Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Week 2 NFL Picks

Note: No posts on Thursday and Friday this week. In advance of Sunday, however, here are Week 2 NFL picks. Have a great rest of your work week everyone!

Bengals over at Browns
Colts over at Titans
Rams over 49ers
Packers over at Giants
Steelers over Bills
Saints over at Bucs
Texans over at Panthers
Jags over Falcons
Lions over Vikings
Cowboys over at Dolphins
Seahawks over at Cards
Bears over Chiefs
Broncos over Raiders
Ravens over Jets
Pats
over Chargers
Eagles over Redskins
Last week: 12-4

39 comments:

Thomas said...

happy new year. is that the reason for the rest of the week off?

David "SirFozzie" Yellope said...

BTW Dan, I eagerly await you calling for the Broncos to get sanctions.. not only for the salary cap stuff... but:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/inside_game/magazine/life_of_reilly/news/2002/01/09/life_of_reilly/

"Our guy keeps a pair of binoculars on their signal-callers every game," says Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "With any luck, we have their defensive signals figured out by halftime. Sometimes, by the end of the first quarter."

jhawkjjm said...

Please tell me that LT didn't just open his mouth and insult the entire Patriot organization before thier game on Sunday night? That's a "what the hell are you thinking moment?" First off you don't say anything, especially when you're own teammate was busted last year for steriods, and secondly you don't do it before going on the road to play that team. As if the Pats weren't motivated enough.

The heroin sheik said...

Man the Bucs are going to get beat down this weekend. With NO motivated by that asskicking they received last week they ought to come out firing against the Bucs. I just hope that the games are better than last weekends ones.

Zach said...

Suicide Pick?

HabsFan29 said...

Shana Tova Dan. May all your NFL picks be as sweet aas honey

The heroin sheik said...

Not that anyone on here truly cares but in qualifying for EURO 2008 Scotland beat France. The tartan army was partying last night. Scotland is now in first place in their group. Mind you they are in a group with France and Italy and you have to be in the top two places to advance. If they can just draw the remaining three games they will qualify.

Oh yeah Fuck Big Papi and his walkoff hr.

Generik420 said...

Amen about Big Papi, Sheik!

Overall, I think Dan's picks look fairly solid.. shocking. :-P

Big D said...

I'm just happy we have two posts above the Patriots' post so that we have other things to discuss for the next four days...

And as much as you might hate ortiz for that Walk-off, hate Delmon Young (or whoever was frantically twisting in the wind out in right field last night) more - that ball was absolutely catchable, assuming the D-Rays had a half-decent right fielder...

Big D said...

Two things that should never be in the same sentence:

"Greg Oden" and "Microfracture"

Uh oh...

Jen said...

I don't think there is anything "micro" about Oden.

Geez, is the sports world that boring that no one is talking today? Or, because Dan is gone, the rest have gone too?

PatriotsNation said...

owwww Oden done for season, glad we didn't have an NBA fantasy draft yet!

Sparty said...

what is it with Portland and big men. Granted Walton helped them to a championship but still, just call Oden:Sam Bowie part 2. too bad though, i liked the kid (if he really is a kid).

PatriotsNation said...

The NFL is reportedly considering suspending coach Bill Belichick two or three games and stripping the organization of a first-round pick after the Patriots were found to be videotaping Jets defensive coaches in Week 1.

Sources tell SI.com's Don Banks and Peter King that the league will hand down disciplinary action on Friday. The NFL has reportedly ruled out forcing the Pats to forfeit their 38-14 win over the Jets, but will "definitely" strip them of a first-day draft choice. If Belichick is suspended, he'll be banned from games and practices until the suspension is up, and will not be paid.

David "SirFozzie" Yellope said...

Yup, first day, not first round (rumor has it it'll be the 2nd Round Pick).

I think that's fair, and deserved because it's so gosh darn STUPID of the Pats to do it so blatantly after being warned

David "SirFozzie" Yellope said...

ESPN's John Clayton says it's a 2nd rounder... that Goodell was thinking about a first rounder, but the NFLPA objected due to it depressing the player pool.

That's weak reasoning, but I guess if they messed too much with the draft, the NFLPA could take it to the arbitrator and draw it out, and that's the LAST thing the NFL wants.

The heroin sheik said...

Maybe Delmon had a chance at that catching that homer but you forget we are a dome team and we are not that used to crazy wind like you get in Boston or Chicago. Most reports I have read said that he had no chance at that ball because of the wind. Who knows. It is just disappointing that the Rays lost a chance to win their first series at Fenway since 99. Even though we lost we still looked pretty good as we are leading the bigs in hitting, slugging, runs and hr's over the last 20 odd games.

PatriotsNation said...

NEW YORK -- New England coach Bill Belichick was fined the NFL maximum of $500,000 Thursday and the Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000 for videotaping an opponent's offensive and defensive signals.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also ordered the team to give up next year's first-round draft choice if it reaches the playoffs and second- and third-round picks if it doesn't.

"This episode represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid longstanding rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field," Goodell said in a letter to the Patriots.

David "SirFozzie" Yellope said...

which means they'll give up a bottom 8 pick, likely and still have a middle of the road 49ers pick.. or two middle of the road first round picks and no 2nd or 3rd rounders. Interesting.

The heroin sheik said...

Anyone see how the Cowboys are now ranked as the most valuable pro sports team in the world. That doesn't surprise me as much as the fact that the Bucs are number 12 at 921 million. Combine that with the 1.45 billion that Manchester United is worth and you have an owner who owns almost 2.5 billion in professional sports franchises. That fucker Malcolm Glazer got the taxpayers to put up money for a new practice facility for the Bucs last year. Think about it, he bought the team for like 192 million in 95 and now they have quadrupled in value. That is mind boggling if you ask me.

Glazer might be greedy but he does give his teams for the most part a decent chance to win. He has shelled out tons of cash for ManYoo and they won the league last year and look like a favorite to win again. They will probably also contend for multiple tournament trophies this year as well.

