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The Eli Manning Mailbag

The Giants QB is either the luckiest player in NFL history or a Hall of Fame franchise player who’s been wronged by his team. Either way, he’ll be riding the pine this weekend.

Eli Manning in front of an open envelope Getty Images/Ringer illustration

First, an announcement: Our Andre the Giant documentary will premiere on HBO in April 2018. Directed by Jason Hehir, this film is the first effort from Ringer Films, which we’re launching to throw ourselves into the nonscripted content space (documentaries, docuseries, shorts, produced podcasts, and everything else). That was always part of our big-picture Ringer plan, especially given my 30 for 30 DNA, but we wanted to wait until we could tackle it from a position of strength. The time has come. Check out the first trailer for Andre the Giant here:

Speaking of Giants, here’s the best way to describe Eli Manning’s career in New York: memorable enough to warrant a chunk of his own mailbag … not quite memorable enough to carry the entire mailbag himself. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: How do we know that Eli Manning won’t make the Hall of Fame? He would have made for a terrible sports movie character. Would any actor want to play Eli Manning in a movie? No way, no how. Prove me wrong, Simmons!
—Nathaniel, Tallahassee

BS: You’re soooooooo wrong. Eli had the perfect pop culture QB dopplegänger—the one and only Matt Saracen of Friday Night Lights! That’s another lovably handsome doofus who carried himself like an overlooked little brother, always seemed one pick away from self-destructing, played through any and all adversity, was way tougher than anyone realized, and remained sensitive enough that he could pull off dating his coach’s daughter without the coach taking it personally. Watch the famous “Everybody leaves me!” scene again …

And watch Eli digesting his Tuesday benching.

Coughlin, Strahan, Plax, Tiki, Odell … EVERYBODY LEAVES ME! In 2011, when Grantlanders Katie Baker and Sarah Larimer declared Eli as the NFL’s no. 1 husband choice (in a landslide, no less), I opened it up to my readers and received so many pro-husband emails about Eli that I never turned it into a mailbag; it would have been too weird. Everyone made the same case: He’s handsome, he’s sensitive, he’s thoughtful, you wouldn’t understand. Sounds like someone who could pull off dating his coach’s daughter, right?

Both guys vacillated between “clumsy” and “sneaky athletic,” both took home championships, and both presided over some of the most ridiculous comeback endings in modern football history. (I can’t remember if Friday Night Lights ever had a Helmet Catch homage episode; if it did, I blocked it out of my mind.) Check out Saracen in action with a Foo Fighters mix … this couldn’t have been Eli? He even had the stumbling-after-the-snap/you-think-you-have-him-sacked/somehow-buys-himself-time/desperate-throw-into-traffic-that’s-caught move down pat.

Giants fans defended Eli to the death and allowed Eli arguments only within their closed-off circles, much like Friday Night Lights fans adore Saracen and avoid any and all “Which Friday Night Lights QB would you rather have for one big game: Saracen or Vince?” discussions. That makes Eli the real-life Matt Saracen. It’s almost entirely a compliment. (And yet—you wouldn’t have wanted to bet on Matt Saracen laying 7.5 at home under any circumstances, either.)

Q: You love to use the word “polarizing” with athletes so I will make this one easy and quick. Was (is?) Eli Manning the most polarizing quarterback ever?
—Anthony (Jersey City)

BS: There has been at least one polarizing QB for the entire time I’ve followed the NFL, starting in the mid-’70s, back when O.J. was a hero and the Patriots were a joke. Was Joe Namath a future Hall of Famer … or a mediocre QB with bad knees living off the fumes of one miracle Super Bowl? Could you win a Super Bowl with Bert Jones? What about Danny White, Ron Jaworski, Bernie Kosar or Jim Everett? Why was Randall Cunningham better in Tecmo Bowl than real life? Why wouldn’t we admit that Jim Kelly was overrated? (A favorite cause of mine, by the way.) Do you really trust Kordell Stewart or Drew Bledsoe? Can you win anything with Michael Vick? There was always a new polarizing guy … and then, Eli burst onto the NFL scene as Peyton’s entitled brother who thought he was too good for San Diego.

Was Eli good? Was Eli great? Was Eli lucky? Was Eli secretly terrible? Would you want Eli as your QB? We argued and argued and argued about it. The rise of blogs and message boards and 24/7 sports radio and social media pushed it to another level. Even better, we could compare him to his brother and the other 2004 QBs (Roethlisberger and Rivers). New Yorkers defended him like crazed soccer moms. New York haters kept provoking them. It never got old.

