so they could share the victory, only Gronk doesn’t have any arms left to raise. So Watt wins the Thunderdome fight, but Gronk wins our hearts. Again.

Let’s tackle the Week 12 picks …

(Home teams in caps.)

RAIDERS (+7.5) over Chiefs

Why I picked against the Chiefs (via Instagram): “Trap Game + 8 Straight KC Covers + We’re Overdue for An Andy Reid Game.” I think that makes me Nostrasimmdus! Never change, Andy Reid. Never change.

Q: Heading into Week 12 games: did you know that, if there were a fantasy football player named “All The Chiefs Receivers,” ATCR would rank #26 on the WR list averaging 9.2 fantasy points/game.
—Dave, Rogersville, MO

BS: And … there’s your problem with the Chiefs. You can’t be one-dimensional for four straight playoff rounds. It’s never worked. (Those K.C. receivers put up 9.5 points last night, by the way.) Here’s the strange thing: For all their faults, the Chiefs were (and are) the scariest AFC matchup for the Patriots. Why? Because New England’s defense was carefully designed to shut down high-powered passing games … but you can run on the Pats, and they’re also susceptible to goofy misdirection plays and screen passes and wide receiver screens and all of that other Reid-like crap against them. That’s why every smart Pats fan was rooting for Oakland last night. Even if we believe we can beat the Chiefs, we’d rather not find out (and the tiebreaker implications helped too).

Q: I dare you to think of five stupider reasons why a team has been forced to call a timeout than two Raiders celebrating a 3rd down sack 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage while KC was hurrying to get their next play off. If they had been penalized and subsequently lost, that would have been the most Raider-like way to lose in NFL history right?
—Kyle, Santa Barbara

BS: I loved it so much. It reminded me of watching my daughter’s fourth-grade basketball games when one of our opponents shot at the wrong basket1 — in other words, you couldn’t even get mad because you knew who was involved. That’s right, the Oakland Raiders, the only NFL franchise that can be successfully compared to a fourth-grade girls’ basketball game!

Q: Did Dan Orlovsky, Rod Marinelli and Jon Kitna sadly pour out 40s after last night’s Raiders win, or did they pop champagne and celebrate?
—Josh, Honolulu

BS: No question — they sadly poured out 40s. So did every Lions fan. Don’t worry, Detroit — we’re giving you an awesome Jets-Bills game on Monday to make you feel better. Enjoy.

Q: If the playoffs started today, the Bengals would host the Chiefs in Round 1. That means a playoff game would have to be won by a team coached by Marvin Schottenheimer Lewis OR a franchise whose last playoff win came against the Houston Oilers. Can the Chokin’ Andys (the name Reid and Dalton would use if they toured together as a singing duo) choke against each other? At kickoff, will the very fabric of reality — unable to handle the sheer amount of playoff anti-success inside Paul Brown Stadium — tear apart and end the world as we know it? Or will the game just never end, no matter how many interceptions Andy Dalton throws or how many timeouts Andy Reid wastes, while the stadium is stuck in some sort of infinite cosmic loop? I’m scared, Bill.
—Michael, Chatham, NJ

BS: You may have just laid out the blueprint for our first six-OT playoff game. That’s just one of many particularly goofy Round 1 scenarios in play, including …

• Chiefs at Bengals: The Heimlich Bowl?

• Packers at Atlanta/Carolina: Our first-ever 14-point playoff home dog!

• Broncos at Baltimore: Rahim Moore, the Sequel.

• Broncos at Indy: Peyton comes home!

• Dolphins at Chiefs: The emotional 24th-anniversary reunion matchup of my first extraordinary NFL playoff bet — January 5, 1991, Chiefs +2.5, Miami wins 17-16.2

• Seahawks at Cowboys: Romo’s Redemption or Romo’s Boner 2.0, with no in-between.

• Lions at Packers: Wouldn’t this be the greatest Lions win of the past 50 years?

• Steelers/Bengals at Cleveland: Wouldn’t this be the greatest Browns win in 20 years?

• Detroit/Cleveland at anyone: Wouldn’t this be the greatest Lions/Browns win in 50/20 years?

• Seahawks/Niners at Packers: Who wants some star power???

• Packers at Cowboys: NBC just had an orgasm.

• Anyone at Detroit: A Lions home playoff game with Jim Caldwell coaching … I mean, what could go wrong?

• Ravens at Cleveland: Please, nobody tell God about this game.

PATS (-7) over Lions
Only four NFL coaches have won 100 more regular-season games than they’ve lost: Don Shula, George Halas, Paul Brown … and William Stephen Belichick. All hail Belichick! Let’s play some celebration music and find me a mosh pit! Sing it, Weezer!