The problem with the Bucs is that unlike in the Premier League where there is no salary cap he can only spend so much money on overpriced veterans to make Chucky happy. I think it would be cool if Glazer bought a share of the Rays and spent some of those billions to bring another winner to the bay area. If they could win a WS they would be one of the elusive few cities to have won a title in every sport that have a team for. So far the Bucs, the ning, the Storm, the Rowdies have all won titles. The Bandits didn't but they only played three years. How many cities have had all their teams win titles?

Melbye said...

Lions over Vikes? You got some bad Motsa or something...

TheNaturalMevs said...

wow dan. risky picks. Taking the favorite in every game.

Cody said...

Patriots slapped on the wrist. A fist round pick if they make the playoff's, which they will, if not a 2nd and a 3rd. The Patriots have two fist round picks. If they lose thier pick, they still have the pick they acquired from the 49ers which will be a better pick. I'll add this to my list on why I despise the Pats

Jen said...

Good thing the Tribe's big 3 are starting this weekend against the Royals...they seem to have their number.

CycleDan said...

As a Jets fan, of course I hoped they would come down hard on the Pats. Goodall's decision was probably reasonable considering everything though. Losing a 1st round choice is a little more than just a slap on the wrist. The league is also stating they will come down much harder next time.

Interesting to see if this affects the Pats performance.

chitown italian said...

Cubs are in first.......woo hoo!

ToddTheJackass said...

I find this funny/ironic (from a Yahoo! Sports article):

More recently, the San Diego Chargers increased their security several years ago at a hill overlooking the practice field at the team facility during weeks when they played the Denver Broncos. Why? It turns out Broncos coach Mike Shanahan had been hiring spies to videotape the Chargers practices. The NFL had been aware of it for several years (at least one NFL official had seen one of the tapes), but didn't step in because it was considered a team issue.

Roger Goodell is mad with power. Belichick fucked up, and deserved to be punished, but Goodell and the NFL are still mad with power.

ToddTheJackass said...

Here is the Link to that Yahoo! Sports article I cited.

I've never denied that Belichick fucked up, nor that it wasn't completely stupid, and deserving of punishment.

But to look at the history and a BLATANT example where the NFL has recently overlooked nearly exactly the same thing is silly as well. What made this example stick out to me is that it's pretty much the exact same issue, and the Broncos were even caught with a tape. Why was this incident not at all punished while the Pats lose a first round draft pick? Clearly the competitive advantage is roughly the same right? It's not like steroids where it's apples and oranges. This is apples and apples here.

So long as the NFL tries to crack down on ALL this sort of stuff, and not just with the Pats, I'm fine with it.

The problem is that no one can be objective in this, because you either root for the Pats or hate them. So don't try and pretend you can be any more objective about this either. We all know if this happened with the Raiders or the Lions, no one would give a shit at all, since those teams are pretty much irrelevant.

Eric said...

The punishment seems harsh if anything. Maybe Belichick should be suspended for a game or 2, but really, forfeit? Should the Chargers forfeit any game that Merriman was involved in in 2005 because he tested positive for steroids?

They cheated, they got caught, they lose draft picks (that's significant deal, since that's how teams get cheap talent), again maybe fining them $1-2 million against the salary cap would have been an interesting solution also. The jets were still the much worse team.

As for the notion that the Pats got into trouble because they were the Pats, also ridiculous. The Pats blatantly snubbed their nose at a rule that Goodell specifically told teams about this year, and other teams around the league knew about the video taping to the point that the Colts banned all video cameras from the sidelines at the AFC championship game last yr.

As far as I'm concerned the punishment fit the crime, I probably would have done about a 2nd rd pick and a 2 game suspension, but I don't think this is a huge difference.

ToddTheJackass said...

I agree Eric that it's not because they were the Pats that they got punished, but what I'm saying is that because it was the Pats there was all the outrage that necessitated a harsh penalty.

Do you think Goodell would've come down as hard on the Raiders, considering that there likely would've been hardly any outrage then?

I thought a fine, a loss of a 2nd/3rd round pick, plus a suspension for the next Jets game for Belichick would've been fair. This isn't too far off I suppose.

Eric said...

I think the outrage stems from every reporter talking about how much a genius Belichick is, and everyone talking about how much of a model franchise the Pats are... It's been pretty much rammed down the sports world that the Pats franchise is what every American franchise should strive for.

To hear that they've been cheating so rampantly puts a damper on all of that.

I don't think the video taping was as big as media made it out to be,
but it was obviously for in-game adjustments, after all, there's no reason to record a Packers Vs. Pats game for post game adjustments since the Pats won't be seeing them for another 4 years anyhow.

The other big difference between the Shanahan thing and this, is that Goodell specifically said he was coming down on teams for this exact infraction during the summer. That's just Belichick saying, "Fuck you. I don't think you have the balls to do something." Belichick basically dared the NFL to catch him int he act.

Ehh... It's been overanalyzed to death. It's not the reason the Pats beat the Jets, that's for sure, it's not the reason the Pats won 3 Super Bowls (Though, you could argue there's at least a hint of chance it had to do with how the Pats completely stopped the Rams in 2001 - Though I have a tendency to believe Martz being an arrogant idiot had more to do with it...

Poor Trailblazers.

Management said...

Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...



THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis
Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)



SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2
Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Spaceman Spiff said...

Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.
Before we get to the Week 2 picks, let's bang out a mini-mailbag of NFL-related e-mails from the past five days. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:

Q: What were your thoughts on the penalty Roger Goodell handed to the Patriots?
-- Justin K., Indiana

SG: Just so you know, that's a condensed version of the e-mail; in the unabridged version, there were multiple swear words and Justin compared me to one of three major orifices. Anyway, I thought the penalty was slightly excessive but fair. I was hoping they'd lose a second-rounder, but whatever. They cheated, they were warned, they kept cheating, they got caught, they paid the price. (And a steep price at that.)

