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Friday, September 19, 2008
Updated: September 21, 4:34 AM ET
Here's a fact: The NFL is all about fantasy now

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

Monday's Eagles-Cowboys game was the most-watched telecast in cable history. And why not? Two signature rivals treated us to a breathtaking and compelling shootout. America's Team was involved. Jerry Jones looked appropriately creepy in his dimly lit owner's box (one of my readers compared him to the banker in "Deal or No Deal"), totally making up for the no-show of Jessica Simpson and her breasts. Seeing Wade Phillips jump for joy on the sidelines like a "Family Feud" contestant never gets old. Even the Terrell Owens-Donovan McNabb feud remains oddly compelling; I haven't tired of it yet, just like I haven't gotten tired of seeing everyone turn on Tonya during the first episode of every Real World/Road Rules season. And it's always a pleasure to watch two elite quarterbacks battling it out, if only because we're much more likely to witness a Kyle Orton-Gus Frerotte battle these days.

Tony Romo
Who knew that fantasy football fans could blow up the Nielsen ratings?

Collectively, those were great reasons for the game reaching more viewers than the final "Sopranos" episode or even the Season 2 cliffhanger of "The Two Coreys." But this went deeper. I went to sleep that night believing "Dallas 41, Philly 37" was the most influential fantasy game ever played. Two days later, I confirmed those thoughts with ESPN's Matt Berry, who thought about it for exactly 0.014 seconds before agreeing, "Yup, greatest fantasy game ever." With that settled, I spent the next 30 minutes on the phone trying to convince him to grow a fu manchu. It worked for Jim Rome; it can work for Matthew Berry.

Back to my point: The Philly-Dallas game featured eight offensive touchdowns, a defensive touchdown, a special teams touchdown and five field goals. It happened on the make-or-break night for every close fantasy matchup. An inordinate number of fantasy starters were involved, including four of the top 12 picks in any 2008 draft (Tony Romo, Brian Westbrook, Marion Barber and Owens), the No. 1 tight end (Jason Witten), a rejuvenated QB (McNabb), a breakout sleeper (DeSean Jackson), two guaranteed starters in any league (Patrick Crayton and Dallas' defense), two kickers on everyone's rosters (David Akers and Nick Folk) and three borderline starters in deep leagues (Felix Jones, Hank Baskett and Philly's defense). If that wasn't enough, Jackson committed premature spike ejaculation and inadvertently gave birth to one of the two most famous fantasy moments ever … the other being, strangely enough, his teammate Westbrook's flop on the 1-yard line last season. When Westbrook (irony alert!) scored right after Jackson's boner, that two-play sequence ended up swinging two of the five matchups in my West Coast league.

Including mine.

I have McNabb.

(Deep breath …)

When the play happened, I started an e-mail chain with my friends at 9:53 p.m. ET:

SUBJECT HEADING: If I lose by 3 because of DeSean Jackson …

BODY: Would that be the worst loss in the history of our league?

FANTASY ADVICE

Here's the scoop on Week 3 and fantasy football:

The DeSean Jackson aftermath

Matthew Berry: Love & Hate for Week 3

Week 3: The Breakdown

Week 3 rankings | Week 3 projections

Everyone disagreed, pointing out that my season was already cooked. After all, I lost my first-round pick, Tom Brady, in eight minutes, thanks to Sammy Morris going low on a 224-pound defensive back. Excellent point. But as the game kept going and the score kept climbing, I found myself becoming more and more bitter about the seemingly preordained screw job that hadn't happened yet. Sometimes you just know with this stuff. Since I controlled the tiebreaker because my best bench guy (Darren McFadden) had more points than anyone on my opponent's bench, I needed only a tie to win. Everything came down to Philly's last drive, with me trailing by eight and needing a McNabb TD and/or some passing yards, an Akers extra point (I have him, too) and maybe even a Dallas sack or a touchdown (that's my defense). If it had been a roulette wheel, I would have had more than half the numbers covered. Of course, McNabb went into Super Bowl XXXIX Mode -- as my Philly friend Mike said later, "As good as he is, no real Iggs fan really believes he will get us there, [but] at least he didn't puke on the field" -- took a couple of bad sacks and couldn't get Philly across midfield. Game over.

