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Coming up, a little basketball, a little LeBron, a lot of football. Next. We're also brought to by the Ringer podcast Network. I put up a new rewatchables on Monday. We did Searching for Bobby Fischer. We have a bunch of prestige TV things coming up, including we've been breaking down Fargo, and we have True Detective coming back, which is a really good show. Jody Foster is the star of this season. We're going to have Rob Mahoney and Joanna Robinson breaking it down. If you're interested in True Detective, I've seen the first couple of episodes, and you're going to want some friends to help break it down for you because there's a lot going on. So Prestige TV. Plus, we have to watch Chris Ryan, still cranking it out with Andy Greenwell. Coming up on this podcast, Howard Jack is going to join me to talk about whatever the hell is going on with the Lakers, LeBron, possible trades, not just for the Lakers, but around the league that wouldn't shock us. So we're going to hit all that. And then, Shil Kapatia from Ringer NFL Show on the Ringer. Com is going to help me sift through a very complicated, nutso week 18.


What are we going to do with Million Dollar Picks? What are we going to do about the Patriots? Why does it seem like they're actually going to win? Oh, my God. It's all coming up next.


First, our friends from ProJip.


All right, we're taping this Thursday afternoon. The NBA games have not started yet. Joining us is Howard Beck, who joined the Ringer a few months ago and is now leaking to Shams Sharania that he's unhappy with the lineups and doesn't like what's going on. Why did you do that? Why did you leak to Shams? I don't understand.


It's a coin flip every day who you're going to leak to among the news breakers. And today was Shams' turn. All right, that's fine. I I don't like the rotations. I don't like the lineups. I've lost faith in the coach. Matt Dollinger and I haven't spoken in weeks.


Well, you could feel Mount Lakers, something brewing, erupting, the volcano. You could feel it for the last week if you watch them at all. I noticed when I went to the Celtic game on Christmas Day, I was like, Hmm, this doesn't look great. I don't know if the Celtics are this good or if there's something a little off with the Lakers. They are one 11.9 offensive rating, which is 24th. They have LeBron James, who's one of the best players of all time, one of the best offensive players of all time, and they can't get it going. The rotations have been all over the place. Then finally today, a leak. Shams. He's heard that the players are upset about the rotations. I hate the Lakers, and I'm upset about the rotations. I don't know what's going on. Every three days, it's a different group, and it just feels like a mess. Howard, I really like this team. I thought, just from a future standpoint, my big fan do a best this year. I had them for 45 plus wins. I thought they were going to be in the inner circle for the title hunt. I'm not that concerned about that piece yet, but this has gone badly.


So what happened?


It's hard to put it on any one thing, Bill. The thing is, like you, I bought into this team. I was really down on them for the Westbrook era there, and they fixed it. They fixed it at midseason. They fixed it last February. I thought they made a good trade with one qualifier, but they got good pieces back, better-fitting pieces. Then they went into the summer and they fortified a little more. Gabe Vincent was one of those pieces, and he hasn't played because he's been hurt, so that's part of the issue. But I bought in. I thought they had the right mix. Maybe we were all wrong. Maybe Rob Palinka was wrong. Maybe we're back to where this team has been too often over the last few years with the Championship year notwithstanding, which is you don't have enough playmaking and you don't have enough shooting. You mentioned them being 24th in offensive rating. They're 28th in three-pointers made. They're 29th in three-pointers attempted per game, and they're 24th in three-point percentage. And in today's NBA, there are some exceptions. If you look down the last 12, 13 teams in the three-point rankings by three-pointers made a percentage, there are some teams that are getting by despite that.


And the Lakers are 10th in defensive efficiency right now, so that's helping buffer that a little. But especially on a LeBron-centric team, shooting, LeBron plus shooting. And they have screwed this up so many times just during the LeBron era, period, in LA, that you just wonder if they've ever paid attention to historic LeBron success. And again, if they were a little healthier, maybe that's not, doesn't look as gastly, But that's a lot of it. And you're just, look.


Well, don't you worry that they had healthy LeBron and healthy AD season so far, and they're still 500? Because that was the variable that I did not think was going to 100% be there.


Alarming beyond belief. If you had told either of us or Laker fans or anybody before the season, LeBron and AD are going to play all but a handful of games over the first couple of months, and you've got this new fortified supporting cast, you would have thought, Okay, great. They're going to be top three in the conference. You're going to be holding your breath because you know at some point one or both of them is going to go down for a stretch. But with them both healthy this much, yes, they should be top four, top five in the West. They should be minimum top 15 offense, not bottom third, not bottom six, seven. That's alarming. I don't even know how that's possible.


Justin Termanee pointed this out to me. He said Ryan McDonald and him were talking about this on a show last week. He was saying for LeBron, who we all agree is one of the best players ever, it's really weird the performance of these Lakers' offenses that he's been on. I went back and I looked it up. So thanks to Justin for the hat tip. In Miami, an offensive rating, those four years, he was 6, 6, first, and third, those four heat teams. Goes to Cleveland, they're 4, third, third, and fifth. For me, I'm thinking this is like Tom braided. It didn't even matter who was on Tom Brady's team. They're going to be in the top three or four in offense year after year after year. You can put any receiver, whoever. He was always going to get there. They're always going to be efficient. But what's weird is he goes to the Lakers. That first year, which was a throw away year, even though if you look back, that team had a lot of talent, their 24th in offensive rating. In 2020, the title year, they're 11. Then in '21, they're 24th. They're 24th in offensive of rating.


In '22, they're 22nd. Last year, they were 19th. And this year, they're 24th. So there's two things I'm wondering. One is, can you blame the wrong teammates six years in a row? Are they just fundamentally putting the wrong guys around them? And then the other thing would be maybe this version of LeBron's really from 2019 on, even though the stats are similar, maybe he's just not the same. And maybe some of the things that he needs to keep succeeding as a player, it's certain types of teams, it's a certain pace. Maybe he doesn't want to give up the steering wheel as much because I've liked some of the teammates that he's had, and I don't really know the answer. I'm spitballing it because this is year six of them being unsuccessful offensively.


Well, he's 39, so he shouldn't be the same, right?


And that's the age. Yeah, the age thing, too.


But on top of that, let's think about the four key years, followed by the four Cavaliers seasons. In both cases, he's got an elite co-star who's elite at scoring and playmaking, right? And you had to figure out, like LeBron and Dwyane Wade had to figure out the right balance there. But they're both in their prime as elite scorer/playmakers And then he leaves Miami. When Wade starts to break down, he goes back to Cleveland, and he's got Kyrie, who- But he doesn't have Kyrie for the last year, though, and they're still fifth.


So that's the J. R. Smith, Love, Tristan Thompson. Now, the He's weaker.


Yeah, fair. But I think seven of those eight years, he's got somebody else who can at least carry some of the load, some of the playmaking, some of the scoring. And in this case, the only true star he's had next to him, and I'm going to put an asterisk on Westbrook. Westbrook is an all-time great, all that stuff, former MVP, blah, blah, blah. Bad fit, bad timing, wrong age, all that stuff. It's really just been LeBron and Anthony Davis, and Anthony Davis is not a creator. It's not the Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving model. Fine, it's hard to find that guy. And besides that, Anthony Davis brings all kinds of other really important elements that help them win a championship and then help to keep them relevant for the last couple of years. But it's not the same. And I would say the deeper you get into your career as LeBron James, as anybody who has played that role, even as much as he's defied gravity, defied physics, defied age, defied everything, the older you get, the more you need the Dwyane Wade or the Kyrie Irving or somebody. And he's had... You know what? The first year, remember, was it Magic who said when he was still working with Polika, it was Magic who said, Oh, you got us surrounded with playmakers.


And so they got Rondo and a bunch of other ball handlers, and it was a really bad fit, and they didn't have enough shooting. But now they just don't have playmaking. You've got D'Angelo Russell and all his warts. You've got Austin Reeves, who's got his assets, his own qualities and skills. But it's just not the same level by any stretch of having a Dwyane Wader or Kyrie Irving. And it's more important to have that guy now than it was five or 10 years ago when LeBron was younger and spryer.


But here's the problem. I don't know how you find. I agree with you. Here's the problem. You have your two giant salary spots, right? So this team has made a decision. Our two giant salary guys are going to be LeBron and Anthony Davis. They're making, I think, 100 million or close to combined. And at that point, really tough to find that That third giant guy. But they've had... If you go through the rosters, they've had all kinds of players on these teams. In 2020, they had the most success, but LeBron was awesome in 2020. That was probably his best Laker stretch as a two-way guy that he's had in his career. But they had... It was like, Oh, they need more roll guys. They need more glue guys. Well, they had Caruso. They got rid of him. They had Josh Hart, who's turned into a really good glue guy. They got rid him. I think Reeves is somebody that when I see him, he can create offense a little through him. But it's not like he's a disaster. Russell is somebody who scored 20 points a game. Russell Westbrook, who they had before him, has really found a niche on this Clippers team as an 18 minutes a game guy that he couldn't find with the Lakers.


So it's weird. I don't really know who the right people to put around AD and LeBron together are at this point, because you would think, Oh, it should be Mike Conley type. Maybe just a distributor who just hits open threes and just stays out of the way. Well, they could have had Mike Conley last year. They chose to get Russell instead. So if you go through the league- That was a mistake, I think. Yeah, I think it was definitely a mistake. If you go through the league, though, I think there's been two issues. One is they brought in too many guys. They failed by too many guys theory. It's like, Christian Wendt is like, Why aren't I playing? Jackson Hayes is like, Man, I'd love to play. Cameron Rennis is like, Man, I should be playing more. You just go through and they just have... It seems like they have too many of those that just wish they were playing more. Then the other piece is, I do think Darvin Ham's done a bad job. I think mixing the rotations and not figuring out how to stagger Reeves and LeBron, so you always have a creator, not figuring out the Russell piece of this with the lineups and playing big in situations.


They tried to play big against the Celtics at one stretcher and trying to get back, and they played Rui and LeBron and AD together. It's like, this is suicide. The Celtics are too fast and too lengthy and They're just going to crush this. So on the one hand, I think the roster is weird. On the other hand, it just feels like he's just grabbing for straws, right?


But you know when that happens, Bill, and you and I have seen this a million times in this league, that happens. It's not so much that you've got too many guys. It's you've got too many guys who are all about the same, right? Some guys who are really great offensive players, but weak defensively or a defensive specialist who can't shoot. And so you don't really know what the right fit is. Everybody gives you forces you into some bad trade-off. And by the way, quick aside, just as a former beat writer who covered teams a long time, Lakers for seven years, Knicks for nine, you always know, especially on teams like this, where you don't have that clear pecking order and guys who absolutely have a stranglehold on their rotation spot, you can always find a couple of guys in the locker room who are going to be pissed at the coach because they think they should be playing. They should be ahead of the guy who's just ahead of them in the pecking order.


A couple of whisper guys. Yeah. Hey, Howard, This is off the record, but God damn it, why aren't I playing more? And then I was like, Oh, add this guy to the list. Yeah.


Somewhere in that ninth through 15th range on the roster, there's going to be some guys who are pissed at the coach because they're not playing enough, and they all think they should be playing more. Sometimes they're right. But I was looking at this particular group, and part of the problem is, outside of LeBron, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reeves, how many of these guys are starters on contending teams? Not starters overall. All these guys, they're a decent players. I mean, they're good players, but Kam Redish washed out with how many teams? Is Jared Vanderbilt a starter on a high-level contender?


He's been a big disappointment, I think, for them this year, right? I think they were expecting him to be a real guy.


Is Torin Prince a starter on a serious contender? Maybe. As your fifth guy, D'Angelo Russell. Yes, Dilo has got skills, and he had some years where he was flirt with stardom and all this. I don't know if D'Angelo Russell is the guy you want starting on a contending team. So there's There are a lot of guys. Yes.


But how many of them do you like? Yeah, if you go through the best teams in the league, is Kam Radish playing for the Celtics? Is he playing over Sam Hauser? No. Is he playing for Minnesota? Probably not. Tori and Prince, I do think could be a 10th man for somebody. I don't see a world where Russell is a contributor on a really good team. I think he's too hard to play with. It feels like he's a guy who needs to play 35 minutes a game. I don't think he's a stop and guy.


If your other seven rotation guys were really great, solid two-way players, and D'Angelo Russell was your sixth man, your energy guy off the bench, or your change of pace guy, or we just need some offense when our starting point guard is out, then maybe But D'Angelo Russell is the one guy, I think, fits that. Everybody else, they're specialists or a little too one-dimensional. And no, I don't think most of them are starters on true contenders, which indict the idea that you and I, I think, both had that the Lakers were a plausible contender.


