Highlights from Bill Simmons’ NFL picks column this week:
“I would like President-elect Obama to pass a bill on Jan. 21 that Bernard Pollard's middle name should be said at all times -- like how we would describe an assassin -- to properly convey how he killed the Patriots' 2008 season. I can't get over it. I'm calling him Bernard Karmell Pollard from now on. We would have been 8-0 with that cream-puff schedule, and Brady would have 2,700 yards and 25 TDs at this point. Damn it all. I need therapy.”
“My buddy Sal makes a good point: What if the Cowboys had promoted Tony Sparano 18 months ago instead of digging Wade Phillips out of his mausoleum and giving him a whistle? I countered with, ‘What if Bernard Pollard hadn't ended the Patriots' season in eight minutes?’ We changed topics. Quickly.”
“NBC kept promoting Sunday night's show as ‘The Rivalry of the Decade,’ and I realized that, yes, that was definitely true. Past tense. I now will put on my Pat Patriot helmet and dive out of a moving car.”
Maybe he’s exaggerating for effect, but I tend to doubt it. Simmons prides himself on being the everyman sports fan, on writing the things that he’d be saying anyway if he was sitting at an average sports bar and not Jimmy Kimmel’s house.
And if that’s the case: Is that really how he looks at this season?
Things might be different out in California, but here in New England, the standings say that the Patriots are 5-3 and tied for first in the AFC East. The schedule says the Patriots have a handful of really, really big games ahead, including road trips to Miami and Buffalo and a home game against Pittsburgh. Even a Dec. 21 home game against Arizona likely will have playoff implications for both teams.
Yes, that Week 14-15 road trip to Seattle and Oakland might be a dud, but those are the only two games left on the schedule that don't affect who plays in January and who goes home.
The season didn't end when Brady went down. In a lot of ways, that's when the fun part began.
That's right: The fun part. If you let go of the fact that this team was never going to go 16-0, you can have a lot of fun watching this Patriots team this season.
Yes, it's fun to watch a team demolish everything in its path the way Tom Brady and Randy Moss and the Patriots did a season ago.
But that’s also what made last season’s Super Bowl so agonizing. With the expectations so high, it was far more devastating to see the Patriots lose than it would have been exciting to see the Patriots win. It was the exact opposite of the first Super Bowl against the Rams – the disappointment had the Patriots lost wouldn’t have been close to the excitement fans felt when the Patriots won.
It’s more fun when there are ups and downs -- the way the rout at San Diego made the Monday night shellacking of Denver that much more satisfying.
It’s more fun when players emerge from nowhere to make big contributions -- the way BenJarvus Green-Ellis has done this season.
It's more fun when you get to watch players grow up before your eyes -- the way Tom Brady did five years ago and the way Matt Cassel is doing now.
It’s more fun when you don’t go into a game knowing if your team is going to win -- the way most Patriots fans are feeling going into today's game against Buffalo.
It’s more fun when, to borrow one of Simmons’ favorite lines, you’re not rooting for the house in blackjack. And it's disappointing to find out that "The Sports Guy" would prefer to root for the house after all.