My final fantasy score for Week 2: 101-97. I lost by the difference of a half-foot -- either the extra distance Jackson needed to travel to score or the amount of empty space in his head. You can't make this stuff up.

Only later did I realize I had spent infinite more time biting my nails, e-mailing friends, throwing my remote, refreshing my league's "Live Scoring" browser, piecing together different miracle comeback scenarios and basically fretting about the Eagles-Cowboys game than I had enjoying the game itself. I wasn't alone. Berry estimates 15 million people play fantasy football now, and I'm going along with those figures because, you know, he introduces himself to women in the Hartford area by saying, "Hi, I'm the Talented Mr. Roto." If anyone knows, it's him. According to the Nielsen ratings, 15 million viewers watched Monday night's game ... a game with undeniable fantasy implications, given the players involved.

Again, it was an extraordinary game. But it wasn't more dramatic or memorable than Baltimore blowing its chance to end New England's undefeated season on a Monday night last December, right? The more I thought about it, I decided the fantasy subplots propelled the Philly-Dallas game to its record numbers. That had to be it.

When I pitched this theory to Connor Schell, a high-ranking ESPN executive who doesn't think I should have my friends on my podcast, he pooh-poohed the notion in typically snarky fashion: "It was a great game, and the Cowboys have a huge following." Done and done. And really, I would have let it go right there. But this was the same guy who spent his entire Tuesday afternoon CC-ing friends on e-mails complaining because Yahoo!'s scoring system never credited Seattle's defense with a touchdown on a fumble return in the end zone (neither did ESPN's, by the way), costing Connor his Week 2 fantasy matchup and costing his friends 45 minutes they'll never get back because they had to read his e-mails bitching about it. Although he did have a point. If a Seattle defender fumbles a potential touchdown into the end zone and another Seattle defender recovers it, how can that be an offensive touchdown? Another one of our friends decided Yahoo! chairman Jerry Yang has a fantasy team and would have lost Week 2 unless the Seattle touchdown didn't count, so he e-mailed his top fantasy guys and convinced them to make up a glitch to give him the win. Our friend even went through the trouble of typing out a secret, Watergate-type e-mail from Yang to his employees. We thought this was hysterically funny.

Meanwhile, I was on another e-mail chain with a different group of friends that related to Jackson and whether or not some crazed fantasy fan would seek vengeance by pulling a Gunter Parche during the next Eagles game. (That's right, Gunter Parche! Google that!) I flipped over to my account for reader e-mails and had so many with the subject heading "DESEAN JACKSON" that I felt like I had mistakenly hacked his e-mail account. And my West Coast league buddies still were making Jackson jokes and riling everyone up from that end. All of these things were happening at the same time.

So that got me thinking …

DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson clearly didn't have himself on his fantasy team.

On the face of it, my theory that the ratings record happened because of fantasy subplots doesn't work because, looking at it logically, this should have happened before 2008. Could it be that we're entering the Golden Age of Fantasy Football … or, as my wife would call it, the Golden Age of the League of Dorks?

I joined my first fantasy football league in 1990, when some friends from Colgate University started one up and I made the plunge. My first team was called the Banana Hammocks -- named for me by our commissioner, Camp, who couldn't get over the fact that I refused to wear boxer shorts in college. (Note: I had reasons. Let's just say I never wanted to be the Levi Johnston of my school.) Our rules were totally screwed up. We started too many guys, awarded 15-point bonuses for 50-yard touchdowns and had yardage bonuses that increased every 25 yards. I think there was one game against the Packers in which Barry Sanders broke the 100-point barrier by himself. That's not even a joke.