But both of us still like, if you're stripping it down and gave Vincent's back, and the foundation is LeBron and AD and Reeves and gave Vincent and some interchangeable swings and one guy at the trade deadline. I still believe in the IQ of the team. I saw it when I went to the IST. They know what gear to go to, at least LeBron and AD do, and I think does. So they have some pedigree. And Hachimara can come in and give them some size. But on the other hand, it's so clear that they need to make one or two trades. Wait, I got to do a quick aside with you. So were you covering the '04 Lakers?


That was my last season out there, it was '03, '04.


So that's a famous wheels coming off everybody unhappy team. I mean, maybe the unhappiest team that's ever actually made the finals, and it had that famous... What was Was it the moment when Rick Fox and a couple of guys pulled Phil Jackson into the shower? To convince him to change the lineup? Just tell the story.


So yes, a famously unhappy team with four future Hall of Famers on it, right? Kobe and Shaq plus Crom alone and Gary Payton, who had both signed on to ring Chase in the summer of '03. They do make the finals, right? It's funny. That team gets, I think, unfairly tard at times. Like, guys, they made the finals. I know they got smoked by the Pistons, and it was an incredible among the biggest shockers we've had in the finals, that Pistons team knocking out the Lakers. But yeah, the Lakers were incredibly unhappy. A lot of that was just the same old thing. It was Shaq and Kobe. Gary Payton wasn't happy playing the triangle, so he and Phil Jackson were at odds. Crom alone was hurt. Crom alone had been... The Lakers, I think, went 23 and three or something out of the gate that year. Crom alone, who had never missed games his entire career in Utah. I think it was Scott Williams falls into him in Phoenix. It's a freak accident, messes up Malone's knee.


He's never the same. He's playing hurt or not playing the rest of the year.


And he was the one holding that team together, Bill. He was the one... Kobe and Shaq, as much as they... Kobe is facing his sexual assault charges that season, too. So that's the year he's flying back and forth to Colorado for hearings. He and Shaq are absolutely positively done with each other. Kobe is unloadated on Shaq, finally, through Jim gray with the statement about Shaq delaying his toes surgery and his bad work habits and all this stuff. Yeah. Crom alone was the one who could keep that team in balance. And so when he went down with this, I say, freak accident early in the season, and I think it was December, they're never the same. He comes back toward the end, and then I think he aggravates the knee or something. So the next thing you know, you've got Slava Medvedanko is guarding Rasheed Wallace in the finals. It was just Rick Fox was older. Horace Grant was like, they had dusted him off. He was like, I think, semi-retired at that point. They were old around all the edges. Like all the role players had gotten creaky. Shaq and Kobe wanted nothing to do with each other.


Gary Payton was mad about the triangle. And that was it. Robert Horry was gone. They had sacrificed him when they brought in Carl Malone. So it was a lot of things. And yeah, the shower thing you're talking about was, I think, I can't remember what the lineup had been, but basically with this series in the Championship on the brink, that old core of Fox Fisher. Derek Fisher, Horace Grant. Trying to think of who else was in that group. Maybe Brian Shaw. But they went to Phil and basically said, I think it was maybe a shoot-around, Give our original group the chance to save this thing.


Right. Let's go down with the original crew. And by the way, they went down anyway.


And they went down anyway.


I would say that was probably the unhappiest, at least, finals-level team that we've had in the last 20 years. Yeah. It's amazing they made the finals with all the dysfunction. But I will say this about these LeBron situation. And he's been in the week so long. We've seen so many situations. But from the get-go, from the summer on, When they do the D'Angelo Russell contract and he's making seven million a year more than he should, and it's clearly positioned as, We're going to trade this guy. This is a $17 million figure. Oh, boy, is he tradable? And then it's like, Here's Rui Hachimara. Nobody else is offering him more than 10, probably. We're going to give him three for 17. And just immediately there's this whiff of a trade with this team. And we're all talking like, Well, if things go wrong, Kyrie in Dallas, who knows? Like, Zack, the moment Zack Levine becomes available, Oh, my God, the Lakers, maybe. I don't know if this is productive for a team that's trying to win the title, but it always seems to be a theme with LeBron teams in December and January. Who are they going to get?


Who could be going out? And you look at stuff like we're not having those conversations about Denver. We're not having those conversations about Boston. The teams that are succeeding, they're all locked in together. It's like, this is our team. If we add, we're going to be adding around the fringes. And I don't know if that's a good way to have a basketball season with the way people like us work, where it's like podcast, like tweets, and whatever little stories. It's just when you leave meat on the bone for the way this basketball media culture is now, I think people eat the meat.


True. And also, as you and I both know, LeBron has a little bit of that passive-aggressive gene where he's going to... He blew off the media last night. I'm not citing that as any major crime. Lebron has been really great and really accountable.


Yeah, he's one of the great media guys ever.


He's been very available through his career. Everybody deserves a night off now, and then Shaq and Kobe blew us off any number of times, Shaq in particular. I don't fault him for that, but it does feel meaningful when he does it. It's because he's always available that LeBron deciding to leave while they were talking to Anthony Davis last night tells you something.


Especially after he had a bad game and the team looked bad and Miami just outwitted them with the zone. We're going to play a zone. You're not going to break it.


This is the time of year, Bill, when if LeBron is not feeling it, he does start sending messages either directly or indirectly. There was a year in Cleveland where he said some offhand remark about we're top heavy as hell right now. And they were. He wasn't wrong. And they made a deal that I can't remember which year it was or which deal they made, but that triggered, I think, some ripples in the front office.


What was that last year, that last Cavs year, when he wanted them to trade would end up being the Colin Sexton pick, and they basically scared him down. He was pissed.


They should have. I'm just saying the Cavs held onto that pick, Phil, because that was the golden ticket pick. That was a Nets pick, right? That was one of the picks out of the original Paul pierce, Kevin Garnett deal. So they were counting on the idea that that was a gold ticket. And then Kenny Atkinson got... That was one of those Kenny Atkinson overachiever, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris years. And it ruined the pick. Instead of it being top two, three, it ended up being eight. And it became Colin Sexton. But months earlier, when it was a potential trade ship, they were holding on to it like it was their ticket to the post LeBron future because they were afraid he was going to leave, and he did. But I don't know what they could have gotten for that pick at the time. But it's why I've always believed, and I believe this with this LeBron team, this Laker team, this Warriors team, this whoever. When you have a player like that, screw the future, trade whatever you've got, figure that stuff out later because you only have X number of years to contend with these guys.


I mean, that's what I see right now. What are you going to do with your 17 first-round picks? You have a chance to win the title, potentially.


But they're also super young. I worry about a team with LeBron or Steph or some other guys because they're on the when they're in their 30s. The Thunder, and I know I've heard you talk about this, and you're right, you don't know what the window actually is or if you even have a window. When they made the finals with Durant Westbrook-Hard, and you thought, well, they're going to be in this thing for the next decade, and They weren't. Shit happens, especially in today's NBA, where stars leave all the time, luxury tax, second April, and all this stuff.




Yeah. But it's the teams with the older superstars that I worry about and where I think you have to say, screw the future. If there's a move to be made and it costs you some of your future, make it because the time is now, period.


It really does seem like a guy like Kyrie would be the best person for them to add. In Dallas, they could Go either way at this point with the team they have. There are a few games over 500. They've also got an awesome and completely healthy Luka season. Kyrie has not been healthy. So my guess would be there's no chance they would entertain it. But that's a guy to monitor. I I have a big trade thing to throw you, but we got to take a quick break. Hey, it's the last week of the NFL season. There is still time to get in on a ton of the action with FanDuel, America's number one sportsbook. Right now, new customers get 150 in bonus bets, guaranteed when you place a $5 bet, that is $150 in bonus bets, win or lose. We have a lot of million dollar pics coming up at the very end of this podcast, including an 11 to one parlay on the bears game that I I'm very excited to share with you. The app on FanDuel, so easy to use. There's so many different ways to bet. There's same game parlays. You can do those.


You can find bets in the Explore tab. You can make a parlay in the Parlay Hub. You know what else you can do? You can visit fandle. Com/bs, and you can make your first bet. A layup. Take the bears. Fandle, official partner of the NFL, must be 21 plus in present in select states. Five dollar pregame money line wager required. First online real money wager only. $10 for a deposit required. Bonus issued as non-monetrial bonus bets that expire seven days after receipt. See terms at sportsbook. Fandle. Com. All right, so we were talking about LeBron and the Lakers, and there's two other variables going on. One is that the league is the strongest it's ever been. This team that LeBron has right now, if you put it in 2015, would be a way better team to have than it is in 2024 when everybody has a good team. You have teams that Brooklyn is probably the eighth worst team in the league, and they have some talent. If you catch them on the right night, you're like, Oh, that team's not bad. A team like the Hawks, who's a bottom 10 team in the league, and I think they're like five games under 500, you catch them on the right night, They beat OKC last night.


You're like, Oh, that team's pretty good. It's just a little different environment for them. I guess my big question... Well, there's two. One is, if you have LeBron, you have Anthony Davis, and those are your two best guys, and let's say Reeves, too. What's the ideal fourth banana? Let's call Reeves, we'll give him third banana credit. What's the ideal fourth banana? Because it's not a D'Angelo Russell type. We've seen that not totally work. It's not a Russell Westbrook type. Maybe it's a Gabe Vincent type. I don't know. We haven't seen enough of Gabe Vincent this year, but it's somebody in that guard spot who's a creator score. But who is it?


That's tough. The thing is, that's what you wanted D'Angelo Russell to be, right?


Right. So if he's not that, then who is it?


But you need the better version of that, right? Is that Zack Levine? Is it Kyrie? Because that's the thing. It can't be anybody else at D'Angelo Russell's level. And it can't be just a shooter. It can't be just a playmaker. They just need more pop than that next to LeBron and during the minutes when LeBron is It's interesting.


It's probably Zack Levine. I've been really hesitant and put my brain there, and I'm not a huge fan of his, and his contract's awful, and I don't think there's a big market for him. But you look at the fact that they're 24th in offensive rating, and it's like, All right, here's a guy that can come in and create offense and every once in a while have 35 points in the game. That's another thing they're missing. Nobody on this team goes off. No. They don't have the random... Oh, my God, that guy had 37? They didn't even have a Jordan Clarkson or we can name 20 guys in the league who any given night could just go off. They don't really have that variable at all.


A Kam Thomas?


A Kam Thomas of freaking Bones Highland. Bones Highland doesn't even play, but they don't even have one of those guys. I do wonder if Lavine, I know he's a clutch guy. They can get him for cheap. I don't know why the Bulls won't rustle back, especially if they're playing pretty well right now. I don't know what you do with him. I think Hachimura probably has to be in it. So you're losing some size. But that trade is making more and more sense to me, unfortunately.


I have not played with the trade machine on Zack Lavine to the Lakers, but that 40 million is just so difficult to get to in the number of salaries you have to aggregate. So that's part of it. I do think that Zack Lovine, he's now viewed as like an empty numbers guy, or at least big numbers, doesn't necessarily contribute enough to winning blah, blah, blah. The Lakers are a top 10 defensive team in defensive efficiency. Does a team like the Lakers, can they incorporate a Zack Levine and get all the best out of him and have enough structure behind him? Lebron and AD lead that team, so he's now only the third most important guy. He doesn't have to be number one every night.


And you're buying low on somebody that comes in with LeBron, and now it's like, I'm going to kill myself trying to impress you, LeBron. You're one of the best players ever.


And nobody says Zack Levine's a bad guy. People like Zack Levine. Good guy, good in the locker room. And we see this effect all the time with superstars and especially guys around LeBron. You'll get the best version of that guy. J. R. Smith would have never had... I know there's the best and worst we saw of J. R. Smith in some of those finals with LeBron, but we never see the best version of J. R. Smith if he's not next to LeBron. And Zach Levine is, I think, a much more talented player than the J. R. Smith. But I wouldn't mind. I don't think it's that big of a risk. It's just very hard to get to in terms of salary. But I think he's the right idea. I don't know if he's the exact right player that he's threatened.


The risk is LeBron leaves after the season and just hops out, and now you're stuck with Zack Levine and Anthony Davis, and that's your team.


But that's the short term thinking that I think you can't, or the medium term thinking that you can't afford. When you have LeBron, it's, I don't care what... Fine. So I'm stuck with Zack Levine. I'll deal with that later. In the meantime, if I could go increase my chances of getting to the finals by 5 or 10% or something, whatever it is, I'll go get him. I'll deal with that later. You can always do a salary dump.