Q: I know you love Arians and the Cards and their newfound home field advantage, but can you take a moment in this week’s column to discuss how hosed the Lions got in last week’s game? Eric Ebron has provided the necessary info to get you started:
—George, Charlotte

BS: Do you really think I care? We’re averaging 40.5 points a game since Week 5! Gronk is the most beloved Boston athlete since Pedro! Jonas Gray just ran for more yards than any Pats running back in 31 years! We’re heading for a no. 1 seed! Sing it, Two Goofy Buddies Covering Weezer on YouTube!

Q: Do you realize the Pats are headed for a 1-seed, but they could only be favorites once in a 4-game span from Oct. 27th to Dec. 6th? Broncos, at Colts, Lions, at Packers… Crazy.
—David, Santa Rosa

BS: (Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.)

Q: Billy Boy! Your Pats are playing angry. That may explain the weirdly snarled lip your quarterback is sporting in this picture. Can you imagine Brett Keisel or Justin Smith with those cuffs, that tux, the glimmering watch, that Vanilla Ice hair, or the inexplicable dog collar? (Eli Manning is holding onto the leash just out of the picture.) I can’t, mostly because they aren’t douchebags. But you know who is? This guy! It’s just another reason why Tom Brady is our 2014 Douchebag Champion.
—Eric, NYC

BS: This is threatening to become the dumbest-yet-most-successful tradition in the history of my column. It’s the Nelson de la Rosa of Internet mailbag gimmicks.

Titans (+11) over EAGLES
Would you want to live in a world in which Mark Sanchez lays this many points against a vaguely frisky Titans team? And will I ever forgive myself for taking the Sanchize in Lambeau last week? No and no.

Q: Make a pick for the following prop bet: What Philadelphia team will have more wins this year, Sixers (-200) or Eagles (+170)?
—Steve D, Philadelphia

BS: I’d jump on that Eagles +170 bet. I can’t see any scenario in which the 2014-15 Sixers reach 10 victories — that’s a gruesome disgrace of a roster. Even though their front office played the bottoming-out thing correctly on paper, the fact remains, they’re disgracing the sport and defecating on their season-ticket holders. Do you realize that the Sixers have lost 43 of their last 47 games? They single-handedly inspired NBA fans to consider the Premier League’s relegation concept. And actually, I’d go further: If you lose 70 games and get outscored by 15-plus points per game for the entire season,3 then …

• You’re relegated to the D-League for one season.

• You can’t be eligible for a top-three draft pick.

• Your season-ticket holders should get the next season for free.

Would we ever see mega-tanking along the lines of the 2014-15 Sixers if those three penalties were in place? No way. Regardless, it’s time for Adam Silver to react here. Right now, he’s handling it in the most Goodellian way he can — by looking the other way for as long as possible until the media forces him into a corner. You don’t want to emulate the worst sports commissioner of all time. Bad strategy. Hey, that reminds me …

Browns (+3) over FALCONS
Welcome back, Josh Gordon! You know him as the guy who taught us all a valuable lesson: that the current NFL commissioner could keep his job after believing the penalty for getting high twice should be five times greater than the penalty for brutally punching out a woman in a casino elevator. You also know him as the guy who caught nine TDs and averaged 117.6 receiving yards per game in 2013 (sixth all time), as well as the guy recently described as a “freak” by Browns QB Brian Hoyer (let’s add that to Gordon’s résumé for the next LeBronk conversation). And he’s going against the 32nd-ranked defense on turf in a game between two dead-even mediocre teams. I’ll grab the extra half-point, thanks.

Q: In your Week 11 column, do you think you were creative enough in figuring out how the Browns will collapse in Week 17? A Hail Mary loss to the Ravens for the AFC North title just isn’t poetic enough. I see the Browns being down 2 with 2 minutes left on their own five. Hoyer and company grind their way to Baltimore’s 20 and call time with 6 seconds left, as the announcers remember that Cleveland’s Billy Cundiff once infamously missed a kick that knocked the Ravens out of the playoffs. Cundiff makes the first attempt, only it’s nullified because the Ravens called a timeout right before the snap. Then, he’ll shank the second attempt, and Cleveland will add The Kick to The Drive and The Fumble. But even then, it’ll still be great to be a Browns fan — because I live in the Chicago suburbs, and this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere where everyone else is having a worse football season than I am.
—Brian, Morton Grove, IL

BS: So … things are looking up!

Q: Can you imagine Bill Cosby and the Dolan family buying the Cleveland Browns back in 1999? See, God doesn’t always hate Cleveland.
—Dave G, Chapel Hill, NC

BS: Apparently not! Throw in LeBron and the possibly-maybe-sort-of-rejuvenated Browns and maybe God is softening. It can’t be ruled out. I mean … Bill Cosby AND the Dolans??? That’s the most Clevelandish scenario ever and we somehow avoided it. Again, THINGS ARE LOOKING UP, CLEVELAND!