On Tuesdays, Camp bought USA Today and painstakingly figured out everyone's point totals, wrote them out by hand, then mailed them to us … not by e-mail, by regular mail. Like, they showed up in our mailboxes Friday. That's how you found out whether you won or lost, unless you called Camp (which most of us usually did). For some reason, we totally trusted Camp's scoring, even though he was probably doing it after 12 beers and eight Marlboro Lights. For a waiver-wire system, I think we just called Camp and said, "Hey, I want to pick up (fill in the name)," to which Camp always seemed to say, "I just picked him up 10 minutes ago." And that's how it went.

Over the next few years, fantasy football became an underground fad for guys between the ages of 18 and 25. Gradually, that age group began to expand. The advent of the Internet obviously helped. Suddenly there were Web sites that kept score and allowed us to bench and start players, manage a waiver wire, check our scores in real time and even belittle our friends. E-mails were a huge help in trade offers, trash talking, bitching, kvetching and everything else. But it remained somewhat of a fad. When I worked for the Boston Herald in 1995, I pitched a weekly fantasy column to my editors that August; I might as well have been pitching a column about drinking and driving or trying to sleep with underaged girls. They couldn't have said no fast enough. When I started my Boston Sports Guy site in May 1997, one of my hooks was an ongoing acknowledgement of everything fantasy -- fantasy rankings before the season, updated sleepers, even a running diary of my football draft as it happened -- and what really amazed me was how many readers e-mailed me just to say, "Holy s---, I can't tell you how psyched I am to read this stuff!" or "My friends and I thought we were the only ones!" This was like "Fight Club" with a draft.

For years and years, this market was ignored by newspapers, magazines and radio shows, all of which regarded fantasy as some sort of new-wave "Dungeons and Dragons"-type thing. Well, why? What was so bad about fantasy? What's a better demographic for a sponsor than guys in their 20s? As fantasy spread its wings over the rest of the decade, roto sites started popping up, Internet connections improved and everything eventually took off. But it still wasn't a mainstream thing, you know? That didn't happen until this decade, and once everyone realized how much money was at stake, only then -- and by then, I mean 2004 and 2005 -- did the mainstream media start awkwardly referencing fantasy during actual sports conversations. Still, the thought of anyone becoming the Mel Kiper Jr. of fantasy sports (something Berry is currently trying to do, and if he grows that damned fu manchu, it might even happen) seemed patently absurd as recently as four or five years ago. Too many mainstream people were too set in their ways; too many casual fans were afraid to take the plunge.

Simon and Garfunkel
Neither fantasy sports nor "Bridge Over Troubled Water" will corrupt you.

And then two things happened. First, the mainstream guys inadvertently strengthened our cause by sounding like aging, outdated farts any time the subject came up. When you hear someone railing against fantasy now, they always sound like the mom in "Almost Famous" who's afraid to have Simon and Garfunkel played in her house because she thinks they're going to corrupt her daughter. Mainstream media members over 40, if you're reading, you have to believe me -- all you're doing is antagonizing listeners/readers/viewers, turning them against you and making them think that the due date on your milk carton was 1985. (Note: I think it's funny that the media members who take shots at fantasy always seem to be the ones who drop references to things like "Animal House," Archie Bunker, Willie Mays and Three Dog Night in casual conversation, columns or their everyday shtick. And fantasy owners are the ones who aren't cool?) Second, for whatever reason, fantasy became acceptable to anyone under 40, and beyond that, it became something that made you feel left out if you weren't doing it. Of all my friends from high school, college, Boston and Los Angeles, maybe half of them did fantasy from 2000 to 2006. The other half refused to get sucked in. But in the past three years, something crazy has happened -- nearly all of the "other half" started doing fantasy. Why? They felt like they were missing out.

Miss out on fantasy, and you miss out on the draft, biting e-mails, jokes, barbs, funny team names, inane arguments, idiotic trade offers and everything else. In some cases (like with me and my East Coast friends, who have something like 58 kids among us), the draft is the only day of the year when you're in touch with friends who were once essential parts of your day-to-day life. Look, I support anything that keeps friends in touch, keeps them arguing and keeps them busting each other's balls for five months a year. That's why I love fantasy over everything else. The DeSean Jackson premature ejaculation spike would have been memorable 10 years ago, but it means more now. More people were affected by the experience. Berry told me the number of fantasy users on ESPN.com grows 30 percent per year. If that's a business, you're doing pretty damned good. And fantasy is a business. So do the math.

