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The Eli Manning Denial Mailbag

Plus: Bill Simmons makes his Week 3 NFL picks

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

I hope that you’ve recovered from Thursday night’s delightfully entertaining NFL game. Wait … READ THAT SENTENCE AGAIN! The NFL is back, baby! All it took was one four-hour shootout between Jared Goff and Brian Hoyer, a near catastrophe by the Rams’ special teams, and one of the better unexpected covers by San Francisco to reel us back in! Let’s crack open a mailbag and celebrate! As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Q: Being a Jets fan this year is great because …

1. Next year’s draft is rife with stud QBs.
2. The Pats and Brady look vulnerable.
3. The Giants truly suck.
4. I get to focus on gambling and daily fantasy football.

What more could I ask for?
—Marc from Madison, Wis.

BS: Why couldn’t you stretch that list to 20?

Being a Jets fan this year is great because …

5. Rex Ryan has bombed as a TV guy.
6. Brandon Marshall is still infecting a New York team (it’s just the Giants).
7. Mark Sanchez officially isn’t coming back to haunt you.
8. You can scout USC/UCLA games and have “Darnold or Rosen?” arguments.
9. At least the Jets sucked on purpose this season.
10. At least the Jets don’t have New York’s worst sports owner.
11. At least the Jets don’t have New York’s worst NFL coach.
12. At least the Jets don’t have an expensive 36-year-old QB who’s 30-36 in his past 66 starts.
13. Eli Manning has more losses since 2013 than anyone other than Philip Rivers.
14. Eli has a lower QB rating since 2013 than Nick Foles, Jay Cutler, and Colin Kaepernick.
15. Eli was the recent subject of a FiveThirtyEight piece headlined “Eli Manning Is Profoundly Mediocre” that includes a graphic titled “Eli Manning is more Mark Sanchez than Peyton Manning” and unapologetically compares him to Vinny Testaverde.
16. For the 2017 season, Eli makes three times as much as Josh McCown.
17. Eli’s cap hit is $22.2 million next season.
18. You can make fun of any Giants fan about reasons 11 through 17. At least Jets fans have a sense of humor. Giants fans have no sense of humor about Eli—none, zero, zilch. It’s like teasing an uptight soccer mom about her kid getting benched.
19. The 50th anniversary of Super Bowl III is looming in a year.
20. As The Ringer’s editor-in-chief (and Jets fan) Sean Fennessey points out, “For the first time ever, I’m not emotionally invested in a single player on the team.” I ... think that's a good thing?

And that’s not counting the following email …

Q: I listened to the ENTIRE PODCAST where you ranked the Patriots’ top 25 wins in the Belichick era. It honestly felt like you both slowly unzipped your pants and ejaculated all over me for nearly two hours. I was born in September 1987 on Long Island, and am bearing down hard on my 30th birthday. I am a die-hard Jets, Mets, Knicks, and Islanders fan, and the true sports highlights of my life are as follows:

1. Antonio Cromartie picking up an onside kick clinching a DIVISIONAL playoff victory over the Patriots (I doubt you even remember this game).
2. The Mets making the 2000 World Series only to lose to the Yankees (of all teams).
3. The 2013 Knicks winning 54 games and a 2-seed, then losing in Round 2 before playing LeBrons Heat.
4. Literally zero Islanders moments. (Its legitimately unfathomable to me that this team won four straight championships just prior to my birth.)

None of my teams has won a championship since I’ve been born. Im oh-for-120!!! I would say a large amount of Long Islanders have the same team allegiances as I do. Substitute the Knicks for the Nets—same result. Try to find me a fan base more tortured than the Long Island fan base.
—Lee Schneider

BS: First, just a phenomenal use of the word “ejaculated.” And second, I forwarded Lee’s email to Long Island’s own Sean Fennessey, and asked if we should be giving a catchy nickname to 35-and-under Long Island fans stuck with the Jets, Mets, Islanders AND the Knicks or Nets. (I made the cutoff 35 years old to include someone like Sean, who was alive when the Mets and Islanders last won but was too young to remember anything about it.) Fennessey didn’t have a suggestion but wrote back, “FML.”

FML! I like the idea of calling the 35-and-unders “Long Island FML” because it makes them sounds like an MLS expansion team, only if they were playing on an abandoned nuclear waste site on an artificial turf field made up of potentially cancer-causing rubber pellets. But if anyone has a better idea for a nickname, send it to

Q: I just watched the Eagles-Chiefs game and Fox didnt show game scores at the bottom of the screen, only player stats. What do you think angers old men the most: fantasy sports, female announcers, replay or analytics?
—John Gelhard

BS: I mean …

Q: Eli is the MOST overrated Hall of Fame quarterback ever! He is two Hail Marys away from being Kerry Collins.
—James Britt, West Linn, Ore.