I did think The Turncoat (aka Eric Mangini) should have been fined for blowing the whistle on Belichick and then inexplicably shaking his hand afterward. Stick to your guns, Mr. Mangineous. If you're going to sell out your old boss during the game, what better way to show your disgust than eschewing the postgame handshake and just walking off the field? What's the point of shaking hands? Hey, great game, congrats on the win. ... By the way, I ratted you out in the first quarter, sorry about that. My dad was more outraged about that two-faced move than anything since the Doc Rivers extension.

That reminds me, everyone's talking about the other teams and implying they were the victims. What about Pats fans? How did we deserve this? Our favorite team cheated, we lost a No. 1 pick, our coach pulled the football version of the Watergate break-in, our entire mini-dynasty has been tainted according to the outside world. ... Seriously, what did we ever do other than support a perpetually crappy franchise with a bad stadium for years and years and years? Do you think we wanted any of this to happen? All week, I almost felt like I did something wrong just because I rooted for these guys. Well, no more. Call them cheaters, call them villains, call them the evil empire, but it's still my team. You can't disown your team just because it does something sleazy, just like you can't disown a close family member for doing something sleazy. Your team is your team. I hate what happened, I think it has been terribly overblown, we paid the price, and we're moving on. At least until Belichick's version of the 17-minute missing Nixon tape is released.

Q: I appreciate the kind words in your NFL preview, but let me settle the matter once and for all: I am really, really bad.
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: Joey, I have to be honest: For the first time in 11 years, I'm thinking about abandoning my Annual Sleeper Pick before Week 2. We're giving you one more week. Please stop throwing touchdowns to the other team. No, really.

Q: Is Tom Brady the happiest man alive right now? Is this what the world would have been like if Barry Sanders had Emmit Smith's offensive line? What would be the real life equivalent of something like this happening?
-- Jody, Omaha, Neb.

SG: Brady was the happiest man alive for about 24 hours, until it was revealed that Dick Nixon had come back from the grave as his head coach. Now he's just giddy. Anyway, I could think of only a pop culture equivalent: Sandra Oh spent seven years working with Robert Wuhl on "Arli$$," then her next TV gig was a starring role on "Grey's Anatomy." Going from "Arli$$" to the most-watched drama on television has to be like going from Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney to Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte' Stallworth, right?

Q: When you and Sal do the Week 3 lines in your next podcast, please include the over/under for weeks before NBC scraps Keith Olbermann's painful "Worst Person in the NFL" segment. Since it's my idea, I'll make the over/under 5½ weeks.
-- Lenny, Montclair, N.J.

SG: I'll take the under! I'm going to miss that segment because it has been so enjoyable to see Tiki Barber smiling like Kevin Eubanks afterwards, and Bob Costas has been putting on a fake-laugh clinic for the ages. But it's not long for this world. Hey, speaking of NBC ...

THE WEEKLY POWER POLL
BRUCE COSLET DIVISION
32. Kansas City
31. Cleveland
30. Tampa Bay
29. Miami

THE COMATOSE SLEEPER
28. Atlanta

FIRED UP FOR 2008
27. Oakland
26. St. Louis
25. Arizona

LETDOWN TEAMS
24. NY Giants
23. NY Jets
22. Jacksonville

POTENTIALLY FRISKY
21. Buffalo
20. San Francisco
19. Minnesota
18. Washington

POSSIBLE SLEEPERS
17. Detroit
16. Houston

MILDLY INTRIGUING
15. Carolina
14. Tennessee
13. Green Bay

THE ENIGMAS
12. Philly
11. New Orleans

HALF-HEARTEDLY LURKING
10. Cincinnati
9. Dallas

HEADLESS HORSEMEN
8. Baltimore
7. Chicago

THE CONTENDERS
6. Denver
5. Pittsburgh
4. Seattle
3. San Diego

THE CHEATERS
2. New England

THE FAVORITE
1. Indianapolis

Q: Can you tell me why it is necessary for all the networks to have like 12-20 people on their pregame shows? Brent, Jimmy, Irv, and Phyllis were all we needed back in the day. I feel like NBC needs to take a census of who is in their studio each week.
-- Dan, Greenville, S.C.

SG: It's an interesting answer for two reasons. First, NBC could have done a show with Costas, Cris Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing and everyone would have been happy as long as the show was built around Collinsworth (who's great). But here's where my time-proven Job Justification Conundrum comes in. You know how everyone always wonders why networks make so many bad decisions and ignore common sense so often? Well, the problem is every network has too many executives, and when you have a lot of executives, you have a lot of meetings, and if you have a lot of meetings, those same executives feel obligated to come up with ideas for those meetings just because they don't want the head boss to say, "Gee, that was weird, Bob didn't come up with a single idea in today's meeting."

That leads to people feeling obligated to throw out bad ideas because a bad idea is better than not having ideas at all. And there are times when everyone in the room talks themselves into a bad idea -- mainly because they couldn't think of any other ideas -- and once the bad idea springs into motion, everyone starts working on it and eventually talks themselves into the idea. Again, this never would have happened if one of the execs didn't feel obligated to justify his job by coming up with an idea he didn't like. And that's how situations like "Let's do a pregame show with six people when everyone just wants to see highlights and would be fine with Costas, Collinsworth and the Token Former Player Who Has Nothing Interesting To Say And Just Does A Lot Of Laughing" end up happening.

Second, when people have a ton of money to spend, and it's not their money, they're always going to end up spending it ... even if they're spending that money like a drunken sailor at a strip joint. You could call this the J.D. Drew Corollary because that's what Theo Epstein did last winter. The Red Sox had money to spend, but the logical move would have been to hand right field to Wily Mo Pena for two or three months and see if he could handle it, and if he couldn't, either trade for a big-name outfielder (of the Bobby Abreu/Jermaine Dye class) or a veteran stopgap (of the Kenny Lofton/Dave Dellucci class) or hope Jacoby Ellsbury had progressed enough in the minors to step in. Considering they valued Pena highly enough to trade Bronson Arroyo for him, and they had Ellsbury rated as highly as Dustin Pedroia, this seemed like a logical course of action. Instead, they splurged on J.D. Drew. Why? Because they had the money to spend. It was burning a hole in their collective pocket. So they made a $70 million black-or-white roulette wager on Drew, killed Pena's confidence to the point they had to give him away, and now Ellsbury is thriving and we're facing a situation in which Drew might sit for him in the playoffs. Fantastic.