When Eli ruined a potential 19-0 Pats season thanks to either the greatest or luckiest Super Bowl play ever, that cemented something of a permanent polarization. Eli’s offense scored a whopping 10 points in 59 minutes. After Asante Samuel dropped the game-ending pick (I can still see it), Eli saved the season by spinning around like a drunk guy, bouncing off three Patriots, chucking the ball up for grabs and then pulling a horseshoe out of his ass and waving it like a horse’s head. (There’s no footage of that last part, but I was there and I’m almost positive I saw this.) The Giants scored 17 points. So long, perfect season.

Lucky … but not totally. Crummy weather conditions never fazed Eli; die-hard Giants fans appreciate his performances in Lambeau and Candlestick after the 2011 season, in deplorable playoff conditions, almost as much as they revere his winning Super Bowl drives. And non-Giants fans never knew how to feel. It took 10-12 years before you learned not to throw Eli in a teaser or parlay, not to back him as a heavy home favorite, and not to cross him as a road underdog. He single-handedly destroyed two of my fantasy seasons, and yet, I drafted him two more times. He wasn’t one of the top-five QBs of the past 12 years, but there wasn’t a more durable QB, maybe ever. In 2012, I wrote that “he’s still holding the ‘Guy You’d Want for One Big Game’ belt until somebody pins him. He’s the Bob Backlund of QBs, basically.”

The Bob Backlund of QBs … there’s never been a better compliment/insult.

Eli’s numbers only made it more confusing. In 2013, Eli threw 18 touchdowns and a stupefying 27 picks. In 2014 and 2015 combined, he threw 28 picks … and 65 touchdowns. He started an astonishing 210 straight games for a cold-weather team, throwing for over 50,000 yards. He also threw 222 picks and fumbled 112 times. Thanks to 4-0 postseasons after the 2007 and 2011 seasons, “Playoff Eli” became a thing even though he never won a playoff game in any of his other 12 seasons. We also had Good Eli and Bad Eli, who were discussed like they were the brothers from The Deuce. You never wanted to bet against Good Eli. You never wanted to bet on Bad Eli.

He beat Belichick and Brady in the Super Bowl—twice!—thanks to two of the most memorable drives in Giants history. (The Giants also scored 38 points combined in those two games.) His throw to Mario Manningham in Super Bowl XLVI is the best long completion I have ever seen live, and ranks among the most clutch plays I have ever seen live. (And yet … I totally expected him to throw us a pick later in that drive.) Two Super Bowl MVPs and 210 straight starts seem like the makings of a Hall of Fame résumé. (And yet, it’s hard to imagine Eli in the Hall of Fame.) The 2017 Giants are 2-9, which makes Eli a sobering 35-48 in his last 83 starts. (And yet, if/when they release him, nobody would be shocked if he led Coughlin’s Jaguars to the Super Bowl in January.)

And with all of that said … there’s a 100 percent chance that Michael Vick was the most polarizing QB ever. His style, his spotty results, then the dogfighting scandal??? Come on. My vote still goes to him.

Q: Isn’t it funny that ever since Eli got benched, there’s been such an outpouring of support for him? Only a week ago, people were saying he was a horrible QB and got lucky twice in two Super Bowls. Now it’s more like, “The guy is a legend! He won two Super Bowl MVPs!” This botched benching somehow made Eli a better QB than he was last week. I blame Geno Smith and Coach McADon’t.
—Tolani, Seattle

BS: That’s the key to the Eli Experience—the giant, pulsating horseshoe that lives inside his keyster. Even the most ignominious QB benching of the decade swung in his favor—instead of us saying, “My God, how can anyone be a Hall of Famer who got benched during a season for GENO SMITH?,” it quickly flipped to, “My God, how could they treat poor Eli that way?,” and generated the best possible Mike Francesa/throwback radio tirade we’ve had in years. It’s a yoooge mistake. You cannot treat a two-time Super Bowl MVP this wayYOU CANNOT TREAT HIM THIS WAY. Even I was outraged and I despise the Giants. Classic Eli.