COLTS (-14) over Jaguars
Fact: Four of the 2014 Colts’ six wins have been by 16 or more points.

Fact: Six of the 2014 Jags’ nine losses have been by 14 or more points.

Translation: I’m playing the blowout odds even though Ahmad Bradshaw’s broken fibula leaves the Colts with Trent 2.9 and some guy named Boom as their running backs. When you’re the Good Bad Team, you blow out bad teams. That reminds me …

Q: With the Colts only beating two teams above .500 but losing to the Pats, Steelers and Broncos, they look like 2014’s Good Bad Team. But with the Steelers losing to the Bucs and Jets, and nearly losing to the Titans, but also blowing out the Colts and Ravens, could you say the Steelers are 2014’s Bad Good Team?
—Alex, Brookings

BS: Interesting — a Bad Good Team! I like it. That’s the biggest reason I picked the Steelers to finish 9-7 last week; they love blowing dumb games to lesser teams (and almost did it again on Monday night). P.S.: If you thought the Eagles had a case over Indy for being the Good Bad Team (especially after giving up 53 in Lambeau), don’t forget — we settled that argument in Week 2 when Philly beat Indy in the Good Bad Team Bowl.

Q: At one point during the Colts-Patriots game, Michaels and Collinsworth pointed out that LaRon Landry could somewhat match up physically with Gronk. They mentioned briefly that Landry was back from a four game PED suspension, and without a breath, they started going on about how jacked Landry is and how big his biceps are. No connection between the two things, I’m sure. That attitude is pretty representative of the average NFL fan these days. It requires ignoring all the dirty little things going on right in front of our faces that contribute to guys being so big and fast, but also contribute to all the things that make it hard to be a fan and consider yourself a compassionate human being (concussions, debilitating injuries, chronic pain of retired players … )
—Rich N., Detroit

BS: I noticed that Landry moment, too, especially because Al Michaels joked that Landry’s biceps made him look like Popeye. Oh, and it happened just seconds after NBC had flashed a graphic under Landry that read, “SUSPENDED 4 GAMES: PEDs.” Here’s how Landry once described his diet: “I’m a lean guy … High protein, high carbs. Always fruits and veggies, and I stay on top of the protein meal-replacement shakes.” In September, he was suspended because of what the New York Post called “perhaps the least-surprising performance-enhancing substance violation in NFL history.”

Anyway, if we are supposed to believe the NFL’s company line (that the league cares about player safety and the long-term health of its employees), then why hasn’t the NFL emulated baseball by attempting to rid the league of PEDs with the best testing possible? How could NFL owners think that its latest PED testing “improvement” was to additionally test five players on eight teams once per week during the season? Let’s see … 40 multiplied by 17 equals 680, only the league employs more than 1,600 players at any given time, so you’d have less than a 10 percent chance of being tested for HGH once a month (giving you plenty of time to finish a cycle) … I mean, that’s cleaning up the game???? Why isn’t this the league’s biggest priority right now? Does the league even have a big-picture priority right now other than cashing checks, sweeping mistakes under the rug, changing punishment standards on the fly, and belatedly pretending to care about domestic violence and other forms of abuse? Don’t get me started.

VIKINGS (+10) over Packers
Q: How do you think Roger Goodell makes his decisions? Picks one out of a hat? Throws darts at a board while blindfolded? How soon until he simply uses an applause meter to figure things out?
—Luke, Lees Summit, MO

BS: I told you — don’t get me started! I feel obligated to point this out …

2014 Vikings, home: 2-2
2014 Packers, home: 5-0, four wins by 20-plus points
2014 Packers, away: 2-3, losses by 12, 20 and 21 points, one miracle win (Miami).

Oh, and this, too …

2014 Packers, Weeks 10-11: Packers 108, Opponents 34
2014 Packers, Week 13: Home for New England

(Translation: trap game + inflated line = take the points.)

Q: How can the league punish Peterson when he committed these acts well before the new conduct policy was put in place? I think Peterson is a scumbag, but it doesn’t make much sense to me that they can retroactively punish him. Especially since Ray Rice’s initial fine was based on his old salary before his new contract. So it is okay to fine someone a smaller amount of money because they committed their crime before their new contract? But they are allowed to suspend someone after a new policy implementation? What am I missing here?
—Ben C, Boston

BS: Hmmmm … let’s see … maybe you’re failing to account for the storied recent history of the NFL settling every controversial case in the most confusing, hypocritical way possible? It’s pretty easy to guess how that ugly Peterson saga went down — the league didn’t want Peterson playing until his child-abuse charges were settled, so it made a wink-wink deal with the NFLPA to put Peterson on the commissioner’s exempt list. Once the charges were settled, Goodell was obviously leery of the ensuing hullabaloo that comes with a to-that-point unrepentant child abuser suiting up for an NFL team, so it reneged on that wink-wink deal and suspended Peterson without pay for the season.