BS: Oh, that’s what you’re gonna throw at me now? Fancy stats? You should have given me the Pythagorean theorem of Eli’s two Hail Marys that by the way won TWO SUPER BOWLS! I don’t care if Eli is 30-36 since 2013 and compares statistically to Ryan Fitzpatrick and Blake Bortles! I don’t care if Colin Kaepernick’s numbers are better even though Colin Kaepernick isn’t even in the league! You want a stat? You want sabermetrics? The offensive line stinks! That’s my stat! It’s football! I’ve been watching it for 40 years! FORTY! It’s the Joe Pisarcik formula! You can’t throw the football when you’re on your back! I AM IN COMPLETE FUCKING DENIAL THAT ELI NEEDS EIGHT QUARTERS TO SCORE 30 POINTS IN THE NFL! So take that with your fancy “two Hail Marys”!

Q: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule dicking around on the NBA Trade Machine to do NFL-related mailbags during football season. Can you keep it up? I doubt it ...
—Jason, Cloverdale, Va.

BS: Oh, that’s what you’re gonna throw at me now? Fancy snark comments? You think I can’t write mailbags AND dick around on the NBA Trade Machine? I’ve been writing mailbags for 40 years! FORTY! I CAN DO THESE IN MY SLEEP!

(Would it be weird if I answered every mailbag question like that crazy New York radio guy from two questions ago? You’re right—too weird.)

Q: Can we call the sideline injury tent the Vico-Den?
—Michael Edge

BS: Done. Let’s really do this. It’s so much better than the “blue injury tent.”

Q: You know how we send a couple crappy games to London each year? Why couldnt we just do the same thing with L.A. football? Let Stan Kroenke build his stadium in L.A., and just rent it out to two visiting teams throughout the year.
—Matt Sexton

BS: I like this idea! We should use the 2017 Chargers and 2017 Rams as test cases for it. Oh wait.

Q: Any football fan saw the news that Aaron Hernandez had advanced CTE. Now what?? Was he a bad person? Probably. Was he a worse person because of CTE?? Maybe. How long before any NFL player who gets in legal troubles hints at the fact that he too might be suffering from CTE?? What if they are right?? Can I tell the difference between an asshole and a person with serious head trauma??
—Tim, Pennsylvania

BS: Haven’t we been circling this issue with the likes of Chris Benoit and O.J. Simpson for years? After reading that a source once told O.J.: Made in America director Ezra Edelman that Simpson’s head was so gigantic that he used to remove the air padding in his helmets (so his helmet would fit), I remember thinking, “That’s it! CTE! That’s why O.J.’s ex-wife and her friend were brutally killed!”

Why did I want that to be true? Because of 2,003 yards, Nordberg, Hertz commercials, Capricorn One, Monday Night Football and everything else. I grew up watching O.J. I liked O.J. I didn’t want to believe that O.J. was evil—that he could be capable of practically decapitating his ex-wife while his kids slept peacefully in another room. When the only two explanations for evil behavior are either (a) CTE or (b) just plain evil, as caring human beings, we’re always hoping the answer isn’t “just plain evil.” Anyway, I don’t have an answer for you, Tim. Until scientists can figure out a way to diagnose CTE damage in the moment, we’ll never know when it arrived and when it got worse. But this can’t be good for the No Fun League. Remember those not-long-ago years when the NFL was pretending that football didn’t cause concussions and squashing as much of the research and reporting about it as it could? Um … yeah.

Q: After two horrid weeks, how close do you think the Seahawks are to becoming this years Nobody Believes in Us team?

BS: Isn’t that every September with them at this point? I’m going the other way—I think all 32 teams are the “Nobody Believes in Us” team. Nobody believes in Trevor Siemian, Green Bay’s offensive line and secondary, Seattle’s everything, Dallas’s explosiveness, Andy Reid and Alex Smith, Joe Flacco, New England’s defense, Oakland’s defense, Sam Bradford, Tampa Bay’s running game, Tennessee’s passing game, Cam Newton, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz, Ben Roethlisberger’s health, my favorite millennial Sean McVay (2-1!), Jay Cutler … should I keep going? Which team are you jealous of? Please, join me in vowing not to overreact to any NFL development this month. Remember the NFL’s schedule like this …

Preseason: Crime blotter.
September: Extended preseason.
October: The NFL wears pink and pretends to care about women.
November: The NFL takes heat for Thursday nights, concussions, injured QBs and player safety.
December: Fantasy football playoffs.
January: The NFL playoffs are awesome again and we forgive everything else.