SIMMONS PODCASTS

Bill welcomes in former NFL exec and current media member Michael Lombardi to talk about the NFL. B.S. Report

B.S. Report: Week 3 NFL lines with Cousin Sal

Anyway, that's why I think "Cowboys 41, Eagles 37" was the greatest fantasy game of all time. I also think we'll see another Monday nighter topping it sooner than later.

One last story: The same night Jackson was driving a stake into so many hearts, my friend Willy ate dinner with a group that included a rap star who shall remain nameless. (When Willy texted me about it, I responded, "Are you the waiter?") Apparently the rap star spent the entire night refreshing his BlackBerry and going bonkers because he was down by 37 points heading into the Eagles-Cowboys game but had McNabb and Owens on his team. "It's like he has one million on the game," Willy reported.

Five years ago, I would have been floored by this story. Now? Not so floored. We're becoming a nation of fantasy football addicts. Whether this is a good thing or not is a topic for another time. I know only this: While the Summer Olympics were doing such gangbuster ratings for NBC in August, the most-searched term on ESPN.com for those two weeks wasn't "Olympics" or "Phelps" or even "Sacramone." You know what it was? That's right … "fantasy football." A few weeks later, the Eagles-Cowboys game became the most-watched cable event of all time.

You might think this was a coincidence. You would be wrong.

On to the Week 3 picks …

(Home teams in caps)

FALCONS (-5.5) over Chiefs
Reader Jstoner in Bakersfield believes "Herm Edwards is simply Art Shell post gastric bypass. His new nickname should be GBAS (Gastric Bypassed Art Shell)." I'm almost positive this isn't a compliment. In Herm's defense, I think I figured out his game plan after his bizarre endorsement of Tyler Thigpen this week: He's hoping to lose 18 straight games and bottom out, inexplicably keep his job, land another high draft pick, then tread water until the Chiefs find him an elite defensive coordinator, the best defensive player in the league, a dominant quarterback and a team of hungry veterans willing to play hard for him.

(Hold on, I'm fighting off the urge to make a Doc Rivers joke.)

(Still fighting it …)

(I mean, he is an NBA champion …)

(And … we're good.)

Trent Edwards
The Bills' schedule could put them on course for the Grey Cup, er, Super Bowl.

BILLS (-9.5) over Raiders

Oakland at home, at St. Louis, at Arizona, bye week, home for San Diego, at Miami, home for the Jets & do you realize the Bills might be undefeated heading into their Week 10 game at New England? I couldn't be happier for the good people of Toronto. Er, Buffalo.

OK, here's my favorite idea of the week, courtesy of Jason A. in West Newbury: "With the wild success of the ESPN NBA Trade Machine do you think it wise to also offer a fantasy football Trade Machine? I think this idea has merit! Just how much is Adrian Peterson worth? Is Matt Cassel worth trading away a No. 2/3 running back? These are important questions! 50 dollars is on the line! Make it so, Mr. Simmons!"

(Part of me thinks this couldn't work because it's not like the NBA -- you'd have to assign an arbitrary value to each guy, and there would be no way for the Machine to know that you're making a 2-for-1 trade partly because you have a hole at receiver or something. On the other hand, I am confident that I would spend between 20 and 900 hours per season plugging fake trades into the ESPN Fantasy Football Trade Machine even if it didn't totally work. And how many deals would that thing squash? Would my buddy Sal have traded me Matt Forte and Wes Welker for Reggie Bush this week if he plugged the idea into the Machine and it spat back, "Are you $%#&@%# crazy?????" I think Jason A. might be onto something.)

