You knew this was coming … it's the Mayan Apocalypse Holiday Mailbag! When will I ever get to do one of these again? Let's cross it with Week 16 NFL picks and answer even more e-mails than usual (over 50 in all), just so you'll always remember plowing through your final Sports Guy column during those final seconds as Earth is collapsing on itself. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
(Home teams in caps.)
Falcons (-4) over LIONS
Q: Did you know the Lions are selling Axel Foley jackets now? As a lifelong Lions fan (I'm 28), I can safely say that the fact that I can now own this jacket is one of my top 5 moments rooting for this team — Barry Sanders owns the first 4 moments, but this is definitely fifth.
—Brandon Draper, Farmingdale, NY
SG: So to recap — Brandon's top five Lions moments involve a 1984 Eddie Murphy movie and a running back who retired 14 years ago. And you wonder why I took the Falcons over the free-falling Lions. (Another reason: Atlanta clinches the no. 1 seed with a win, allowing them to rest everyone next week.) Meanwhile, Vince Verhei's recent ESPN.com piece (Insider only) made a devastating case for the Falcons being the first-ever "Nobody Believes In Us But With Reason Because We're Absolutely Screwed" team: They're the 12th team to exceed Football Outsiders' win expectancy model by three-plus wins, which ties into the whole "Atlanta isn't nearly as good as its record" angle. Of those other 11 teams, seven either missed the playoffs or lost their first playoff game, and only two made it to a conference championship (the '03 Panthers and '04 Falcons). Their best hope? That '03 Panthers team came within a break or two of beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl AND nearly launched the Mayan Apocalypse eight years early (had Jake Delhomme won the Super Bowl).
Q: When David Stern finally gets his way and Gary Bruce Bettman kills the NHL, what happens to Lord Stanley's Cup a.k.a. the greatest trophy in pro sports? Will it be rented out for parties? I know that I'd pay top dollar to spend a night drinking booze from it. Or maybe the NFL can buy it and rename it the Lord Stanley's Lombardi Cup. There are implications beyond losing a league and the best live experience from any American pro sport. We should really be planning the fate of the Stanley Cup now before Bettman starts using it as his personal outhouse.
— Brandon, Sacramento
SG: I like the idea of renting the Stanley Cup — if they charged $25,000 per night, with the caveat "The Stanley Cup cannot leave North America," how many nights could they sell off to wealthy people desperately trying to impress their friends? Maybe 200 or so? But I love the idea of another league buying the Cup. Why wouldn't the NBA (which currently has the worst trophy in professional sports) purchase it for $25 million as Stern's final dagger into the NHL's back nearly 20 years after planting his mole there? The NHL won't truly hit rock-bottom until it hawks the Cup — that would be the league's "Dirk Diggler jerking off in a church parking lot for 20 bucks" nadir.
(Shouldn't a few NHL diehards steal the Cup and threaten to melt it by January 15 unless hockey comes back? At the very least, couldn't we make this idea into a sports movie? Like a cross between Ocean's Eleven, Ransom and Celtic Pride? This feels like Kevin Smith's next straight-to-cable comeback movie. I'd call it either Stealing Lord Stanley or Five Minutes for Kidnapping.)
Q: Fantasy football sucks. The guy who took a kicker in the 8th round of our fantasy draft just beat me in the playoffs. I give up.
SG: You're talking to the guy who spent 10 minutes adding up Week 15 stats for his team that never made the playoffs just to see if he would have beaten everyone else. And yes, Kaepernick (four TDs), Gore, Murray, Dez, Cal Johnson, James Jones (three TDs) and the Bengals D (12 pts) would have beaten everyone else. This is reason no. 92 why I'm probably retiring from fantasy football. Here's reason no. 93: I actually said the words "all fantasy football sites need to add live scoring pages for teams that didn't make the playoffs" on Sunday. It's a sickness.