I guess that's the second piece of the first question is, I agree with you, fundamentally, if this is 2018 LeBron or 2014 LeBron, you're like, Well, what do I care? I have a chance to make the finals every year with LeBron. I got to do it. This version of LeBron, 39-year-old LeBron who's not on the top level of players anymore, and he's just not. He's not consistent enough. He's not a two-way guy the way he used to be, and he's 39 years old. He shouldn't be. This would be insane. Everybody gets But he's not on the Embiid, the Luka, the Yanes, Jokuj. He's just not consistent like those guys in the same way. He's not a one-man wrecking crew like he used to be, but he's still really good. Yeah. So let's say you get Zach Levine, what does that ultimately change? Are you going to beat the Celtics now? Are you going to beat Denver?


Well, that was the argument people were making last season when it was, all right, well, you trade Westbrook for, remember the infamous Miles Turner buddy heel deal. Is that going to... Are we beating Milwaukee with that? Or are we beating whoever with that? But trading Westbrook for any assemblage of players was still the right move. It did revive their season. It wasn't obviously that deal. It was a different deal. It did revive their season. It did make them relevant and competitive and fun again. They made the conference final. I think we make a mistake when we think it's completely all or nothing. To an extent, yes, it is. Every LeBron season at this stage, and for the last few years, is all or nothing. There's only championships. There is nothing else. There is no other goal. And with the Lakers, there's no other goal anyway. But this idea where if it doesn't guarantee you the ability to get past Denver, if it doesn't guarantee you the ability to beat Boston or Milwaukee- Does it guarantee you the ability to be one of the six best teams?


That's an even scarier proposition than, do I make the finals with this trade?


Nothing Nothing is guaranteeing anything. What I do know is that standing pat is guaranteeing that you might be a play-in team, or at least a lower part of the play-off bracket where you're probably getting knocked out in the first round. I know they made this incredible run last year from the play-in, but that's not a repeatable formula for the Lakers, for Miami, for anybody. That was a fluky thing. I wouldn't count on that again.


I think this is why Lovine probably is going to be the guy. From 19 to 23, which is five years, not counting this year, he's 25 a game, 48%, 39% from three. He's a good free throw shooter, almost six free throw attempts a game over a five-year thing. It's exactly what they need. What they need is more offense and the ability that then when LeBron has a good game, now it's like, holy shit. Plus, how could Lovine thrive with two other guys? Listen, I don't think it guarantees them anything, but I do think as we try to figure out, well, what team would Lovine go to? Who wants him? Who wants that contract? You're the Lakers. Figure it out. He's 28 years old, 40 million a year. You're going to be in the tax every year, every way. But this leads to my second question, which is a more dramatic question and which is admittedly really just for dialog, for social, just as a thought experiment, as a thought bubble. What if they went the other way and worked with LeBron and actually traded him and just said, You know what? We don't have it.


We're not good enough. You only have four rings. We know you want more. You have a player option for next year. You could go somewhere for four months on a really good team and try to actually win your fifth title. It's not going to happen here. We're not good enough. I don't think they're at that point yet, but they might be in a month. What if there are four games under 500 with no signs of life and can't add anybody? And he's like, Jesus, I thought I was going to get to watch my son at USC and be on a top five team, and we're a playing team with no real chance. Is that even conceivable to you?


Man, It's hard to wrap my head around, Bill. The moment that LeBron chose the Lakers, however many years ago that was, was that '18?


'18. Summer '18. Yeah.


I thought, All right, that's it. There's the last chapter, right? He goes there. He tries to build on the Laker legacy and his own legacy. His family loves LA. They've already got a home there. His media company is there, all that stuff. All these different ways in which it's the perfect place to finish out his career. I've never thought he was going to have another move in him. But listen, you were just talking about he's no longer at that level of Jokach and Bied, Tatum, Luca, whoever. Okay, he's not a perennial MVP candidate, but I think in our role- But he's still one of the best 12 guys in the league.




He's in our rankings in the top 10 or 12 in the Ringer's rankings, and he's legitimately there. But he needs more help than he needed before. He could still do some damage, and so you don't want to waste that. He's definitely not going to want to waste that. I'm sure that the way he has played this season probably encourages him to think, Shit, 41, 42? I can keep going. And maybe LA isn't the practical solution there anymore. So my rule of thumb on this is simple. If LeBron comes to you and says it's time, cool, it's time. If LeBron doesn't, I just don't see how you trade it. You're not just trading LeBron. You're not just calling him one day and say, pack your bags. We just sent you to Memphis. It doesn't work that way.


That'd be amazing if the Lakers were like, bombshell. Lebron has been traded. What? Did you imagine? I have I have three trades for you, and maybe this will make you think differently.


I have a few that I've come up with, but I don't like any of them. But go ahead.


Well, I was trying to think it would have to be a team that could say to itself, we're adding LeBron, we could win the title.




So team number one is obviously Philadelphia, who has a million expirings. Yes. It could go a bunch of ways. They could trade. It could be a dump trade for the Lakers where they just get expirings back and whatever picks they have left. They could get Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris back and throw somebody Philly's way and get two picks. But I did play that one out my head a little bit. Okay, now we have added LeBron to Joel Embi Reid and Tyrese Maxi with a bunch of wings who can defend with Melton, with Paul Reid coming off the bench, with nick Ners. And LeBron comes in as this Swiss Army knife offensive hybrid. I was like, This idea. And then LeBron smartly realizing, Hey, Joel Embiid is really good. Those guys are scoring 60 points a game. I'm just here to facilitate and be a veteran and just do my thing. Nobody fits in. I mean, I would say LeBron is one of the four best I can fit in, be a Swiss Army knife guy that we've had. He's older now, but that one was interesting.


Darryl has chased him 17 times when he was induced.


Also, as a Celtics fan, I'd be like, Holy fucking shit. They just got LeBron James?


Oh, no. That would scare you a little, right?


Yes. It would scare me a lot. I like Tobias Harris, but if you could turn him into Tobias Harris in an expiring and a pick, that would frighten me.


I had a list of three teams that I thought were intriguing but unlikely just because I wasn't sure if there was enough coming back. And I know you're trading a 39-year-old LeBron, so you can't expect- On an expiring. I hate to say you're not getting a Rudy Gober payout for LeBron. That's a really weird fucking sentence to say. So with Philly, there's no young stud you're getting back. Their pics aren't great. They've got like, there's a OKC Houston Clippers pick that they own. It's one of the three in 2026. And then a 2028 Clipper pick, Tobias Harris and maybe Milton.


It's probably not enough. It's probably not enough.


It's probably not enough. I thought about Milwaukee as an obvious, like, yes, you want to send them to a contender, but Milwaukee's got nothing.


Middleton has to be in it. They have no other picks.


They got nothing to trade. Middleton, Connaughton, Beauchamp, Beazley, they got no picks. It just doesn't work. The other one I had of the unlikely category in the East was the Knicks because they've got all those picks, but a lot of those pics are They're going to be heavily protected. They're going to be late first or they're going to turn to second. It's like it would be like, I don't know, Fournier, Hart, back to LA, Dante DiVincenzo.


You don't think Randall has to be in that?


Randall probably has to be in it. But if you're the Lakers, are you pairing Randall and Anthony Davis, or is this the first step toward just a complete teardown? And Randall is going to be, are you rerouting him? Are you eventually trading Anthony Davis, too? Randall, Anthony Davis, Austin Reeves' team isn't doing anything.


You didn't You mentioned the least improbable part of that trade, which would be LeBron and Rich Paul reuniting with Leon Rose and World Wide West. I'm going to say that's not happening. I'm going to go on the record as that will not happen.


It's a minor snag.


What was your third team?


Oh, so those were the three in the unlikely category.


And then I have two- Wait, who is the third one?


It was Nix and Philly- And the Sixers. The Sixers who you'd already mentioned, and Milwaukee.


Yeah. Got you. Okay.


I had a list of two maybes that I thought- I wonder if they're the same maybes that I had.


Let's hear them.


All right. First one is Miami.


Oh, that was my first one.


The math is tough. The math is tough. I played with the Trade Machine.


It's not that tough.


Hero, Haukez, Caleb Martin, Salary filler and Picks. And they don't have a lot of pics available, I don't think, but they do have pics available for swaps. And again, I don't know how... It's hard to set the price for a 39-year-old LeBron James, right?


Can I tell you something, Howard Beck? I don't think Miami would trade Haukes for LeBron? For anyone who's not a top 20 guy. I think they're completely all in- LeBron's top 20? 100%. Well, I'm saying not a rental. I just don't think they would trade Hauke as. I think they would have to get a major guy who's going to be there long term back. I had a similar one. I had LeBron and Gabe Vincent, ironically, going back to Miami for Lowry and Robinson, maybe throwing that Jovich and a future first. So it's a little bit of a salary dump for the Lakers, even though Robinson's got a pickback or got an extra year, and they get a pick out of it and do right by LeBron. And then there's the symmetry of LeBron going back to Miami 10 years later. That's They could dust out the old Miami Six jerseys. I was into that one because if they could keep Haka and keep Caleb Barton, and keep Butler, and keep Bam, and keep Tyler Hero, and then add LeBron to all of that, that becomes, I think, a possible favorite in the East.


I think there's a deal somewhere between mine and yours. I'm probably overpaying from Miami side or you might be underpaying from Miami side for the Lakers' purposes.


Yeah, maybe heroes in that. Maybe it's hero in Robinson.


I think a hero At least one player that you're actually excited about if you're the Lakers has to be in there, somebody who's young and decent. I feel like Hero has to be in there.


It has to be maybe Hero and Lowry for LeBron and Gabe Vincent. Then there's a Miami pick. Yeah, it's interesting. It would be the holy shit basketball trade. We've had how many holy shit basketball trades. Lebron going back to Miami was not on the big old board.


It's The thing is this does not feel implausible, does it?


This one is the first one that doesn't feel implausible. What's your other team? Let's see if we have the same team.


This one is even more like, if this were to happen, just like the Twitter would break, the universe would break, things would break. Lebron to the Warriors?


That was my other team.


Again, I don't know if I'm overpaying from the Warriors side. Wiggins, Kuminga, Moody, Gary Payton II, whatever picks you could put in there if necessary. Lebron and Steph together. Lebron finally gets to play with Chris Paul. Remember, LeBron, the Banana Boat crew, LeBron finally played with Carmelo. He had played with Wade for the four years. Chris Paul is the one guy from his Banana Boat crew that he's never actually been teammates with. So if Chris Paul is not in the deal, and I'm not putting him in the deal in my scenario. Yeah.


And Draymond, who I think if you could say, what player How could we bring into a Warriors situation if they keep Draymond that might be able to get his head on track? Lebron would be the guy, right? He's very deferential to LeBron. My version of that trade was Clay. Clay is expiring. There's no way you can trade Klay, but if you did trade him, trade him to his team that his dad played on, the Lakers, and you do that. Looney's in there as a big guy. Then Kaminga, I think, is a legitimate piece It's that if you're selling on the Laker season and you could get Kaminga as the prize and maybe you resign Klay for less, there's something there. But if you're the Warriors and you could keep... Because you can't use Kaminga anyway if you have LeBron. You can keep Brando Pods. You can keep Jackson Davis. You can keep all the guys you care about or actually help them this year, plus Curry, plus Chris Paul, plus Draymon. Now you have this older veteran team with a couple of young guys. That's not nothing. He's always wanted to play there. The last couple of years, he's sent out some...


He went from feuding with... Quiet feuding with Steph Curry to jumping on the bandwagon about three, four years ago, which I thought was notable. And now it's like, Chef will be lighting it up and he'll do a chef hat on Twitter. It's not inconceivable to me.


It's not. It's not inconceivable at all. I think it would be the painful part for the Lakers would be having to send them right up the 101 up to Northern California. Not a real rivalry, Lakers warriors, but pseudo, and you probably want to send LeBron east, but it's also short term, short term-ish. Again, I should not say that. Who knows when LeBron is finally going to retire or when he'll need to? I think it would be tough for the Lakers, but I think there's a lot of appeal there. The one piece I would hold off on yours is, and I admit this, this is purely sentimental. This is where I let other things that are not basketball get in the way. I would rather see the Lakers or the Warriors hang on to Clay if they can. That's why I put Wiggins in there instead. I think, and especially- That's fair.


And that trade still works. You could do Wiggins and Looney and Kamenga. You could make the contracts work at that point.


