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The LeBron James vs. Bill Belichick Mailbag

Plus: the Patriots Panic Index, the greatest three-movie run ever, and your Week 2 NFL picks

LeBron James and Bill Belichick Getty Images/Ringer illustration

This week’s format: mailbag questions, then Week 2 picks. As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: A Captain Morgan Make Believe Casino River Boat Prop Bet for you: who goes longer, Belichick or LeBron?
—Bryson, Texas

BS: Let’s see …

LeBron: 32 years old, 14 NBA seasons, 1,278 games (including playoffs), over 50,000 minutes (including playoffs), never suffered a major injury, attempting to break the 67,000-minute barrier by Year 20, which has never been done (not even by Kareem, who may have been an alien). If LeBron’s body doesn’t break down by 2022 like Kobe’s did in 2012 (and Karl Malone in 2004, and Kareem in 1989, and Duncan in 2015, and I can keep going), then he would defy even the most atypical superhuman NBA career arcs. Basically, LeBron could have flown to home games using his arms as wings and his farts as gasoline for his makeshift human airplane and it would have been just as realistic.

Belichick: 65 years old, 42 NFL coaching seasons (23 as head coach), five Super Bowl victories (record), seven Super Bowl appearances (record), 237 regular-season wins (fourth all time), 26 playoff wins (record), never suffered a major injury, attempting to break the 350-win barrier (including playoffs), which has never happened before.

Let’s say Belichick has to make 2024 to outlast LeBron; at that point, he’d be 72 years old and coaching his 50th season (and 30th as a head coach). Only two NFL coaches ever made it to 72 years old: George Halas and Marv Levy. And only six NFL head coaches ever lasted 25 years: Halas (40 years, owned the team); Don Shula (33 years); Curly Lambeau (33 years); Tom Landry (29); Paul Brown (25, owned the team); and Tony D’Amato (25, still coaching an expansion team in Albuquerque).

But here’s the thing: Belichick doesn’t have to worry about his body breaking down, just his brain. We know he loves football more than anyone. We know he cares about his place in history. We know he added both sons to his coaching staff. We know he’d probably love to win one Super Bowl without Tom Brady—just because he’s a competitive m’fer. Isn’t Year 30 Still Breaking Records 72-Year-Old Belichick just a tad more realistic than Year 23 Shattering Records And All Conceivable Physical Limitations 41-Year-Old LeBron James?

Wait, there’s a catch! If LeBron holds on for just eight more years, there’s a chance he could share the court with a top-five draft pick from the 2024 draft … that’s right, LeBron James Jr. Could LeBron and Bronny be the Senior/Junior Griffey for the 21st century? Would that inspire him to keep going? And what kind of training tactics, blood-spinning devices, VersaClimber machines and cutting-edge, um, medicine will be available in 2024?

Will LeBron be able to keep going and going and going like the Rolling Stones kept going and going and—wait, they’re still going? Could LeBron play until he’s 45? And what would Belichick do when he retired? Hang out in Nantucket and play chess? Host a podcast about war strategies? Make hoodie commercials? Both of these dudes are all football/basketball all the time, and they don’t know any other way to live.

I think it’s a battle to the sports death. I’d make Belichick a slight favorite—maybe minus-130—just because LeBron’s body could betray him with one bad landing or awkward cut and that would be that. (Again, see Bryant, Kobe.) But what a battle. [Belichick voice.] On to the next question.

Q: As a Minnesota fan I've never been more certain of anything in my life than the Packers winning the Super Bowl in Minnesota. We'll never hear the end of it. The worst part? The Vikings will have a chance to stop them that will end in some miserably painful way, Green Bay will win it all, and then there will still be two months of winter to go.
—Landon Balster

BS: Ladies and gentlemen, the Minnesota Vikings!

Q: How long before the NFL starts selling ad space on those sideline injury tents? Is there a leading horse tranquilizer in the market that should get first dibs? Is Adderall a too obvious sponsor? Or is this a chance for the German blood spinning clinic to get into the American advertising game?
—Alec, Greenville, N.C.