Q: After we found out that KD has multiple Twitter accounts, I have to ask: Are you real? Or are you really KD disguised as a 47-year-old sportswriter from Boston? If you are KD, then why didnt you go to Boston last summer?
—Matt, Cleveland

BS: Too soon. Too soon.

Q: Thank you for bringing weird ’80s videos back to the public consciousness. I would like to advocate for Billy Ocean's 1984 classic Loverboy.” It’s super weird.

I think the producer told him, “Hey, Billy, lets capitalize on the success of Return of the Jedi and make a video that’s part Jabbas Palace, part Mos Eisley and part Ghostbusters with some hairy aliens dressed kind of like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. And let’s make the female lead a cross between Zenyatta and Lady Gaga—trust me, theyll be big in the 21st century. And dont worry that this all has NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ACTUAL SONG!”
—Jim Noland

BS: Boom! That’s the third member of the “Five Weirdest 1980s Videos” Club. Some highlights …

0:00-0:38: Absolutely nothing happens. Like, nothing.

0:39-0:48: Suddenly there’s someone riding a horse in the water on a beautiful beach. In 1984, back in the days when horny teenagers could ogle women only through stolen Playboys, SI’s swimsuit issue, HBO and music videos, that horse/water/beach/slo-mo feel made you think, “THIS IS GREAT! WE’RE GETTING GIRLS IN BIKINIS! BILLY OCEAN IS GONNA BE THEIR LOVERBOY!” And then the swoop-in to reveal what appears to be an alien on an alien horse. I can’t tell you how disappointing this was in 1984.

1:13-1:32: Our first glimpse of the alien cave party. It’s one of the better alien cave parties.

1:53: The flirting between the lead alien and the Goatface Lady alien who somehow became sexier and sexier every time you watched this video in 1984 as long as you were between the ages of 13 and 17 … I mean, so, so, so special. That’s how rough the 1980s were for horny teenagers. If MTV wasn’t running Duran Duran videos, “Thriller” or Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” you actually started talking yourself into Goatface Lady.

2:48-3:23: Incredible no-words montage. Nobody did awkward montages better than 1984.

4:12-end: The song runs out, but our captor still needs to ride on his horse with Goatface Lady, so the director makes the remarkable decision to go SILENT for the last 40 seconds. The lesson, as always: any perplexing creative pop culture decision from 1978 to 1986 should be viewed through the prism of, “They were probably doing a ton of cocaine.”

Q: If Brady and Belichick both abruptly retired tomorrow and gambling on football was completely banned across the board, how far would your interest level in the NFL drop?
—Ben Smith, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

BS: If Ben had also gotten rid of fantasy football, he would have created the football fan version of the bleak dystopia from The Handmaid’s Tale.

Q: If youre the Jaguars, how much would you give up for Garoppolo and his handsomeness? Their defense is insane and Bortles is insanely bad. Is it worth it to get Jimmy, or should they wait for this draft?
—Thomas, N.Y.

BS: Sorry, the Patriots aren’t trading Handsome Jimmy. You know who’s not getting tricked by the TB12 diet, avocado ice cream and 200 ounces of water per day? Bill Belichick. He knows 40-year-old quarterbacks are like that half-and-half carton in your fridge that improbably stays fresh after its expiration date, so you lower your guard and keep using it until that one fateful morning when you make coffee and pour the half-and-half into it … and suddenly those frightening spoiled milk clusters bubble to the top and now you’re screwed and you have to put on clothes and drive to Starbucks. Well, Belichick doesn’t want to drive to Starbucks. He’s keeping Garoppolo in his fridge for a reason. I don’t think that Belichick will deal Garoppolo unless he can get two first-round picks back. And somebody who’s at least 83 percent as handsome.

Q: Why has no one talked about how Ben McAdoo looks like he wants to throw the red flag on [REMOVED BY EDITORS]?
—Jake Boyle

BS: Kudos to Jake for (a) crossing every line in the email and (b) making me laugh out loud anyway. Fortunately, it’s Ben McAdoo and you can throw anything in the brackets—literally, anything—and the joke still works. It’s almost like a make-your-own-mailbag joke. By the way, the worst thing about Ben McAdoo is that he’s somehow made Bob McAdoo slightly less cool, even though Bob retired more than 30 years ago. Unacceptable. The man needs to be stopped.

Q: In last week’s mailbag, I can’t believe you answered that movie streak question without mentioning the King of the Movie Streak: Harrison Ford.

