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... 25 teams are thinking, "We can absolutely make the playoffs."
... 16 teams are thinking, "We can absolutely make the conference title game."
... 12 teams are thinking, "We can absolutely make the Super Bowl."
... seven teams are thinking, "We can absolutely win the Super Bowl."
... three teams are thinking, "My God, this is a living hell. Four months to go? Really? Just shoot us. Shoot us in the head right now."
|It's time to face the facts: the Colts are no longer the Colts (even with Peyton Manning playing).|
Don't rule out any 2008 scenario over these next 14 weeks, whether it's three NFC East teams' winning 12-plus games ... the Bills finishing 13-3 and having the mayors of Buffalo and Toronto flip a coin to host their second-round playoff game ... J.T. O'Sullivan throwing for 4,000 yards and 35 TDs, then realizing his destiny by opening a sports bar in San Francisco called "J.T. O'Sullivan's" ... the Colts and Pats missing the playoffs ... Michael Turner rushing for 2,000 yards ... Brandon Marshall catching 150 passes in 15 games ... Matt Millen getting hired to run the Raiders ... Jay Cutler and Phil Rivers making awkward conversation at the Pro Bowl ... Romeo Crennel successfully figuring out what to do when his team is down two scores with five minutes remaining ... Al Davis successfully replacing his entire blood supply with the blood of the Jonas Brothers ... or even Gus Frerotte, Kerry Collins and Brian Griese taking home the NFL MVP, Super Bowl MVP and Comeback Player of the Year awards in some order.
Crazy league, crazy season ahead. I like it so much, I couldn't resist banging out the first Sports Guy Power Poll of the season. By the way, we wanted to find a sponsor for the Power Poll this season -- something like, the Under Armour Power Poll, the Dunkin' Donuts Spice Power Poll, or even the Vivid Video Power Poll -- but since the season already started, I'm coming up with made-up sponsors for the 2008 season. Without further ado, the Playtex Power Poll for Week 4:
THE ROD RUST DIVISION
32. St. Louis Rams
Is there a more frightening scenario than poor Trent Green starting behind a porous Rams offensive line? At the very least, he should be forced to play with a special helmet like the one Gazoo wore on "The Flintstones." Meanwhile, Eddie in Greensboro, N.C., sends along the 2008 Rams team photo.
31. Kansas City Chiefs
Carl from Milwaukee sums it up best: "Is it sad that I'm rooting against Kansas City just so Herm Edwards gets fired and we get a 'We play to win the game! WE PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!' Coors Light commercial?"
30. Detroit Lions
Matt Millen's firing might have broken the record for "most movie analogies from a euphoric fan base landing in my mailbox in a 48-hour span." I liked these two a lot:
Andy in North Palm Beach, Fla.: "Being a Lions fan today is like being one of the inmates who remained in Shawshank penitentiary after the warden blew his brains out. We're still in prison, but hope is once again a good thing."
|Matt Millen now has more time to hang out with Charles Rogers.|
But this was my favorite, courtesy of Kevin in Columbus, Ohio: "I was on campus yesterday just getting out of class when I found out Millen was gone. I had received several congratulatory texts and messages from my friends and immediately had a huge grin on my face the rest of the day. As I had the fortune (some would say courage) to wear my Lions hat yesterday, random strangers on campus walked up to me and high-fived me and shook my hand and patted me on the back, most of them not Lions fans. It's amazing how horrible of a general manager Millen was that people all around the country celebrated when he got fired, even people who aren't fans of that team. Yesterday was honestly one of the happiest days of my life."
Ladies and gentleman, one last time ... the Matt Millen Era!
(One more Lions note: They fell behind 21-0, 21-0 and 21-3 in their first three games, and yet, they're not one of the two worst teams in the league. I don't think the Rod Rust Division has ever been this potent. Er, impotent.)THE BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
29. Cleveland Browns
The league didn't just catch up with Derek Anderson; it trampled him from behind like the bulls in Pamplona. Hey, at least we don't have to watch the Browns play four more times on national TV.
(Speaking of TV, Oakland-Buffalo was the only early game on the local L.A. stations Sunday. That should be DirecTV's new marketing campaign -- instead of having Jimmy Kimmel ask people where they were when Rob Bironas kicked eight field goals, they should target local fans and start ads like this: "Week 4, 2008, 10 a.m. on the West Coast, you were psyched to watch football ... and the only game on was Oakland-Buffalo. YOU IDIOT! GET DIRECTV ALREADY! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?")
|Considering his 2008 production, maybe Chad Ocho Cinco is in need of another name change.|
27. Oakland Raiders
Normally, I wouldn't care how dysfunctional the Raiders are, but when they tried to bully Tim Kawakami this week, that's when I start taking it personally. You don't do that to Tim Kawakami! OK? All right? You do NOT do that to Tim Kawakami! This never would have happened if Al Davis was still alive.