And now, Peterson is suing because the NFL prevented him from playing football for four straight months because (a) he was accused of what was eventually a misdemeanor,4 and (b) he didn’t show enough public remorse about it. You know where I stand on Peterson — I wrote about it before Week 3’s games. But no sports commissioner should be able to prevent employees from working for four solid months and/or change the CBA rules on the fly, especially when that same commissioner is already dealing with major credibility issues over the way he handled another complicated issue that — by the way — required a two-day appeal hearing THAT STILL HASN’T YIELDED A VERDICT 15 DAYS LATER EVEN THOUGH THAT VERDICT IS ALMOST DEFINITELY GOING TO REVEAL THAT THE COMMISSIONER ACTED INAPPROPRIATELY AND PRETENDED HE DIDN’T HAVE EVIDENCE THAT HE ACTUALLY HAD.

I mean, are you freaking kidding me???? Why do you think NFLPA president Eric Winston gave such a scathing interview, in which he summed up the players’ feelings about Goodell like this: “There is a growing discontent. There is a strong questioning. There is confusion, and then the anger sets in, and then [they ask], ‘What is he doing?’ All we have ever heard is, We have to protect the integrity of the shield. I think guys are starting to ask themselves now, how can we protect the integrity of the shield if you are not going to act with any integrity?”

I liked Aaron Gordon’s take over at Vice: Instead of sentencing the player for the actual crime, “In the end, Goodell is punishing Peterson for not feeling the right things, while believing [back in June] Ray Rice did. Ray Rice played the game well, and Adrian Peterson did not. It’s a shitty way to decide NFL suspensions, and an even worse way to decide a jail sentence.” Agreed. Not to mention — how can anyone base punishment decisions on the concept of remorse when he doesn’t seem to feel any remorse for his own inadequacies and his own indefensible decisions?

Last point: Only the NFL could turn horrible father Adrian Peterson and horrible fiancé Ray Rice into something remotely approaching the word “victims.” But when you’re being blackballed from pursuing your chosen profession because your employer keeps changing its rules on the fly, resuspending you without new evidence and/or pretending that it never knew about overwhelmingly relevant evidence to your case (even though all signs say otherwise), then what’s the right word? And why would anyone trust the commissioner’s office, as currently set up, to make the right decision about ANYTHING? These are great questions. I have no answers.

You know what’s really crazy? All of this is probably leading to the Vikings releasing Peterson, then a rejuvenated Peterson returning home to Texas, taking a discount to play for Goodell’s buddy, Jerry Jones, and unleashing holy hell on the NFL next season as a learned-from-his-mistakes redemption story playing for the league’s most profitable franchise. This doesn’t seem fishy at all.

Pittsburgh’s Bye Week (-9) over Carolina’s Bye Week
Let’s lighten the mood — I received a ton of feedback about last week’s unveiling of Phil Simms’s incredible 1987 aerobics video.

Thanks to the readers for pointing out four things that I missed in my recap: First, they used Bananarama’s “Venus” for the entrance music shortly after using what appears to be the late Dick Schaap for voice-overs. That has to be the only time Dick Schaap and Bananarama worked together, right? Second, Simms mistakenly introduces Gary Anderson as “Jerry Anderson” at the 1:50 mark, then corrects himself a few seconds later, only nobody made him do a second take. Incredible. Third, I missed Simms asking at 3:50, “Where’s Dickerson?” followed by a second of silence and Todd Christensen answering quietly, “He left.” And fourth, I couldn’t figure out the right way to describe Christensen’s performance in this video until reader Eric Scolaro decided, “Todd Christensen has the screen presence of an abusive husband in a Lifetime movie set in the South.” There you go. Done. Anyway, this email blew my mind …

Q: I thoroughly enjoyed your Week 11 breakdown of the Phil Simms aerobic video. However, you missed one huge item — the absence of Phil’s Kentucky accent! I have suspected for some time that Phil ramps up his accent during CBS broadcasts and this confirms it. The real question is, why? Does he think it makes him sound more relatable to the common man? This needs to be investigated. You can thank me later for sending you down a two hour rabbit hole of Phil Simms YouTube clips.
—Todd, Salt Lake City

BS: No! No! I am fighting you off! There will be no two-hour rabbit hole! No way!


(Well, maybe just a couple. I’ll be right back.)