Empire Strikes Back
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Blade Runner
Return of the Jedi
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

You could do any combo of these five (all bona fide, everyone-has-seen-them-a-billion-times classics) and beat anyone, but on totality, these five are probably the greatest winning streak in the history of celluloid. Harrison Ford is Michael Jordan. Harrison Ford is Ric Flair. Harrison Ford is Roger Federer. Everyone else is trying to be him and beat him, but never will.
—Seth, Denver

BS: I’m still shaking off the mailbag rust. I blew it. I’m sorry. Hopefully an angry Harrison Ford won’t crash a small airplane into my house. For the record, I also missed Matt Damon …

Good Will Hunting (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Rounders (1998)

How ’bout them apples? Since we’re here, kudos to reader Todd Gleason, who sent me a 1,500-word email of different streaks to consider that included all the great actors (Pacino, De Niro, Nicholson, etc.) and also Anthony Michael Hall …

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Breakfast Club (1985)

I think this needs to go on Anthony Michael Hall’s Wikipedia page: “In 2017, Hall was favorably compared to Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson and other greats by Portland movie buff Todd Gleason.” Speaking of great internet pages …

Q: I listened to your Silence of the Lambs podcast. Did you know that early in his acting career (Im using the term generously), Stuart Rudin (the actor who played Miggs) was in a movie called Sticky Fingers? His IMDb is also remarkable. His roles include:

Homeless Man
Homeless Man (again)
Homeless Guy (apparently different)
Bus Shelter Bum (again, apparently different)
Crazy Man in New York Street (ditto)
Old Bearded Man
Deluded Man Patient
Trembling Patient
Bus Rider with Guitar

Thats some impressively and disturbingly steady type-casting. If you are Mr. and Mrs. Rudin, are you proud that your boy is a working actor, or do you pretend to your friends that his job waiting tables is his full-time gig?
—Howard, Calgary, Alberta

BS: No way—you’re bragging to everyone that your son was in Silence of the Lambs. You gotta own it.

“What’s Stuart up to?”
“Oh, he’s doing great—he’s still acting. Did you see Silence of the Lambs?”
“I did! Great movie!”
“Remember that crazy guy in Lecter’s prison who threw his man-goo at Jodie Foster?”
“That was Stuart!”

Q: How have we evolved so much as a society, yet still have millions of people doing fantasy football? I lost in my work league this week to a guy who started nothing but guys named Mike. Yes, thats right, a fantasy team quarterbacked by Mike Glennon beat me! Please say something to make me feel better.

BS: Six words: I’m starting Jay Cutler this week.

Q: Im not sure who I lost more respect for in the last week: KD for Twittergate, or you for inexplicably suggesting that Rocky 3 is somehow peak Rocky. Rocky 4 has a better villain (Ivan Drago literally kills Apollo), is more quotable (I must break you, If he dies, he dies), features a full James Brown musical number, utilizes five (!!) montages, and concludes with Rocky ENDING THE COLD WAR. … Go ahead, defend yourself in the third person.
—Jake, Grand Rapids, Mich.

BS: There’s no defending anything. Bill Simmons is never changing his mind on these six things.

1. Michael Jordan was the best NBA player ever.
2. Eddie Murphy was the best SNL cast member ever.
3. Stevie Nicks had the coolest voice ever.
4. Billionaires should build their own fucking stadiums.
5. The Wire was better than The Sopranos.
6. Rocky 3 was the best Rocky movie.

All right, it’s time for my Week 3 wagers (home teams in caps). We have 10 road favorites this week, yet another sign that the world might be ending soon. Like, really soon. (Other recent signs: a 20-homer season for Elvis Andrus, Mother!, the drunk couple who went to jail for hooking up in a Domino’s, Caitlyn Jenner potentially being Blake Griffin’s mother-in-law, the judge who thought Canelo beat GGG 118-110, Jerry Jones turning on Roger Goodell, the Sean Spicer media rehabilitation tour, Jalen Rose being in love and, of course, a North Korean dictator successfully calling our president a “dotard.”) Thursday night, our first road favorite—the Rams—was laying three points in San Francisco. They won by two.

I don’t need to spell this out for you.

Falcons (-3) over LIONS

These types of gambling gifts don’t happen very often. Let’s see …

  • Detroit whupped one of the NFL’s six worst teams (Arizona) at home in Week 1. In Week 2, the Lions beat a Giants team that can’t block and had Odell limping around at half speed.

Of course, that led everyone to conclude that the “2017 Detroit Lions are legit” and are “serious contenders in the NFC North.” This is great for us. Seriously. I’m delighted. Hold this thought.