Here's the point: When networks and sports teams have money to spend, they spend it. NBC gets the Sunday night games, they're excited about it, the head of the company says, "Pull out all the stops, let's have a great night of TV, money is no object!" And that's what leads to a six-man pregame show and a wildly expensive Madden-Michaels team when they could have hired Marv and Boomer for one-third of the price. .

Q: Doesn't anybody learn! According to ESPN.com: "During the buildup to the game, (Steve Smith) accused (D'Angelo) Hill of bragging to DeAngelo Williams about 'shutting me down.'" And then he destroyed them. Should Vegas draw up new lines for any game involving Steve Smith ... one with and one without trash talk?
-- Mark, Bethesda, Md.

SG: It's soooooo unfair. I went 7-7-2 last week because I made my picks Thursday night and didn't know about (A) Josh McCown starting for the Raiders, and (B) somebody waking the beast that is Steve Smith. I lose 20 wins a year picking Thursdays. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Q: Was it OK that I reacted like Joe Buck when the Jets fans applauded as a wounded Chad Pennington was replaced by Kellen Clemens?
-- JB, Seal Beach, Calif.

SG: It's funny, everyone from outside the East Coast was horrified by this, while everyone from Philly to Maine fully expected the reaction of the Jets fans to unfold exactly how it did. The Jets fans were who we thought they were. My favorite part was Pennington falling and getting up and falling again -- he looked like Trevor Berbick at the end of the Berbick-Tyson fight.

Q: Did you hear Troy Aikman's comment about Antonio Gates during the Chargers-Bears game?!? Aikman said he had known Gates was big, but when he saw him in person the night before the game he was surprised at how Gates was "big from the waist down." Holy. Freaking. Crap.
-- Anthony, Denver

SG: I keep picturing Troy looking like Colonel James when he met Dirk Diggler at Jack Horner's pool.

Q: Is any fan base in sports allowed to be mad at a player more right now than the Raiders fans are at Randy Moss?
-- Nate, Scottsdale, Ariz.

SG: Come on, the Raptors fans have a much stronger case against Vince Carter. We've always known Moss is a front-runner, someone who plays hard for good teams and mails it in for bad teams. When the Raiders teamed him up with the likes of Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Norv Turner and Art Shell, it was like watching a family rescuing a pit bull from the pound when they have four young kids. When the pit bull mauls one of the kids (or in this case, the four guys above), should you blame the pit bull or the parents who were dumb enough to adopt him?

Vince's situation bothers me more because he signed a max contract to be a franchise player, then decided that it wasn't his responsibility to carry that franchise anymore, accepted the checks every week and tanked until he was traded for 30 cents on the dollar. It was never clear what the Raptors or their fans did to him -- he just wanted to leave. In Moss' case, he stopped giving a crap because of the quality of his team, and then he walked away from a ton of money to prove himself with a one-year deal in New England. You have to give him a little credit there, right? I don't remember Vince leaving money on the table.

Q: Isn't about time that we have a commercial featuring Peyton Manning belting out "This is Ooouuurr Coouuunnntry"???
-- Ryan Snyder, San Diego

SG: It's really the last logical step. Speaking of commercials, thanks to Genesis for licensing "Turn It On" for a GMC Truck commercial. That was one of the few songs from that era that still held up. Now it makes me think of trucks. Couldn't they have given GMC "Sussudio?"

Q: I'm so sick and tired of poor commentating. During the reply of Kevin Everett's injury, Randy Cross stated Everett was showing "perfect form" for a "form tackle." No, actually he dipped his head which is the biggest no-no for any football player. Hey Randy, thanks for steering millions of young kids the wrong way. Also, he said Everett had probably tackled another player a "million times." Really? From the tight end position?
-- Keith W., Highlands Ranch, CO

SG: See, I didn't notice any of these things because I was too busy feeling disoriented by Gus Johnson's downshifting 125 gears into super-duper-somber mode. Since we're here, how great is it that Everett probably will walk again? We spent way too much time this week talking about a seedy story (the Patriots' spying) and not enough time talking about the Kevin Everett Miracle. That's the greatest football story of 2007, narrowly edging when Dwayne Bowe and Bobby Sippio somehow realized they were cousins during "Hard Knocks."

Q: I was who you thought I was! OK! ALL RIGHT! I was who you thought I was! If you want to crown my ass, then crown it! But I was who you thought I was!
-- Joey Harrington, Atlanta

SG: As you can see, we set a record this weekend for "most e-mails from readers pretending to be another person."

Q: Enjoy it, Bill. Before you know it, Moss will be lifting weights on his front lawn and answering questions about when he is going to play again ... then he will challenge Tom Brady to a fight, and then he will get body slammed by Hugh Douglas ... OOOOH WAIT!! That type of nonsense only happens in Philadephia. Kill me!
-- Ed O., Philly

SG: Should we start clandestinely putting Prozac in the tap water for the greater Philly area? Would that help?

Q: Don't feel too comfortable with the Moss Era. Remember, in '05, Moss's first game for the Raiders, he blew past your boys, too. Moss is (a) as brittle as an 80-year-old women with osteoperosis, (2) as moody as a 50-year-old woman in menopause and (d) as devoted as a Christina Ricci's character in "Black Snake Moan." So he encompasses all ages of womanhood. Brady might be a "leader", but so was Cris Carter, Art Shell, Warren Sapp, etc., and they couldn't keep him in check. Prediction: Moss will be on IR by Week 8, and you guys will still compete with Brady throwing to your shady sideline camera men as receivers. And the country will still hate all-things annoying and Boston.
-- Nema, San Fran

SG: Believe me, I will never be comfortable with Moss. My guard couldn't be more up. By the way, I loved the fact that Nema used "a," "2" and "d" as the headers for his three reasons. Nobody ever said my readers were brain surgeons.