TITANS (-5) over Texans
Vince Young goes AWOL, Daunte Culpepper retires, Tarvaris Jackson gets benched, David Garrard falls back to earth, Michael Vick remains in jail, JaMarcus Russell looks like a J.V. quarterback … you know who feels totally vindicated right now? The racist assistant from "Friday Night Lights" who didn't think Smash Williams could be a QB. Thank goodness for Donovan McNabb, but we still need to turn this thing around.

PATS (-13) over Dolphins
A reader reminded me of my QB-By-Osmosis theory from last season: Namely, that Matt Cassel and Jim Sorgi could be effective QBs someday just because they spent every waking moment going to Brady College and Manning University. I feel better. I also felt better when we found out during the Jets game that Cassel's nickname with the other Patriots is "Moose." Although part of me wonders whether Cassel is the Johnny Doe to Brady's Dirk Diggler -- yeah, we can film a decent porn movie with him, but every game ends with Ricky J impassively looking at the tapes and telling Jack Horner, "It is what it is."

BEARS (-3) over Bucs
I think Devin Hester crashed the waiver wire this week. I think Brian Griese's return to Chicago rates a 0.8 on the Vengeance Scale. I think I loved this e-mail from Michael Morris in Bartlesville: "Can we stop with former players calling former coaches by the title 'Coach?' I would not be standing next to you and say 'Columnist, what do you think of that?' I am looking at you Daryl Johnston."

SEAHAWKS (-9.5) over Rams
Doug in Philly makes a great point: "Has there ever been a more perfect trio of entrants into the Lindsay Hunter All-Stars than Seattle's Week 1 WR corps after Burleson went down? Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent sound more like the gang of bitchy girls on the new "90210" than Hasselbeck's new targets." In a related story, they're 0-2 and look worse than Shannen Doherty in HD.

And now, it's time for the depressing Seattle e-mails of the week …

1. Scott from OSU: "I keep telling myself, 'At least I'm not a Seattle fan …'"

SPORTS GAL'S RANT

The Sports Gal took the week off to smoke cigarettes and eat grapes after seeing the cover of Us Weekly. Here are her Week 3 picks: ATL +5.5, BUF -9.5, Hou +5.5, NYG -13, Zona +3, NE -13, TB +3, MIN -3.5, StL +9.5, SF -4, NO +5.5, PHI -3, Jax +5, BAL -2.5, Dal -3, NYJ +10

Last Week: 8-6-1
Season: 15-15-1

2. Graham in Seattle: "To preface, sorry for another Seattle 'woe is me email.' However, I compare our current situation to the movie, 'Hellraiser.' As we all remember the movie begins with Frank being torn apart by Pinhead's chains and hooks. Honestly, I think that with Seneca Wallace going down in warmups and the Hawks losing in overtime to JT O'Sullivan, the entire greater metropolitan area of Seattle is moments away from facing the camera only to utter, 'and Jesus wept,' before having our heads explode. Umm, right?"

3. Joe H. in Seattle: "With the way Seattle sports is going, if you heard of an 'Independence Day' attack at a major sporting event, would you even bother to ask what city?"

Panthers (+3.5) over VIKINGS
Booing Tarvaris Jackson during that Colts debacle wasn't nearly effective enough this past weekend; the Vikings' fans should have been singing "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails or chanting, "You're ripping out our souls! You're ripping out our souls!"

NINERS (-4) over Lions
There's a whiff of friskiness with the Niners right now. I'm just throwing that out there. Do with that info what you will. Meanwhile, Detroit reader J. Hads e-mailed me after Sunday's Green Bay collapse just to say, "My girlfriend found me sitting in a dark room in my boxers watching Barry Sanders highlights at 2 am last night."

Barry Sanders
Look away Detroit fans ... look away. Don't torture yourself.

(It's bad enough to get caught pleasuring yourself to Skinemax, but to Barry highlights? Is there a football version of FEMA that we can send to Detroit?)