Q: So I’m watching The Departed the other day, and during the final scene, Costello’s henchman crashes the car, becomes ablaze, then doesn’t even try to get out. He just says to himself, “That’s it, this is the end, there’s no escape.” If this isn’t a perfect explanation of the Giants season, I don’t know what is. The only bright spot of this season is the sweet release of death.
—Dylan Powers

BS: Ladies and gent—actually, wait, I have a better one.

Q: I run a weekly DraftKings league with a bunch of my friends that also keeps track of season-long stats and winners. One of the stats we keep track of each week is last-place finishes. After Week 3 of this season, The League of Mostly Extraordinary Gentlemen voted to have all last-place finishes regarded as “McAdoos.” Pete is our worst performer with four McAdoos in 12 weeks.
—James Henitz

BS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Ben McAdoo era!

Q: Did the Giants create their own version of “The Process”? What if, three years ago, they realized Eli’s prime was over but didn’t want the backlash from trading or releasing him? Time to tank for a top-3 pick and a QB, right? One problem—there’s no way Tom Coughlin would go for this plan. Like all great conspiracies, the Giants needed a fall guy. Enter Ben McAdoo, a head coach with the leadership qualities of a boiled potato! 2017 unleashed Tank McAdoo and now here we are. It’s either that or I’m giving the Giants ownership entirely too much credit and they were stupid enough to give Boiled Potato McAdoo a head-coaching job?? What does Conspiracy Bill think?
—Terry H, Norfolk, Neb.

BS: I don’t believe in the TankAdoo theory, but I do believe they turned to Geno Smith to make sure they landed a top-three pick. You know how I know this? He’s Geno Smith! Why else would you turn to Geno Smith?

Q: You’re starting an expansion franchise and have to hire Jason “The Clapper” Garrett or Ben McAdoo—which one do you pick?
—Ray Luo

BS: I’m taking Garrett every time, and not just because I wouldn’t trust McAdoo to coach a varsity Tic-Tac-Toe team. You know what I want with a hopeless expansion franchise? Positivity! We’re OK guys. We’re down 38-3 and we’re not gonna be good for three more years, and by that time, I’ll be gone … we’re OK.

Q: What is the most plausible N.Y. sports–turned-WWE story line?

(A) A profoundly mediocre Eli Manning leads the Jets to a 2019 SB win over the Giants.
(B) LeBron and the Knicks defeat Cleveland, then Golden State to win the 2019 NBA title.

—Tom, South Dakota

BS: Since LeBron is playing for the Lakers next season, it’s Eli/Jets by default. By the way … Eli on the Jets! I’m both amused and terrified. Eli looking sad in a Jets uniform? (Amused.) Eli bringing his horseshoe to the AFC East? (Terrified.) The Jets fans immediately jumping on the Eli bandwagon after lobbing grenades at him for the past 12 years? (Amused.) The obligatory montage of veteran QBs that the Jets landed three to seven years too late? (Amused.) The thought of the Brady-Belichick era ending with the Pats blowing a Round 2 playoff game at home to Eli and the 9-7 Jets? (Terrified.) Only Eli on the Ravens would scare me more than Eli going to the Jets.

Q: If the Giants release Eli soon, why wouldn’t the Pats do the right thing and sign him? Reasons 1-5:

1. Eli having more rings than Peyton would be hilarious.
2. Super Bowl pedigree if TB12 goes down.
3. Fuck the Giants.
4. Two roster spots just opened up.
5. Fuck the Giants.

I actually have 10 reasons but 6-10 are all “Fuck the Giants.”
—Tim S., Cincinnati

BS: It’s definitely the ultimate F.U. move—Belichick saying, You stole two Super Bowls from us, now hold a clipboard, fetch coffee for Tom Brady, and mop up some 38-13 AFC East games. But what if Brady gets injured, then Eli comes in and screws up the season (and another Pats Super Bowl). Even worse, what if Eli saves the season and WINS THE SUPER BOWL for the Patriots, followed by Giants fans claiming co-ownership of Super Bowl 52 and clinging to a brand-new “We would’ve won six Super Bowls with Eli if we had Belichick as our coach!” argument. Too risky. I hope Eli signs with Arizona, Ottawa or Hamilton.

Q: Are us Patriots fans supposed to revel in Eli getting benched? Because not only have we lost two Super Bowls to the guy, but now we’ve also lost two Super Bowls to a guy who got benched for GENO SMITH!!! I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest. This might secretly be terrible for Patriots fans.

