Category Archives: NFL
Sports and rivalries go hand in hand.
Rivalries make the games matter.
You know what sports would be without rivalries?
Rivalries make us scream like kids on a roller coaster.
Make us pick sides.
Make us care.
Think about it:
Magic had Bird.
Tiger has Phil.
Manning and Brady have each other.
Eighteen verse twelve. And it’s always a war.
A 60-minute battle for the ages with the football world watching every throw.
Every stare. Every fist pump.
Who ya got?
It’s like picking Picasso or Rembrandt.
Candy or ice cream.
Super bowls? Yah, they’ve got Super Bowls.
MVPs? Those, too.
Passing records. Pizza joints. Supermodels.
Yup. Done. Check.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Rivals. Friends. Excellence.
You can’t choose.
Just soak it in.
And enjoy history.
LOS ANGELES — I have to write about Tony Romo this week. Wow, what a game he played last Sunday against Denver. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and nearly came out victorious. Nearly. That seems to be a word we use often to describe Romo and his play. He nearly puts it all together. He nearly comes away with big victories when his team needs them the most. He nearly is among the top QBs in the league. In the offseason, when Jerry Jones signed Romo to that outrageous $108M contract, Jones said he wanted his quarterback to be more like Manning. He meant this in terms of being a complete football guy. Putting in the extra hours in the film room, working out, running routes with his receivers. Romo even went out of his way bypass his annual attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open this summer. And look, it’s shown. Romo has been out of his mind this year. He’s second in TD passes (13), INTs (2) and passer rating (114.3), and third in completion percentage (71.8%) but yet the Cowboys are only 2-3. Why is this? Is it all on his shoulders? When you get paid nine figures it all goes on you whether it’s your fault or not. Team can’t run the football? Who cares, you’re getting $100M. Defense can’t get off the field? BFD. You’re getting paid $100M. The NFC East is primed for Dallas’ taking and it’s up to Romo to take it.
Let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (record: 0-5) (last week: 32) — For a second, didn’t you think Jacksonville might pull off the upset against St. Louis? And Justin Blackmon, nice wheels.
31.) New York Giants (0-5) (30) — This is getting ugly with the Giants. Real ugly.
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) (31) — So now McGlennon (as Warren Sapp calls him) is the captaining the pirate ship. I’m guessing a lotta turnovers and handoffs to Doug Martin (my pick to win the rushing crown) this week against the Eagles.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) (29) — Who woulda thought that Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, with four Super Bowl rings between them, wouldn’t have a win after five weeks. Sure as hell not me. And not you, either.
28.) Minnesota Vikings (1-3) (25) — Is it amusing to anyone else that three of the bottom five teams all had byes last week? Welcome to town, Josh Freeman! What week is Freeman the full-time starter? Seven? Eight?
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) — Heard an interesting stat: Cam Newton’s top two career passing games are still his first two ever played back in 2011. You believe that?
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (21) — Really feel for E.J. Manuel, but he’s fortunate his knee injury isn’t as serious as Brian Hoyer’s, who’s hit looked less severe in comparison. Can’t believe it’s gonna be Tuel Time for the next couple weeks. There is some bad NFL quarerbacking going on in a few of these cities.
25.) St. Louis Rams (2-3) (27) — If the Rams lost to the Jaguars there were going to be MAJOR problems. Now comes a winnable game against the floundering Texans. Five-hundred a real possibility and a new season.
24.) Oakland Raiders (2-3) (28) — I’ve always said I wanted to like the Raiders. Not sure why, maybe it’s the simplistic badassery of their uniforms, or the “Just Win, Baby” attitude, but now I have a legitimate reason with the way Terrelle Pryor is playing. As Rich Eisen likes to say, he’s a factor.
23.) Washington Redskins (1-3) (26) — Another week’s rest for My Good Friend Robert can’t be a bad thing, nor is it bad for Alfred Morris’s banged-up ribs. But now they return to play on Sunday night against a Dallas team that’s feeling itself after hanging better than maybe anyone will this season against the Broncos.
22.) Houston Texans (2-3) (14) — In our Saturday GameDay Morning meeting, the guys throw out Bold Predictions and see what sticks. Well, before Marshall Faulk settled on taking Terrelle Pryor topping the Chargers in rushing yards, he toyed with the idea of taking Matt Schaub to throw a Pick 6 for a fourth straight game. Seemed laughable at the time.
21.) Atlanta Falcons (1-4) (15) — The wheels are falling off the Falcons bus with Monday’s shocking loss to the Jets and then Tuesday’s news that Julio Jones is most likely lost for the season with a foot injury. Good thing I have Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez on my also 1-4 fantasy team. Oh wait.
20.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) (23) — The Eagles have been outscored by 24 points this season, haven’t won at home and yet are tied for the lead in the NFC East but have a big task with Mike vick on the shelf for at least this week. That’s how wide open the NFC is. It’s going to be a such a fun ride the second half of the season.
19.) Arizona Cardinals (3-2) (22) — Raise your hand if you thought the Arizona Cardinals were 3-2? My hand is not raised. I had to double check that. It seems like they’re winning in spite of Carson Palmer, who’s completed less than 60% of his passes, has a passer rating of 67.0 and has nine interceptions to only five touchdowns.
18.) Cleveland Browns (3-2) (19) — Really excited for Browns fans and the city of Cleveland. What an awesome ride the last three weeks have been. Really feel for Brian Hoyer though, who was enjoying his best go as a professional quarterback before tearing his ACL last Thursday. Highly doubt Brandon Weeden can keep it going.
17.) San Diego Chargers (2-3) (13) — If Tony Romo went Tony Romo on Sunday, then the Chargers went Chargers Sunday night against the Raiders. I mean, how classic was opening-drive interception followed by giving up a bomb for a TD?