TEXANS (-1.5) over Bengals
Q: Can we add a gambling manifesto provision called “Daytime Dalton?” Cincy is 6-1-1 during 1pmers this year and 13-2-1 in there last 16. If Cincy is playing a 1pm game — bet on them. Any other time slot — bet against them.
—Ryan Tucker, Richmond

BS: Yeah, but this means I have to bet on Andy Dalton. No thank you.

(By the way, fast-forward to 1:24 of this 1986 Giants link to hear Phil Simms’s mid-1980s “accent.” In all caps … HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.)

Q: Is it possible that you wrote off the ultimate “No One Believes in Us” team this past week? As a long-suffering Bengals fan, I was expecting the same slaughter in the Superdome you predicted, yet they looked like the elite team from the first three weeks before injuries started decimating them. Sure, they looked terrible against the Browns last week, but that’s no different than the Thursday night game they played last year when they looked Charles-Barkley-level turrible against a hapless Dolphins team. (On that note, how many teams have really looked that good on Thursday night this season?) With so much Anti-Dalton sentiment after one horrific game and everyone saying they’re out, don’t they feel like the epitome of a “No One Believes in Us” team? Should I start making “I believe in Andy Dalton” pins, Harvey Dent style? They’re still in first place by the way.
—Tim Hunsinger, New York

BS: Thanks for the email. I do not believe in Andy Dalton. Last weekend was a setup. He’s roping in the Bengals fans one last time before he squeezes them into his minivan and drives them off a gambling cliff. You are NOT getting me inside that minivan.

Q: My new favorite question to pose to Bengals and Bears fans — right now, would you trade Dalton for Cutler straight up? It’s amazing really. Both fan bases consider it in detail, always settle on they would do it to get out of their current nightmare, and then immediately feel reluctant and wonder if it is the only thing that could make matters worse. This is how I think as a lifelong Bengals fan.
—[Name Accidentally Deleted]

BS: And that is why I don’t believe in Andy Dalton. By the way, that would be a fun football version of Grantland’s Upper Hand gimmick that we launched this week with Channing Tatum vs. Bradley Cooper. Who has the Upper Hand right now — Andy Dalton or Jay Cutler? Or, lemme flip that around — who has the Lower Hand? There’s no answer. It can’t be answered. And no, I can’t take Andy over J.J. Watt in Houston. I just can’t. This is a setup.

BILLS (-3) over Jets
Can you think of a better QB matchup in an empty stadium filled with six feet of snow than Michael Vick and Kyle Orton representing the beleaguered Jets and the perpetually heartbroken Bills? Would you pick any other location, teams or QBs? I was fully prepared for one of the 10 greatest gambling moments of all time … and then they moved the game to Detroit. Then again, what better way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Malice at the Palace then a special football event featuring two star-crossed QBs and two depressed franchises! Can we bring John Green to this game and have him toss the ceremonial pregame Diet Coke?

Q: I can’t be the only person giddy with anticipation over the Jets drafting Jameis Winston, can I? It would be like watching a train wreck, if that train were loaded with dumpsters full of burning tires. Or everything would click and they’d own the AFC East for a decade.
—Brent, Seattle

BS: It’s the Jets — you should probably bet on the first one.

Bucs (+6) over BEARS
Hold on, we’ve reached my favorite part of the Friday picks bag: the Jay Cutler Section.

Q: I was just reading your comparison of Jay Cutler and Jeff George and it sent me off to check some NFL stats. Here’s a blind QB comparison for you based on career stats:

QB1: 61.6% completion, 7.2yds/att, 4.8 TD%, 3.4 INT%, 85.5 QB rating
QB2: 62.0% completion, 7.1yds/att, 5.0 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 86.0 QB rating

QB1 is the immortal Jay Cutler. QB2? Brett Favre. The lesson: Being a media darling is at least as important for your legacy as your level of play. Also, I think it would be fun to print this just to see if people in Green Bay care enough about Brett Favre to get upset about seeing him compared to Jay Cutler.
—Josh Jahncke, Dayton, TN

BS: Great email and I loved the Green Bay part. Do Packers fans still love Brett Favre? Have they just moved on to Rodgers like he’s the much more likable second spouse and Favre was more of the first spouse who was fun for a while until everything fell apart? Would they defend him to outside parties? I have no feel for this story. Then again …

Q: What’s the over-under on years before we see Favre in a Cialis/Viagra commercial? He’s been in a few different commercials lately for aging products, but is still too soon for an ED commercial after the whole dick pic thing?
—Randy G., Portland

BS: Ladies and gentlemen, one more time, give it up for Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre!

(P.S.: The over/under is 18 months.)

Q: I thought you’d appreciate this link after all the Jay-Cutler-is-Jeff-George talk. George is ranked #79; Cutler comes in at #77. The picture right next to Jeff George’s entry is none other than Jay Cutler. They are the same person!
—Michael Farrell, Washington, D.C.