Yeah, it could still work. And then you keep that core together. If you wanted Steph, Clay, and Draymon to go out together and Steph may out last- With LeBron, with Chris Paul.


Holy shit. That'd be really fun. Well, can I tell you what I think is actually to happen?


I do have one crazy one. Tell me what- No, go.


You want to hit this first? Because we got to wrap up soon. So tell me what you have.


What if we send LeBron back to his other former team?


I thought about that, but They are hanging around.


Lebron for Donovan Mitchell and Karras Levert works salary-wise.




Then you have, I know they got to get healthy, but Garland, LeBron, Mowbley, Jared Allen.


That's not bad. I thought about that, but I think if he gets traded, it has to be like, I can win a title. But I guess Cleveland's not any further away than Golden State is.


Is LeBron with Garland, Mowbley, Allen? I know. Garland and Mowbley still have some growing up to do. But I'm not saying that that team knocks out Boston and Milwaukee and Philly, but I think they're no worse than fourth in the East at that point.


I tried to talk myself into a Bradley Beale, LeBron thing with him going to Phoenix, and the Trade Machine called me a fucking idiot and said, Get off the Trade Machine. This has gone too far.


I had a few of those moments today.


This is how it's probably going to play out. They'll probably get rid of Darvinham. My biggest fear, this is where, as you know, I'm an only child. I'm selfish. My biggest fear is they change coaches, and all of a sudden, Doc Rivers is the Lakers coach. And then I lose Doc Rivers, who's been really great on my podcast all season. He has. And all of a sudden, I lose Doc, and Darvinham will not be as good as Doc on the podcast. So that's my scariest thing. The funiest thing would be if they hired Mark Jackson, and Mark Jackson was back in our lives as the new Lakers head coach doing hand down, man down, all that stuff. But it I wouldn't feel great. I wouldn't feel awesome if I was Darvin Ham today because we've seen coaches get fired midseason before on LeBron teams.


Fire Darvin Ham, that phrase was trending on Twitter as of about 12, 12 30 Eastern time today.


It's tough. I mean, he's done a bad job this year. It's no question. The rotations have been too weird.


I'm always somewhere in the middle on these things, Bill. Not always. Often, and this is one of the situations where I am, where it's easy to look at the rotations in the lineups and the volatility and all the changes and say he's pushing the wrong buttons and everything. But it goes back to the premise that we started with earlier, which is when you have a bunch of guys in your 4 through 10 range, 4 through 15 range in the rotation or on the roster who all have limitations, obvious limitations, one-way, one-dimensional, whatever. It's hard to find that. It may well be that Arvindaham has not pushed the right buttons. It may also well be the fact that Rob Polinka has not given him the right tools to work with to make that a little bit more obvious. You start hunting and pecking when nothing's working. Well, this didn't work. I tried it for a few games. Shit, what do I do now? All All right, D'Angelo Russell to the bench. He's reaching, and he may take the fall for it, but I don't know that it's necessarily should be that much on him. But I don't know, short of the the Zack Levine deal or something, I don't know if there's an obvious way forward.


My other crazy notion today, as I was kicking around all these thoughts, was like, what if you traded Anthony Davis instead? I know that one's crazy, but Anthony Davis could get you back, I would think, quite a bit.


The problem is you're getting... It's a three for one, and now you have even more players, so you have to figure out what that will do with. It's probably Zack Levine. Maybe Zack Levine's first, and then if it still doesn't work, then you think about the coach. But I don't know. This is a fun thought experiment. We're wrapping up. We never got to other players. We thought it wasn't crazy that they would trade them. What was your number one? I'll just give you my number one on the Aborted segment.


Okay. A number one would have been Anthony Davis, but that one was way out there. That's a really hard one. The next one after that, the non-Laker division, would have been Trey Young.


Okay. So I had LaMela Ball one and Trey Young two, and then was trying to figure out, wait, maybe just flip them for each other. And we get a double reset button and we start over.


The phrase you sent me earlier for the listeners was basically, why shouldn't we consider a trade of this guy? So these are the ones that we think are conventional wisdom off limits, right? Like, oh, no, we're trading Trey Young, so why not trade? The other one I thought about was Mikael Bridges. Because I just think the nets are stuck. He's not the one you're building around, right? He's a great number two or three. He's not a number one. And he's 27, so he's just starting his prime. But how long is it going to be before the nets can cash in all those Suns' Picks or whatever to get who? They're a fun Donovan Mitchell team, but I don't think anybody thinks Donovan Mitchell is being traded until at least the summer if it happens. But yeah, Bridges and Trey Young were two the guys I had. My also thought about list included LaMelo.


Howard Beck, we can hear you on The Real Ones with Logan and Raj on Mondays on Ringer NBA. We can read it at theringer. Com. You pop up on all of our different podcasts. Great to see you, as always.


You, too, sir. Thank you.


All right, our guy Shio Capate is here. He helped us with Million Dollar Picks a few weeks ago, and we did really good. So we had to bring him back for a very, very funky Week 18. You also are a huge Eagles fan. You host the Philly Special Football Pods with Ben Solak. And this Eagle season is basically the real-life Silver Lining's playbook. Just people in tailgates wearing EGLE's jerseys ready to start punching each other. It's gone so badly that I actually think they're going to lose to the Giants, but part of it is because Dallas is probably going to beat Washington and they'll go. But if they tried for all four quarters against the Giants and Tyrod Taylor, I do wonder if that's a slam dunk win for them. I just feel like anything's on the table for them week to week, right? You can't ever assume, don't put them in a tease, don't put them in parlay. They cannot be trusted.


Yeah, no, there's no doubt about it. Solak is the big eagles fan. I'm team content, so I'm like, don't care. If they win or lose, I'm like, this is a fun season. This is crazy what's happening right now. But you're right. When you play the Arizona Cardinals and you have seven possessions and they drive inside your 25-yard line on every single one. And a lot of times, I'll watch the game live, and then I'll watch the coaches film before we do a Philly special. And it's like, Oh, it wasn't that bad. A few plays here and there. No, this was worse. They can't get lined up. They can't do anything. So it's such an interesting time for the franchise because the next two weeks are going to shape a huge narrative. Do they galvanize and come together? And it's like, Hertz is a great leader, and Thierryani is a good coach. Or do they just completely tanked? And all of a sudden, we're talking about a month from now, are there massive changes coming for this team in the offseason? So, yeah, I'm with you. I would not feel confident that even if they were trying, they were going to win this game.


So on your excellent podcast with Solak, you were flagging in the summer. There were real reasons to be concerned about the Eagles with Super Bowl hangover, the schedule, and the schedule was harder. But then both coordinators leaving, and you were like, Well, we know Steigen's good. You guys were all in on him. And it's like, Gannon, now, mixed reviews on him. And then you see what's happened in their defense with the coaching since. They've already had a change. Now you have the pathetic Matt Patricia involved. And then Gannon has done a pretty good job heading down the stretch here with that weird Cardinals team. He brings in Kyler Murray midseason. They've reinvented themselves a little bit as a little bit of a ground and pound, unpredictable offensive team. They're terrible in all the different defensive rankings, but they've been able to get stops in big spots. And I actually think their record could be a little better than it is. So do you think a lot of this is just those two coordinators were just better than everybody realized?


My personal opinion is that if Gannon were coaching the Eagles, as a defensive coordinator this year, you would be seeing very similar results. And it goes to what you were saying earlier. They were so healthy last year. I mean, they lost five starters in free agency, and they played a cake schedule. I mean, the best quarterback they beat last year was like, Kirek Cousins or Daniel Jones. And this year it was Dak, Mahomes, Josh. It was just a lot harder. So I think offensively, they're feeling that definitely a little bit more. Defensively, to me, it's more personnel-based. And then it's like, you know this, when the big button you push in a time of adversity is, let's give Matt Patricia more responsibility. When has that worked well? That's failed three straight times. So that's an indictment on what was their plan here? Why did they think that was going to fix anything? So Offensively, I think it does. Certainly, you can point to the coordinator thing. Defensively, and Gael has been better than I thought he'd be as a head coach, but as a defensive schema, the Cardinals have the worst defense in the NFL in DVOA.


I just don't think he would have made a huge difference with this specific group.


Two things that I've noticed with the Eagles, and tell me if I'm right or I'm exaggerating, just from what... I've watched a lot of them because I had basically all of them on the fantasy team I cared the most about. One is The pace and the unpredictable ability of the offense just has seemed off all year. It's like this methodical. They just move along. There's never seems to be any urgency. They're the opposite of frisky. It doesn't seem until they have to that all of a sudden they become the team you want them to be. But otherwise, it just seems like, and I don't know whether they're doing that because they don't trust the defense and they just want to keep the ball for as long as possible. But there's a way more fun version of this team. And that would be my first note is, why isn't this offense way more fun than it has been?


A hundred %. I think you said it better. I've been trying to say it that way for a while, and I think you nailed it. When you look at the personnel. I mean, imagine if you handed Mike McDaniel or Kyle Shanahan, this offensive personnel. We'd be talking about an offer. You'll be like, Oh, my God, this offense is unstable. Statistically, they're not that bad, but that's because they are They're very talented and they're very healthy. They have all 11 starters healthy on offense, but they don't... A lot of the easy buttons that the great offense is pushed right now, whether it's the motion stuff that the dolphins do, where it's like, Hey, under center, play action. These aren't the most novel ideas, but these are small things you can do to help your quarterback, to help your playmakers, like getting A. J. Brown the ball in space where he goes yards after the catch monster. They just haven't done that stuff consistently. When their offense is good, to your point, it's like, wow, A. J. Brown made an unbelievable play, or Devante Smith made a terrific catch. It's not like, oh, they schemed it up and look what they did to really help Jalen Hertz.


They're all these advanced stats, and one of them shows he's attempting a higher degree of difficulty in terms of his passes than almost any quarterback in the NFL. It's like, how is that the case when you have this offensive line and Brown, and Devante Smith, and Dallas Goddard? I think you're right. It looks like a bore. It doesn't look fun. It doesn't look consistent. It's like a It's laborious.


Yeah, it is 100%. Oh, my God. I guess we have to run another play. It's like, you guys should be fun. They have five of the most unstable plays in the league. The Hertz QB draw, the push-push, A. J. Brown down the sidelines for 30 yards. Devante going over the middle. He catches the ball in traffic as good as anybody. They have a really good tight end. They have a nice little wheel route play. I like their plays. It would be fun to play video games with their offense, but it doesn't seem like they have fun with it. So we agree on that.


Yes, 100 %.


The other thing that just doesn't make sense to me, and this I have no explanation for, because if I was a GM, I bought an NFL team and I hired you and Ben to be the co-GMs for me, and we were trying to figure out what's our philosophy for team building. I would go for the lines. I would just be like, We just have to have a good offensive line, good defensive line. We can figure out everything else later, but we're going to be able to rush the ball, stop the run, and protect our QB, and then we'll figure out the rest. The Eagles have two of those three things. Fundamentally, they should just be able to drive the offensive line back. They should be a nightmare to play. But their defensive line isn't that good in these games. And I can't wrap my head around that. Why? What's wrong?


That's been the biggest mystery of the season. Like you said, they have overinvested in this defensive line. Just like, at every term, they might have four starters. They're like, Let's get a fifth guy. Let's get a sixth. And they're healthy. None of these guys are out for the season, which is the other thing. I think a couple of things have happened. I think the two big things are, one, they got all this praise for drafting the Georgia guys, Jelen Carter and Jordan Davis. It's like, Great. Don't overthink it. Just take the athletic freaks from an SEC program. This is easy. Those guys in college played like 20, 25 snaps a game because in college, you have such big rosters and they're rotating in. And so in the NFL, you're playing what? Like 50, 60 snaps in some of these games. It's been so clear that those two players, specifically Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter, first five, six weeks of the season, it's like, Oh, my God, these guys are amazing. Now, they're nowhere- They're dragging. Yeah, they're dragging. I mean, you He watched Jordan Davis this last game, and it was the second quarter, and it looked like he had played a seven-overtime game.


He just didn't have it. I think that absolutely has been a big factor. I was going to ask you, is it possible he might suck? I think his floor is solid starting Carter run defender, but in terms of- But he's disappointing.




I think when you trade up for a guy that high in the first round, you want them to be a big-time pass rusher, and they don't even have him on the field on most third downs here. Jalen Carter looked great His film was awesome the first half of the season, but I think he's probably worn down a little bit, too.