16.) Tennessee Titans (3-2) (12) — The Amish Rifle had the Titans so close to knocking off the Chiefs but you just knew he was going to turn it over at a key moment, and lo and behold, he did.
15.) Baltimore Ravens (3-2) (18) — Impressive win last week, going down to Miami and taking care of business. Still, it’s a little concerning Ray Rice is still only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season. Though fantasy owners have to be pleased by his two scores.
14.) New York Jets (3-2) (20) — What did I tell you about the Geno Smith roller coaster?! Wow, that was something on Monday. I officially have no clue about the Jets. They could beat the Steelers this week by 20 or lose by 10. It’s all in play.
13.) Chicago Bears (3-2) (11) — This is the Jay Cutler Era for ya; win three straight, lose two. I’m expecting another 3-game run here followed by an injury and crushed playoff hopes.
12.) Detroit Lions (3-2) (10) — Well, I guess we see how important Calvin Johnson is to the Detriot Football Lions. Still think they’re better than the Bears, though.
11.) Miami Dolphins (3-2) (7) — There’s a lot of teams in the same boat this season. Hard to tell if that boat is sailing toward Playoff Island or not. Also, Brian Hartline was at NFL Network this week and I told him how my buddy Jason took 25 minutes to take him in the 8th round of my fantasy draft. Needless to say he was flabbergasted.
10.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (17) — I still say the Cowboys win the NFC East and then get blown out in the Wild Card. But hey, at least they made it, right? That’s worth $108 million. Right?
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (16) — Yes, there was a monsoon right as Tom Brady was going to make this trademark comeback. Yes, the Patriots trotted out a JV corps of wide receivers. Yes, they only scored 13 points. But still, the Bengals gutted out that win and look like a playoff team.
8.) New England Patriots (4-1) (6) — At the end of the day, the Patriots are still 4-1 but six points is not going to cut it. The offense has to get better and if Rob Gronkowski comes back this week, it will. Just not sure it’s enough to take down the Saints.
7.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (9) — Would’ve liked to have seen the Packers blow out the Calvin Johnson-less Lions but a win is a win is a win. If they can run the football a little better, Green Bay should contend in the action-packed NFC.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (4-1) (8) — Rich Eisen was on Dan Patrick Thursday morning talking Top 10 NFL quarterbacks and didn’t want to put Andrew Luck in there. I would have him in there. He’s damn good. And this is a damn good football team.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) (5) — Colin Kaepernick had just six completions and the 49ers routed Houston. Not sure if that says more about the state of the Texans or how potent this San Francisco offense is when clicking on all cylinders.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) (4) — The Chiefs faced a little adversity on Sunday on the road, and when the going got tough made the plays needed to remain unbeaten. Of course, they were playing against the Amish Rifle, so yeah, maybe it wasn’t that impressive.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (4-1) (1) — If the Seahawks had pulled another comeback win on the road I would’ve been very shocked. As it were, they suffered their first loss and are no longer The Man.
2.) New Orleans Saints (5-0) (3) — The Saints have reached the point where there’s no chance I’m ever picking against them. Zero. They are in full-out Eff You Mode and I like it. Even though Sean Payton strikes me as that annoying frat guy who’s always gets hammered and runs his mouth about how rich his daddy is.
1.) Denver Broncos (5-0) (2) — We know how good Peyton Manning is, but the biggest question the remainder of the season will be can that defense get stops when needed. We’ll find out next week when Von MIller returns from suspension.
LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot to be learned after just three weeks of a football season, yet at the same time it’s still a little early to come to conclusions about teams and players’ fate. I’m sure we all don’t expect Peyton Manning to keep this up or the Giants to be this dreadful, though surely we’re all surprised by Trent Richardson’s trade and Josh Freeman’s benching. This we do know: there are several teams and players performing very poorly and a few teams who look really good. One or two will stay on this path and everyone else will go up and down as the season ebbs and flows towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
That’s just how the National. Football. League. works. And why we live and die with it each week and why we love it. I can’t wait to see what Week 4 will bring. Until then, let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (32) — Of course, the game I bench Maurice Jones-Drew, since he’s playing against the vaunted Seattle defense, at home no less, he scores a late, garbage touchdown. Thank goodness that didn’t cost me a win, since my team is terrible. Then I really would’ve thrown something at my television. Even more so than watching the crappy “Dexter” finale.
31.) Minnesota Vikings (0-3) (30) — We’re about two more brutal losses to teams of the Browns quality (no offense, Cleveland) from me starting a Free Adrian campaign.
30.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-3) (29) — How much would you pay to watch a webcam of the Bucs lockerroom? $2? $5? I think there’s some mess going on in there that I’m guessing is pretty damn interesting. Oh, and good luck, Mike Glennon, you’re gonna need it. And it’s time for a decent haircut, you’re a starting NFL quarterback now.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) (28) — When my dad knows the Steelers are in trouble, they really are. Seriously, how are they going to score points outside of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown breaking free on a long bomb?
28.) Washington Redskins (0-3) (24) — Preseason Week 3 went about as well as it could go, right? And did you know this is the first time EVER the Giants and Redskins have both started the year 0-3?
27.) New York Giants (0-3) (20) — The Giants are only this high because they’ve shown in the past it doesn’t matter how they start, they always seem to make it interesting down the stretch. How many more losses before the New York media starts calling for Tom Coughlin’s job?
26.) Cleveland Browns (1-2) (31) — So apparently the formula is: trade your best player, start your 3rd string QB and start winning games. Which team will be the next to follow this to Ws?
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-2) (25) — I really hope Terrelle Pryor isn’t hurt long term because he could become a special player. Though it might be time to have the conversation about the end of Darren McFadden, or at him being in need of a change of scenery to inject some life into his career.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) (27) — Thirty-eight points?! Where did that come from this week? And does it say more about the Panthers being capable of turning this season around (they’re on a bye this upcoming week) or how miserable this Giants season is going to be?