Q: Thanks for getting my hopes up on the Falcons. I just saw Joey Harrington play like Joey Harrington and I was actually disappointed. I feel dirty.
-- Colin S., Vancouver

SG: (Shaking my head sadly.)

Q: As soon as Tiki heard Brandon Jacobs went down, did you notice he couldn't hide the look on his face that said, "Good, This couldn't have worked out any better for me and my career?" You know he loved every time The Bus jokingly told him the Giants would be blowing up his cell, pleading for his return. You could see Tiki imagining Coughlin drunk-dialing him after his third loss in Week 3, then hanging up on him. This really had to be the best night of his life.
-- Jordan G, Buffalo

SG: I was thinking the same thing. Imagine the fantasy implications if the Giants called Tiki and said, "Come back, we'll fire Coughlin, you could pick your head coach for Week 2," so Tiki said "Screw it!" and came back ... and then, the dummy who picked the worst team in your fantasy league and earned himself the No. 1 pick for the post-Week 1 waiver wire suddenly landed Tiki Barber on his team? That would have led to fisticuffs all over the country. We really need the auction format for all free-agent pickups -- $100 for the year, spend it however you want. For instance, the Meat Curtains (my East Coast roto team) stunk the joint out in Week 1, not because I picked a bad roster, but because Frank Gore, Lee Evans, Marques Colston and Alex Smith (we start 2 QBs) had terrible weeks. What was my reward? Getting Chris Brown as the No. 1 waiver wire pick. I don't even feel good about it. There's something inherently wrong with a system that penalizes owners for doing a good job and rewards owners for doing a bad job. In fact, I'm going to waive Chris Brown right now. I don't deserve him.

(Note: I'm not waiving Brown. I'm starting him this week. I just wanted to get everyone in my league excited for a second.)

Q: "Did you see that the Boston Herald finally provided confirmation that Tom Brady is a sports bigamist. Check out this section: "Tom Brady has finally explained his annoying penchant for wearing a Yankees hat. The New England Patriots QB/QT tells VMan maggie that he roots for both the Red Sox and the Evil Empire. 'I love baseball. I love sports. I guess you can't root for both teams, but what can I say? I like them both.'"

SG: Just when I thought this Patriots season couldn't get any more depressing. Brady gives that quote and gives an interview to Rick Reilly in the same week? He should have just Fed Exed me a turd sandwich.

Q: While Takeo Spikes is a good linebacker, did you ever notice his team sucks wherever he goes? He played in Cincy for five years -- they maxed out at six wins and went 2-14 in his final season. After he left in 2002, they went 8-8 and haven't had a losing season since. Meanwhile, the '02 Bills were ready to become a player in the AFC East. With Spikes, they went 6-10 in '03 and finished third in the division for four straight years. In 2007, he moved to Philly, a playoff contender who lost to a washed-up Favre in Week 1. His old Bills team lost a crushing game to Denver but looked legit for the first time in four years. I'd be willing to bet the Bills have a better season than the Eagles, based solely on the Takeo Spikes Theory.
-- Kyle W, Bellevue

SG: I'm not willing to say that Spikes is the new Ted McGinley ... but you're right, we're getting pretty damned close. If the '07 Eagles miss the playoffs, that would make a solid decade without a playoff appearance for Spikes. Speaking of McGinley, I hope you all read the superb oral history of the "Love Boat" in Entertainment Weekly last week, highlighted by an ABC exec describing the McGinley hiring by saying, "He was a junior Bob Redford in his day." That killed me. Also, I think Robert Redford just killed himself.

Q: I bet Belichick is the type of guy who peeks at your controller as you're selecting a play in Madden.
-- Mike T., Fairport N.Y.

SG: How dare you! Now that's just uncalled for! By the way, Belichick doesn't play video games -- it's too difficult to hold the controller while he's wearing his five Super Bowl rings.

Q: How much money do you think Art Shell got for selling the "Art Shell Face" to Romeo Crennel?
--Matt M., Pittsburgh

SG: Come on, Shell didn't sell it to Romeo -- he handed the Face down like a legacy key. Next year, after Romeo gets canned, he has to give it to Andy Reid.

Q: I hate Nixon because of Watergate -- not because he did something stupid or illegal, but because every time somebody does something stupid or illegal now, "Gate" gets tacked onto the end of it. The Patriots are the latest example with "CameraGate." Everything bad ends with "Gate." I hate it. What if Nixon's burglars had broken into the Ritz Carlton? Would it have been "CameraCarlton" this week? Or "CameraRitz?" I don't think so. The expiration on tacking Gate onto the end of everything expired 20 years ago. I suggest you start a new naming convention for these kinds of stupidities and illegalities.
-- Pat P., Dallas

SG: Not until there's a huge scandal at Colgate University. We need a ColgateGate.

Q: In reference to CameraGate, what's your best guess as to how long this story is gonna play? I mean, how long do we have to wait for the rest of the NFL to deal with it? To quote Dirty Dancing, "This is not a tragedy. A tragedy is three men trapped in a mine, or police dogs used in Birmingham." Or more topically, tragedy is a career-ending neck injury. Can we get a little perspective here?
-- Carrie, Bloomington, Ind.

SG: Hear hear. Although any time a reader quotes "Dirty Dancing" effectively and topically in my Friday NFL column, you know it's time to wrap things up and get to the Week 1 picks.

(Home teams in Caps)

SPORTS GAL'S RANT
Right now, I'm eight and a half months pregnant and have a giant bowling ball in my stomach. I can't sleep and I pee every hour on the hour. Every time I lay down, I feel like someone's kicking field goals inside me. My daughter constantly wants me to hold her even though I can't hold a bag of groceries at this point. I'm always 20 degrees hotter than everyone else, but Bill lowers the air conditioning every time I'm not looking so I call him the Air Conditioning Nazi. I'm very emotional and can't watch any movie where a dog gets killed or someone might die of cancer because I don't want the water works to start flowing. If I seem especially mean in these rants over the next few weeks, don't blame me -- blame God for deciding that it would be a good idea for women to have babies and men to watch football every Sunday. I wish Bill was carrying this kid and I could go over to a friend's house to watch TV for eight straight hours under the flimsy excuse that "it's my job." Yeah, it was also your job not to knock me up in time for football season.

