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Is the NBA Actually More Marketable Than the NFL?

Plus: a mega-mailbag and the Week 7 NFL picks

A photo collage of NFL players Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Today’s agenda: a mailbag-picks hybrid that ends almost as many times as that Chiefs-Raiders game Thursday night. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers. All picks are $550 wagers to win $500 (home teams in caps).

Q: On your podcast you said that the NBA is going to pass the NFL eventually, because NBA players are more likable and marketable. What year did this start occurring in your opinion?
—A. Fitzgerald, Boulder

BS: You know how the WWE tells fans not to try wrestling stunts at home? I’m about to pull a Dan Dierdorf and disagree with myself. (Remember, I’m an expert—do NOT try this at home.) Before, I believed that the NFL’s popularity was wobbling because the league couldn’t create as many stars as it once did.

How could we actually prove this? I hopped on Pro-Football-Reference, determined the biggest stars from the ’97 season, then found their 2017 doppelgängers from an admittedly ambiguous age/talent/career/respect/celebrity/resonance/charisma standpoint. Then, I determined which doppelgänger was, for lack of a better word, bigger. Only Deion Sanders and Cam Newton didn’t have true doppelgängers—I canceled them out as the Polarizing Freak Athlete for their respective generations. As for everyone else …

Tom Brady (’17) > John Elway (’97)
Brett Favre (’97) = Aaron Rodgers (’17)
Jerry Rice (’97) > Larry Fitzgerald (’17)
J.J. Watt (’17) > Reggie White (’97)
Rob Gronkowski (’17) > Shannon Sharpe (’97)
Dan Marino (’97) > Drew Brees (’17)
Russell Wilson (’17) > Steve Young (’97)
Troy Aikman (’97) = Eli Manning (’17)
Odell Beckham Jr. (’17) > Michael Irvin (’97)
Barry Sanders (’97) > Le’Veon Bell (’17)
Junior Seau (’97) > Luke Kuechly (’17)
Antonio Brown/Julio Jones (’17) > Cris Carter/Tim Brown (’97)
Terrell Davis/Emmitt Smith (’97) = Ezekiel Elliott/Adrian Peterson (’17)
Matt Ryan (’17) > Drew Bledsoe (’97)
Von Miller (’17) > John Randle (’97)
Matthew Stafford/Ben Roethlisberger (’17) > Jeff George/Warren Moon (’97)
Ndamukong Suh (’17) > Bruce Smith (’97)

That’s it for FAMOUS football players. After that, you’re looking at matchups like this …

Leonard Fournette/Todd Gurley (’17) = Eddie George/Curtis Martin (’97)
Khalil Mack/Aaron Donald (’17) = Derrick Brooks/Kevin Greene (’97)
Carson Wentz/Deshaun Watson (’17) > Kordell Stewart/Mark Brunell (’97)
Kareem Hunt/Tyreek Hill (’17) = Marshall Faulk/Terry Glenn (’97)
Warren Sapp/Michael Strahan (’97) > Geno Atkins/Myles Garrett (’17)

… and it starts getting silly.

But guess what. I was wrong! 2017’s stars more than held their own against 1997’s stars. There goes that theory. What about hoops? The NBA is more popular today, right? Our 2017 guys would win 80 percent of the matchups, right?

2017: LeBron, Curry, Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Giannis, Kawhi, CP3, Griffin, The Brow, Draymond, Dirk, Klay, Giannis, Kyrie, Wall, Carmelo, Thomas, Love, Embiid, Lillard, Gasol, Hayward, Boogie, Towns, Porzingis, Lonzo, Simmons.

1997: Jordan, Shaq, Iverson, Malone, Barkley, Hakeem, Robinson, Garnett, Kemp, Duncan, Penny, Hill, C-Webb, Ewing, Payton, Miller, Mourning, Hardaway, Kidd, Stockton, Sprewell, Mutombo, Rice, Richmond, Baker, Young Kobe.

Oh shit! Not only were NBA players just as famous and marketable 20 years ago, but Jordan doubled as the biggest basketball star we’ve ever had.

So, what’s really going on here? Two things …

1. We don’t like football as much because of concussions, greed, Goodell, oversaturation, the gratuitous violence, all the unseemly off-field stuff and everything else I covered in this piece. In 1997, we didn’t cringe when receivers had their clocks cleaned over the middle, or when quarterbacks got annihilated by a weakside blitz and had to be revived with smelling salts. We enjoyed that stuff. That was football, baby! We didn’t feel even remotely guilty about it. The star power didn’t change; we changed.