23.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (22) — Almost positive this Cardinals team is going to be the one this season where I have no idea what to write about it each week. Most weeks it’ll probably be a lot of me gushing about the Honey Badger.
22.) St. Louis Rams (1-2) (21) — The Rams are the Cardinals are very similar in the respect that both have quarterbacks who aren’t really good but can make plays every once in a while, have solid skill guys who are underused, and defenses who could be great but something or another holds them back. Doesn’t help they play in the hardest division in football.
21.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) (24) — Not sure why but I like this team. I like E.J. Manuel. I like Doug Marrone. And I like that Manuel likes throwing to Stevie Johnson (have I mentioned that before?) They went up against a tough Jets team (can’t believe I just typed those words) on the road and nearly won. They’re going to be OK here in a bit.
20.) New York Jets (2-1) (26) — A month ago, I really thought we’d be talking about the temperature of Rex Ryan’s hot seat, not a 2-1 team with a rookie quarterback playing decently and a defense near the top of the league. Just amazing. When you think you have the NFL figured out, you realize you have no idea.
19.) Detroit Lions (2-1) (18) — The Lions got their first-ever win in Washington last week and then in the most bizarre story we’ve had this season, Nate Burleson broke is arm in a car accident when he was distracted by falling pizza and then hit the median. Your move, Bengals.
18.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) (16) — We know the Eagles don’t play any defense, but we also know the Eagles are still figuring out their own offense. Since the first half of the win against the Redskins they’ve been punked by the Chargers and Chiefs. I still think they’re going to be OK though. Not enough to make the playoffs but enough to lay the foundation.
17.) San Diego Chargers (1-2) (15) — Tennessee has proven to be a tough, hard-fighting team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. It seems like the AFC West is going to be more than a Denver runaway and the Chargers aren’t going to be an easy beat this year.
16.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (17) — I don’t know how the Ravens are above .500 but somehow they are. Very good win last week. Emotional with the retiring of Ray Lewis’s number and they found a way. That’s going to be their M.O. this season: finding a way.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) (14) — See what happens when DeMarco Murray gets his carries? Now if only he could run against the Rams each week he’d be in Adrian Peterson territory. I happen to think Dallas will beat San Diego this week which will set the ‘Boys up nicely this season, but we’ll see. They’re bound for a stinker.
14.) Houston Texans (2-1) (7) — There’s something about the Texans I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it. Matt Schaub has done some Matt Schaub-like things this year. Arian Foster seems a bit disgruntled. Andre Johnson is dinged. But J.J. Watt is still awesome, but how long can he carry this team?
13.) Tennessee Titans (2-1) (13) — I haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the Titans play but I know Warren Sapp loves their defense. And when a first ballot Hall of Famer tells you something, you listen. Jake Locker is also proving to be very dangerous with his feet, which is something you can’t ever prepare for.
12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (19) — Andrew Luck bent his old coach over his leg and gave him a spanking last week. I don’t know how else to explain what happened against the 49ers. Trent Richardson’s first carry in the blue and white was a touchdown and Indy’s defense made Colin Kaepernick look like a novice back there. This could be a dangerous team.
11.) Atlanta Falcons (1-2) (10) — I’m not convinced the Falcons could be fine without Steven Jackson, but an unhealthy Roddy White is really limiting Matt Ryan’s vertical attack. His offensive line isn’t giving him much, either, but this still is an explosive offense and a playoff team.
10.) New England Patriots (3-0) (8) — It’s hard to be undefeated yet still drop each week in the rankings, but that’s just what the Patriots have done thus far. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Tom Brady hasn’t been good through three games, tantrums, dropped passes or not. He’s missed a lot of throws. But as long as the defense keeps bringing its A Game, the Pats will be OK.
9.) Green Bay Packers (1-2) (5) — Their running backs ran hard, aside from Jonathan Franklin’s late-game fumble, and the defense was opportunistic, Aaron Rodgers made a couple bad throws late in the game which cost Green Bay. This is still a dangerous team but the jury is out if it’s playoff bound.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) (9) — Andy Dalton is a good, not great, quarterback. He’s taken this team to the playoffs the last two seasons. He has playmakers all around him and a good defense. The Bengals should win the AFC North going away and contend in the conference. They should.
7.) Miami Dolphins (3-0) (12) — Raise your hand if you saw an undefeated start from the Dolphins coming? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Their running backs aren’t great and you can’t name one of their receivers other than Mike Wallace. But they play hard, Mr. Lauren Tannehill is slingin’ it and Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan are pinching the ends like mofos. They’re gonna be in the hunt all season.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4) — I still think the 49ers are good. I still think Colin Kaepernick is a superstar in the making, but as someone said to me last weekend, he’s feeling himself a little too much. He’s buying into his own hype a little too much. Take him favoriting all the “hate” tweets this week. Why? How does that motivate you?
5.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (11) — What an awesome scene in Philly last week. Really proud of the fans for showing Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb the respect they deserved. Too bad they couldn’t show the same gratitude when the two of them were leading the Eagles to NFC East titles and conference championship games. Chiefs are making the playoffs. Mark it down. That defense and zero turnovers, along with Jamaal Charles, they might even beat Denver.
4.) New Orleans Saints (3-0) (6) — Would you believe the Saints are 4th in Total Defense (295.7 ypg) and 6th in Offense (404.3 ypg)? Jimmy Graham is out of his mind right now and though it appears New Orleans has zero running game right now, at least it doesn’t have to worry about always being in a shootout with teams.