Just know that I'm extremely concerned. Our second baby is due right between Game 7 of the World Series and the start of the NBA season, and during the middle of football season as well. Bill claims this won't be a major problem. Ohhhhhh-kay. I keep having this nightmare that I'll be in labor in agonizing pain, but every time I look up for support from Bill, he'll be pretending to care while he's really trying to figure out how to get split-screen on the 13-inch hospital TV. If that happens, I will be the first pregnant woman to file for divorce at the same time they're administering the epidural. The other problem is that we can't decide on a name. We're having a son and Bill thinks we should name it after him because he's a third and the kid would be a fourth. I love the logic of that one -- sure, let me carry the kid for 10 months, and then we'll name it after you. That's an awesome idea. Even when he jokes that we should name him D'Bill or LaBill so he'll be a good athlete, it makes me mad. Everything makes me mad right now. Did I mention that I'm eight and a half months pregnant?

I refuse to discuss names any more, I want to see Bill's performance in the final days of the pregnancy first. If he's watching sports every spare second and saying things like, "Why did you have to go into labor during Game 6 of the World Series, what were you thinking?", then I'm naming this kid Peyton Manning Simmons and that will be that. Anyway, I'm sorry this week's rant isn't about Britney throwing her career down the toilet, but I had to get that off my swollen chest. Now I have to go pee again. Here are my Week 2 picks:

Falcons +10.5, Pitt -9.5, Browns +6.5, Texans +6.5, Tenn +6.5, NO -3, SF +3, Miami +3.5, Minn +3, Zona +2.5, KC +12, Ravens -10, Oak +9.5, Pats -3, Wash +7.

Last week: 9-5-2
Season: 9-5-2

Falcons (+10) over JAGS
If the Falcons betray me in Week 2, I'm blowing up the Sleeper Bandwagon and jumping onto the Texans or Lions. By the way, wearing a suit on the sidelines seems like a great idea until your defense is giving up 286 rushing yards to the Titans and everyone is waiting for you to break out a Coach briefcase or flip over a rack of Burberry overcoats. Put a Jags warmup jacket on, Jack. Just trust me.

Bills (+10) over STEELERS
I still want to know why, on third-in-5 with 2:43 left and a two-point lead, anyone would think it's a good idea to have J.P. Losman throw a 60-yard pass downfield. Even if Lee Evans was open, what were the odds J-Loss was connecting on that pass? Four to one? Seven to one? They desperately needed the VP of Common Sense Coordinator to jump in and say, "Wait, are you guys crazy? He's J.P. Losman! Let's run the ball and chew up 40 seconds!" They should be 1-0 right now.

(Random note: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau turned 70 last weekend. His players gave him a gold watch. I feel like you need to know these things.)

Bengals (-7) over BROWNS
During last week's Steelers-Browns debacle, they showed a replay in which Derek Anderson threw a pass, and even as the ball was leaving his hand, his shoulders were already starting to slump because he knew was winging the ball over his receiver's head. This actually happened. In a related story, he's starting for the Browns this week. I'm laying the touchdown.

Packers (+1.5) over GIANTS
Sadly, we've reached the point where Chris Berman feels obligated to fawn over Favre highlights even when it's just Favre getting pulled down and flipping a shovel pass to a teammate for a four-yard gain. Pretty soon, they'll be showing highlights of Favre successfully catching a shotgun snap.

TITANS (+7) over Colts
You know that new Peyton Manning commercial in which he's in a hotel hallway looking for a receiver, and Jason Taylor's rushing toward him, and Marvin Harrison is trapped in a fish tank being covered by real dolphins, and you keep waiting for see the little twin girls from "The Shining" covered in blood (only they never show them)? How high do you need to be to understand what's happening in that ad? Do you need to smoke the weed that they give to cancer patients, or should you just smoke heroin to be safe? By the way, I'm extremely excited for this game.

Texans (+6.5) over PANTHERS
It's going to kill me if the Texans emerge as the 2007 Sleeper and I didn't pick them just because I stumbled across a Houston Chronicle article and their coach and GM didn't seem confident enough about the season. I'm an idiot. Meanwhile, it's time for this week's Gambling PSA: Kids, don't ever throw the Panthers into a two-team tease. You might get your little legs broken.

(Random Panthers note: According to Dmitry in Washington, "Since 2002, the Panthers are 22-26 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. Also, the Seahawks are 25-23 in even years and 23-10 in odd years. I'm not saying you should throw logic out the window when picking games this year, but err on the side of Carolina and Seattle doing well. Remember how the Panthers befuddled you in '05? Don't let that happen again." That's fine. I'm still taking Houston. Let's hope Dunta Robinson doesn't make eye contact with Steve Smith before the game. )

BUCS (+3) over Saints
I can see it now: The obligatory "What's wrong with the Saints?" article two weeks from now in Sports Illustrated, in the middle of a 40-page stretch of articles with no ads. On the bright side, you can now fold SI into four sections and fit it comfortably into your wallet like a credit card.

Niners (+3) over RAMS
We learned our lesson last year: When Orlando Pace goes down, so do the Rams. Hey, is there a reason why the Rams always look like the players just met the coaches for the first time about 20 minutes before each game? We always forget to include Scott Linehan in the running "Worst Head Coach" conversation. Did you know he never worked as a head coach at any level before getting the Rams job? Jeez, even Eric Mangini coached the Tattletale Finks in Pop Warner for two years.

Cowboys (-3.5) over DOLPHINS
Perfect matchup for Dallas: You beat them by throwing on them, only Miami can't throw the ball. Sometimes it's that easy. By the way, the Guy Who Knows Things weighs in on his favorite part of Sunday's night Giants-Cowboys game: "I loved when they showed Jerry (Jones) in the box, the guy sitting behind him has the head phones on listening to the coaches' calls. When they got busted, the next time, the guy didn't have the phones on. So funny." Ladies and gentleman, the Jerry Jones Era!