True story: The Madden NFL ’96 video game arrived with a then-hilarious wrinkle. Whenever a player got injured, you heard a crunch followed by Pat Summerall saying, “Oh no, there’s a man down.” Eventually, anyone playing realized that you could maim players after the whistle, which led to more hilarity, real-life arguments (“How could you do that, you dick????!”) and actual truces between two buddies agreeing NOT to maim players after the whistle. This really happened. I swear to God. Here, look.

We treated NFL players like circus animals in 1997. Feed us violence and mayhem and some football, too. We didn’t care about those guys any more than we cared about stuntmen and coal miners. Back then, the NFL never worried about marketing its stars because the league never had to worry about pushing anything other than helmets, collisions, spirals and freak athletes. As long as it always had a few marquee franchises and marquee players, the machine did the rest.

2. We like basketball more than we did in 1997, for all the reasons covered in this space before: social media made the players more accessible; rule changes made the product more consistently entertaining; YouTube and Twitter allowed us to consume specific plays in easily digestible bites; and the people covering the sport itself went from a bunch of older, out-of-touch white guys to a younger, more diverse group that actually consumed it.

In 1997, Iverson was treated by the media (and even a certain generation of fans) like a menacing, uncontrollable force. In 2017? He’d be a god right away. My God, can you imagine a 21-year-old Iverson now? During the Twitter era? Check out this email from Rez in Sacramento …

“It's October 18 with a full slate of MLB playoff games and another NFL weekend coming, yet it feels like the world is watching the NBA. Boston fans are on suicide watch, Kings fans are screaming the refs screwed them, Giannis is having a statement game, my dad is texting me Thibs is overrated, my girlfriend is arguing Bobby Portis wasn't suspended long enough ... IT'S OCTOBER 18TH!!!! The only people who are supposed to be watching NBA games right now are Zach Lowe and youth groups who scored cheap tickets. No seriously, that's the list. Am I crazy??? This idea of NBA dominance is so delightful my brain won't accept it as possible.”

Until this decade, when did anyone ever treat the preseason, summer league, Opening Night and July 1 like these were monumental events? It’s unbelievable. Did you ever think you’d care about LeBron James’s shirtless workout videos or Russell Westbrook’s passive-aggressive Instagram photos? It never ends. NBA stars stumbled into a way of connecting with fans—during the season, during games, and even during the offseason—that stars from the No Fun League simply can’t replicate.

Football isn’t dying by any means; the ratings and attendance and merchandising money tell us as much. But culturally? NBA careers last twice as long and the league’s stars shine a little more brightly. That’s where we are in 2017. Look at this …

How does Roger Goodell not get fired yesterday? He’s grown the league so poorly that the NFL’s signature video game was forced to use NBA STARS to seem a little more hip! What? The NFL rigged this league to operate a certain way, and when things flipped on it six to seven years ago, it didn’t know what to do. And still doesn’t. But by all means, let’s give Roger Goodell a five-year extension.

Q: The NFL might be struggling for viable stars this season but isn't the real star crisis over on The Challenge? Outside of Bananas, CT, Cara, and Camila (assuming she's invited back), there aren't any up-and-coming stars to take the mantle. Does this have to do with the erosion of MTV's minor league system? Should they start pulling from American Ninja Warrior or open it up to fans? How would you fix The Challenge?
—Chauncey, Saugus, Calif.

BS: YOU BITE YOUR TONGUE! THE CHALLENGE IS FINE! Not only was the “Dirty 30” our best season in years, but we’re sitting pretty with star power. Bananas and CT are Rodgers and Brady. Tony is Gronk. The Camilanator is every polarizing suspended star combined. Cara Maria, Jenna and Kailee are all franchise players. And Leroy is like the Vikings—he’s always going to fall short for some dumb reason, but we respect him, anyway.

I will agree that the fall of The Real World has destroyed MTV’s minor league system. Nobody wants to watch 90 percent of those Are You the One? stars. Why wouldn’t the Challenge producers go outside the network and cherry-pick controversial contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette? Is that against the law? Is there a Fleiss–Bunim-Murray beef that I don’t know about?

CHARGERS (even) over Broncos

Q: Why don’t we refer to Philip Rivers as Octo-Dad?
—Dean, Juniper Hills, Calif.