25. Houston Texans
24. New York Jets
23. Seattle Seahawks
Hurricane Ike gave the Texans three straight brutal road games (Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Jacksonville), followed by four straight winnable home games (Indy, Miami, Detroit, Cincy). Can you really count them out when Steve Slaton showed so much juvenation last week? Same for the "maybe we should just go run-and-gun" Jets, who have Arizona at home, a Week 5 bye, then Cincy, Oakland, K.C. and St. Louis. And Seattle got saved by a bye in Week 4, giving the Hawks time to dump the Lindsey Hunter All-Stars (Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Jordan Kent, Koren Robinson, Keary Colbert) and bring back Bobby Engram and Deion Branch so Matt Hasselbeck can remember what it's like to throw to an NFL receiver again. Sadly, we can't cross any of these teams off. At least not yet.
(Speaking of fake All-Star teams, JW in Pembroke, N.H., has a solution for my "Anthony Gonzalez All-Stars or Jeff Garcia All-Stars?" question from last week's column: "Any All-Star team devoted to guys with Latino names who don't look remotely Latino should be called the Emilio Estevez All-Stars." Done and done.)A WHIFF OF FRISKINESS
22. San Francisco 49ers
John Thomas O'Sullivan! I looked it up.
Last week: 10-6
(Your fantasy sleeper for this week? Brandon Lloyd. I know, I know -- we've been here before. But they threw to him constantly during that Bucs game and he made a number of impossible catches. Remember, when you catch six balls for 124 yards and a touchdown with Orton throwing to you, that's like catching 14 balls for 225 yards and three TDs with a real quarterback.)19. New Orleans Saints
(Random question from Kevin in Boston: "If Gene Upshaw's parents named him 'Fred,' you think the players would still be wearing that patch?" That would be no. I think they would have gone with a "FRED" patch. But if his parents named him "Franklin"? Then they would have had to go with his old Oakland number. I'm glad I'm here.)
|On the bright side, Jim Zorn is 2-1. On the other hand, red wine isn't allowed on the sidelines.|
(The good news: When Bill Cowher takes the job, CBS will have a four-man studio show again. That's right, more air time for Shannon Sharpe! Every one of his sentences should be preceded by a dentist saying, "You should start feeling the Novocain right about now.")THE ENIGMAS 16. Pittsburgh Steelers
In unrelated news, I became so confused by the baffling Roy Williams Rule last week -- you know, how they throw a flag for horse-collar tackles only about 30 percent of the time, when it should be closer to 100 percent of the time like with every other penalty -- I actually looked up the definition on NFL.com. So let's clarify this confusing rule once and for all:
If you tackle a runner from behind while pulling him down by the top of his shoulder pads, that's not a 15-yard penalty.
(Glad we got that settled.)THE OLD GUARD 12. Indianapolis Colts
My problem is I have too much compassion for every living thing. I won't even let Bill kill spiders in our house! So since we found out in February that the Dooze (our oldest dog) was dying of lymphoma and probably wouldn't make it to 2009, it has been waterworks central at Casa Simmons. I haven't handled it well. We have Kleenex in every room. Every time I throw tennis balls to her outside, I think, "This could be the 39th-to-last time that I'll ever throw tennis balls with the Dooze." But after watching the "Bucket List," I finally figured out how to send Dooze out with a bang. I created a "Bucket List" for her.
First, I'm taking her on a beach vacation for two days. Her two favorite things are swimming and chasing down tennis balls, so that's what we will do. Second, I'm buying a kiddie pool and filling it with 30 cans of tennis balls and letting her jump in. I just want to see the look on her face. Third, I'm making her favorite meal: filet mignon (bloody), an ear of corn and carrot cake. I don't care if she poops all over the house afterward. Fourth, I'm teaching her how to keep two tennis balls in her mouth at the same time. She has been trying to do this for years! I really want to see her do it once. Fifth, right near the end, I'm taking her to Hollywood Boulevard at 4 a.m. and throwing tennis balls to her. It will be our best ball-throw ever, even if I end up getting mugged or arrested. And sixth, after she passes on, we're throwing her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. That's what she would want.
You can count on one thing: I will definitely be crying.
Here are my Week 4 picks: KC +9, CIN -3.5, Jax -7.5, NYJ -1, NO -6, ATL +7.5, TEN -3, GB +1.5, STL +8, SD -7, Phi -3, Dal -11, Pitt -5.5.