NINERS (-4) over Lions
Whoops, I just realized I didn't run J. Hads' entire e-mail. Here's the rest of it:

"She asked me what I was doing, and I explained I was just reminiscing about the only time in my life I openly enjoyed watching pro football. The last time Barry touched the ball was over 8 years ago. In my 26 years of existence I have seen the Lions win ONE playoff game. My dad of 50 years has seen only ONE playoff win as well. It was the 1991 game against the Cowboys. At the time, I never understood why my dad had the look of a man who had won the lottery. Only now do I understand the significance of that day. My point is Bill, us Lions fans are in dire straights. The only thing worse than anger is apathy. When do you finally give up on a NFL franchise?"

(The answer: Before you give up, couldn't you at least FedEx one turd sandwich to the Detroit offices with the note, "ATTN: MATT MILLEN"? It couldn't hurt, right?)

Bengals (+13) over GIANTS
I don't like the combination of "our season is on the line" (Cincy) and "we haven't lost in nine months and we're 13-point favorites at home against a crappy team, all we need to do is show up for this one" (New York) … although I'm not ruling out the Giants becoming the first "Nobody Still Believes In Us!" defending champs. In short, I have no idea what will happen in this game. So let's change the subject: If you made an All-Star team for "Athletes with Latino Names Who Look Like Their Name Should Actually Be Something Like Jimmy Scott or Rick Stevens," would you call it the Jeff Garcia All-Stars or the Anthony Gonzalez All-Stars?

EAGLES (-3) over Steelers
I like this Eagles team. Meanwhile, reader N. Carleton makes a great point: "Was Michael Phelps seriously drinking canned Corona at the Browns-Steelers game? Where do you even get it, and why would someone even want to drink it given that a lime wouldn't even fit thru the opening? I mean bottled Corona tastes so bad without the lime, and canned Corona would be even worse since the beer is so weak that you'd have a metallic aftertaste. Oh, and the can is BLUE, meaning it's just as strange as drinking Coors (not Coors light) out of the gold can as far as contrasting colors. I would have given him props if he'd had one of those plastic limes filled with lime juice with him, and been squirting it into the can."

Follow-up note: I'm fascinated by this Phelps-as-a-celebrity thing because he doesn't follow the Ali-Jordan-Mantle-Tiger model even remotely. I mean, would any of those guys have been caught drinking Corona out of a can on live television? What about his awkward SNL appearance? Or all the pictures of him and Hollywood babes, in which he always looks like the little brother of a college sophomore who showed up for a weekend and ended up puking outside the football stadium all night? I see him going Bruce Jenner on us -- maybe he'll tread water in Hollywood for a for a few years and settle into a few infomercials, and eventually, he'll be the stepdad on a reality show for a family in which one of the girls got famous by making a sex tape. Also, he might have a juicer named after him. And there might be some creepy plastic surgery in his future. Thanks for hearing me out on this.

REDSKINS (-3) over Cards
Don't these Redskins-Cards games always end with the Cards trailing by four but driving for the winning TD, then Kurt Warner fumbling the handoff or losing the ball on a sack as Larry Fitzgerald flips off his helmet in disgust? I feel like we've been here before.

Jaguars (+5) over COLTS
You better sit down -- I'm about to say something nice about Peyton Manning. I sat in the Martha's Vineyard airport watching him steal that Minnesota game with a bum knee and a ravaged offensive line -- after unleashing a Hall of Fame Manning Face in the first half, no less -- and the thing that stood out was how, after a certain point, when Minny kept blowing chances to blow that game wide open, it became patently clear that Manning was going to make the Vikings pay, no matter how grim things looked. Now that, my friends, is a great player. I now will wash my eyes out with paprika.