3.) Chicago Bears (3-0) (3) — Jay Cutler has the mojo working so far but before we all get carried away, myself included, let’s remember he’s gotten off to hot starts each of the last few seasons with the Bears with nothing to show for it. So while he looks great now, let’s not count the cubs before they’re done hibernating.
2.) Denver Broncos (3-0) (2) — Actual Yahoo headline on Tuesday: “Is it too early to give Peyton Manning the 2013 NFL MVP?” Manning’s stat line this season is ridiculous with 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and ZERO picks, not to mention his 73% completion rate, only 4.2% higher than his previous career high, but MVP? After 3 weeks? Slow the truck down, people.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0) (1) — Yes, the Seahawks gave up 17 points to the Jaguars. Yes, that is unacceptable. Yes, they’ve won 10 in a row at home. No, they will not lose at home this season. Yes, they are The Man until there’s a something in the “L” column.
LOS ANGELES — Passionate fan bases are part of what makes sports so amazing and unique and special, but it’s not just that we are fans of our favorite teams, rather it’s how we go about cheering them on to victory that makes it so awesome. Sunday, I watched the first half of the Seahawks/49ers game at a Seattle bar and in it where about 150-200 of the most insane people I’ve ever met. Every single one of them was decked out in some kind of Seahawks’ paraphernalia, including some pretty awesome old jerseys: Steve Largent, Jon Kitna, Joey Galloway and then today’s stars, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. One of the dudes, who was in the group I was in – my friend Stacye invited me out after I told her I had to watch a game with her given how rabid she is about Pete Carroll’s crew – even had a 12th Man jersey with “U Mad Bro” on the back. Oh, and it was sleeveless.
The other thing that struck me about everyone in the bar was their decibel level. Ironic that the Q set the record for outdoor noise the same night, because it felt about 136db around me every time Wilson was shown on TV. Seriously, these people went ape nuts every time anything happened. Seattle’s tight end DROPPED a touchdown and everyone lost their mind. It was pretty awesome to be there, too bad I missed most of the scoring plays, surely I would’ve lost my hearing by then. Even on Twitter everyone is crazy about them. I posted a couple nuggets and got immediate response. Love it.
The Hawks’ beatdown of San Francisco this week was definitely as impressive as their fans’ loyalty and devotion, but was it enough to make them The Man this week?
Let’s find out.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (32) — I wonder what Teddy Bridgewater thinks of the Jaguars helmets? Because if he doesn’t like them, you can be he’s going to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning and refuse to play for them when he’s drafted No. 1 overall less than 8 months from now. And I know no one cares about anyone else’s fantasy team, but you guys are my people, so I assume you care about mine. Well guess who got hurt Sunday for the Jags? You guessed it: EFFIN’ MAURICE JONES-DREW. I’m never taking him again. Ever. Ever.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (31) — I’ve seen “Old School” at least 150 times, no joke, and one of my favorite lines (among a hundred) is when Blue dies, and , his funeral Vince Vaughn says to Luke Wilson, “dammit, Blue was old, that’s what old people do, they die.” I feel like this is what we have to say about Brandon Weeden. Except he’s only 29. It’s just funny.
30.) Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (25) — Early Sunday a report was circulating that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman at odds and that Freeman might be traded on Tampa’s bye week. Immediately, I started seeing rumors of him going to the Vikings. I know Minnesota would do that faster than Adrian Peterson can sprint 78 yards for at touchdown, but who does Tampa want in return? Sure as hell not Christian Ponder.
29.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-2) (30) — So yeah, who’s going to be quarterbacking this team a month from now? I think Vince Young and Matt Leinart are available. Also, for the second week in a row, the game was handed to them to win and they flubbed it up and got the L. That really tells you all you really need to know.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) (28) — It could be a long year in the Steel City. Ten points last night against the Bengals, nine the week before against the Titans. No running game. Lost their center for the year, another starter on defense.
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-2) (27) — Something’s not right with Cam Newton. Clearly, I don’t know what it is, but watching Sunday’s game, he was downright Weedenonian in the first half. Overthrowing guys by 15 yards, balls into the turf, bad sacks. He got better in the second half, but this is beginning his third year, he should be further along than this. He should be beating the Bills.
26.) New York Jets (1-1) (26) — I’ll give the Jets this: they sure played hard on Thursday and really should’ve beaten the Patriots. Geno Smith showed his rookie colors in the New England downpour and let one too many ball sail on him, but that Jets defense stymied Tom Brady the entire game, save for the opening drive. It’ll be interesting how this plays out, but Rex coached ‘em up and if they can get any offense, they got a punchers chance.
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-1) (29) — For years it was so typical of the Raiders to have the most money on their team tied up in their kickers. Now it’s their fullback who’s cashing big checks. Well, Marcel Reese scored a touchdown Sunday to “justify” the pay day. And good for him. Fullbacks are people, too. And I know they played Jacksonville, but the Silver & Black’s defense didn’t look half bad.
24.) Washington Redskins (0-2) (15) — Umm… so this was Preseason Week 2, right?
23.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (24) — Impressive win on Sunday, even though it was against the Panthers, but EJ Manuel didn’t play great – he left a lot out there despite Carolina giving him multiple chances – but he led an impressive sub-2-minute drive (got some help on a phantom PI call on Luke Kuechly) and tossed a game-winning TD pass. Once he figures out what he’s doing in this league, he’s going to be a good one. And if there’s any silver lining for my fantasy team this season (yes, I’m already thinking about next year) it’s that he LOVES throwing to Stevie Johnson. It’s only just two games in, but it appears Doug Marrone made the right move going all-in on EJ.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1) (22) — Even with a hobbling Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona still managed to find a way to pull out a come-from-behind win against what looks like a pretty decent Lions team. Tryann Mathieu yet again made a big defensive play and Carson Palmer did just enough not to lose it. Not sure what to make of their running game but the Cardinals can compete with anyone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (21) — So THAT’s how Jeff Fisher wants to use Tavon Austin. Got it. That kid might have a future in this league. I like how the Rams showed some fortitude in coming back when it appeared they were gonna get blown out by the Falcons. They play in the toughest division in football and last year went 4-1-1 in that division. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that again.