BS: I’m going the other way — I’m buying Cutler stock. If he’s going down in flames, I think he’s going down as someone who just runs the 1990s Tecmo Bowl offense — seven-step drop, wing the ball downfield, hope something good happens. (Thinking.) Wait, that’s what Jeff George did in Oakland. Forget it.

Q: Barring injury, a 2014 QB is on pace to become his franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards and passing TDs by season’s end. He’s also on pace to break the team’s single-season passing record by over 400 yards and four touchdowns. He has FOUR receivers on pace for 900+ yards and 5+ touchdowns. That QB? Smokin’ Jay Cutler in the Passing Rules era. An even better perspective:

Smokin’ Jay (2014 projection): 4312 yards, 34 TDs, 19 INTs
Joe Montana (1990 MVP): 3944 yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs
Boomer Esiason (1988 MVP): 3572 yards, 28 TDs, 14 INTs
—Matt, Olathe, KS

SG: (I think my brain just broke.)

Q: Jay Cutler does not reach true Jeff George status until Dennis Miller declares, “He throws a beautiful interception.”
—Ryan Boyle, Crofton MD

BS: Hilarious. By the way, here’s some good news from our friend Aaron Schatz: “Tampa Bay is now very close to being the best last-place team in DVOA history.” Please, drink and drive responsibly, Tampa Bay fans. Wait, why do I think you’re beating the Bears this week? And why do I think you’re gonna be a game out of first place with five weeks to go even though no offshore betting account will even allow us to wager on you to win the NFC South? Am I insane? I’m not insane, right?

Cardinals (+7) over SEAHAWKS
Cowboys (-3.5) over GIANTS

Q: This is quite possibly the happiest I’ve been after reading a Bill Simmons article in years. You listed Arizona and San Fran as your two contenders for the “Nobody Believes In Us” Team, but wrote off the defending champs. They are 6-3, just put up an unthinkable 350 yards rushing in a game, and still have their destiny in their own hands as they have 4 games left against your two NBUI teams (aka their division rivals)… and they are the DEFENDING F*CKING SUPER CHAMPIONS!!!! The fact that you just picked the other two teams in their division as the NBIU teams AND picked the Chiefs to beat them this Sunday just sealed it. I can’t wait to watch the first repeat Super Bowl champions since your Patriots. It’s going to be beautiful.
—Mike Aug Yellowknife, NT, Canada  (11/14, 5:58 PM)

BS: Notice the time stamp. And yes, I got a few of those emails from Seahawks fans. Scott from Seattle even wondered, “Has the combination of age, overwork, and stress from running your own site finally caught up to you?” and added, “They’re winning that division — Easily.” I don’t see it. You don’t have the same talent, you don’t have a single receiver who can break a play or even get himself open on a third-and-12, your defense doesn’t kick the same level of ass and (let’s face it) the 12th Man got a little soft. You know I love the good people of Seattle. But this is the 2014 Seahawks right now.

Q: The Cardinals looked dominant vs the Lions on Sunday. They looked good enough to win a Super Bowl with just about any QB (Drew Stanton included). Can we start calling teams “Eli Manning good” if they can contend for a Super Bowl with just about any starting/backup QB in the league?
—Kevin Phillips, Indianapolis

BS: SHOTS FIRED!!! Obviously, you picked the right week to push the concept of “Eli Manning Good” since he just threw five picks for the second time in his career, while also putting himself in position to become the fifth QB to win back-to-back interception titles. But since 1987, I’d say the 1987 D.C.’s (Doug Williams), 1990 D.C.’s (Mark Rypien), 2000 Ravens (Trent Dilfer) and 2002 Bucs (Brad Johnson) definitely qualified as “Eli Good.” You covered the 2014 Cards already, but Stanton reminds me of Rypien and Dilfer in this respect: He throws a pretty deep ball, which keeps defenses honest and creates the chance for one to two big plays per game. Ideally, you want your “Eli Good” QB to throw deep and avoid crushing turnovers. Stanton might be able to do that.

Now here’s where Giants fans will say, “Wait a second, Eli was lights-out in 2007 and 2011! He went 8-0 in the playoffs, beat Brady twice, beat Rodgers in Lambeau and won an awful-weather game in Candlestick! He orchestrated two game-winning drives to win Super Bowls! He threw 15 TDs and just two picks! Eli Good means ‘good,’ you bitter dumbass!” Or, it’s an eight-game sample size and Eli was two plays away from going 6-2 with no rings. I’m the wrong person to ask.