BS: I can’t think of a single reason. I Googled “Rivers OctoDad” and nothing came up. That means after Phil Rivers had his eighth kid, we wasted two solid years when we could have been calling Phil Rivers “OctoDad.” Let’s do better. Seriously. Let’s make this our collective wake-up call.

Also, congrats to Dumbass Dean Spanos for pulling off the impossible: Every Chargers home game has “Everyone will be rooting for the road team” factored into the gambling spreads. Denver comes to town with Trevor Siemian nursing a sprained left shoulder and Brock Osweiler nursing a healthy right shoulder. I think the Chargers are better. This is the week they win a “home” game in their goofy soccer stadium and OctoDad hisses afterward, “We don’t need a home-field advantage, all we need is the 53 guys in this locker room!”

RAMS (-3.5) over Cardinals

The Rams (fourth in DVOA) hosting the Cardinals (26th in DVOA) and they’re laying less than four? When will America believe in the Rams? When? When? Meanwhile …

Q: Can we find Jared Goff a nickname?
—Tyler Goffi, Shamokin, Pa.

BS: Sure—what about J-Go? I’m not afraid of Jared Goff down four with two minutes left. You know who I’m afraid of? J-Go. Done! We’re on a roll with nicknames right now. Let’s keep it going.

Q: You said you have Austin Seferian-Jenkins on your fantasy team. Doesn’t it bug you that his name is too long? It has too many syllables and it sounds like a major medical issue.

“Did you hear about Stacy?”

“Yeah, it’s a real shame what happened—her father came down with Seferian-Jenkins syndrome.”

That guy needs a nickname. “ASJ” is stupid. I propose “The Syndrome.”
—Joe G., Philadelphia

BS: (Afraid to say anything.)

Q: You have so many fantastic gambling rules, but my favorite one is “Beware of the Eli Manning ‘F You’ game.” Sunday night’s Broncos game had all the makings of an all-time Eli FU—HOW could you fall for that again?
—Alec Keezer

BS: That Eli game didn’t even crack the top-six reasons I hate myself for my football performance this season.

1. During the same season that doesn’t have any great teams and has underdogs covering at over a 60 percent clip (54-35-1 right now!), I kept riding big favorites in teasers/parlays like a dumb shithead. I know better. I KNOW BETTER. How am I so bad at this?

2. My wife read Tom Brady’s book and ordered a box of TB12 electrolytes last week, but I know our mailman thinks that I ordered it (and thinks less of me).

3. I jinxed the 2017 Patriots season with August’s “25 Greatest Patriots Wins of the Brady-Belichick Era” podcast, which almost immediately severed Julian Edelman’s ACL and ruined our defense. I also jinxed Younghoe Koo’s career by having him on The B.S. Podcast. Even worse, I think Ringer East Coast bureau chief Donnie Kwak holds the whole thing against me. It’s like the mailman—I can just tell.

4. I spent over a dozen emails trying (and succeeding) to pull off an Allen Hurns–Cooper Kupp fantasy trade. (I got Kupp. Does it matter?)

5. I lost money on Ben Roethlisberger (during his Cap Rooney–Dennis Quaid season), and on Aaron Rodgers (the game in which he broke his collarbone). I also lost money wagering against Jay Cutler (twice) and on Eli’s blatantly obvious “How dare you ever believe I’m going to follow a discernible pattern—FUCK YOU!” game. I suck. Everything changes this week. You watch.

6. I fell into such a gambling slump these past two weeks that I was forced to do this …

Falcons (+3.5) over PATRIOTS

Um ... the reprehensible Patriots D gave up 354 yards to Josh McCown, Jeremy Kerley, Robby Anderson, and the Syndrome last week. Now they’re stopping the Falcons? Even if the Falcons cover with a garbage-time TD near the end as the entire crowd is derisively chanting, “Twenty-eight to three! Twenty-eight to three!” I think they’re covering this one. I apologize but I need to bank some wins.

Q: On the heels of Al Michaels's “Harvey Weinstein/Giants” joke, followed by the ensuing apology within an hour, it made me wonder what are the Top 5 or Top 10 Sports “On-Air Comments Then Apologies” of recent memory? A few that come to mind are: Lee Corso's F-bomb, Matt Millen/Jaws Polish Comment, Brent Musburger oozing over Katherine Webb, and Bob Griese's Taco Apology.
—Ross M., San Francisco

BS: Let’s answer this next week. America, please, send me the best on-air apologies you remember to I’m always partial to ESPN apologizing at 12:30 a.m. (when just about everyone in Boston was asleep) for erroneously saying two different times that the Patriots illegally taped a St. Louis Rams walkthrough before Super Bowl XXXVI.