20.) New York Giants (0-2) (13) — David Wilson gets benched for two fumbles and Eli Manning keeps his job despite 7 interceptions. Now, I understand how the quarterback position works. There’s a lot that goes into some of those picks; deflections, bad routes, and so on. But this is not a good start for the Blue Men Group. Again. Tom Coughlin on the hot seat in 3…2…1…
19.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (16) — Andrew Luck’s magic couldn’t extend for a second week in a row, but T.Y. Hilton showed why many raved about him in the preseason, hauling in 6 passes for 124 yards. This is a tricky team to get. The Colts won a lot of games last year in the closing minutes. Has their good fortune run out?
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (19) — Every time I watch Matthew Stafford throw the ball I’m reminded of how I must’ve looked growing up playing pick-up football in the field behind our house in the Coast Guard housing complex. Just slinging it from all angles. And is anyone else concerned that Reggie Bush is already ailing in a few different places?
17.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (14) — Still getting the champions discount, this Ravens team is a funny one. Struggled to beat the Browns on the day they raised the banner, no great offensive go-to guy outside of Ray Rice, who’s banged up. A defense without an identity. Good thing John Harbaugh is a helluva coach.
16.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) (10) — Michael Vick had another outstanding offensive game (guy in my fantasy league has him AND Peyton Manning, as if that’s fair). As did DeSean Jackson. But that defense gave up a boatload of points, that’s what would concern me moving forward. Really excited for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs, ya know, that team coached by Andy Reid.
15.) San Diego Chargers (1-1) (23) — The Chargers are one of those teams who should be undefeated, but alas, they’ve looked much better than most expected to start. Philip Rivers seems to have fixed what’s been ailing him the last two seasons. Still without a run game, he’s really doing it all on his own. To beat an Eagles team on the road in the early east coast game was damn impressive.
14.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (7) — Dallas has never lost a game when DeMarco Murray rushes 20-or-more times, but yet he only had 12 carries in Week 2 after 21 in Week 1; a win. We’ll see if he gets the rock this Sunday. Nice of Dez Bryant have himself a game, and you can see how he can affect a game when he’s ballin’. Also another good game from that Cowboys defense.
13.) Tennessee Titans (1-1) (20) — It’s crazy to think about a team like Tennessee, which everyone was writing off heading into the season, is a play away from being 2-0. Chris Johnson has 50 carries through the first two games and appears to be his old self. Jake Locker isn’t playing competently, and this defense appears tough, despite giving up the lead to Houston.
12.) Miami Dolphins (2-0) (18) — Maybe I should’ve kept Mike Wallace in fantasy after all, as dude blew up to help the Dolphins to a surprise start and take out the Colts on the road. Now they head home and host the Falcons with a chance to lead the AFC East for the first time since they won the division back in 2008. Warren Sapp said Lauren Tannehill’s husband was going to break Dan Marino’s team passing record and he’s on his way.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) (17) — We kinda figured the Jaguars weren’t that good, so it was tough to judge just what we had with the Chiefs after Week 1, but after a Week 2 home win against Dallas, I’m a Chiefs believer. Alex Smith has been solid, the defense is flying around, and Jamaal Charles is running hard. I’m happy for Andy Reid and all the rib places in K.C.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) (6) — Matt Ryan is ballin’ out of control right now, but the big question is can his line keep the $100M man upright, especially now that Steven Jackson is out a couple weeks with a soft tissue injury. Roddy White’s health is a concern but if he can get healthy and Tony Gonzalez keeps playing his way into shape, there’s no stopping this offense.
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (4) — I still need to see more out of Andy Dalton. He missed some easy throws Monday night against Pittsburgh but that defense was strong and Gio Bernard looked like a mini-Ray Rice out there. That Bengals defense is stingy, too. Pacman is playing some solid corner. Oh, and I know they won and dropped a few places, but that an adjustment since I had them over-rated a bit last week.
8.) New England Patriots (2-0) (5) — You know what, if I was Tom Brady, and believe me, I’ve thought about what that would be like, I’d be yelling too at everyone on the sideline, in the stands, on Twitter, if my receivers dropped balls like his did. Julian Edelman is the Patriots No. 1 option. Think about that for a second. Go ahead. I’ll wait … if you’re a Patriots fan, I’d be worried. Unbeaten or not.
7.) Houston Texans (2-0) (11) — What was the stat I saw, the Texans are the first team in NFL history to win their first two games of a season on the last play of the game. Think about that, and the handful of teams who could have their records reversed if one or two things went differently. Matt Schaub looks good so far and DeAndre Hopkins looks like the real deal after this game-winning TD grab (possibly the lone bright spot on my fantasy squad?). And not sure if you saw J.J. Watt on “The League” the last two weeks, but pretty hilarious stuff. As always.
6.) New Orleans Saints (2-0) (12) — The Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last season and so that led Marshall Faulk to make a bold prediction that they would be Top 5 by the end of the year. Currently, after two games, they are 11th. Subsequently, they are undefeated. These two items are not unrelated.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (8) — You think Aaron Rodgers was sick of hearing about all these young quarterbacks taking over the league? Especially when one of them was coming to his house? How’s almost 400 yards in the first half taste? Granted, me, Rich and Law and a few of the other NFL Media folks could probably score 30 on the Redskins, but damn, Aaron Rodgers can sling it. Now, the Pack just needs to play some defense and this is once again a legit Super Bowl contender.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) (1) — It’s safe to say none of us saw that Sunday night stinkfest coming out of the 49ers. That was a beatdown to the Nth degree. Anquan Boldin was held to one catch after turning the clock way back in Game 1 and Colin Kaepernick looked nothing like the superstar he showed himself to be against the Packers. It’s also worth nothing that no one wins in Seattle, so I wouldn’t be too worried.