(Fascinating quote from Cam Cameron after the Skins loss: "In this business, the ball bounces funny. Sometimes, the difference between a great year and an average year is strictly on how the thing bounces." I actually mulled this one over for a few minutes before realizing, "What, that's the kind of thing someone says when their team sucks.")

LIONS (-3) over Vikings
Everyone who drafted Adrian Peterson feels like a genius right now. I got him in my West Coast league at No. 60 and spent the last few days strutting around L.A. like I had just cashed in Google stock options at $43 a share. With that said ... (hold on, this is a doozy) ... I kinda like this Lions team. Team up two weapons like Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (a freakish cross between T.O. and Shawn Marion), throw Mike Furrey, Shawn McDonald and Tatum Bell out there with them, and suddenly they're terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the other team. (Even if gambling isn't legal, you have to believe me on this.) Of course, they're also terrifying when Kitna drops back to pass if you've wagered on the Lions. But something's happening here. That was a good Raiders defense they destroyed Sunday. For sleeper purposes, it's either Houston or Detroit this season.

BEARS (-12) over Chiefs
Wait, it's a good idea to keep blitzing Rex Grossman? Are we sure? The Chargers tried this and it seemed like they were onto something. Fortunately, Rex gets to play the worst team in football this week. If you had any doubt about a 45-3 result, click on this link.

Jets (+10) over RAVENS
On behalf of any sane fan who roots for the Patriots, please know that we didn't want the Kellen Clemens Era to start this early and were mortified by the Mo Lewis/Bledsoe/Brady parallels while Pennington was staggering around like Berbick last week. We were hoping that we wouldn't see Clemens until Week 11. The ceiling of the '07 Jets has been raised from eight wins to 10.

Seahawks (-2.5) over CARDS
If anyone can explain to me why you can still get 11/10 odds on the Seahawks to win the NFC West, I'd love to hear it. How do the Hawks NOT win that division? Did you watch that Niners-Cards crapfest Monday night? The Niners might be the most deceiving 1-0 team of all-time -- you couldn't have done less to win a game than they did against Arizona. Even the climactic TD drive was saved when the Arizona safety stupidly didn't knock the fumble out of the end zone ... which, of course, wasn't mentioned by anyone announcing the game. It would have been interesting to see how many mikes could have been crammed into that booth before one of them said, "Hey, why didn't he just slap that ball out of the end zone for a touchback?"

Raiders (+9.5) over BRONCOS
Jason Elam after last week's we-had-no-business-winning-that-game victory in Buffalo: "Jay Cutler, I mean, I've been involved in a lot comeback victories of John's over the years. And, man, I'm not sure anything compares to this." Take it easy, Champ. Maybe you oughta stop talkin' for awhile. By the way, if the Football Outsiders guys kept track of a "Times a receiver was almost killed leaping for a poorly thrown pass over the middle" stat, Javon Walker and Braylon Edwards would be leading the league after Week 1.

EAGLES (-7) over Redskins
Big game for Donovan McNabb, even bigger game for Andy Reid. And since I can't think of anything else to say, do you think Andy Roddick has ever thought about having Roger Federer killed? He's definitely thought about it a few times, right? Maybe after about 10 drinks, but he's definitely thought about it. You can't convince me otherwise.

PATRIOTS (-3) over Chargers
The one good thing about "CameraGate," the "Patriot Act," "Snaps, Lies and Videotape" or whatever you want to call it -- everyone had broken out the popsicles for this '07 Pats team, and now, they're back into "Us against the World" mode, especially now that all the anti-Belichick players, coaches and writers have been coming out of the closet.. (Although this whole thing would be much more entertaining if Belichick's head started to slowly increase in size like Barry Bonds' head did.) By the way, anyone says they aren't watching this game Sunday night is lying.

RED SOX (-130) over Yankees
I think we take two of three. I'm feeling it. Just know that they're not screaming "Boooooooooooooo," they're screaming "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwww!"

LAST WEEK: 7-7-2
SEASON: 7-7-2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his revamped "Sports Guy's World" site here.

Spaceman Spiff said...

The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon. The three-word e-mail came this morning from someone who knows things: "Oden -- microfracture surgery."

Greg Oden

Jeffrey Bottari/Getty Images

It looks like Blazers fans will have to wait until 2009 to see Greg Oden in a Portland uniform.

My three-word response: "Oh. My. God."

It's one of the saddest stories in recent NBA history, regardless of how it turns out down the road: Not just that Portland took the wrong guy last June, but that the same city may have been screwed over twice. There was Bowie-over-MJ, and now, there might be Oden-over-Durant.

The Blazers' fans don't deserve this. They don't deserve the "Bowie 2.0" jokes, and they don't deserve to endure a season of Kevin Durant knife-in-the-stomach highlights when he's averaging 25 points a game on a bad Seattle team. On a larger scale, the double whammy of Bowie/Oden brings back memories of the day Reggie Lewis dropped dead seven summers after Lenny Bias' coke overdose. Obviously it's not as tragic because nobody died, but there was that same "Oh God, not again ..." feeling upon hearing the news. I know that feeling all too well. As a sports fan, there's nothing worse.

It's not like this story came out of the blue. Heading into the draft, there were concerns about Oden's long-term physical health and the fact his legs were different sizes. After his predraft physical with Portland, rumors spread that the Blazers were concerned about his knees, followed by a round of stories that they weren't concerned at all. I believed at the time the Oden-Durant thing was so close, ANY potential physical concerns should have swung the choice to Durant; that's one of the reasons I kept writing last June that Durant should be Portland's pick. Everyone kept writing Oden was a sure thing; if anything, Durant was the sure thing. He has a chance to become one of the greatest offensive players ever. That's his ceiling. We've never seen anyone remotely like him. Throw in his competitiveness and flair for the dramatic and I probably wrote more words arguing Durant's case than anything I've ever written for ESPN.com. Even for the team Portland had, Durant was the logical pick -- the Blazers could have kept Zach Randolph and played Durant at small forward instead of stupidly giving Randolph away.