A still grieving Pats fan,
—Nick, St. Louis

BS: You’re right, I feel worse than ever. The guy who caught the Helmet Catch never caught another NFL pass, and the guy who threw the pass that turned into the Helmet Catch got benched for Geno Smith. I will now jump into a bathtub of thumbtacks. Let’s hit some non-Eli emails.

Q: You are a biased schmuck if you can look in the mirror and honestly not even consider Case Keenum an MVP candidate.
—Kyle, Denver

BS: That’s ludicrous. The 2017 MVP is Carson Wentz—he’s the best player on a contender, he’s done the most with the least weapons, he’s had some legitimately fantastic moments, he’s a crazy cross between Rodgers, Roethlisberger, and Wilson, he’s the best under-30 asset in the league, and he’s done more to stop Ginger-shaming than anyone since Sidney on Melrose Place. It’s him or Brady—there are no other candidates. I’m such a gigantic Tom Brady fan that I defend him against every one of my friends’ PED jokes even though Brady is faster and more accurate at age 40 than ever before, and even I think Carson Wentz is the MVP right now.

Q: Why aren’t we considering the fact that Case Keenum may never have actually been bad? Remember when we thought Alex Smith was bad and he wasn’t? Think how many players get drafted to bad situations and take forever to (or never) materialize. It’s like a pitcher needing the right pitching coach or an NBA rookie in the right culture to develop.
—Mitchell G.

BS: Even though he’s 29 years old and coming off a 9-15 lifetime record with the Texans and Rams, and even though he’s Case Freaking Keenum, Mitchell’s question isn’t nearly as ridiculous as you might think. The following QBs didn’t have their first “quality” season until their late 20s or later.

Age 27: Tony Romo
Age 28: Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, Danny White, Matt Schaub
Age 29: Brad Johnson, Brian Sipe
Age 30: Jeff Garcia
Age 31: Steve Young
Age 32: Warren Moon, Trent Green
Age 33: Vinny Testaverde
Age 34: Rich Gannon

We just ripped off 13 successful late bloomers over the past 40 years, and that list didn’t include two late-bloomer/right-time-right-place Super Bowl QBs (Stan Humphries and Jeff Hostetler) or two reclamation projects who won Super Bowls in their 30s (Doug Williams and Jim Plunkett). The reasons are never the same. Young had the talent and waited for his chance for years. Green got hurt. Warner found God. Moon had to go to the CFL. Three teams quit on Gannon. Nobody took Romo or Garcia seriously because of where they went to college. And Keenum got thrown into a hopeless Texans situation, then spent two years playing for Jeff Fisher’s mannequin for an offense without any decent receivers.

It’s ludicrous to imagine Case Freaking Keenum helming a 2-seed and making magic with Adam Thielen every week, but it’s not THAT ludicrous. History tells us that (a) Case Freaking Keenum should happen every three to four years, (b) we should drop the “freaking” and (c) we were actually overdue for another late-bloomer QB. There’s hope for you yet, Blaine Gabbert.

Q: On your 20 Best NBA Players Right Now podcast, I liked where you ranked Paul George (13, I believe), a great two-way guy with an all around skill set. Is it fair to call Paul George “Scottie Pippen 0.5?”
—Jon Whited

BS: That’s brilliant. I’ve been making 2.0 and 3.0 jokes since forever, only it never occurred to me to go the other way. He’s definitely Scottie Pippen 0.5. And Blake Bortles is definitely Vinny Testaverde 0.5.

Q: Like everyone else I hate watching great plays in real time only to have them overturned by the super-slo-mo 4K high-def technology in challenges and reviews. What if reviews were shown at a maximum of half speed? No rewinding, no pausing? If it was good enough to pass the eye test on the field in real time and you can’t overturn it under this scenario—move on and let the boys play.

BS: Great idea, never happening.

Q: Isn’t it reasonable to question how much of Goodell’s reported $50 million-plus per year extension is “Buy Roger’s Silence” money? What non-owner knows more about where all of the bodies are buried on the concussion issue and every other controversial NFL topic over the past 20 years?
—Jeremy Hook

BS: Great idea, definitely happening.

Q: Just read the Matt Lauer headline ... what if during the next Oscars or Golden Globes ceremony, in addition to the traditional “In Memoriam” montage, they did a “Career Death Montage” and the crowd can cathartically boo at the screen? The mere possibility raises a host of other questions: What would the order be? Would they use the most unflattering photo of each person? Who would get the loudest boos? Would Mel Gibson be included? Who would be the hammer?
—Zach M., Indianapolis

BS: Great idea, terrified to say anything.