3.) Chicago Bears (2-0) (9) — Could this really be the new Jay Cutler? Not getting sacked, throwing game-winning TD passes and generally acting like the opposite of the football player we know him to be. We’ve seen this act before out of the Bears; fast start, looking like a playoff team, then Cutler gets hurt and Bears fall apart. I wanna see some consistency. A win against Pittsburgh would be a nice proving ground.
2.) Denver Broncos (2-0) (2) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. He’s pretty good.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (2-0) (3) — If Seattle gets homefield in the NFC, it’s going to the Super Bowl. There’s no bones about it. The Seahawks can’t lose there. When it’s that loud and Beast Mode is running like he’s on a Skittles high and First Name Russell, Last Name Wilson is throwing darts and the Legion of Boom is lowering the hammer. Shoot. No wonder Pete Carroll is always smiling.
LOS ANGELES — Wow. What a Week 1 in the National. Football. League. Hey, what do you think Ryan Seacrest? Cool. Seriously, though, it had stunning plays, fantastic finishes and rousing introductions to the league, it’s hard to believe we went seven months without football. Seriously, it’s almost as if the epic Super Bowl 46 and Ray Lewis’s final cry were an eternity ago, and combine that with what seemed like an offseason cloud that would never lift. But lift it has, and the 2013 NFL season couldn’t be off to a more amazing start.
When I last left you here at the “You’re The Man” rankings back in February, I asked questions each team should be thinking about heading into the offseason, along with their final rankings. Now, as we head into Week 2, I’m going to give you their rank along with how they answered my question plus one more to think about as we embark on 22 weeks of pure football bliss.
As always, these are scientifically proven and 100% accurate. Now let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2013 record: 0-1) (2012 final YTM ranking: 32) — Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t get paid and Shad Khan didn’t bring in Tim Tebow, which means you can bet MoJo will be doing the Eisen Podcast End Zone Dance for another team next year while Blaine Gabbert continues to throw interceptions for the worst dressed team in the NFL. Seriously, how bad are those helmets? Burning Question: How do they get worse? Honestly, what do they do for an encore, sign that 9-year old girl from the YouTube videos last year to return kicks? Wait, that might actually work.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-1) (26) — Brandon Weeden has some great AARP insurance because it guaranteed him the starting job this season, and would you believe the help he and Trent Richardson were seeking actually came? Maybe it’s because I watched two Browns preseason games and they looked above average, or maybe I got drunk listening to Bernie Kosar during the broadcasts. Burning Question: Every year there’s a team that surprises, could the Browns be this team?
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) (16) — If you want to stop explosive passing offenses you go out and trade for a guy like Darrelle Revis. Or you just go get the man himself. Now, whether or not he’s 100% healthy is another question, but in the NFC South, the Bucs are the only team who improved defensively. That’s a start. Burning Question: Josh Freeman was all over the map in Week 1; if Tampa Bay wants to be a player, he needs to be consistent and consistently great. Jury’s out.
29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1) (30) — Well, it’s always nice to start the column off with a correct prediction, like I did in accurately guessing Carson Palmer would be let go in favor of Terrelle Pryor. What I didn’t anticipate is Matt Flynn crapping down his pants in the process after being given the keys to the… wait, what kind of car would the Raiders be? I’m thinking the burnt out minivan Thomas Kubb has to drive at the end of “Project X” (awesome movie). But hey, at least he had wheels. Burning Question: At what point this season will Darren McFadden just say “eff it” and stop showing up for work? Week 6? 10? 2?
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) (15) — The Steelers thought they found some running help, then Le’veon Bell got hurt and is out six weeks. Now, their most important offensive player not named Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season, after Maurkice Pouncey’s knee injury in Week 1 vs. Tennessee. Burning Question: A team without an identity heading into the season, Pittsburgh’s back is against the wall immediately. What team will emerge from the smoke as the season rolls on?
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-1) (17) — So the Panthers went out and kept their roster basically the same as 2012 and what happened, Cam Newton had his lowest total yardage output of his career in Week 1. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Burning Question: This is something to monitor as the beginning of the season moves on, because Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and faster.
26.) New York Jets (1-0) (27) — Turns out Mark Sanchez got irrevocably broken sooner than I anticipated. But for the second year in a row, the Jets did Sanchez dirty (see what I did there) by bringing in another quarterback while at the same time pledging he was the man. He’s never been the man. Ask me point blank and I can’t tell you why I feel bad for Sanchez, I just do. He didn’t deserve all this. He could’ve been a fine NFL backup for a dozen years. Sadly, I think he’s out of the league in two. Burning Question: How exactly will Rex Ryan go down? Will it be guns blazin’ “Desperado” style? Will it be quietly in his sleep? Will there be a bloody horse head? Will he choke on a Krispy Kreme? I just hope it’s broadcast live on NFL Network.
25.) Minnesota Vikings (0-1) (12) — It’s almost as if the Vikings read my column back in February, because they went out and signed Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to be pass catchers for Christian Ponder. But in Week 1 they were hardly effective. And after a 78-yard jaunt on his first play, Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on 15 carries. Get used to this, Vikings fans. Burning Question: It’s still all about Ponder for the Vikings. If he can develop and make teams respect the pass attack, this will be continue to be a playoff team.