Three more notes about my Sunday in the airport (we were there for a wedding and grounded by weather delays): First, a belated middle finger to everyone working at the diner who refused to change the channel from NASCAR to the Colts game even though nobody was watching the TV. I'm sorry, I worked in a restaurant once upon a time -- you can't tell me you "don't know where the remote is" when we both know you are just more interested in texting your friends. By the way, that was me who went into the bathroom and peed all over the toilet seat. Sorry about that. Second, just when I thought the day couldn't get worse, my daughter pulled the fire alarm and nearly caused a riot. I continue to hate every one of my friends who told me, "You have to have kids -- they're the best!" Burn in hell, all of you. And third, I finally found a TV that was showing CNN. One lady was watching it. Telepathically, I convinced her to go to the bathroom within 35 seconds. I know that's hard to believe, but it couldn't have been a coincidence that I stared at her thinking, "Bathroom, bathroom, you have to go, bathroom," and then she just got up and went. Then I turned it to the Colts game. This made up for everything else you read in this paragraph. I briefly turned into Uri Geller. It happened, and you can't tell me it didn't.

Ed Hochuli
"Dude ... don't sweat it. These chumps don't have tickets to your gun show."

RAVENS (-2.5) over Browns
From George in New York: "If Ed Hochuli comes out of the tunnel this weekend to a slow clap, It's definitely going to get a little dusty in my living room. Make it happen, Baltimore." I like it. Then again, I won money on the Broncos last week. I wouldn't just slow-clap Ed Hochuli, I'd probably hug him or try to friend him on Facebook.

One more thing: John Madden and Al Michaels agreed that Romeo Crennel made the right move passing up a fourth-and-7 and kicking a field goal to cut it to four with five minutes to go. Put it this way … if someone did that during a "Madden" game, the other guy would pause the game and say, "What the hell are you doing? Did you just get stoned and I missed it?" For the 10th straight year, I demand an NFL team hire a pimply faced, 16-year-old video junkie as its "Comeback Coordinator" for moments like this one.

Saints (+5.5) over BRONCOS
Mike Shanahan going for two and the win knowing he would have gotten screwed by a Hochuli makeup call in OT … now THAT was a great "Madden" moment! I would have done the same thing. I'm almost ready to forgive him for introducing the concept of "running back by committee." He went all-in on the second hand of the season -- if he loses, he gets killed by the fans and the media, and if he wins, his team develops a swagger it didn't previously have. That was glorious. I just loved that. But if that wasn't a letdown game, I don't know anything.

PACKERS (+3) over Cowboys
Did you notice the Brady-Manning-Brees-Palmer-McNabb Era suddenly has the Romo-Rivers-Cutler-Roethlisberger-Rodgers Era breathing down its neck? I wish I could make this point on an NFL pregame show crammed between six other guys all waiting to interrupt me. Meanwhile, Jake from L.A. wants to clarify something I wrote three weeks ago: "Being from Wisconsin, I have to take issue with your assessment of things we Wisconsinites care about. The CORRECT order was Favre, DRINKING, eating and the Packers. Drinking comes before eating any day." Well, then.

Jets (+10) over CHARGERS
In my podcast with Mike Lombardi this week, I decided San Diego's last two losses had to be the toughest back-to-back defeats in football history. A reader (sorry, I lost the e-mail) reminded me that the '85 Hurricanes lost back-to-back stomach-punch games to Maryland (the famous Frank Reich comeback game) and Boston College (Doug Flutie's Hail Mary). Good point. They still hold the title. Although when you factor in the Norv Turner Face getting taken to another level, it's at least close.

Hey, here's my theory on Favre's comeback that I've been waiting to spring for two months: I think the retirement was legitimate. He wanted to quit. Then, he was probably running errands for his wife, stopped to buy some groceries, then got chewed out at home because he forgot to buy half and half. And as his wife was yelling at him, he thought to himself, "Wait a second, what did I just do? I could keep playing!" Six months later, we get to watch him lead the Jets to a shocking Monday night upset while Tony Kornheiser has to be hosed down in the ESPN booth. Warren Sapp said it best on "Inside the NFL" this week: "Just give the ball to Favre and let him do what he do, man." And any time you write, "Warren Sapp said it best," it's time to wrap it up.

One last thing …

RIP, DFW. I wish you way more than luck.

Last Week: 7-7-1
Season: 13-17-1

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.