Dolphins (+7) over BRONCOS
Can you smell it? Can you smell the upset brewing? I think Miami either wins this one or gets screwed on a late call because it’s Peyton Manning and God forbid the refs let Peyton Manning lose two weeks in a row. (I’m only half-kidding.) Regardless, you are NOT allowed to throw the Broncos on the two-team teaser this week.

Q: So it looks like they’ve recorded yet another version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and guess who’s back? Yep, it’s your old pal Bono at it again.

He’s even singing your favorite line — wait a minute. They changed the lyric! Instead of “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuuuu,” it’s “Well tonight we’re reaching out, and toooooouuuuching youuuuuuu.’ I’m still not sure if that makes any sense, but they went and messed up the best/worst thing about that song. How does it make you feel?
—Jon, Bellevue

BS: I feel like someone just tried to repaint the Mona Lisa. That’s how I feel. You can’t even consider remaking the greatest holiday song ever without every A-list voice from this generation — and even then, you’d never consider it if it wasn’t for a good cause. But for Bono to come back to THAT? And THAT lyric? Oh my God. Why not just rerelease the greatest holiday song ever with everyone resinging their parts? I’m so bitter. I’d be madder about this if Bono didn’t just get injured in a cycling accident. Get better, Bono.

Rams (+4.5) over CHARGERS
The Chargers have scored 54 points total since Week 6; they can’t block anyone. And they have the 31st-ranked defensive DVOA. Which brings me to my Crazy Proclamation of the Week: I don’t think San Diego wins again this season. They go STL, @Bal, NE, DEN, @SF, @KC. In the words of James “Baby Doll” Dixon, I wish them a lot of luck.

The rest of the Shakey’s Pizza Watch for Week 12: San Diego’s injuries, K.C.’s receivers, Andrew Luck against the Pats (144-66!), the Wes Welker era, the post-Bountygate Saints, any scenario in which Kim Kardashian takes naked pictures and then tries to play the victim card, RG3’s rookie cards, John Fox’s clock management, Sex Tape as an airplane movie, Andre Ellington’s every-down-back-ness, Jay Gruden’s Jay Gruden–ness, Branden Oliver’s fantasy stock, Cordarrelle Patterson, the mental state of all Philly sports fans, Ron Rivera’s Riverboat Ronness, every Jerome Boger game, Denver on the road, Washington’s O-line without Trent Williams, Washington’s everything.

Q: Isn’t it a little suspicious that Bountygate Gregg Williams’ St. Louis defense has taken out Carson Palmer, J Thomas, Sanders, and Ball in the last 2 games? I expect his defensive players are enjoying a little extra cash in their pockets.
—Duke, Nevsehir Turkey

BS: Not fair at all, totally out of bounds … and it made me giggle. If Gregg Williams is going down, he’s going down with what brought him here!!!! SWEEP THE LEG, ROBERT QUINN! DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT???

Q: Has any team in NFL history single-handedly eliminated more survivor pool contestants than the 2014 St Louis Rams?? Think about it: the Rams (4-6) have now beaten the Broncos and the Seahawks this season, AND won a road game in San Francisco. (Won’t mention the blown 21-point lead vs the Cowboys.) We also need a name for that pisspoor team that everybody’s secretly terrified to go against in survivor pools.
—Joe, Quincy, IL

BS: I already came up with it a few weeks ago — they’re the Best Ball team. Even if they’re heading for 20-over for the season, they can always tell their wife when they get home, “I eagled the Denver game and had birdies against San Francisco and Seattle!” And yes, I think they par this Chargers game pretty easily. Nice drive, good approach, two-putt.

49ERS (9.5) over Washington
Thanks to everyone who sent me the RG3/Billy Ray Valentine comparison jokes, starting with my buddy Gus on Sunday night. What’s funnier than this? Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh is 2-0 since we ran those M. Night Harbaughlan emails and has his defense going again (Aldon Smith helps), so I’m willing to overlook the glaring Trap Game potential here just because the Snyders are such a travesty. If the Niners win Sunday and beat Seattle on Thanksgiving, that makes them 8-4 with one easy road game (Oakland), one hard road game (Seattle), one semi-easy home game (San Diego) and one potentially easy home game (Arizona If Arizona Already Clinched the No. 1 Seed). Feels like 11-5, right? I still think Dallas loses that rock-paper-scissors wild-card battle with San Francisco and Green Bay/Detroit.

Q: How is no one talking about the Seahawks sucking during the same season with increased testing for HGH/steroids? Multiple Seahawks fail drug tests in 2012, their defense was ridiculous, now the rules change and it’s mediocre?
—Aaron C, San Francisco

BS: This Seattle–San Francisco rivalry is really heating up!