24.) Buffalo Bills (0-1) (23) — The Bills were 7 seconds away from beating the Patriots, and the Dolphins took care of Cleveland in Week 1, which means Bills fans have something to be encouraged by. However, CJ Spiller was held in check and failed to show anything really of what made people think last season he could be a superstar in this league. EJ Manuel, however, now there’s something Bills fans should be encouraged by. Burning Question: Will Manuel be the guy this season and make Buffalo forget about Fitz, Trend Edwards, Rob Johnson, and all the other jamokes it trotted out behind center since No. 12 hung ‘em up?
23.) San Diego Chargers (0-1) (22) — Do you think Norv Turner watched the Monday night game? Let’s say that he did. What do you think his range of emotions were? Kinda like Deb on “Dexter” I’m guessing. In the end, Norv got the last laugh after the Chargers choked away what would’ve been a pretty big statement win to start the year. Now who do you blame? Philip Rivers? Burning Question: Will Manti Te’o get himself a real-life girlfriend this year? I hope that’s reported on to no end like we all did his fake one.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (0-1) (28) — Bruce Arians decided on his quarterback and the name he pulled out of his Kangol hat was Carson Palmer. I’ll let you make your own joke. I actually think the Blonde Bomber could have a big season and no, he didn’t pay me to say that. Burning Question: Will we see the Larry Fitzgerald of old this year or did the year’s of gawd-awful quarterbacking suck the superstar blood from his veins?
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-0) (21) — Tavon Austin might not be a huge, household name as we head into Week 2, but it was a splash, and a potentially explosive one for Sam Bradford and that Rams offense. Austin wasn’t showcased at all in the preseason and exactly how he’ll be used is something everyone is watching for. Burning Question: Is Sam Bradford going to finally show he was worth of that #1 pick back in 2010?
20.) Tennessee Titans (1-0) (25) — The Titans kept Chris Johnson and his 1,200 yards around this year and people are predicting a comeback season for CJ. Looking at his stats, he’s never had a sub-1,000 yard season, which is pretty amazing. You wonder how much he has left in that tank. Burning Question: What will the Titans get out of Jake Locker this season and can he be a franchise quarterback?
19.) Detroit Lions (1-0) (24) — I don’t think anyone on the Lions got arrested this offseason (though league-wide odds would say otherwise) so that’s a good start, but this team is still full of knuckleheads and it begins with the head coach. Burning Question: Matthew Stafford got a boatload of cash this offseason for his 17 career wins; does he improve from the chubby gunslinger to elite status to carry his team?
18.) Miami Dolphins (1-0) (20) — The Dolphins went and out signed Steelers big-play receiver Mike Wallace to catch the ball from Lauren Tannehill’s husband but that didn’t stop No. 11 from saying the media should “ask the coach” after the game as to why he wasn’t more involved in the offense. Uh oh. Burning Question: Do they have enough defense to stop the Patriots and win the AFC East?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) (31) — Here’s the funny thing, even I’ve talked myself into being a Chiefs fan. I’m almost ready to pick them to win the AFC West. Unlike most, I don’t think Denver can repeat 2012 and San Diego/Oakland are completely inept. Burning Question: How much weight will Andy Reid put on this season? OK, a serious question: will Jamaal Charles carry the ball on consecutive plays?
16.) Indianapolis Colts (1-0) (9) — The Colts picked up right up where 2012 left off, meaning Andrew Luck had to lead them from behind to victory, against the hapless Raiders, no less. Indy didn’t get any better on defense so look for Luck to have a lot of games like Week 1. Burning Question: Peyton Manning made a huge leap in his second year in the league; can Luck do the same and a repeat playoff berth as well?
15.) Washington Redskins (0-1) (10) — In the first half against the Eagles, it looked as if My Good Friend Robert hadn’t run or played football in quite some time; which he hadn’t. He either a) shouldn’t have been out there or b) should’ve played some in the preseason. His health is paramount. Burning Question: Will Robert stay quiet this season (the opposite of his M.O. this offseason) and let his superb play do the talking?
14.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1) (1) — It isn’t exactly clear who replaced Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Dannell Ellerbe, or even Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin, but they still have the hardware and every team this year is going to give the Ravens their best. That is a fact. Burning Question: When the Ravens get behind in games, much like they did in Week 1, who is going to be their go-to guy to bring them back? Bueller?
13.) New York Giants (0-1) (14) — As it turns out, consistency is not for sale at any price, though Tom Coughlin probably wishes there was a price tag attached so he would at least know what it might cost him. You saw the famed Giants roller coaster on full display Sunday night in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys. Six, count ‘em, six turnovers but yet there they were, a final drive touchdown away from victory. Get used to it. Burning Question: In the wake of Andre Brown’s injury and David Wilson pissing down his leg for the second straight season opener, what will New York do at running back to compliment Eli Manning? ‘Cause they have to do SOMEthing.
12.) New Orleans Saints (1-0) (19) — The Saints were DFL in the NFL in defense last season and hired Rob Ryan to make them less sucky. So far, so good, holding the explosive Falcons to 17 points in a huge Week 1 win. Hey, when you hit rock bottom, there’s only two ways to go: straight up or sideways. Burning Question: Will New Orleans consistently be able to stop teams so that Drew Brees doesn’t have to score 40 a game to win?
11.) Houston Texans (8) (1-0) — There’s no boost to the secondary like adding the words “Ed” and “Reed,” however you’d like to get the Ed Reed that was making Pro Bowls and winning Super Bowls, not the one who looks better in a tux at the Oscars Red Carpet with me. Unfortunately, that’s who the Texans have at the moment. Who knows when Ed is going to play again, because he sure doesn’t. Burning Question: Could this be the beginning of the end for Arian Foster? Simmons threw out Larry Johnson’s name in his Cousin Sal podcast and it doesn’t seem that far off given how Monday night played out.