BS: If they didn’t get the immobilization stretcher or the convertible injury car sponsored, they’re definitely not messing with the sideline injury tent. By the way, instead of calling it the sideline injury tent, shouldn’t we call it the Vicodin Shelter or the PED Palace? I’ll roll with whatever.

Q: I've been thinking this for the past few years and Sunday really just hammered it home. I'm tired of wasting a day of my life each week to watch boring or one-sided games. Watching the Green Bay and Dallas games was about as much fun as talking to Neil McCauley about metals for six hours.
—Tim Kozlenko

BS: I’m jealous enough of that joke that it made me search for the Heat clip just to find the moment when Neil sneers at Eady, Lady, why you so interested in what I read or what I do? and she inexplicably falls in love within three minutes. And I found it, but the clip is bizarrely called, “Jay Tando as an Extra in the movie Heat.”

What phenomenal work by Jay Tando! It’s like labeling Kyrie’s title-winning 3 in 2016, “Jay Tando sits Courtside for Game 7 2016 Finals.” And you know what? It worked! I ended up watching Jay Tando’s cameos in The Late Shift and Lois and Clark, his 2004 demo reel, his far superior 2012 demo reel, the trailer to his movie Spare Time Killers (directed by Jay Tando!) and even his inspiring karaoke performance of "I Will Survive." Trust me, the Best of Jay Tando was way more entertaining than the Bengals-Texans game.

Q: What level of panic should we as Pats fans be at? This seems like one of the toughest Pats schedules I can remember and nobody is talking about it.
—Sam from Oakland, Calif.

BS: I think we’re a 3 out of 10. The good news: We’ve been here before. The bad news: No Edelman, no linebackers, a 40-year-old QB and Gronk careening around in sections looking like Aroldis Chapman trying to cover first base? [Thinking.] Maybe a 4 out of 10. This will all seem stupid when they finally figure out the right dosage for Gronk’s pain medication, Rob Ninkovich comes out of retirement, Alex Guerrero creates the deer placenta smoothie for Brady, Belichick flips Dion Lewis to the NFC for some no-name linebacker who’s immediately awesome, and Julian Edelman miraculously returns for Round 2 at Foxborough. I don’t have a single bead of sweat dripping down my forehead yet.

Q: Does it bother you that ESPN suspended you for three weeks for calling Goodell a liar, but they didn’t suspend Jemele Hill for calling Trump a white supremacist?
—Andy Levine, Chicago

BS: It doesn’t bother me. Neither of us should have been suspended. But I enjoyed how brilliantly Jemele checkmated her bosses. She knew ESPN couldn’t punish her for speaking candidly, as a black woman, about a president whose pattern of behavior toward women and minorities speaks for itself. She used her platform and it worked. Now, she has a higher profile than she did three days ago. She seems more fearless and genuine than she did three days ago. She doubled down on a fan base that already liked her and openly shunned the other side. And she flipped her relationship with ESPN—now, the company needs Jemele Hill more than she needs the company. The whole thing left me like this:

Q: Thank you for so many things, but I'm truly grateful for seeing the "Don't Give Up" video with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. I can't even begin to argue against that as being in the top 5 strangest videos of the ’80s. I'm curious, what other four make that list complete?
—Kevin Claunch, Grand Rapids, Mich.

BS: Don’t worry—every Friday, I plan on presenting another video from the top 5.

Q: "Total Eclipse of the Heart" better be on your list of the five weirdest 1980s videos. I mean just look at this shit. Poltergeist kids, hairy caveman splits, and fuckin' ninjas.
—Harry, Larryville, Kan.

BS: And there’s the one for Week 2. It’s a batshit crazy video for a batshit crazy song that easily could have been the theme for Fatal Attraction. Some lyric highlights ...

“Every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears.”

“Every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by.”

“Every now and then I fall apart.”

“Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark.”

“Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there’s only love in the dark.”

“And if you only hold me tight
We’ll be holding on forever.”

“We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.”

Clearly, she’s going to invite him over and then blow the place up. YOUR LOVE IS LIKE A SHADOW ON ME—THAT’S WHY I HAVE TO SET YOU ON FIRE! And, of course, the chorus …

“Once upon a time I was falling in love
Now I’m only falling apart
There’s nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart.“

So yeah—when it’s a love song spelling out a homicide, you probably want to include Poltergeist kids, a hairy caveman, and ninjas in the video.

Q: You've cornered the market on hiring millennials. Even Gen Z. They line up down Fairfax every morning wanting to buy the newest Jordans where the biggest mystery is how a 16-year-old kid can afford a $300 pair of shoes. Of course they love basketball. It's their version of gambling and fantasy.
—Derek L

BS: “We’ll be back on the Sports Reporters podcast after this.”

Q: If Adam Silver and Roger Goodell switched places, what happens? Does Silver rescue the NFL and turn it around? Does Goodell veto the Kyrie trade and demand that all teams play in back-to-backs every weekend to increase revenue?
—Bill S, Indianapolis

BS: If Goodell ran the NBA, the Lakers would have lost three first-round picks for tampering with Paul George (without any ability to appeal); Goodell would have launched a Deflategate-type investigation to determine if LeBron James owns a stake in Klutch and done his best to bring LeBron down; any star who skipped a game for rest would be fined $100k; we’d have a 98-game schedule crammed into six months; retired NBA players would have their pensions cut in half; L.A. would have somewhere between four and six teams; marijuana would still be illegal; everyone would be encouraged to take more Vicodin and Toradol; and nobody would ever test positive for PEDs. Whoops, that last one is already happening.

Q: Just letting you know that reading your "column" is now like eating a dish you literally can never ever get in your neighborhood and the only place to get it is in another neighborhood you don't live or work in and has no good bars; plus an ex you were in love with that abruptly ended things lives there with her new boyfriend too. Just saying ...
—Dan from Colorado via Brooklyn

BS: I read that 25 times and still can’t figure out if you insulted me or not.

Q: To Mrs. Durant,

After reading your Friday picks column, I'm convinced you're going to go 491-1 on your picks this year. I'm going to put my life savings into every single one of your picks. Why? You care maybe 30 percent about the league as it stands today. You're at your best when you don't care. All those seasons where you invested way too much time and energy in figuring out your picks? You struggled. Do yourself a favor. Bet on all of your picks this year. If you don't you'll remember this email and it will be the greatest what-if of your life.
—Kevin Soh

BS: Mrs. Durant? DEFINITELY an insult. That cut deep.

Q: My friends and I have a running debate about which actor had the best three-movie stretch. One rule: has to be three consecutive acting entries on their IMDb page. This rules out many including Tom Hanks because of Vault of Horror (really he was in that?) sandwiched between Apollo 13 and Gump. Our winner always comes back to Nic Cage. The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off? I challenge you to find a better three-movie stretch on IMDb.
—Chris Chiu

BS: Oh please. Was Sly Stallone’s IMDb page broken?

1981: Victory
1982: Rocky 3
1982: First Blood

The best soccer movie ever, the best Rocky movie ever and the first great modern action movie … back to back to back? What??? Nic Cage was topping THAT? What about Tom Cruise’s golden four-movie run of Handsome And A-Little-Too-Cocky Leading Men Who Learn Lessons About Life And Eventually Reach Their Potential?

1986: Top Gun
1986: The Color of Money
1988: Cocktail
1988: Rain Man

Shit, what about John Cazale’s entire movie career?

1972: The Godfather
1974: The Conversation
1974: The Godfather, Part II
1976: Dog Day Afternoon
1978: The Godfather Saga (TV miniseries)
1978: The Deer Hunter

And then he died! If John Cazale’s movie career was a baseball game, he went 6-for-6 with three homers, 14 RBI, two grand slams, the cycle, and a steal of home. AND—his last girlfriend was Meryl Streep, who stayed by his side until he tragically died of cancer in 1978. Tell Nic Cage’s IMDb page to settle down.