Q: Why aren't Mr. and Mrs. Gisele Bündchen called The Brady-Bündch?
—Jayant P., Madison

BS: Please, no

Q: I have a magnificent nickname for the Celtics' dynamic trio of Brown, Tatum, and Kyrie: “The BTK Killers.” Start printing up the shirts!
—Ben, Wahoo, Neb.

BS: This mailbag is going off the rails. Give me something to work with, Luis from Grayslake!

Q: With Julian Edelman forfeiting the title due to injury, is Adam Thielen the current holder of the Best White Receiver Championship Belt? If not, who is?
—Luis, Grayslake, Ill.

BS: You mean the SLUT belt (Steve Largent Universal Title)? Wait, that’s a terrible acronym. You mean the SLWC belt (Steve Largent World Championship)? Edelman never actually held that belt! Here’s the lineage of the Best White Receiver Belt for every year since Steve Largent’s watershed breakout season.

1978-81: Steve Largent
1982: Dwight Clark
1983-88: Steve Largent

Interjection: Largent averaged over 1,000 yards, caught 81 touchdowns and made seven All-Pro teams from ’78 through ’87. He started breaking down in 1988 (39 catches, 2 TDs), but kept the belt after getting knocked out cold from a vicious hit by Denver’s Mike Harden, then extracting his revenge 14 weeks later with a more-than-vengeful hit on Harden’s interception return. Here, watch. You won’t regret these three minutes. It’s the greatest Seahawks moment ever other than their Super Bowl victory and Pete Carroll breaking Dennis Green’s all-time record for screaming “What are we doing?” in 2016.

Remember when football was violent and we loved it? WOO HOO! Back to the belt …

1989: Vacant
1990-94: Ricky Proehl
1995-96: Wayne Chrebet
1997: Ricky Proehl

This impossibly dark stretch foreshadowed the Great White Cornerback Drought of the 21st century. Neither Proehl nor Chrebet ever cracked 1,000 yards or nine touchdowns in a season during this eight-year span, although announcers did gush about them, “You think that guy doesn’t love football!” at least 9,000 times combined.

1998-2000: Ed McCaffrey
2001: Bill Schroeder
2002: Brian Finneran
2003-04: Drew Bennett
2005: Joe Jurevicius
2006: Mike Furrey

After McCaffrey slapped together three straight 1,000-yard seasons, won a Super Bowl AND raised a future top-10 pick, nobody else could live up to his lofty standards. Until the Sons of Largent showed up …

2007-10: Wes Welker
2011: Jordy Nelson
2012-13: Eric Decker
2014: Jordy Nelson
2015: Eric Decker
2016: Jordy Nelson
2017: Adam Thielen

If you’re picking two receivers to win a 2017 playoff game, you’d want Antonio Brown … and then there’s a 20-minute argument for Thielen or Julio Jones, right? He’s thriving with Case Freaking Keenum! That’s like getting nominated for an Oscar in a Tyler Perry movie. What a year for Thielen. He’s unstoppable. By the way, I dedicated that entire answer to the Best White Cornerback Championship Belt, which was mysteriously lost at Jason Sehorn’s house about 15 years ago.

Q: How far are we from “The Last Boy Scout: An NFL True Story.” You've got two teams in L.A. now …
—Ivan, Chapel Hill, N.C.

BS: I don’t know when it happens, I just know Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree are going to be involved.

Q: If you are eventually crowned the Sports Czar, can you appoint a “Sports Accuracy Specialist” whose sole purpose is to advise TV show writers and directors how sports scenes should actually look? How many times do we have to suffer? The straw that broke the camel’s back came while watching the basketball scenes from Stranger Things featuring Steve “post up facing the wrong way” Harrington and Billy “trick layup specialist” Hargrove. I can’t take this anymore! Does no one on set have any semblance of how basketball vaguely works?? How many scenes from past movies and shows could the Sports Accuracy Specialist could have saved?
—Craig, Los Angeles

BS: No joke—as part of Ringer Films, we want to be the go-to company for everyone in Hollywood who shoehorns a random sports scene into their movie or TV show, only they have no idea how sports actually work. Almost like a consulting firm. Here’s The Ringer’s breakdown of that goofy Stranger Things scene, by the way.

