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Sports Guy vs. Sports Dog

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Now it can be told ...

Bill vs. Bailey
Seems like everybody thinks they can handicap NFL games, so Page 2 has decided to turn to its two experts in the field of prognostication. Predicting games isn't an exact science, so each week we'll have Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, go head-to-head with Bailey the Sports Dog.

Simmons' credentials you probably know: He's a die-hard Boston sports nut who represents the common fan.

Bailey is a Samoyed husky-black Labrador cross with a nose for pigskin. He's lived in Colorado, Chicago and Seattle while loyally following college and pro football for the past 14 years.

Each week, Simmons and Bailey will select their four best choices against the spread. We'll also keep a running score throughout the season.

Both experts are hesitant to reveal their secrets, but here's what we can tell you about their methods: Simmons will use his extensive football knowledge, the Internet and key newspapers to come up with his can't-miss picks. Bailey will choose between two dog treats representing teams in each matchup.

Of course, these are only predictions and not recommendations for wagering. Simmons and Bailey are just doing this for pride. OK, maybe a little kibble but that's all.

I spent most of the summer badgering my editors for some sort of "NFL Picks" column on Page 2. Between the visibility of and my eerie, "Shining"-like NFL prognosticating skills, I knew that one hot season of picking football games could be my legacy -- inevitably I would assume my rightful place among the great NFL gambling minds of the past few decades (Pete Axthelm, Jimmy the Greek, Art Schlichter, Brandon Walsh and so on).

Of course, my editors saw it a little differently: "Hey, we'll have you go head-to-head against a dog!"

And so the premier football prognosticator of the 21st century is matched up against a canine -- a stunt right out of the "Muhammad Ali takes on Andre the Giant" and "Bob Hayes races Secretariat" playbook. I'll be sifting through six newspapers on Friday morning frantically looking for four winners; meanwhile, Bailey the Dog will make his four picks in 2.3 seconds, then spend the morning licking himself and trying to find that spot on the living room floor that the sun hits from 10:30 to 11:30.

Sure, it would make a cute story if the dog won this thing, and yeah, I know you're probably rooting for Bailey. But this isn't one of those "Air Bud" movies ... this is the big-time, baby. No way I'm losing to a dog. Etch it in stone.

One last note: I'm avoiding the Obvious Game on the board this week (Chargers giving just 2½ points at home against Jeff George and the Redskins) because that game looks so easy that, frankly, it frightens the heck out of me.

Onto the Week 1 picks

Bill Simmons' Week 1 NFL predictions
Tampa Bay at Dallas
Start putting that second mortgage on your house ... things like "Quincy Carter starting in the NFL as a rookie" only come around once every 10 to 15 years. The Bucs defense should cover the nine-point spread by themselves.
-- The pick: Buccaneers 38, Cowboys 3

Indianapolis at New York Jets
Bill Simmons
Bill Simmons scouts a Pats game.
Why are the Colts favored by two in this one? I don't get it. People are underestimating the Jets this season. By the way, does anyone have a better first name in sports right now then Laveranues Coles? I can't decide whether I want to name my first dog after him or just go the whole nine yards and name my first child "Laveranues Simmons." Maybe I could even have two dogs named "Laveranues" and "Shirley." All right, I'm babbling ...
-- The pick: Jets 24, Colts 17

Carolina at Minnesota
Laying 10 points would scare me with the Vikes during the middle of the season (they have a tendency to play flat against crappy teams), but nobody suffers a Letdown Game in Week 1. Don't underestimate the "Fueled by emotion because of Korey Stringer" factor here (a k a, the Hank Gathers Corollary).
-- The pick: Vikings 31, Panthers 13

New York Giants at Denver
Denver is opening up its new stadium, it's a Monday night game, the Broncos offense is ready to explode in a "1985 Niners" kinda way ... and Kerry Collins is prominently involved. Giddy up! Giving less than a touchdown (6½ points) seems like a bargain. As an added bonus, the WNBA announced this week that if Terrell Davis blows out his ACL again, he will become eligible for the 2002 WNBA draft.
-- The pick: Broncos 34, Giants 17

Bailey's Week 1 NFL predictions
Indianapolis at New York Jets
Nobody loves an underdog more than me, but the Jets and two points won't be enough to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts.
-- The pick: Colts 34, Jets 17

Miami at Tennessee
I still believe Tennessee should have chosen the Hound Dogs for its nickname, but that won't influence my unbiased opinion. The Dolphins won't get within the 6½-point spread.
-- The pick: Titans 20, Dolphins 6

New Orleans at Buffalo
Though the Saints' St. Bernard drools a bit too much, he's not as offensive as the rebuilding Bills -- even if you give them a point at home.
-- The pick: Saints 27, Bills 14

New York Giants at Denver
With my Colorado roots and their strong offense, I have to take the Broncos and give the touchdown against the defending NFC champs.
-- Prediction: Broncos 30, Giants 10

Bill Simmons and Bailey Archive

ESPN experts' picks for Week 1

Simmons: Handicapping the AFC

Simmons: Handicapping the NFC

What's hot, what's not for NFL 2001

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