Q: In your 9/22 mailbag you wrote: “Bill Simmons is never changing his mind on these six things” and one was “Rocky 3 was the best Rocky movie.” And yet in 2002, you wrote a lengthy breakdown where you not only claimed that “the first Rocky was the finest of the bunch, no question” but went on to rank Rocky IV AHEAD of Rocky III for rewatchability. How can we ever trust you again? My children cried when they found out.
—Ben, Chicago

BS: Rocky III is the best Rocky movie. Rocky IV is the most rewatchable movie. Huge difference. By the way, now Sly Stallone is directing Creed 2? He’s 71 years old! He hasn’t directed a movie since The Expendables seven years ago! We’re going from Ryan Coogler to 71-year-old Sly? How do we stop this? Yet another reason we need a Sports Czar.

Q: On Monday I talked to my dad, who is a sportsbook manager at two of the Strip casinos in Vegas. Thanks to so many underdogs covering and/or winning outright, he said it’s their best six-week start to the NFL season (and the worst for bettors) in the 30 years that he’s been in the business. During the NFL season, the handle on betting football never goes down because football is so popular. It has gone down the last two weeks because customers/bettors are running out of money. Daily gambling degenerates are not coming in because they have been getting cleaned out. Thoughts?
—Kris in Las Vegas

BS: I thought this tweet explained everything.

We used to have very good teams, good teams, good bad teams, and bad teams. Now? We have a whole league of good bad teams. People started talking about New Orleans as a Super Bowl contender this week, only “contender” wasn’t even the right word—it’s more like “Super Bowl lingerer.” Yesterday, I tweeted this out before the Chiefs-Raiders game:

What happened? The Raiders won (and covered) on the fourth final play of the game. That’s right—FOUR final plays! No more parlays or teasers for this guy. I’m done.

Q: I literally just dropped Aaron Rodgers for Orleans Darkwa on my fantasy football team. Can we all agree to stop doing fantasy football? Thanks.
—Marc, Madison, Wis.

BS: If gambling is out, fantasy football is out and parity has completely destroyed the NFL to the point that nothing ever makes sense. … I mean, what the hell is left? Drugs? Should we start doing more drugs? I say we start betting against the Packers until everyone realizes that they built their entire franchise and offense around Aaron Rodgers and had no plan B. That reminds me …

Saints (-4) over PACKERS

Q: I can't wait for you to mispronounce/misspell Brent Hundley's name for the rest of the Packers season. Or is it Brett Hundley? Brent Hudley?
—Marc, Madison, Wis.

BS: It’s definitely Brett Hundley. [Checking Google.] Yes. It’s Brent Hundley. I mean, Brett Hundley. He’s also the dude in charge of saving Green Bay’s season, a problem because Green Bay clearly subscribes to the “We don’t care about paying our backup QB because if our QB goes down, we’re screwed anyway” theory. At The Ringer, we also subscribe to this theory: We’d have to shut down the site if editor-in-chief Sean Fennessey ever broke his collarbone coming out of an ArcLight screening or something. When I read the following quote from Hundley, I knew it might be time to load up against the Packers:

“We’re going to keep doing what we do best, and that’s playing this offense.”

No! No! That’s not what you do best! What you do best is say, “Hey, Aaron Rodgers, do Aaron Rodgers stuff.” He’s gone. You can’t play the same offense! This is one of many reasons Bill Belichick goes down as the GOAT—he’d never throw Brett Hundley or Brent Hundley in a Rodgers offense. He’d figure out whatever the hell Brett/Brent did well and focus on that.

But what is it? Hundley free-fell out of the first four rounds in 2015 and got picked after Sean Mannion, Garrett Grayson, and Bryce Petty. At the time, Daniel Jeremiah compared him to Jason Campbell, and a Bleacher Report piece about his polarizing draft stock includes the subhead, “Can Brett Hundley Be the Next Blake Bortles?” (I had to read it five times to figure out whether they were insulting him or not.) He looked overwhelmed last Sunday. Let’s make some money on Brent Hundley. Er, Brett Hundley.

Q: Where would Teddy Bridgewater returning from injury and leading the Vikings to their first Super Bowl victory rank in all-time sports stories? Especially with the Super Bowl being in Minneapolis this year?
—Wes Jackson, Louisville, Ky.