Q: I’m afraid that you have unknowingly become the D Rose of Podcasting. Case in Point: Rose drives to the basket vs. the Raps and comes up limp with a non-contact injury. Fans immediately start wondering “Oh basketball gods, why again? How long will he be out?” Simmons is a day late uploading his weekly Cousin Sal podcast and I’m immediately wondering “Oh podcast gods, what did he say this time? How long will he be out?”
—Logan MacKay, Calgary

BS: I’m taking that as a compliment. Speaking of compliments, here’s our Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 12: Chris Borland, the Julius Peppers rejuvenation, the Niners D with Aldon Smith back, the Clowney-Watt combo, any football player named Jonas, Aaron Rodgers at home (last nine games: 26 TDs, 0 picks), the Justin Forsett era, all Oakland night games in bad weather, Brian Hoyer’s fantasy stock with Josh Gordon back, Mike Evans’s potential as the Next Freak Receiver, Rembert’s new podcast.

Ravens (+3) over SAINTS
It’s official — I’m no longer afraid to go against Drew Brees at home in a night game. Hold on, lemme get my 40.

Q: Is there any chance the NFL will try to have the Ray Rice appeal announced at 4:45 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving?
—Jim, Phoenix

BS: Are you crazy? There are three games on Thursday! You think they want the verdict hanging over those Thanksgiving games? I have “9:02 a.m. on the morning of Black Friday” as the over/under for the Rice appeal’s verdict.

Q: I’m a long-time Ravens fan, and I hear what you’re saying about the Karma Police eliminating the Ravens in the playoffs. But I’m convinced bad karma is a reason why the Ravens could win the Super Bowl. If they make it, we’ll be subjected to that horrible video for two weeks, and if the Ravens win, we’ll have to watch Roger Goodell hand the Lombardi Trophy to Steve Bisciotti. Perhaps this is what Roger Goodell deserves. I’m already upset about the false criticism the fans back home will get about rooting for the Ravens during the Super Bowl, like any city would have acted any different.
—Matt, Oxford, MS

BS: (In my Marv Albert voice) A sobering … email … from Matt in Oxford.

Q: My 30th birthday is coming up soon, and in the middle of my lamenting any last vestiges of my self-delusion that I might still be young, my friend, taking inspiration from the 30 for 30 series, suggested that I needed my own 30 for 30th birthday challenge to take my mind off of entering my 30s. So we decided on a 30 boobs for my 30th birthday challenge. “What if I told you, that one man, on his 30th birthday, got 30 random strangers to flash him. this is my story.”
—Jared, St. Louis

BS: Whoa! It’s been awhile. Are we in range?

Q: My Friday began in Atlantic City with hope and determination. Things went south when I lost $2,000 in blackjack in a matter of 10 hands. (I think I went 1/10.)

My day peaked when I got my second $200 massage of the day.

My friend is late to arrive, so naturally I decide to eat alone at the bar of a mediocre steakhouse. I walk back to my room and hear the music pumping from the nightclub and chips flying on the craps table.

My eyes aren’t on the girl with the tube top that is bursting at the seams. No, no, I spot some quality, oreo gelato.

As I am walking back to my room with gelato in hand I can feel the judgement from all walks of life: girls in 10 inch heels, sub-5‘4” guys, and cougars who just finished their third Corona.

I quickly scurry up to my room and notice that Shark Tank is on. (Awesome!) I nod my head in approval for both pitches: a device that helps you shit better and a non-dairy cheese.

I open up grantland.com and start reading your Week 11 column. I get to the “Keeping it 100“ part with your dad. My eyes stare blankly at the screen.

My Dad and I had the same exact conversation. Except my Dad and I were both your Dad.

This is the moment that hit me like a ton of bricks. The moment that everyone dreads. I am old.

It is fitting that I am typing this as Kobe chucks up brick after brick against the Spurs.

Only difference is that his (relevant) athletic career ended at 36. My social life ended at 28.
—James D., Atlantic Shitty

BS: We’re definitely in range.

Q: Our friend Todd is a huge Bucs fan as well as a huge fan of McRib. His love for McRib has helped him come down with gout. I noticed this week that the Bucs were only two games out of winning the NFC South and posted it in our fantasy football chat. My friend Jeff said that if the Bucs win a playoff game that he will buy Todd three McRibs and then let him fart on him five hours later. Soon enough everyone in our fantasy football league said that they would buy three McRibs and let Todd eat them all before he farted on Jeff. The entire fantasy league is now rooting for the Bucs except for Jeff! What are the chances that McRibageddon happens to Jeff?
—Travis Padilla, Clinton

BS: Yup, these are my readers.

This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 9-4
Season: 112-49

This article was updated to attribute a quote to NFLPA president Eric Winston, not executive director DeMaurice Smith. 

Filed Under: NFL, Rob Gronkowski, JJ Watt, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals

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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