Q: I have never (1) seen or met your son, or (2) watched an episode of The Challenge. But after listening to The Bill Simmons Podcast for years, it’s apparent that you secretly (or not secretly) embarked on a 12-year plan to turn your son into the most formidable Challenge competitor the world has ever known. Each episode of “Parent Corner” sheds more light on your diabolical plan. Have you made him a reservation at training camp on
—Boomer, Chesapeake, Va.

BS: I don’t know whether to feel complimented or insulted. But since we were worried that my son might be living at home until he’s 40, I’ll tell you what you gave me today, Boomer from Chesapeake. Hope. That’s what. Maybe my son can become Johnny Bananas 2.0. Hell, I’d settle for Johnny Bananas 0.7.

Q: How can you say Goodell doesn’t deserve $50M? [Divided by] 32 teams [that] is only $1.5 M from each owner. If he can increase the team’s value by $15M per year, then he is worth the money ... right? He has the track record of doing that.
—Dennis, Columbus

BS: Roger Goodell’s wife is writing into my mailbag under the pseudonym, “Dennis, Columbus”?

Q: It seems like we need you to update your W.A.R.M. (Wins Above Raheem Morris) ratings. How are the league's new coaches doing? Will you change the name to Wins Above Ben McAdoo after this season?
—Cody, Boston

BS: Sorry, WABM or WADOO just doesn’t have the same ring. But what about Sean McVay’s WARM this season? The Rams are 8-3 and headed for something in the 12-4 range. With Jeff Fisher’s mannequin pretending to coach them, would they have finished … 5-11? 4-12? I have McVay at a plus-6.5 projected WARM right now. Staggeringly high. Might be a record.

Meanwhile, poor Anthony Lynn did the unthinkable: He replaced Mike McCoy and somehow generated a minus-1.0 WARM so far. That’s like following VD with anal warts. Others: Buffalo’s Sean McDermott (+1 and dropping fast); San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan (0.0); Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone (a respectable +2.5); and Denver’s Vance Joseph (-2.5 and his WARM score is flashing right now as the computer screams “DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!”).

Q: I can't believe people are falling for the same Tony Romo trap all over again. Of course he’s been a good TV announcer during the regular season. Just wait until the playoffs—he’s going to buckle under the pressure once again! What’s the broadcasting equivalent of a dropped extra point? Be ready, Phil Simms! Let's all take a deep breath and remember what playoff Romo is like. And, yes, I am totally expecting a “how dare you” response.
—Sport Watchers

BS: How.



That hurt my feelings so much that we’re killing the mailbag! It’s over! You people don’t deserve a mailbag anymore. One more and we’re done.

Q: This weekend my wife and I got into a huge fight that ended with her kicking me out of the house. Sitting in my car at midnight reflecting on the failure that my life had become, I was overwhelmed trying to figure where I was going to stay. That's when I remembered the live reads you and Sal have done for Hotel Tonight. I booked a discounted room nearby and headed over. When the guy at the desk checked me into the room I had booked 15 minutes earlier and saw that I had no luggage, he gave me a sympathetic look that said, “I know why you’re here, and you aren’t the first.” The room was just the space I needed to stay up all night crying. Feel free to incorporate this endorsement from a real customer into any of your live reads, I assume Hotel Tonight will love it.
—Alex G.

BS: Yup, these are my readers.

Let’s tackle the Week 13 picks. I like a few underdogs this week, including Jimmy G. and the Niners (getting three in Chicago), the Jets (getting 3.5 at home against a decomposing Chiefs team), and Bengals (getting five in a Monday must-win at home against a slightly overvalued Steelers team). I also like anyone (in this case, the Raiders) against Geno Smith. But we can’t mess around with up-and-down teams this week. We need wins. We’re putting $770 to win 700 on …

FALCONS (-3) over Vikings

It’s the last week to grab the Falcons as an undervalued home team before everyone realizes that the Falcons offense is back. You can throw on the Vikes. This has nothing to do with Case Freaking Keenum, I swear.

We’re also putting $1,200 to win $1,000 on the following 6.5-point teaser …

Rams (-7 down to -0.5 in Arizona) and Patriots (-9 down to -2.5 in Buffalo)

Blaine Gabbert trying to outscore the high-flying Rams? Tyrod Taylor and Sean McDermott against Belichick and Brady? Please. Enjoy the weekend.

Last week: No picks
Season: 20-18, -905