Q: In last Friday's column, you said "They upgraded from Jeff Fisher to A Human Being With A Head, Two Arms and Two Legs Who's Not Jeff Fisher." Are you really saying somebody needs two arms and two legs (and possibly a head) to be a better coach than Jeff Fisher?
—Robert, Brooklyn, N.Y.

BS: [Thinking.] You’re right, that wasn’t fair.

Q: Let's say the entire rest-of-the-country-outside-of-New-England's dreams come true and New England ends the season 0-16. Would Bill Belichick get fired? I say yes. My Masshole coworker says Belichick would be portrayed as a genius for getting the no. 1 pick, etc. Who's right?
—Paul Cole in Portland, Ore.

BS: BILL BELICHICK WOULD BE A GENIUS FOR GOING 0-16.

Q: You have always been great at creating fake stats to immortalize mediocrity, such as WARM (Wins Above Raheem Morris). We need to give Phil Simms a proper send-off. How do we measure how much more we enjoy watching football now that we don't have to hear about what "WE TALKED ABOUT" every week? I propose FAPS, or Fulfillment Above Phil Simms. What was Tony Romo’s FAPS for Week 1?
—Taylor, N.Y.

BS: Great idea. Tony checked in at 9.5 FAPS for Week 1. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed a color guy calling out plays. Nearly three years ago, I watched a Packers-Cardinals playoff game with him at Jimmy Kimmel’s house and Romo did the exact same thing—I’ve owned gobs of Romo announcer stock ever since. But you realize where this is headed, right? In Week 8, Romo will announce he’s returning to football as the missing piece for the playoff-bound Jaguars or Texans … and CBS will announce that Phil Simms is taking his place. Just remember we talked about it when Phil Simms is talking about talking about it.

All right, it’s time for my Week 2 wagers. With apologies to Minnesota (+6) in Pittsburgh, Philly (+6) in Kansas City and Jacksonville (+3) at home for Tennessee, I liked these three wagers the most (home teams in caps) …

Kirk Cousins Rob Carr/Getty Images

RAMS (-3) over D.C. Snyders

Last Friday, I backed the Rams in Week 1 and explained why they could become 2017’s undervalued September team that eventually goes 9-7 or 10-6—with their ultimate destiny being, “The Team We Can’t Wait to Bet Against in Round 1.” What happened? Jared Goff looked like a young Vince Ferragamo, Sean McVay became the King of Millennials, and the Rams rolled to a 46-9 blowout victory. It was such a joyous afternoon that Rams fans were deliriously passing out in the Coliseum stands. Or they were passing out because of heat stroke. Nobody really knew.

Meanwhile, the Deadskins got manhandled at home by an NFC East rival, couldn’t block for Kirk Cousins and looked significantly worse at receiver. Their traumatized fans sampled another Skins season, smelled the same Snyder-fueled stench that’s been there for years, made the “Who farted?” face and quickly shifted their attention back to the Nats. He’s ruined anything fun about football for that entire area. For millions and millions of fans. They hate him and they hate rooting for his team. On my Wednesday podcast, celebrity chef David Chang (a longtime D.C. sports junkie) advocated ignoring the Skins entirely, avoiding home games and boycotting their merchandise. By the way, it’s not even Week 2 yet.

Naturally, I thought the Rams would be favored by more than 3—especially with super-stud Aaron Donald coming back and Goff earning a coveted pointing-up green arrow on CBS SportsLine’s fantasy site (as well as a spot on the “Most Added” list for its Roster Trends page). A green arrow for Jared Goff! I use CBS for fantasy football and baseball; it’s kind of amazing how those little green arrows and red injury flags can shape your mood. My League of Dorks team (AL only) had a June stretch when my roster had at least 11 red flags and dark-blue pointing-down arrows at once and I felt like the world was ending. It was like fantasy baseball Heartbreak Ridge.