TEXANS (-7.5) over Vikings
Q: Isn't Christian Ponder the perfect example of why QBR doesn't cover it all? He has the cushiest circumstances for a QB in the modern NFL. He faces nine-man boxes every single snap. It's a bonus if he throws for over ONE HUNDRED yards. He is a picture of sheer panic and fear every time he drops back. Take a close look not just at his incomprehensible interceptions, but all the unseen open receivers or simple underthrown/overthrown passes. Blame it on the receivers? Please. We thought the Vikings had bad receivers when T Jack was here — that was proven false the moment Favre stepped in. If Ponder was placed in any situation that did not involve the greatest running attack in modern NFL history, I am very confident he could surpass Skelton, Leaf, etc as the worst QB in modern NFL history.
—James Bachmeier II, St. Paul
SG: (Waving my arm like a third-base coach … )
Q: Something I read today: "In the Vikings' last six games, Christian Ponder has completed one pass in 23 attempts 15 yards or more downfield. During that time, 40 other players have completed multiple passes of those distances. Ponder's last completion 15 yards or more came in Week 10 against the Lions." Seriously, this is what AP has to protect him from nine men in the box?
SG: (Still waving my arm … )
Q: After reading your take on Ponder in your QB Power Poll, I was astonished not to see even the tiniest Samantha Steele reference. It was almost inconceivable. I actually re-read that paragraph thinking I missed it because of my hangover. I hope you have some sort of explanation, like an ESPN-related conflict of interest or something. If not I fear that this is the first sign of the beginning of your decline or even worse your Donny-Kerabatsos-leaving-the-last-pin-standing moment. Please tell me you were just fatigued and this never would have happened were he not such an awful NFL QB and thus not so far down the list. Give me something here.
—Bob, Greely, CO
SG: An honest copy-paste mistake. I had a joke in there about Ponder being the single luckiest guy of 2012 (for stumbling into Steele AND Peterson's amazing comeback AND two straight months of going against goal-line defenses) and accidentally chopped it from the final piece. By the way, my readers keep hypothesizing that Steele had some sort of a Kim Basinger/Roy Hobbs effect on Ponder's season. I'm pretty sure she didn't make a difference since Ponder's ceiling is really "a homeless man's Rich Gannon," but let's add her to the Gisele Bündchen All-Stars just to be safe. I'm also adding Allie LaForce preemptively just in case she ever starts dating a great athlete — she might be the only human alive who can derail Peterson at this point.
Q: Every year there are one or two guys (like Peterson this year) who go off late and wreck the end of the fantasy football season by putting up ridiculous stats and virtually guaranteeing a championship for their owners. Think Calvin Johnson last year or Michael Vick in 2009. This player needs a nickname that we can all recognize for easy discussion. Something like "The Wrecker," but not as lame. This way, you could say things like, "I thought I had my league won until I ran into 'The Wrecker' in the finals."
—Rob Ostrom, Strongsville, OH
SG: Hmmmmmm. I'm partial to The Saboteur because you're insinuating that things were going fine until outside forces willfully sabotaged it. Just to be sure, I e-mailed Matthew Berry for his blessing. Here's what he wrote back:
"I love this idea. On our podcast, we have ton of these phrases: 'Fantasy Whac-a-mole' (the guy who shows up one week and then disappears the next), the 'Fantasy Zombie' (guy left for dead who suddenly shows up and becomes relevant, like Knowshon Moreno), the 'Fantasy Goat' (the one player who, in an otherwise huge game, does nothing — like the Seahawks put up 58 points two weeks ago but Sidney Rice had three points) and, of course, 'Fantasy Kryptonite' (among my favorite fantasy nicknames of all time). Since you created 'Fantasy Kryptonite,' I'm on board with 'The Saboteur' given your track record. Just wondering if it would be better if you have a specific example of a 'Saboteur' and use that as the name. Like, anytime a closer gets a save in baseball but it's one of those that the guy gives up two runs, two walks and a hit before the save we always call a 'Dirty Fuentes' (after former closer Brian Fuentes, who seemed to lead the league in ugly, WHIP crushing saves). So what about the Fantasy Rielle (after the lady who ruined John Edwards' political career)? A Fantasy Jar Jar? Fantasy Yoko? For you, maybe Fantasy Bobby V? Maybe your readers can beat those?"
We don't even need my readers. I like Fantasy Yoko — that's really, really solid. Rolls right off the tongue. You could even shorten it and say, "Adrian Peterson just Yoko'd my fantasy title." Done. We're moving on.