Last week: 9-7
(P.S.: Don't worry about me, I'm fine. I'm just gambling more. Everything can be solved by gambling and fantasy. How do you think I got through the Rod Rust and Dick MacPherson Eras?)LURKING, NOT QUITE LOOMING 10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(Note: I discussed it with Rich Eisen on the B.S. Report this week, but it's worth mentioning again: Dick Enberg did a phenomenal job with last week's Jags-Colts nail-biter, good enough that I wikipedia'ed him to make sure that Gus Johnson wasn't his illegitimate son. Greatest football play-by-play guy ever, in my humble opinion. And he's 73! And still cranking it! A few months ago, I wrote that Phil Jackson would be the coolest grandfather possible -- and that still stands -- but Enberg might have to rank fourth behind Jackson, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. Imagine turning on that Jags-Colts game and hearing grandpa hit it out of the park like that? By the way, the greatest great-grandfather of all time isn't nearly as much fun as a debate -- the answer is clearly John Wooden and that's that. Unless you want to say Sumner Redstone for the inheritance. I'm fine with either.)THE FEEL-GOOD SLEEPER 7. Buffalo Bills
|Maybe Trent Edwards will one day surpass Vincent Gallo as a great Buffalo celebrity.|
All good points. My initial response is that when Vincent Gallo is your city's signature celebrity, maybe you shouldn't have an NFL team. But I'm willing to be talked into it. From everything I've read, the Bills are struggling to survive financially and lack the funds to build a better stadium, only they don't have the balls to leave Buffalo, only they don't want another NFL team to move to Toronto -- the best territory that isn't an NFL city yet -- so they're basically "marking" that Toronto territory like a dog by playing eight games there over the next three years. Either it was a shrewd business move (they made $78 million, more than their 2006 and 2007 operating income combined), a passive-aggressive play that deserves to be mocked, or both. But it's nothing like the 1979 NBA champs getting hijacked from Seattle for no good reason. Seattle could support an NBA team; it's unclear if Buffalo can support the Bills.
(Note: If I'm wrong, then tell me why. And try to do it without using swear words or comparing me to various orifices. Thank you.)THE AIR CORYELL DIVISION 5b. San Diego Chargers
(A great example of an "it's your year" game -- the Snow Game between the Pats and Raiders, not just the Tuck Rule play but Troy Brown fumbling the punt return on the game-tying drive and the ball ricocheting off the snow right to Larry Izzo. When stuff like that starts happening, you know it's your year. The Broncos aren't there yet, but the signs are encouraging so far.)THE CONTENDERS 4. New York Giants
Guilty as charged! I still think the G-Men have a chance to become the first-ever "Nobody Still Believed In Us!" Team ... although it's hard to watch their defense (really good, not great) and not think, "Man, what if Strahan and Osi were playing?" And how will this Plax thing affect them? Will it blow over or keep festering? You know it's worse than we're being led to believe because Steve Smith uttered the dreaded "Plax is Plax, he does what he wants. ... We never know when it comes to Plax" quote this week.
Plax is Plax?
This has always been one of Adam Carolla's greatest theories -- any time someone describes a co-worker by saying their name twice (like "Plax is Plax"), that's code for either "This guy is one of the biggest a-holes in the history of mankind" or "This guy is one of the stupidest, most confusing and most inexplicable human beings I've ever met." Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, Steve Smith, Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, Stephon Marbury, Dennis Rodman, Chad Johnson ... they've all been slapped with the "[Name] is [Name]" quote over the years. It's never a good sign. For that reason alone (as well as the four upcoming games against Philly and Dallas), I can't put them ahead of ...
|Can you really reach the Super Bowl with Kerry Collins at QB? You can with this defense.|
A. They have the league's best defense, and if you don't believe me, you will believe me this Sunday after they do everything short of actually having sex with Gus Frerotte.
B. You can learn a lot about a team's playoff chances by how "locked in" (for lack of a better word) their sideline seems to be during a game. With the Titans, Jeff Fisher is prowling back and forth like a prison guard barking orders at a chain gang; any time a good play happens near their sideline, you'll see every guy react happily right away; and if there's a cheap shot on their sideline, 20 Titans come flying in within 0.02 of a second. The 2008 Tennessee Titans are locked in. You can't use the italics forcefully enough. The Titans seem hungry to me.
C. After being initially confused with Chris Johnson's erratic playing time (after all, he's clearly their best back and looks like the next Marshall Faulk), I finally figured out what Fisher is doing there: He doesn't want to burn out a rookie runner who might play 19-20 games this season, so he's spotting him early, wetting his feet and saving him for later in the season. That has to be it. They're keeping his touches around 15-17 a game and setting us up for one of those Dr. Evil-like, "Release the Fembots!" moments in a big November game. Smart move.
D. You probably can't win a Super Bowl with Kerry Collins, but you can definitely make it to one. In fact, it has even happened.
(That sound you just heard was all the Giants fans slamming their heads against the desk.)2. Philadelphia Eagles
1. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys do one thing (score points) better than anyone does anything else. Now that they have Miles Austin going as a much-needed third receiver, really, the only guy who can stop this offense is Tony Romo. What do we make of this guy? Will he ever stop self-destructing in big moments? Why does he keep forcing those "Brett Favre circa 2001-2006" throws when the Cowboys are in the red zone? And if you want to flip it around, what happens when he stops making dumb mistakes and just starts cranking out 228 mph laps with this Ferrari he's driving right now? I think we can safely say that, after three weeks, barring injuries, the 2008 NFL season rests in the hands of Jessica Simpson's boyfriend. Now that's weird.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.