Could you argue that CBS invented emoji when it started using green/blue arrows and red injury flags for fantasy players? Did it foreshadow where emoji were going? And why hasn’t CBS added more fantasy emoji? Didn’t Andy Dalton deserve more than a dark-blue down arrow after breaking the worst-QBR record last weekend? Couldn’t CBS have given him the poop emoji? Shouldn’t Carson Palmer’s name have a football grave emoji next to it? Should Gronk’s name have a panic button? Should Kaepernick’s name have Goodell’s face next to it? Step it up, CBS SportsLine.

Anyway, I’m riding the Rams on Sunday; after they win, I’m riding them again on Thursday in San Francisco. Put the money bag emoji next to my name. The Rams are going 10-6.

—The bet: $550 to win $500 on the Rams -3

TEASER: RAVENS (-8.5 over Browns) and Patriots (-7 over SAINTS)

I feel like one of those 1990s infomercial stars …

“Last week, I told you the Rams were undervalued, the Colts were dead on arrival and that the Ravens defense was back with a capital B. AND I WAS RIGHT! You want fancy cars? You want beautiful women? You don’t need to be a genius to make money with my system. The gambling knowledge you will get will make you financially independent for the rest of your life! Come to my seminar!”

A fantastic Ravens defense playing at home against a rookie QB and a young Browns team coming off a moral-victory loss to Pittsburgh? Sign me up. Belichick and Brady coming off an embarrassing loss that had everyone questioning the team’s ceiling? That sounds magnificent! What’s been a better gambling lock over the past 15 years? Now throw in Brady’s spectacular history in domes, New Orleans being one receiver short (at least until Willie Snead comes back) and Gronk spending the week reading about how he looked washed u—actually, you’re right, Gronk didn’t read anything. But everything else is true. Easy teasey.

—The bet: $550 to win $500 on the Ravens -2.5 and the Patriots -1

PARLAY: CHARGERS (-205 over Dolphins) and RAIDERS (-1200 over Jets) and SEAHAWKS (-1000 over 49ers)

We explained the concept of “teasers” last Friday and a startling number of readers expressed their appreciation. Turns out only people with gambling problems or near-gambling problems know what a teaser is. My bad. Also—my pleasure! Check out this email.

I’m a sophomore in high school. I always heard you and Sal discuss teasers on your podcast but never knew what they were. Thanks for explaining it and keep up the good work.
—Anthony, New Rochelle

That warms my heart, Anthony. When you start gambling, definitely do two-team teasers—they’re always fun. If you ever lose money, just tell your mom or dad that you need an advance for a gym membership and pay the bookie off that way. It always works once. Good luck.

Anyway, we’re covering parlays this week. A parlay means that you’re wagering on the money line for at least two teams, players, boxers, MMA fighters, award nominees or whomever. But all of them HAVE to win. I enjoy parlays because they remove point spreads completely. Usually, you want to parlay two favorites so their collective odds swing close to even. In the wager above, adding two massive favorites (Oakland and Seattle) drops the Chargers’ money line from -205 (meaning you’d have to risk $205 to win $100) to a much more manageable -129 ($129 to win $100). But again, EVERYONE has to win.

Check out that three-team parlay again. Are you worried about Josh McCown and the Jets winning in Oakland, or Brian Hoyer and the Niners shocking the 12th Man in Seattle? Me neither. This parlay hinges on San Diego–L.A. christening The Carnac with an emotional “W.”

Important tangent: The NFL is already reeling enough between CTE and Goodell and domestic violence and declining ratings and Kaepernick and everything else. We can’t call an NFL stadium “The StubHub Center.” It’s the freaking National Football League. “The StubHub Center” sounds like a convalescent home or a place to get physical therapy. We can’t allow this. Since it’s located in Carson, California, a Johnny Carson–type wrinkle for a nickname makes sense … which led me to The Carnac. Haven’t we heaped enough indignities on Chargers fans already? At least let them feel good about playing in The Carnac.