It's a little like that year when they had the dream team with Asma and all those guys, but then on paper, it looked great. But then if you actually talk to anybody who watches the egos, they're like, Yeah, Jordan Davis isn't that good? Like, sorry. Our linebackers are the worst linebackers in the league, and we can't cover anybody when we're up 10.


Yeah. And that was the... I mean, that's actually a funny example because that year, like Asamal was like an older corner that they signed. And we've seen this a million times, very Very good corner turns around 30 years old, and all of a sudden, their play declines. That's James Bradbury. They resigned him in the offseason, and they're starting, I think, four out of five members of their secondary are 30 or older. And so you play a team like the 49ers, and you're like, Why do the Eagles look so slow and unathletic and can't keep up with these guys? Well, four out of your five starters in the secondary are 30 or older, and you're going up against this juggernaut. It's just not going to look good. So, yeah, the pieces just haven't fit together.


I've been looking at the either or teams, the contenders that aren't really contenders, but you also don't want to give up on them. I think Buffalo has been there all year. We're like, What's going on with this team? I also would want to play them in the playoffs. Casey's in there. We could talk about them. Philly is the one I've given up on. I just don't think they have it. I thought that Arizona game, to be up 21-6 at halftime, in a game you needed to really lock, you have the two seating your control. To just get not just beaten by Arizona, but you got dominated by a three-win team. To me, that was a cry for help. I don't think it comes back for them.


I agree with you. When you're playing like that defensively against the Cardinals, and now you have a potential path, let's say they even get out of the first round, whatever, where you have to play the 49ers, and then either what, the Cowboys or the Lions, and both those games are on the road to get to the Super Bowl. On what planet is Matt Patricia matching Witz with Kyle Shanaher? Playoff game. I will say their offense has the pieces still. Again, all 11 guys are healthy. They're going to be more talented than every defense they face. So if you want the one %, if you're an Eagles fan listening and like, give me something, it would be that they're winning these games just by scoring. They're scoring 35, and maybe they get a turnover or their special teams are really good, a game like that. But in terms of defensively keeping up with these teams in the NFC, they have no chance. There's no way.


Yeah, they're just going to have to out-score them. Yeah, I wonder If they came out like, The Eagles are going to mess around. No huddle more. They've added these two tweaks, and they're just going to try to out-score. I'd be like, Okay, that's not nothing. But the team we're watching now, no way. Casey, I think. Rahim, and he's made this case on the Ringer Gambling show. He thinks KC is the great value right now for Super Bowl. I think they're like nine to one. People are down on them. But then unlike with Philly, where you could be like, no, they actually shouldn't have won that Arizona game. That didn't come down to one player, one drop or whatever. But you go through the KC stuff, and I've watched the games where just a killer drop at the worst possible time or some stupid turnover. They're in these games more than you I think the game last week, which they ended up covering somehow, over and over again, they had the ball and they were driving. They always had to settle for field goals. They let the opponent hang around. But for the most part, it felt like they were in mostly control of the game.


And yet, I just can't get there with them. I just think when you get to the playoffs, cold weather, when it gets harder, I don't trust any of their skill position guys. If it's third and eighth, they're dead. You just feel like, Where's he going to go? And he can run around sometimes for eight seconds, nine seconds, and nobody's still open. And the big thing is just, Kelsey's not the same. I don't care. You could say he's saving himself for the playoffs. I don't believe it. I just think tight ends get old. They get old fast, and he doesn't get open. The other team is not even double teaming them anymore. I just don't see the weapons. I think at some point in the playoffs, you're going to have to have explosive plays. The Pats got in this position with braided, and it's like, pick and pick and pick. You have to have these 12, 14 play drives. Guess what? Occasionally a pass gets tipped at the line of scrimage, or you fumble a shotgun snap on third and eight, and all of a sudden the drive's over. I don't think you can win in the NFL without explosive plays.


So I'm mostly out. Are you in or out?


I'm out. I had a dangerous take when I potted with Solak. After that Raiders game, I just said, The Chiefs aren't getting to the Super Bowl. They're not winning the Super Bowl. They don't have it. And it always feels a little uneasy because you're like, The home's in read. Someone's going to retweet this in a month, and I'm going to look like an idiot. But I'm with you. If you've watched this team all season long, the mistakes that they make over and over and over again, it's a lot with the pass catchers. You're right. I mean, the one guy who can get down field is Marquez Valdés-Scantling, and he's one of the most unreliable wide receivers in the NFL.


How many times has his head been in his hands in the sidelines during a game? We were like, Oh, man, somebody's better do a wellness check with this guy. Yeah.


Even when they're winning, it's like there's still a couple of plays with them every time, so they don't have that. And then it's not just the pass catching guys. It's like their offensive tackle situation is not good. I guess that went under the radar in the offseason. They brought in two new offensive tackles, signed the one guy, Juan Taylor, to a big contract to play right tackle. And then left tackle, they've had injuries. And it's like, so if you can't protect well on the edges and you don't have an explosive element to your offense and the quarterback is clearly frustrated, I'm just like, if they had answers- And Kelsey's not getting doubled anymore.


So he's not pulling other people away. It's just him and one guy.


Yeah. I mean, if they had answers, I feel like we would have seen them by now. They're not saving them. They got to play at home, and that's not going to be an easy game. And then they would have to go on the road two times to get to the Super Bowl. So I'm actually in the camp of I feel like I'm going to be fading the Chiefs, like first round, second round, whenever. I could be wrong. Again, it's always dangerous when you're going against Mahomes, but I lean more towards you than Rahim on I had on Sunday's pod with Sal, I was saying I thought if I had to pick an AFC team that wasn't Baltimore, I'd pick the Cleveland Browns.


I can't believe I'm saying that with Joe Flacko, but I think their defense is the only one fast enough to go into Baltimore and actually compete with that team. Their style of offense is the style I've been advocating on this very podcast forever. If you don't have a great quarterback, fucking chuck it downfield. You'll have two turnovers a game. It's You're also going to make two big plays. You'll get a pass interference. Your defense is going to have to move back. You'll be able to run the ball. I just think that's how you have to do it. If you don't have a great QB, and Flacko loves this. He loves the play action. I think the Browns are good. I'm really in on that team. Where do you stand on them?


Yeah, no, I'm with you. When you said that question, I was like, Cool, would I really have the Browns? I think it would be the Browns or the Bills if I had to answer that question. The Bills haven't looked good, but it's like you said, you're still like, Oh, they're always competitive.


They've shown a ceiling a couple of times. Yes, that's it. Where you're like, Oh, what's that team? I'm scared of that team.


Yeah, there's no doubt about it. But the Browns should be in every game. It's hard to envision a scenario where they're getting blown out. I was looking at it earlier. They've lost three games by more than four points this season, and two of those were with Dory and Thompson Robinson. Right. So it's like when they've had competent quarterback play, they're in every single game. And I'm with you. Offensively, teams do not the ball downfield nearly enough. When you look at what it takes to draw a defensive pass interference in the NFL, just have the guy come back to the ball or fall down or flail his arms, you're going to get a couple of those. And Flacko is just chucking it downfield. Their offensive line is good. Their defensive line is ferocious. Their corners can play man coverage better than anyone in the NFL. I think they're a dangerous team. Specifically, I'm thinking of if we're at the AFC Championship and like, oh, there's a surprise team. That would be my team in the AFC. And from there, who knows? You only have to win one more to get to the Super Bowl. So, yeah, I do like them as a sleeper.


Well, they have the six best odds right now in the AFC. Wow. They're 18 to one. Round one, they're going to probably play Jacksonville unless Jacksonville chokes. We'll be talking about that when we're messing around million dollar pics. Round two is probably Baltimore, unless there's some upset in the 2-7, 3-6. Baltimore is coming off a buy. Cleveland has already played them twice. They go in there. You have all this flacko coming back to Baltimore baggage. You have this Raven stole the Browns once upon a time. Now the Browns are back to ruin the thing. You have the whole Lamar just as a different guy in the play, at least so far. That's our experience with them. I think that's a scary game. That's not the team. If I'm them, I'm rooting, Oh, please, Jacksonville, can you win this one? Can we play you instead? I would not want to play the Browns.


I think they are that team that no one wants to play. Even Even when the Ravens had success against the Browns, I remember that first game, it wasn't like they were scheming. It was like Lamar just made some incredible plays, which he's capable of doing. But you know what I mean? It wasn't like, Oh, they schemed it up and got that Browns defense. It was just like, Man, he made some plays outside of structure that were awesome. So, yeah, I guess their ideal scenario would probably be to not... If in the first round, the sixth seed wins, I guess maybe if Buffalo were the sixth seed and beats Kansas City, and then Cleveland gets to go Miami in the divisional round. I mean, that's a great spot for them.


Miami is turned into the team you want to play if you're basically anybody because they can't block. They just lost their two best pass rushers over the span of eight weeks. I know we're going to get to it when we get to Million Dollar Picks, but The line really hasn't moved. It's starting to smell a little ratty, as John Jastrowski would say. Why is this line only Buffalo minus three? When Buffalo has to win to make the playoffs, potentially, if Pittsburgh wins, why hasn't the line moved? It's suspicious.


Yeah. I guess the dolphins have been good at home. And it's what we said about the Bills. The last two Bills games, you haven't watched them and been like, Oh, man. Oh, my God. They're getting hot at the right time. They were so bad. So I'm with you. I thought maybe it would at least get to three and a half. It was three earlier today when I wrote my column for the Ringer. So I'm with because you look at the Dolphins, and like you said, you lost your two best pass rushers. I think Waddle and Hill, I don't think, practiced on Thursday.


Waddles, at least, if he plays, he won't be 100%. He'll be like 80%.


Yeah. So at first I was like, oh, you know what? Dolphins at home. But then I'm like, I can't get that. The Dolphins are one and four. I did this little search today. Every team's record against opponents that are still in the playoff mix. The Dolphins are one and four, and they've been outscored by like 84 points. The only game they've beaten a playoff team was that Dallas game where they had a drive at the end and what they win 22-20.


I thought Dallas should have won that game. Yeah. I actually thought they blew it. Yeah. If Miami did somehow win and Pittsburgh won and Jacksonville won, Buffalo get knocked out. That is plus 435 on Vanduil. The worst day in recent Buffalo Bill's history. There's been a lot of bad days, but that is plus 435. And then there's a Florida playoff parlay where you can have Jacksonville and Tampa to both take care of business. That's plus 116, which I would not recommend. We're going to take a break, and then we're going to go through the games. Okay. I always have whoever the guest is bring in two pics of their own. With that said, I want to start with Pat's Jets because I'm convinced the Patriots are going to win this game. There are all these different ways that can somehow still get the number two pick if they lose and Washington loses. There's one scenario that seemed pretty conceivable where it's like Chicago beats Green Bay, Pittsburgh wins, Atlanta beats New Orleans, and I think Denver beats Las Vegas. I was looking at him and I was like, Oh, that could happen. That could happen.


That could happen. With that said, I know the Pats are going to win this game. I think whether it's Belichick's last game or not, they've been playing hard for him for the last six, seven weeks. Their defense has been excellent. The Jets can't move the ball. If it is Belichick's last game, I don't think he wants to go out losing in the fucking Jets. He hates the Jets. We pour it on against the Jets all the time over the last 20 plus years. They're only laying minus one and a half right now. And then the other piece is, if you're the Jets, why do you want to win this game? You can go from number eight to number five or potentially even number 4. If some stuff happens, your offense is bad. You waved Alvin Cook this week. Not that he was even playing that much, but you already said you're bringing the coach in the GM back. So it's not they're going to be like, We got to win this one. I'm trying to save my job. Why do they want to win this game? I know the paths are going to win this game, Shiel.


The only thing I would say is, Is this rat-liney? I looked at it, minus one and a half. Belichick in potentially his last game against Trevor Simeon, and they've won what? Fifteen in a row against the Jets. And then the motivations you spoke of, like Belichick is not going into this, like let's get the better draft pick. This was, I wrote mine in order, the four that I liked, and this was definitely one of the four that I liked, was the Patriots because Trevor Simeon going up against this defense in New England, unless this is just one of those weird, poetic, tragic, whatever things where it's like, oh, Belichick in his last game finally went. But I literally cannot picture it in my head that Trevor Simeon goes to Foxborough and wins that game. And not that the Patriots are great, but to everything you spoke of. So minus one and a half, I I like that quite a bit.