BS: I don’t mean to be a dick, but we’re talking about the Vikings—isn’t it more likely that the Packers miraculously sneak into the playoffs at 9-7, then Aaron Rodgers comes back for Round 1 and beats them in Minnesota, then wins the Super Bowl in Minnesota four weeks later?

Q: The Saints-Packers line moved 10 points with Aaron Rodgerss injury. Why isn’t this a good way to tell who the MVP is? Which players would cause the biggest line moves?—Eric, Denver

BS: You’re right — only Rodgers swings it by double digits. I’m fine with deciding the MVP this way. My old ESPN teammate Chad Millman once came up with a great “I wish I had thought of that!” idea called PSVAR (point spread value above replacement) that’s basically gambling VORP. Guess who had the highest number every year? Aaron Rodgers. Our PSVAR top five for this goofy 2017 season probably looks like this:

Rodgers: +10
Brees: +8
Brady: +7
Ryan: +7
Wentz: +7
Watson: +7

What’s the most amazing thing about that list? Deshaun Watson! Who knew? Oh, wait—everyone who valued character, college success, intangibles, calmness and leadership seemed to know. Well, other than them! One more PSVAR point: I’d argue that Blake Bortles has a negative PSVAR—doesn’t he bring Jacksonville’s line three points lower than it would be with any replacement starter?

Q: On a recent podcast, Sal mentioned how he bet on the Jags only to lose when he got “Bortled” as Bortles threw a terrible pick. Can that be the official word for losing any bet involving the Jags? Bortled?
—Bob, Indianapolis

Q: Has there ever been a better demonstration of Blake Bortles’s awfulness than the Jaguars beating Pittsburgh? During the decisive drive to open the fourth quarter the Jaguars literally did not pass the ball. Twelve straight runs. The best part? After the drive the announcers were saying “credit to Blake Bortles, managing the game, calling the right runs, and not turning the ball over.” Ladies and gentlemen, a stellar game from Blake Bortles!

BS: As you can tell, we had a two-way tie for the Blake Bortles Email of the Week this week.

Bengals (+5) over STEELERS
Washington (+5) over EAGLES

Both lines feel two points too high: Washington already lost to Philly once and can’t afford to get knocked out of the NFC East; meanwhile, Cincy battled back from the 0-3 abyss and knows Roethlisberger is Bortles with better PR at this point. The Steelers beat the Chiefs only because of Andy Reid and Ben’s hideous floater into double coverage that magically transformed into an Antonio Brown TD. Has Big Ben entered the Lucky Dad Golfer Stage where he’s going to be duck-hooking drives that careen off trees and land right in the fairway à la Peyton Manning from 2012 through 2014? Possibly. But I need more evidence. Give me the points.

Q: You’re right about Cincinnati not having good PR for a tortured fan base. The Curse of Bo Jackson is the popular theory as to what happened. Since then: ZERO postseason wins; Pittsburgh owns us; our QB from Houston can't beat Houston; and weve been the “other team” in the sports movie montage that the hero team beats up on the way to “the big game.”
—Tom, Cincinnati

BS: I think it’s more like “The Curse of the Cheap-Ass Owner.” Speaking of cursed, we’re skipping the Weird ’80s Video of the Week because I wanted to give love to this awe-inspiring video of Joe Buck rattling off 21 years of promos for Fox shows that mostly came and went like an airplane fart.

My favorite one comes at the 0:45 mark: Roar, which looks like Crappy Irish Game of Thrones, only starring Heath Ledger. Biggest disappointment: Buck never did a promo for Skin. His father is the district attorney. Remember that one? I went on YouTube to find it and stumbled across a 10-minute loop of that one quote because the internet is always freaking bizarre at all times.

Q: I am perplexed about the cries that the NFL is conspiring to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Isn’t this just a case of the talent not matching the headache? Other notables chased from a job for the same reason: Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Tim Tebow, Bill Simmons.

BS: “And now, they’re all living in the same house, on Fox’s new series, The Headache House, premiering Monday at 9 on Fox!”

Q: Trinidad and Tobago 2, USA 1. Where did that game rank on the Levels of Losing?
—Nate, Salalah, Oman

BS: It ranked on the “How can anyone possibly be surprised when our entire youth soccer system is built around building club teams that prioritize winning tournaments over learning to possess the ball and create in space, so they stick their two fastest kids up top and just play kickball to them for five to six straight years, only they never learned how to actually play soccer, so when we battle other countries and get our asses kicked, everyone looks around in disbelief and nobody wants to admit that this shit starts when our best kids are learning how to play soccer incorrectly” Level of Losing. Maybe we needed to hit rock bottom for things to change. I’m sure Trump is on it.