  • Atlanta blew the Super Bowl and improbably became 2017’s “Nobody Believes in Us!” contender even though, as covered earlier, nobody believes in anybody. You know who wrote off the Falcons? Me! I got sucked into the same narratives as everyone else. Super Bowl hangover. No Kyle Shanahan. Tough division, tough schedule. Whoops. They’re still ridiculously fast. Especially indoors. Here is Atlanta’s past 11 point totals indoors (including the playoffs): 48, 30, 33, 38, 28, 41, 38, 36, 44, 28, 34.
  • Last Sunday, Atlanta nearly blew the Packers out of the Arthur Blank Shouldn’t Have Walked Down There Dome, then Aaron Rodgers started pulling Green Bay back and everyone watching had that same “Uh-oh!” flashback to the Greatest Super Bowl Collapse Ever. All it was missing was a cloud of smoke and Robert Duvall screaming, Drive through it! You can drive through it! I know it, I know it in my heart!

The Falcons drove through it. I think they’re fine. Shout-out to Cole Trickle.

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

Seahawks (+3) over TITANS

Hold on, I thought we just agreed that these types of gambling gifts don’t happen very often? Remember when everyone and their brother had the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl two weeks ago? Now they’re GETTING points against Mike Mularkey? People really think Seattle will keep scoring about 10 points a game? People really think one of the NFL’s three best coaching staffs won't be able to come up with a quickie fix for their subpar offensive line? People really think the Titans—who got manhandled in Week 1 by Oakland—are now for real because they beat Blake Bortles? Even our buddy Cousin Sal got sucked in. Noooooooooo!

That's his opinion. Mine is that Titans -3 would be this month’s dumbest betting line if the Philadelphia 76ers’ 2017-18 over/under weren’t still 40.5 wins.

—The bet: $550 to win $500 on the Seahawks +2.5

7-POINT TEASER: Steelers (-7.5 over BEARS) and PACKERS (-9 over Bengals)

We’re breaking three minor gambling rules here:

“Never bet heavily against an 0-2 team trying to save its season.”

“Beware of any Steelers road game in which they’re undefeated and favored because Roethlisberger enjoys either getting hurt or completely shitting the bed at least once before the baseball playoffs start.”

“Don’t ever bet against Andy Dalton AND Mike Glennon.”

Fine, fine, we’re breaking only two minor rules. But it’s hard to imagine Chicago keeping up with Pittsburgh’s offense without any receivers. Have you seen Chicago’s top-five leaders in receiving yards this season? Try to identify them on a bigger list that also includes One Direction members.

Louis Tomlinson
Kendall Wright
Niall Horan
Tarik Cohen
Zach Miller
Harry Styles
Josh Bellamy
Liam Payne
Zayn Malik
Deonte Thompson

The correct answers: Wright, Cohen, Miller, Bellamy, Thompson. Good luck trying to keep up with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, fellas. As for the floundering Bengals, now that the Andy Dalton–Marvin Lewis partnership has completely imploded (as predicted here just two weeks ago!), let’s reexamine the reasons they didn’t need Colin Kaepernick this season.

1. Kaepernick isn’t a good starting quarterback. (Well, neither is Andy Dalton.)
2. Kaepernick hasn’t been very successful these past few years. (True, but he also has four more career playoff wins than Andy Dalton. And they’re the same age.)
3. Kaepernick wants to be a celebrity more than he wants to play football. (We don’t know if this is true since he’s barely said anything.)
4. Kaepernick can’t be a backup QB because he’d be too much of a distraction—backup QBs should be seen and not heard. (Normally, I would agree with this. Normally.)

Because here’s the thing …

Does any NFL coach need a distraction more than Marvin Lewis right now? He’s been there for 15 solid years and the Bengals haven’t won a single playoff game. He shitcanned his offensive coordinator 12 days into the season. He’s battling Chuck Pagano for pole position in Vegas’s “Next Coach Fired” odds and calling out his players to the media. We’re at the Hail Mary point of the Marvin Lewis era. What exactly would Kaepernick be distracting from? Complete chaos? Utter despair? Hopelessness?

Again, I don’t even think he’s a good quarterback. But the moment you bring him in, suddenly everyone isn’t talking about Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton and oh-for-15 anymore. I’d argue that Kaepernick would be the PERFECT distraction. And that’s even before getting into the whole “It’s absolutely freaking crazy that Kaepernick doesn’t have a job but we have to watch eight to 10 terrible starting QBs every week” part of this whole thing. I’m betting against the Bengals, if only because they’re dumbasses. And by the way? It’s never a bad idea to have Aaron Rodgers laying less than three against a crap team in Lambeau.

—The bet: $650 to win $500 on the Steelers (down to -0.5) and Packers (down to -2).
LAST WEEK: 1-2, -695
SEASON: 4-2, +805