And they're playing hard for him. If it was spotty or weird, you'd be like, okay, well, they did two weeks ago. They did lay an egg. That just hasn't happened. They've at least been competitive on defense, and they've been able to move the ball better the last couple of weeks. This line did move. I think the Jets were initially favored by one or one and a half. So there has been heavy action on the Pats. To me, it's almost less of a pats thing and more of a Jets thing, where I just don't think they care if they win the game or not. I think Balanchet does care. And I don't think if this is the end, I don't think he wants the end to be, I lost to the Jets. So I feel like you're getting a free point and a half on this. It's a little ratty, I agree.


The Jets got to be a one, two, three, Cancun team, too, right? No question. I mean, come on. This has been a season, a nightmarish season for them. All these rotating quarterbacks, they just want this season to be over with, get to their offseason and get ready for potentially, I guess, Aaron Rodgers, whatever that'll look like. Yeah, he's been at...


Aaron Rodgers has been acting totally normal lately. I'm saying good luck with that next year. Actually, you give me one.


All right. You might laugh at this one, but let's see.


I would not laugh at any week 18 pick, just for the record.


So one of my week 18 theories is that you fade the teams that have the highest stakes. They're in win and we're in the playoffs, and you actually take the teams that have nothing to play for because everybody's looking at these going, Oh, this team, if they win, they're in. This other team's got nothing to play. And I don't think that's really how it works, historically. And so I'm looking at this Stealers Ravens game. Tyler Hunt. I know, I know it's Tyler Hunt. I know they're sitting, guys. The Steelers are four-point favorites going to Baltimore in messy weather with Mason Rudolf. I'm looking at this Ravens team. The The thing that I think some people get, you can sit guys in week 18, but the rosters are only so big. A lot of the guys that are going to be on the field for the Ravens are guys who have played this season. Granted, it's not going to be Lamar Jackson, but I just look at this and I'm like, well, they're coached really well. They've got great depth. You're going up against a Steeler's team that is totally mediocre. Hunt is a good backup.


Hunt is played before. Yeah, it's not like this is somebody we've never seen before. He can run around a little bit. Over Under is so low on that game. Usually when the Over Under is low, you take the points a little bit. It's in Baltimore. I like the Ravens plus four.


And they hate Pittsburgh.


Yeah, they hate Pittsburgh at home against the Steeler. So there you go.


Oh, that would be the most Mike Tomlin-y dumb Out of nowhere loss he's had in a while. Let's try to talk this out. I assume the Steelers are just going to try to run the ball, move the ball on the Ravens, run the ball, run the ball, play action. A little like what the the Rams did when the Rams did a really nice job against the Ravens. I do like the way Rudolf's playing. With that said, I didn't have the Stealers in my picks because I was scared of the Ravens. So it was a lot of what you were laying out. I was like, Why am I scared of a Ravens team that's quinched the one seed, doesn't care about anything? So would you go money line or plus four?


I would probably go plus four because I feel like taking the Raven. The game means nothing to them. They're going to sit, guys. At the same time, remember they had that weird preseason winning street? What they win 24 in a row. Right. And they weirdly cared about it. Yeah, they weirdly cared about it. They're a little bit weird like that. So I like the Ravens plus four because I think it's going to be a low scoring game where even if the stealers do what you said, then they run the ball and they play good defense. I think it's going to be low scoring, maybe a field goal game. So I like the Ravens plus four right there.


So the under is 35 and a half. I wonder if it could be a Ravens plus 4 with some adjusted over of 50, some crazy, whatever. I'll look at that.


That would be surprising.


When I'm making my official picks. All right, here's my next one for you. We mentioned the Cardinals before. Cardinals plus two and a half against the Seahawks. The Seahawks need to win to make the playoffs. The Seahawks are bad. I actually think they're a below average team. I don't think they're good at football. For the season, 32nd and first down defense, 31st on first down, 30th against the rush, 24th against the red zone. The Arizona offense, there's six rushing down, fifth in the red zone. They actually have an above average offense at this point in the season. Maybe not for the whole season, but right now, I'd put them top 10, top 12. I just think they're going to move the ball in Seattle. I know you probably watched the Pittsburgh-Seattle game. Pittsburgh ran the ball down their throats. They big boyed them. I think Arizona can big boy them a little bit. That line has moved a little toward Arizona, right? It's like, Oh, Arizona, they got nothing to play for. Well, their coach is coming back. We've seen this over and over again, this situation where a team where we know the coach is coming back, and it's like, You know what?


We're not going to make the playoffs, but let's make this our Super Bowl. Let's knock these guys out. Fuck these guys. I just like it. And I like the money line. But you could also talk me into an adjusted plus three, something like that. But I like the cards. What do you think of that one?


I went back and forth on this one. This is a stay away for me, personally. Stay away. Okay. Because I couldn't get there because I'm trying to avoid the recency bias with the Cardinals. Their offense looked awesome last week. Again, they did not punt that entire game. Previous two games, they got blown out. It was better teams. It was the bears, and it was 49ers. I think they had lost four or five going into that game last week. So I'm like, I don't want to put too much into just that one performance against an Eagles defense that is completely lost. And then on the other side of the ball, again, the Cardinals are 32nd in defensive AVO at. The Eagles only had six possessions last week, and they scored, what, four touch downs or three touch downs in a field goal or something. So they were going up and down the field on the Cardinals in that game. So I'm with you. I think the Seahawks They're very mediocre. I do think they're going to be able to move the football pretty effectively against Cardinals. But you nailed it with the Seahawks defense. I mean, this has been what?


Five years in a row where the Seahawks have tried to fix their defense and been unsuccessful. They traded for Leonard Williams.


This might be the worst version. They traded for Leonard Williams. It so didn't work.


Seriously, Leonard. I mean, all over that defense, they've invested stuff. So it's a stay away from me. I understand that the Cardinals were legitimately impressive offensively. I think they're going to put up a lot of points here. I just wonder if the Seahawks will put up a lot of points. And then it goes to what do you think of Pete Carroll? In this spot with the playoffs on the line at this point in his career, he going to be able to... He might be able to get his guys up enough to get one last win and at least give them a chance. I don't like fading him in a big spot like this.


Or it's a Wow, they just lost to the Cardinals. Should Pee come back?


That's it.


That's true. You're right. You like the cards and a tease up to plus eight and a half? It's a little sexy, right?


Yeah. I don't think it's going to be a blow. I think it's going to be a messy game.


What's What's your next one that you like?


All right. Next one that I like. I have two here. Do you want the favorite or the dog?


Give me the dog. Maybe it's the same dog I have. All right.


I think it might be because I've heard you talk about this team a lot, and I know you like them. Are you going to the Chicago Bears?


Oh, you bet I am, my friend. All right, there you go. Bears plus three against Green Bay. All right, make the case. Yeah.


I actually like this packer's offense a lot. I am driving the Jordan Love Hype train. Next August, when we're doing shows, I'm going to be like, Jordan Love is going to take the league by storm. However, this fits what I said earlier. You got one team that's playing for everything, another team that's got nothing on the line, but is playing awesome football. This bear's team in weighted DVOA, which takes into account how good is a I've been playing recently. They're all the way up to seven in weighted DVOA. The Chicago freaking bears.


I've been betting on them almost every week. I know. So I'm not surprised.


It passes the eye test, right? It's been like two straight months. They're five and two in their last seven games, and their two losses have been by a combined- Two tough losses. 8 points to the Lions and the Browns. Two really good teams.


They should have won the Lions game, and they were right there with the Browns game. They had a lead late.


Absolutely. So you've got a Green Bay defense that I think stinks, that I think is very gettable. I mean, Bryce Young looked awesome against them two weeks ago. So I think the Bear's offense is going to look good against them. I think the bears' defense has been playing really, really well. And so as much as I like that packers' offense, I don't think they're going to put up 30 in that I think they're going to be held in check a little bit. So I want the packers in the play. I also I think that's the most fun scenario. I'd love to see them in the wild card round at Dallas, but I do think this is a tough spot for them. I think this is a coin flip game. You're getting three points. I think this comes down to the wire, and I really like the way the bears have been playing.


I have a couple of things to add. Packers are coming off a really nice win in a night game where basically, Minnesota just tried to blitz love, and they figured out to do against the blitz. Then offensively, the Vikings, their quarterback situation, that guy that they played in the first half was in the running for worst quarterback I watched all year. So fluke game. I also watched the Packers two weeks ago. They should have lost to Carolina, and Bryce was moving around. In my head, I watched Bryce Young actually move around and gain confidence to the point that I picked the packers last week, and they put up a goose egg against us last week. But it was like, Oh, really? We're doing against Jacksonville? You're going to get shut out. But then the other game that even makes me think the bears are even better pick, the Tommy DeVito game. Tommy DeVito, who's not a football quarterback, who all you have to do is basically don't let him run around, and he's useless. They let him run around. I think he had 75, 80 yards and over and over again. We've seen Bryce Young and Tommy DeVito being able to unleash whatever with their legs.


Now we have Fields. To me, Fields is the worst possible guy to have other than Lamar, the worst possible quarterback against this crappy packers team. I just think he's going to be able to run around and do shit all day. Also, their defense is great against the run. If we're just removing the packers running attack, or at least limiting it, now we're putting some stuff on love. As receiver's a little banged up, I like this bears team. You said five and two in their last seven. He easily could have won all seven. To me, This is this year's version of last year's lines team that ended the season really well and then punctuated it with a really nice last week of the season win that got us. And then it was like, remember the last half of the season, that week 18 game? I think they want fields to come back. Their coach is coming back. I think they win.


The DeVito point is a great one. We didn't see him look like that in any other game. No. That was two weeks in a row. Devito never looked like that again. Bryce Young hasn't looked like that all season. Both games, what was the common denominator? This crappy packer's defense that has been bad for years with that coordinator and has looked bad for most of this year. It's only three. I think it was three and a half earlier this week where I'm like, Love it at three and a half. Three is obviously a little bit trickier, but I'm with you.


I think these are pretty- I'm taking the three.


Yeah. Evenly matched teams here. It's like a coin flip game. So yeah, I like Chicago there.


There's the same game parlay. I'm going to figure out over the weekend for FanDuel. That's like, bears win, fields throws for 150, fields rushes for 70 plus, and a Herbert countdown. It's like 12 to one. I'm like, I think that can hit. Why not? Long shot. All right, we both like the bears. I really do think they're this year's, oh, remember how they finished last year? Now look at all this extra stuff they did. And basically the table set for them with the lions. I know you talked about this on your show, but give the people your Should Fields come back take?


Yeah, I don't think so. I don't think it's easy. But I think if you look at it, it's been a three-year body of work where we've never... The inconsistencies in the passing game are still there. And so I like watching Fields play, I wonder about how sustainable it is. He takes sacks at 10% of the time. He fumbles quite a bit, and then he's had some injuries. He's not one of these runners who gets down and you're like, Oh, he's good. Lamar avoids big hits. Fields takes some massive hits, and So I'm excited to watch him further in his career, and I think there's a chance he figures it out. At the same time, if you're a bears team and you have a chance now to get one of these quarterbacks with a top two pick, I just feel like you can't pass it up because there's a scenario where you stick with fields, it's uneven in year four all of a sudden, and now you have no path to a quarterback. They tried to buy a year, and now they have the number one overall pick. I feel like they just have to do it.


I was trying to think, is there an example of a guy like Field who three years in, you still weren't sure, and then in year four, it works out? The closest thing was Daniel Jones last year, and that's not the scenario you're looking for if you're a bears fan. I think it's a hard decision. If I were making it, I would say, All right, you made it a little bit harder with the way you've played the last six or seven games, but we're going to stick to our plan and draft a quarterback at number one.


Well, two things. One, could they get them on a cheaper price? Could they get them on an extension for 25 to 30 million a year versus what the Giants did with Daniel Jones, which was insane as it was happening? You also have the franchise tag that you could mess around with that the Giants didn't mess around with. The big thing for me is what can you get for the pick and how desperate is somebody... Let's say Washington looks at it and says, New owner, I want a new guy for my stadium. We'll give you the fourth pick, and I'll give you two more first-round picks and my second-round pick. And then the trade basically becomes Caleb Williams for Justin Fields, the fourth pick, two more first and a second, whatever it is. At some point, the assets you're getting back, knowing that Fields is pretty good already, is going to make you want to keep fields. Because I know everybody likes the quarterbacks, but we've seen it. Nobody's a sure thing at quarterback. We have no idea if any of these guys would be better than Justin Fields. Pennex, and I admittedly watch as little I still college football as anyone at the Ringer, but I've watched three Pennex games, and he was the best quarterback I saw all year.