I journeyed down to The Carnac last month for a U.S. women’s soccer game. If you didn’t know, Carson sits about 30-35 minutes outside of downtown L.A. and makes Green Bay look like Las Vegas. Even people from Anaheim make fun of Carson, and Anaheim is basically Worcester with a theme park. You can take roughly 75 different highways to get to Carson; all of them suck. There’s nothing fun about Carson. When I was little, my dad used to make fun of his brothers Greg and Chuck by calling Greg “Chuck with a job,” which was an ingenious way of insulting both of them at once. Anaheim is Carson with a job.

But The Carnac? I gotta say … it’s pretty great. Easy to get in, easy to get out. No bad seats. Everyone hovers right over the field. Holds noise and gets super-loud, as Paolo Uggetti covered in his Ringer piece on Thursday. In the words of a nodding Kevin Wildes, it’s somethin’. The Chargers spent the decade saddled with football’s worst home-field advantage once their decrepit stadium officially sucked the life out of everybody. In their last five San Diego seasons, they finished only 19-21 at home. That’s ludicrous.

There’s a bigger piece to write about the perfect size of a modern NFL stadium; we’ll save that for another time. But when you’re dropping down to 27,000 (a crazy, crazy number—at least 30,000 lower than any NFL stadium in recent memory) and you’re doing it right outside America’s second-biggest city (loaded with more transplanted sports fans than anywhere else), and you’re doing it during the Secondary Market/Second Screen/Internet/Red Zone/Giant HD TV era, you’re risking a Road Team Takeover if it’s the wrong team. In Week 4, get ready for a Chargers home game filled with Philly fans. In Week 17, get ready for a Raiders fan takeover. It’s happening.

But Week 2 against Miami? We’re fine. How many Dolphins fans have you ever met? I know two. The Chargers will be delighted to hear the following two words again.

Another reason to love the Chargers this week: Jay Cutler! Remember when we all thought that Jay Cutler sucked? Because he did? Remember when the Chicago fans quit on him? Remember when he got benched in 2014 for Jimmy Clausen? Remember when he could have returned last season but the Bears opted to play Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley instead? Remember when he retired last winter because nobody wanted to sign him? Remember when we were excited about his TV career? Then Ryan Tannehill got injured, the Dolphins lured Cutler out of retirement, and everyone’s reaction was, “He’s reunited with Adam Gase! He was great with Gase! This could work!”

Shit, even I got sucked into that one. Guess what? Gase and Cutler finished 6-9-1 that season! Dating back to 2013, Cutler has lost 29 of his past 43 starts. Of course, his numbers during that stretch were fine: 66 TDs, 43 picks, 88.6 QB rating, about 240 yards per game. You could never judge Cutler by numbers only; there hasn’t been a QB in the past 25 years with worse intangibles. For a variety of reasons, he’s the football version of It Follows—when your team has sex with him, your team dies. It can’t be explained. It’s a force that transcends all of us.

I look at this as something of an opportunity. How many weeks before everyone says, “Oh yeah, it’s Jay Cutler!” and the lines adjust? Two? Three? The only reason I didn’t grab San Diego–L.A. with the spread was because they’re favored by four, opening them up to get screwed on a backdoor cover. But the Chargers, Seahawks and Raiders just winning and that’s it? Sign me up.

(By the way, I almost threw Sterling K. Brown into this parlay—he’s a -275 favorite to win the Best Actor Emmy for This Is Us, which would have bumped the parlay to +142—but The Ringer’s Alison Herman talked me out of it. My wife watches that show and cried during 16 of the 18 episodes, leaving her only two sobs shy of a perfect season. If you know anyone who went 18-for-18, email me with the details at themailbag@theringer.com.)

—The bet: $645 to win $500 on the Rams, Seahawks and Raiders all winning

LAST WEEK: 3-0, up $1,500