Kevin Durant

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

There should've been no debate in June: Kevin Durant was the sure thing in the 2007 draft.

From Portland's viewpoint, what worried me was Oden wasn't entirely a basketball decision. Clearly, his gregarious personality played a huge role -- the Blazers even said so -- and when he hammed it up at a local parade after the draft, you could see why they picked him. After the whole Jail Blazers debacle, they spent the next few years trying to upgrade the character of their team. Hence, the curious Martell Webster pick (sixth in the '05 draft???), the Brandon Roy/LaMarcus Aldridge picks (and the team shying away from Ty Thomas); the Randolph trade; Steve Francis' buyout and everything else. It's not like Durant is a bad guy -- he's actually a good guy, just shy and uncomfortable with the press -- but Oden's deadpan wit and constant smile off the court made him a more seductive pick for a franchise that was desperately trying to win back the citizens of Portland. Supposedly, they were also attracted to Oden because he's a loyal person who didn't care where he played, whereas Durant's motives were tougher to peg. In four years, if Durant evolved into a superstar and had the words of the wrong agent in his ear, would he bail on Portland to play for a big market? Could they take that chance?

So, Greg Oden was the "safe" pick.

Here's the irony of the whole thing: You know who would have won the good people of Portland back and gotten them excited about basketball again? A kick-ass superstar like Kevin Durant. That's why the Blazers should have taken the most talented player. And everything that happened after the draft helped Durant's case: Oden looked terrible in the summer league and dropped out of the Olympic tryouts because of exhaustion (a dubious reason for someone who's 19; we should have known right there). Meanwhile, Durant got better and better in summer league and knocked everyone's socks off during the Olympic tryouts, including a jaw-dropping performance in the Blue-White scrimmage on TV. Even before the story broke about Oden's surgery, I was 100 percent convinced Portland would regret passing on Durant. We'll see 20 more Odens before we see another Durant.

SILVER LINING?
Three things that might cheer up Blazers fan:

1. From what we know about microfracture surgery, it seems younger players can come back at 100 percent (such as Amare Stoudemire).

2. The Oden-less Blazers are headed for another top-five pick because they play in a tough conference; if Oden comes back healthy in 2009, they're going to be stacked.

3. Video Game Greg is still healthy on Portland's "NBA Live 2008" roster.

You could say "Those who ignore the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them," and you might be right. But throwing aside all the videotapes, predraft interviews and workouts and everything else, there's this: At the ESPYS two months ago, I helped write jokes for Jimmy Kimmel, whose dressing room was backstage at the Kodak Theater and right off a hallway where celebrities were ushered in and out before and after the show. So, I watched every single athlete walk by at some point, and I swear, if I hadn't taken this summer off to write a book, I would have written about this story in a blog or something.

Anyway, when you see basketball players dressed in normal clothes, it's mesmerizing to watch them walk for two reasons: They're always much bigger in person, but they move so effortlessly that it's always strangely discombobulating to watch them walk, like they belong to another species or something. For instance, we all know one or two exceptionally tall people who don't play sports -- they always move gingerly, and their posture usually isn't that good, and everything about them says, "I wish I wasn't this tall." The best athletes in the NBA don't carry themselves like this. They glide. Everything moves effortlessly as they walk, and it's impossible to fully explain unless you've seen it. Even someone like Shaq glides across the room like he's the size of Steve Nash. They don't move like normal tall people.

So, before and after the show, I was vigilantly watching everyone stroll by for one reason: I wanted to see Oden and Durant walking in normal clothes. It was like the final piece of the "Durant vs. Oden" puzzle for me. As it turned out, I got to see Durant first -- he shuffled down the hallway, all 81 inches of him, looking like he was put on Earth to play sports for a living. No big surprise there. Even the biggest nonsports fan on the planet could watch Durant walk for 35 feet and think, "That guy was born to play basketball." Now, I needed Oden. We didn't see him before the show, and I didn't see him right afterward. Just when I was about to give up, a friend of mine said, "Yo, Oden just walked by."

I scurried down the hallway to see him. Lo and behold, Oden was walking by himself down the last stretch of the hallway, about 50 feet in all, right before the exit to head outside.

Sam Bowie, 1985

Blazers fans don't need any more reminders of the 1984 draft.

And you know what? He walked like a 50-year-old man. His posture was screwed up. He had the Fred Sanford walk going. If you saw him from behind and just studied his walk, you would have thought it was a retired player, someone like Patrick Ewing or Robert Parish. I couldn't believe it. I didn't stop talking about it the rest of the night. Greg Oden walked like a guy who had bad knees. If I were Portland's GM and watched Oden walk across the room, that would have been it for me. The next day, I even called my buddy Sully (who works for the Celtics) just to have the obligatory, "Yo, we might have dodged a bullet May 22; Greg Oden walks like a 50-year-old man" conversation.

Now, you could argue this is the single dumbest thing I've ever written, and you might even be right. Just know I have spent the past two months telling that Oden/ESPYS story to everyone who brought up the Oden-Durant thing to me. Sometimes in life, you just know with these things. And yeah, there's a chance he was already favoring his knee at the ESPYS, or he hurt his knee during summer league. There's also a chance his body doesn't carry its weight correctly and puts unnecessary stress on his legs and joints. ... You know, the exact same problem Sam Bowie had.

I hope I'm wrong. Portland needs Greg Oden to be good. The NBA needs Greg Oden to be good. On a personal note, I was legitimately excited to watch him play. Now he's gone for the season, and any NBA fan who doesn't cringe at the phrase "microfracture surgery" is lying their ass off. Amare Stoudemire came back, so there's hope for Blazers fans. Just don't tell me Greg Oden was the safe pick of the 2007 NBA draft. Two months ago, I wrote Durant was "the surest thing to come into the league since Jordan. Barring injury, he's going to be the league's next dominant forward."

That's what the Portland Trail Blazers passed up June 28, 2007. I thought it would haunt them some day. ... I just didn't know it would haunt them so soon.

Spaceman Spiff said...

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