And everybody's like, No, he's a second rounder. He's had two surgeries. Can't take him. Like, really? Every game I've watched, he was unbelievable. So I think it's a crapshoot, and you know fields is at least solid at this point.


It would be tempting for what you said. If you're defense... Let me ask you this. Here's what the analytics, the nerds, they always throw out this possibility, and football people never do it. Would you potentially keep it- Keep it and just draft the quarterback? Or like you said, if you move down a little bit, now maybe you're moving down to... If you move down from one to four, you're getting a great draft haul or even further down the net. Is there another quarterback in the first round you like? What if they're like Penix or Jane and Daniels? Or like you said, maybe they stay there and you draft a quarterback in the first round and you keep Justin Field for just the reason you said that this is really freaking hard. It's hard to scout quarterbacks. We see this every year. And so you say, We're going to take two bites at the apple. I know it's not 10. No one's done this in the NFL, but I always wonder, but in college, you're competing with another great quarterback. In high school, these guys, I feel like we underestimate their ability to handle this type of situation.


Justin Field seems like a mature guy. You say, Hey, you're going to have a competition in training camp. One of you is going to win the job, the other one is going to be the backup, and we're going to figure it out from there. And maybe one of you is going to play better, and then we're going to figure out what to do with the other one. Do you think that is an actual reasonable solution, or is that something that people- Yes, I love it. Yeah. Okay.


I don't understand.


I like it, too.


I just remember the RG3 Cousins year, and then Cousins ended up being the guy. But when we know there's no rhyme or reason for this quarterback stuff, for the most part, that it's 40 to 50 %, why not take two chances at it? And if you could trade back, let's say they trade back from one to five and they We got all this other stuff, but Jaden Daniels is there at five. Why not? And then we got all this other stuff. How do we know Jaden Daniels is going to be better than Caleb Williams? I like it. I think it's an interesting idea. Or they could move back. Maybe we get to April and everybody's just It's a Caleb Williams jerk circle. People are just going bonkers about him. Then maybe you leverage that and get a bunch of assets and you still stay in the mix. Whatever it is, this is one of the better positions we've seen an NFL team in, which Which is hilarious because it's the bears, the team that's needed a quarterback the entire time I've been alive, other than the one Jim McMahon season. Now they might already have a quarterback, and then I have a chance to get another one.


I love the bears this week. It's one of my favorite picks. Here's another one of my favorite, Sheil. I love the Texans. Texans minus one and a half. I'm just telling you now, this is an I am shorting Indianapolis pick. I think their defense absolutely is hot garbage. I I don't know if the Raiders beat me down the stretch on a backdoor last week. I had Indy minus three and a half a million dollar picks, and they just threw to a wide open Devante Adams for the entire fourth quarter. They weren't even close to cover him. He was just running 15-yard outs and getting out of bounds. I think Indy's defense stinks. I don't even think they're... They burn me a couple of times, but they just might be the team that they get waxed in this game and we go, Oh, wow, why did we think Indianapolis was going to beat Houston? Houston, a little more banged up than they were earlier in the season, obviously. They don't have tankdell. They have some questionable guys that were, I mean, Will Anderson, Noah Brown. Woods is questionable, but I'm assuming those guys will play. But the one thing they love to do is air it out.


This Indy team, which is miraculously around 500, but they've had a crazy easy schedule. They probably haven't played five good quarterbacks. I think you can air it out on with a good quarterback. This is not like garbage quarterback week. C. J. Stroud is good. This feels like a Demeco Ryan's fist pump, way to take care of business, C. J. Stroud. Then they get C. J. In a round one. Everybody gets excited about that. It's Only Texans minus one and a half in Indy. Houston is going to be good in a dome. I just think Houston is better. I'm taking them.


I like Houston in this game as well for the reasons. I mean, that Colts defense, it's like one of the most predictable defenses in the NFL. They play a certain way, and they play that way with Gus Bradley as their coordinator.


The legendary Gus Bradley.


Yeah. And listen, like you said, they've done a good coaching job this year. There's not a lot of talent on that team, specifically on defense. But in terms of Stroud, It's not like you're going to throw something at him where it's like, Oh, man, they came up with this wrinkle that he's never seen before. So they don't have it schématically on defense, and then they don't have the players on defense. They just don't have the personnel on defense. Stroud played them in his second career NFL game and threw for 384 yards against this defense. So I think they're going to be able to move the ball really well against this Colts team. I worry a little bit about the other side of the ball. The Colts have been able to just... They come up with some weird wrinkles offensively Every week. Last week, that Raiders game, they just come up with two 50-yard passes in a game with Minchou and the receiver's he's throwing to where you're like, What is happening here? Who is Alex pierce?


How is he open once a game for 40 yards?


Yeah. So I do worry that a little bit, but I just feel like if you're sitting there on Saturday watching this game, if the Colts win, you can live with that. You're like, I took Stroud, better quarterback, reliable, good coach. If something fluky happens, you live with it. But yeah, I do like the Texans when it's... Why are there no pick-ums, by the way? It's minus one and a half.


I know. They never... It's always a tic-tac zone. Sal and I call it the tic-tac zone. Yeah, I heard you. They don't want pick-ums. They don't want pick-ums.


They're finished. Okay. So I like Houston.


Indy's defense is 21st this year. That's That's their DVOI, I think. Can you name four quarterbacks they played that were good this year?


No. They've had... I don't have the number in front of me, but I know- I should have prepared for this. Going into the season, I know they had a bottom five schedule in the NFL, and they really feast on that all season long.


So, yeah, they take- Last week, they had Aiden O'Neill, who had basically the best game of his career. They played whatever crappy Falcons QB the week before, Trubisky, no Joe Burrow, whatever Titans, it was probably Levis, Baker, the crappy Pats, Bryce Young, Derek Carr put up 38 points on them. I just think C. J. Stroud, I think he can air it out of them. Anyway. All right. Do you have any other ones? Because I have one more.


Yeah. The last one I like here is I like Detroit minus three and a half at home against the Vikings.


Okay, let's hear it.


So this Vikings team, they've been a great story on defense with Brian Flores doing the quirky stuff where either he's blitzing you all out or he's dropping eight into coverage. But we're at the point in the season, you look at them like the last three weeks, and opponents have been like, All right, now we have a handle on what you're doing. We're going to light you up. Their defense has not looked nearly the same here in the last three weeks. They're going back to nick Mullen's on offense in this game. So the Vikings still have a chance get into the postseason, but I think they're just at a bad spot right now in terms of their season. And then the lions, this is pretty interesting. They're in the early window on Sunday, and so they're probably going to be the three seed. However, there's that small chance that the Eagles and the cowboys lose. And I know it's a small chance, but if that happens in the late window, then the lions get the two seed. And that might not sound like a big deal. That's a huge deal for Detroit. Golf home and road splits are wild.


He is a different guy at home in Detroit than on the road. So I don't think they're going to be sitting, guys, in that game. They're playing at one o'clock Eastern time. They got to win that game and then see what happens in the late window there. And so I think coming off that loss to the Cowboys last week where they lost, but I think you felt pretty good about the Lions for the most part in that game. Goff, resilient, brings them back on that last drive. They made some plays defensively. And so I like the Lions a lot, generally at home with Goff and Dan Campbell, and I like him specifically in this spot against this Vikings team?


The only thing that worries me. So Flores just puts his shit out of everybody. And against some QBs, it doesn't work. But against Goff is not guy, when you have money on Jared Goff and you're watching the game and there's eight guys on the line of scrimage, I just get scared. Now, maybe it's PTSD of lost Jared Goff bets in the past, but that one part scares me a little. But Vikings team last week looked like a team that season was done. When you tried out Jared Hall on a night game with playoff hopes on the line, you made the evaluation, this guy is our best chance to win, and he's that bad, it's hard to come back from.


The other thing that scares me, too, and you're right about that, is that Mullen's did play the Lions just two weeks ago, and that was the game where he threw for- He airded it out. Yeah, he airded it out. He did. So it makes me a little bit nervous. I will say that he threw four interceptions, but threw for 411 in that game at the same time, I don't know, I still feel good about the Lions in this spot.


One other game I'm going to throw you really quick.




I can't believe it. Well, as you know, I do like the Giants plus 200 against the Eagles. I just think, why not? Just take it because in that Eagles game, I think the Giants could be in that game anyway. But if Dallas is up 17 to nothing at halftime or 20 to three, the Eagles just sit everybody at of the point. Giants, Dayball is coming back. I don't think they care what pick they get. They're already out of the top three. Can you talk me out of the Panthers?


I can't. I just turned in my Picks column for the Ringer, and I've got the Panthers plus four and a half in that game against... All right, here's talking about the Panthers. We both watched that game last week. They couldn't complete a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They couldn't.


They had guys that were open. He was just sailing it over their heads, and he was just a disaster. But at home, he's better.


They played the Bucs in week 13. Who was 21-18? They were in that game. They had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to win that game. This is the classic of the theory I talked about earlier. You have one team against another team that has nothing to play for. One team win and you're in, and we're all sitting there on a Sunday going, I can't believe this is happening. Are the Bucs really going to lose this game? This one really fits that to a T. Baker Mayfield, by the way, built some rib injury this week, did not practice.


How about the fact that Tampa can't run the ball at all? And that's the one good thing Carolina's defense is to get is stopping the run. So no run game. Injured Baker, who looked like absolute shit last week.


I don't know. This is high variance. This is one where you could be feeling great about it, or it could be 24 to nothing at halftime, because when that Panthers team goes bad, and I've taken them a bunch this year, they are a frustrating watch because they can't complete a pass. So don't love it, but the side I'm on there is Panthers plus four and a half.


What if I gave you a Panthers Giants money line, eight to one? Eight to one. Eight to one.




You're talking about the- Why not? They got a little flyer on that maybe?


Giants against probably Marcus Mariota in the second half of that game against the Eagles. And then we just made the case for the Panthers. I don't think it's crazy. Again, it's one of those where if it doesn't hit, You're going to be slamming your head against the table being like, why? Giants, Panthers? What was I thinking? But right now, as we sit before knowing the result, I don't hate it.


The other piece of the Panthers is this is not a situation where the coach is coming back, and I don't know what variable that brings. But Bryce was so bad last week that it actually might be... You could make a case, maybe just play Andy Dalton this week and get out of the season and try to rebuild Bryce in the offseason because that's how bad he was. Are you damaging somebody now with the weapons that they have, with their inability to block. Is it worth it?


But legit good the week before against the packers. That was the first time where I'm like, Wow, he looks incredible. This is the guy I've been waiting for all season long because I like Bryce Young. So, yeah, I don't know. I don't know what to make of them. I've had trouble with the Panthers for most of the season.


Last thing I'll throw at you. Tampa needs to win. I don't think they're good. Indianapolis needs to win. I don't think they're good. Is it It's worth it just to do the two money lines of the underdogs and think you'll go one for two versus doing the Florida, the Jacksonville-Tampa Parlay is plus 116? Is it just smarter to take both money line underdogss? Like, You know what? It's not happening. Tampa and Jacksonville, they're not winning. And maybe you throw Indianapolis in that, too. Are all three of these shaky zigzag teams? Are they really going to go three? Because I'm going to say no.


Yeah. No, something wild and weird is going to happen. Jacksonville is another one of those that fits the bill I'm talking about like, oh, they just got to win and they're in. We don't know who's playing a quarterback. We know Vrabel this year has been bet, but historically in an underdog role at home against division opponent. Like, Brable, you've made a lot of money if you've just been betting on that.


Did you see his quotes about that?


No. What did he say?


He was just... Somebody made the mistake of asking him if they were going to tank the last game or throw away. And he just did this whole I hate losing thing. And I was like, okay. There's been some rumors that he might... Maybe he doesn't come back. I know he's got a couple of years left on his contract, but there's always been some weird front office versus variable stuff. He would be if I had to pick the, Oh, my God, I can't believe that coach is not going to be with the team next year. He'd be my number one draft pick. Who's your number one draft pick, by the way?


I think that's a good one because they're 5 and 18 in their last 23 games, which I didn't realize until today. So they stunk at the end of last year. They haven't been good this year. And they're in that middle ground where they don't have a path for a quarterback. And remember, they added the GM last year. It wasn't the same guy Vrabel has been with forever. So I was looking at that earlier and thinking, you know what? Yeah, he could be that type of guy. So I think that's a good one, actually.


I'm trying to think who else would be. Mcdermott's obviously in there, but I don't even know that would be that surprising. Is Tomlin would be the other one that I think it would be completely shocking, but I don't think anybody would be like, I can't believe it. I didn't see this coming at all. You'd just be surprised.