Q: Did Keanu Reeves turn down Speed 2 because it was terrible? Or was Speed 2 terrible because Keanu wasnt in it? Also, do you think its too late for Keanu and Sandra Bullock to reunite for Speed 3?
—Jeremy, Houston

BS: Your first and second questions are unanswerable—it’s like trying to figure out whether Belichick or Brady was more responsible for New England’s five Super Bowls. (That’s the most common mailbag question that I’ve never answered, if only because it can’t be answered.) Your third question has an answer: OF COURSE IT’S NOT TOO LATE!

Here’s the plot for Speed 3

Keanu and Sandy reunited after Speed 2 and ended up having three not-so-adorable-anymore kids. Now they’re flying back from a Maui vacation, with Sandy yelling at their 17-year-old daughter for texting naked photos to some 23-year-old Hawaiian surfer. A worn-down Keanu logs onto Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi to pay $59.95 for five hours of lousy internet service, but once he logs on, he gets an email saying the following: “POP QUIZ, HOT SHOT: This plane is going to blow up if it goes under 10,000 feet. What do you do? What do you do?”

Then, the internet service craps out and he can’t log back in because Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi sucks. A few minutes pass. Suddenly, the plane starts descending and everyone realizes that all three pilots are dead. Uh-oh. Fortunately, Bullock has some flying experience from the late ’90s when she almost became a commercial airline pilot, only she gave it up to raise a family with Keanu. So she takes over the plane along with a jovial retired pilot who stopped flying only because he went blind (played, to nobody’s surprise, by a very available Samuel L. Jackson), as Keanu tries to figure out (a) how to defuse the bomb, and (b) whether the terrorist is on the plane with them.

Over the course of the next few hours, Keanu mistakenly blames five different passengers for being the terrorist, but it turns out to be the vengeful daughter of Keanu’s former partner, Harry (Jeff Daniels’s character in Speed). She blames Keanu for her father blowing up. Even worse, she’s one of the flight attendants. And even worse, she’s working with one of the three pilots who faked his own death Hannibal Lecter–style—he’s alive! And the plane is about to run out of fuel! I’ll let you guess how it ends.

I just know this movie is making $450 million.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about how the Browns have blundered by passing on good QBs such as Wentz and Watson. I think this wrongly assumes that these quarterbacks would play at a similarly high level if they were with the Browns—it’s the opposite of the Ewing Theory, players of a high caliber will get dragged down on a terrible team. Can you come up with a snappier title than the “Our shit team will always result in shit players” theory?
—Brendan, New York, N.Y.

BS: The Pewing Theory? [Wincing.] Come on! He baited me into that one! Don’t judge me! By the way? I actually believe in the Pewing Theory. We have nearly 20 years of evidence now that the Browns ruin everything. Twenty years! The 2.0 Browns are right around the same age as Shawn Mendes, Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, the daughter from Modern Family and 528 different YouTube stars. They’re a year younger than Kylie Jenner and two years younger than the actress who plays Arya Stark.

The Browns kept turning away franchise QBs like one of those tortured TV heartthrobs who doesn’t want anyone to fall in love with him because he knows they’ll get hurt. They’re basically Dylan McKay after he came back to 90210 a few years after his gorgeous wife was murdered by her father’s mafia hitmen, only now he had a heroin problem and even MORE baggage. Guess what. Even THAT pop culture reference was older than the 2.0 Browns. That’s how long they’ve been around! This ain’t changing.

Q: What did you think of your dad’s performance on Curb Your Enthusiasm?
—Brendan, Perth, Australia

BS: It’s been a brutal October for my dad. The Red Sox got knocked out. The Yankees are still alive. It’s the worst Patriots team in eight years. The Hayward-Kyrie era lasted five minutes before being derailed by the most gruesome NBA injury maybe ever. My dad is already bitching about Kyrie Irving’s shot selection. He turns 70 next month. And now, Larry David is stealing his identity.

A quick recap of this week’s picks: $550 to win $500 on …

CHARGERS (even) over Broncos
Saints (-4) over PACKERS
RAMS (-3.5) over Cardinals
Falcons (+3.5) over PATRIOTS
Bengals (+5) over STEELERS
Washington (+5) over EAGLES

Last week: 0-2, -$1,100
Season: 8-10, -$1,695