Well, Tomlin, you would trade, though, right? Unless if you wanted to leave. I don't think Tomlin is going anywhere. I don't know. You mentioned earlier, what happens if the Seahawks lose this game and don't make the play-ups? I don't know. I mean, their ownership The situation is really weird. I think overall, he's done a good job. They're in the playoffs. They're competitive every year, and their roster is not great. So I'm not advocating for that. I still like Pete Carroll quite a bit. But if you're talking about surprises, I think Brable is the pick. I'm looking at all the teams right here.


That's a fun trade if he has stuff left on his contract because the Chargers in Washington, I think, are both pretty aggressive. I had different people who have inside info yesterday. One told me he's coming to Washington. Who's that? Harba. Oh, Harba? Oh. They're like, He's coming to Washington. You should float it on your pod because it's going to happen. I'm like, Really? Then later in the day, somebody who knew it was the charger stuff was like, I think they're going to go after Harba. I'm like, All right, Harba is going everywhere. But I do think Washington has to be monitored because new owner, I think they want to come in and make some giant splash with somebody, whether it's Belichick, whether it's trading for Vrayble or trading for whoever. I'm ready for something from them.


Well, if Washington keeps, if they get this number two pick, what's a better set up to rebuild a franchise? They would have the number two pick. They have a new owner. You can have a clean slate with the coach and the GM. It's not one of those weird things, where Hey, we're keeping one of the guys. No, you're breaking that up. You get your pick of any coach and GM. You have a path towards a franchise quarterback, and you have a new owner. And they have some talent on the roster. So, yeah, this is like, since the what? Early '90s, if you're a Washington fan, this is probably the one time, other than that short RG3 stint, where you feel pretty good about your chances to at least have a shot at rebuilding something.


Yeah, they didn't feel this way with Carson Wentz. I'll leave you on this one. Steelers Money Line, Texans minus one and a half, Atlanta Money Line, Jets Money Line, Dallas Money Line, Chicago Money Line, Denver money line. This is the roadmap for the Pats to lose and still get the number two pick. That is 9:50 to one or something, 95 to one. Some crazy. You risk $10, you win $950 for my My Pats, get the number two pick anyway scenario.


That's a hard one. I think there are 32 scenarios for the two pick where in 20 of them, they lose it, and in 12 of them, they get it. But yeah, it's such a weird little quirk that If the two teams lose for the two pick, the Commanders and the Patriots, all these other games are going to determine whether they get it or not. So yeah, I don't know.


Well, I'll probably regret this later in life, but I've reached a point. I'm so grateful to Belichick. My entire life as a Patriots fan was just abysmal. There was something on Instagram yesterday. It was highlights of the last Patriots win of the '93 season, Bledso's rookie year, when they beat the Dolphins in overtime. I think it was '33 to '27, and Bledso hit somebody in the end zone for the OT TD. It's bad weather, and it was like such a joyous Pats game. And it was the first, literally, the first happy Patriots game in six years since I think the Tony East and Hale Mary that Irving Freier caught in '87. And I was looking at that and I was thinking, we were so rock bottom that Drew Bledso taking us to five and 11 in the '93 season in overtime, we were fucking joyous for a week after that. It's just like, if Belichick, it seems like he wants to keep winning, I can't root against him in this last game. I have to root for him. I can't root for him to lose to the Jets. I can't do it.


Well, listen, it's like you said. I mean, who knows? The Texans, remember after week 18 last year, we're all making fun of them for losing the number one pick, and then they get the two, and they get C. J.


Strauss. That's the thing. You never... What is the right pick? We don't even know anymore. But, Bryce Young. Oh, my God. They got Bryce Young. He's number one. Jaxabil. It was all worth it. We got Trevor Lawrence. Who knows with him? Anyway, I feel like Belichick. I'm hoping he stays. Do you think he stays?


I don't think so. I understand what you're saying. I listened to you earlier this week. It's hard to break up with a sportsperson who's been in your life for so long and it's brought you, like you mentioned, so many memories. I just feel like at this point, they're what? Eight games under 500 since braided left. They don't have a good roster. Their path to become... I just feel like this is the time for a clean break to just say we're moving in a different direction. And it's going to be hard. They're probably going to be... The next guy could suck. There's always that potential for that. But I just feel like, and at this stage in his career, are you going to be able to say, Hey, this personnel guy who you don't know is going to be picking the players and you just coach them to Bill Belichick? So it almost has to be someone he handpicks if you're going to that structure. And then is that person like, Oh, yeah, I'm comfortable telling Bill Belichick, No, the offensive tackle, you have graded as six. I have him as... You know what I mean?


It just gets so messy for a guy who has accomplished that much, where I just feel like this is the time, clean break. And I think it's going to be a clean break, but I don't know. I could be wrong about that.


Well, what do you remember when they bounced Andy Reid 10 years ago, Philly? Now, he never won a Super Bowl for you.


Right. No, he didn't want to leave at the time. He had a nightmarish season. And it's one of those things where the owner personally wanted him to stay and liked him. But it was just like, you just went four and twelve. You were eight and eight last year. And it's like, he was out of ideas at the time. I mean, it's actually similar to the Patricia thing. I mean, he made their offensive line coach. I don't know if you remember this, Juan Castillo. He made him their defensive coordinator. It's almost the exact same thing. And it's like, dude, do you not have any ideas to make the team better right now? So there was a similarity there.


So I should have make you the NBA or lead NBA guy. You don't want that job?


No. I mean, maybe if we get into baseball coverage a little more, if we want to dive into that and the Phillies are good, maybe. But I think that's it. Sometimes it's just time. Like Bill Walsh, I think, used to say, Five years is the life span for an NFL coach should be in one place, and then it's just time. And this has been way, way more than that, where I feel like it's just time.


All right. Shio Capade, great to see you. You're going to be reacting when? When's your next Ringer NFL with Solak.


Yeah, we're going to do that on Monday. So you'll have the playoff stuff and then all the coach firing. So we'll record that Monday evening and figure out what's going on with the 400 story lines around the NFL.


Awesome. And read your Picks column that's going up on theringer. Com later this week. Shio, good to see you.


Good to see you. Thanks for having me.


All right, we're taping this last part of the podcast. It's a few hours after we taped with Shiel, and a couple of things happened. One, I lost a three-set tennis match, 9-7 in the third doubles. But I'm back is the most important thing, an inspiration to all. More importantly, we had a couple line changes. The Seattle line is now three, plus three for the cards. So we're looking at that. And then the other one that changed the lions dropped to minus three. Sheil had been talking about how he liked that one. So anyway, we're going to factor those in. And here we go. It's an extravaganza. The Million Dollar Picks for the final week of the NFL season. Week 18. Last week, we won $95,000. We're up $1.925 million for the year, and we're going to put some on the line. This is the only time all season that I've staggered some bets. Normally, I've just clumped everything together. I'm not doing that. I have three that I love the most, 300,000 each on these picks. Patriots minus one and a half over the Jets. Talked about this with Shio Capatia. I just don't think Belichick, if this is his last Patriots game ever, is going out losing to the Jets, and he's certainly not going to care what the Patriots pick is.


I think this team is playing hard for them. I think the Jets could give a crap. They're done for the season, and this probably helps them for a pick. We're getting a free point and a half here. This line should be Pats minus three. We're taking the pats minus one and a half. And guess what else? I'm going to root for them. Bill Belichick, thank you. Thank you for the six Super Bowl's. Thank you for the two decades of dominance. I am rooting for you on Sunday if this is your last game. I'd love to have in my life. Pats minus one and a half. Next one, my favorite pick of the week, bears plus three in Green Bay. This bears team five and two in their last seven and really could have won the other two. And this is this year's like the lions last year where they came on late. Week 18, it ended up being a little bit of a Super Bowl thing. I think they want Fields to be the quarterback, and it's an unbelievable matchup against Green Bay's defense where Tommy DeVito and who is the other one that just ran around on them?


Bryce Young. Fields is the best version of the guy that the packers have had trouble with all season. I think the bears could win this game, too. That's why we're also going to do a same-game parlay that is going to be my FanDuel same-game parlay of the weekend. Bears win, Fields 150 plus passing yards, fields 70 plus rushing yards, and Herbert to score a TV. That is plus 11-12. So over 11-one odds on Fandil. We're going to put 33k on that as well. So mark that one. And then the last big 300k bet, the Texans minus one and a half over the Colts. I think the Colts are frauds. I think the Texans are going to be able to throw the ball on them. And I think this line goes to minus two and a half or minus three by game time. Those are three bigger bets. And then we're going to sprinkle 150k a piece on the following four bets. So again, this is the only time we've done this all year, but it's week 18. I'm feeling it, feeling good. Just had an awesome coffee, still on a high from losing a tennis match.


So let's keep going. 150k on. The Lions minus three against the Viking. Sheil made this case in the podcast that the Lions are not a rollover, and let's not give a crap about this. They are actually Hey, they might have a chance to get the two-seed if something weird happens in the Dallas-Washston game. And we know the Giants could absolutely beat the Eagles. So they're going to play hard, we think. And I like this spot. Also, nick Mollins, Vikings quarterback. The Vikings just looked like their season was over last week. So 150K in that line is minus three. 150k in the cards plus three in Seattle. I think the cards can win this game outright. We'll see if Seattle could move the ball in the cards defense. It feels like a lot of points both ways, but I really like what we're seeing from the card was offense, and I think they can run the ball down Seattle's throat. 150k on a game that we did not talk about with Sheil, the Saints minus three over the Falcons. And here's That's the case. The Falcons beat them earlier in their season, 24 to 15. If you remember in that game, Chris Olavy went out in the third quarter with a concussion.


Shahid went out in the second quarter, so they were running out of the receiver. I don't even think Tom has played. Kara Still through for 304 yards. The Falcons ran 41 for 228 in that game. Ritter had two picks, but the Saints had 444 yards off us and 22 first downs. I just don't think the Falcons are going to beat them twice. I think this is the last Smith game. So Saints minus three. We're throwing something on that, 150K. Last but not least, Teaser. So I thought about putting the Ravens here because she'll like the Ravens, and I just couldn't talk myself into it. I don't trust. They've got the one seat locked up. We know Hunt is playing, and I think they play hard for a half. Maybe they pull back. We just don't totally trust it. We're staying away from that. But we are doing a teaser with the New York football Giants against the Eagles. I think they can win this game outright. I think they're going to be able to throw the ball. Even if the Eagles come out and play like the team they were two months ago for two hours, the Giants still could get a backdoor cover.


More importantly, as this game goes along, if Dallas is beating Washington, the Eagles will slowly realize we have nothing to play for and start pulling guys. We're pulling the Giants up to plus 11.5. Then Miami Buffalo, we got to put something on that. This Miami line, it's gone from two and a half to to two and a half to three. It's bounced back and forth. I think Miami is going to be able to score on Buffalo. I know they've lost their pass rush on defense. I know they have some offensive line injuries, but I think they're going to be able to move the ball. We're going to tease them to plus eight and a half. Giants plus 11 and a half, Miami plus eight and a half. We're putting 150K on that as well. It's a big weekend, but guess what? We earned it. We're up almost $2 million as we head into week 18. Bill Belichick, thanks again. Tennis gods, thanks for giving me my knees back. I'm not doing any HCH as far as you know. Those are the million dollar pics for week 18. All right, that's it for the podcast. Thanks to Howard and Sheil.


Thanks to Kyle Creighton. Thanks to Steve Sardruti. Don't forget, new rewatchable is coming on Monday. If you want to check out videos from this podcast, go check out YouTube. I can't speak. Youtube. Com/bilsimmons. I will see you on Sunday night after Bill's Dolphins with Cousin Sal. Enjoy the weekend. Must be 21 plus in President's select states, F is offering online sports wager in Kansas under an agreement with Kansas Star Casino, LLC. Gambling problem? Call 1-800 Gambler or visit feindle. Com/rg in Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. You can call 1-800, Next Step, or text, Next Step or text Next Step to 5-33-42 in Arizona. Call 1-88-789-777 or visit ccpg. Org/chat-connect. 1-800, 9 with it in Indiana, 1-800-522-4700, or visit ksgamblinghelp. Com in Kansas, 1-877-770. Stop in Louisiana, mdgamblinghelp. Org, Maryland, 1-800-gambler. Net in West Virginia, or 1-800-522-4700 in Wyoming. Hope is here. Visit gamblinghelp-line-ma. Org or call 800-327-5050 for 24/7 support in Massachusetts, or call 1-877-8 Hope, NY or text Hope, NY in New.