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) (29) — Not only did Chip Kelly stick with Michael Vick, but after watching what a disaster Geno Smith has turned into with the Jets, I’m sure Mr. Hurry-Up is doubly glad he didn’t trade his whole draft away to get him. This new college-style offense seems tailor made for Vick, who is flying under the radar as someone who could have a potential monster season (OK, I’m talking myself into him after drafting him in my 5th fantasy league). 2013 Burning Question: When will the first column be written saying “I told you so” about Chip’s offense never being able to work in the NFL?
9.) Chicago Bears (1-0) (13) — It seems as if the Bears are going to replace Brian Urlacher with an even better version of 2012′s Peanut Tillman. It took him all of 15 minutes to have two forced turnovers. Though rookie MLB Jon Bostic looks as if he could be the real deal. Burning Question: As always, the onus is on Jay Cutler to lead this team and be the new face of the franchise. Whether he can do it is a whole other red hot question.
8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1) (7) — Green Bay didn’t get younger or faster on defense and guess what happened? Colin Kaepernick torched them again. Oops. Packers/49ers is turning into one awesome rivalry. Burning Question: Will Aaron Rodgers score enough points this season to render the inept Green Bay defense unnecessary?
7.) Dallas Cowboys (1-0) (18) — Dallas brought in Monte Kiffin to call the defense and Bill Callahan to call the offense, leaving head coach Jason Garrett to supervise and ya know, be the head coach. While try as they might to lose it, a Week 1 win against the rival Giants is a good start. Still, gotta be weary of Tony Romo’s bruised ribs. Burning Question: Will Dez Bryant be the all-world guy we saw the last 8 weeks of last season or the dog of the first 9?
6.) Atlanta Falcons (0-1) (3) — You want to know how the Falcons improved on defense? They let John Abraham and Brent Grimes walk, and signed Osi Umenyiora. That’s it. Not sure how they stop the 49ers and Seahawks with that, let alone the Saints, Cowboys or Packers. Burning Question: Can Matt Ryan complete 4th and Goal to advance to the Super Bowl? Because Arthur Blank sure has hell didn’t pay him serious Home Depot money not to.
5.) New England Patriots (1-0) (4) — The Patriots did sign a receiver this offseason. That is a fact. They did not sign a big-play corner guy (Aqib Talib re-signed) nor did they bring in a big-time rush end. Now, if you had Game 2 as the first Danny Amendola would miss, raise your hand. I see too many hands up. Maybe my roommate was right. Who knows what the Pats are gonna do this season. Burning Question: Who will emerge as the darkhorse offensive go-to guy, since it has to be someone?
4.) Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) (11) — If “Hard Knocks” star Jay Gruden uses his Week 1 gameplan for A.J. Green in the playoffs this time around, I’m guessing the Bengals will have a different result. Dude is a beast and could be better than Calvin Johnson this season. It’s just up to Gruden and Andy Dalton to get him the ball. Burning Question: How will the Bengals handle the title role of expected greatness?
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) (5) — Despite the suspensions and notoriety the Seahawks got this offseason, I still stand by them being the most complete team in the NFL, though they’re not my pick to win the Super Bowl. I also can’t recall if they bolstered their offensive or defensive lines. Go Hawks! Burning Question: What will Percy Harvin look like when he returns to the team for the final month? Will he make an impact or will it not matter at that point?
2.) Denver Broncos (1-0) (6) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. OK, back to the column… In other news, was I really that stupid to predict a Favre-in-2010-esque season for Manning this year? Jesus. No wonder I’ve never won the ROFFL championship. Burning Question: Will Rahim Moore be able to knock down a 2nd-and-72 Hail Mary?
1.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) (2) — Oh, you want Colin Kaepernick to stand in the pocket and beat you? No problem. You didn’t think they had a deep threat with Michael Crabtree out? How’s Anquan Boldin doing these days? Forgot how awesome that defense was? How’s Aaron Rodgers feeling this week? Burning Question: As the tape grows on Kaepernick, will someone figure out a way to stop this kid, or will he continue to wreck the whole league?
Finally, we made our picks on the Rich Eisen Podcast last week and here’s who I said would take home individual crowns:
Passing Champion: Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rushing Champion: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots
MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots
Super Bowl: Patriots vs. Falcons
BALTIMORE — The most exciting day of the year for my college buddies and I isn’t Christmas, any of the eight days of Hanukkah or Thanksgiving. It isn’t a big movie premiere, birthday or even finally getting a date with that girl from the subway; it’s the day in the first week of August when the Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League Draft Book arrives in the mail. It’s the very best day of the year because it means two things are in our immediate future: the upcoming NFL season, and the annual ROFFL Draft Weekend.
The ROFFL dates back to 2002 and as you guessed, consists of me and my Syracuse University buddies, along with a few stragglers we needed back in the day to fill out the league (Binghamton, Haverford and Oneonta are also represented). But it’s turned into much, much more with a website, weekly articles, a podcast, an entire Draft Weekend, trophies for first and last place, and the aforementioned Draft Book. That first season we picked our players via an autodraft, and ironically, the guy who won has never had a winning season in 12 years.
In 2003 though, it all changed when we decided to have a yearly live draft in Atlantic City. For our 10th anniversary we tore down Las Vegas (what can I say, we like to gamble) and for our 13th year we started a new tradition: holding our draft in the city of the team that wins the Super Bowl. So as it was we all packed up our magazines, ADP lists and team gear for the state where crab cakes and football are emphatically done: Maryland.
Admittedly, Baltimore wasn’t my first choice. Being a West Coast Guy now, I was rooting for San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, but to say the Charm City was anything but a fantastic host would be a classic Barry Sanders stretch run. For the 12 of us who made the trek – Parker had to phone in from Los Angeles and Jarrett from New Jersey – it was arguably the most fun we’ve had at a Draft Weekend.
It all started with a night at Camden Yards in a suite to watch the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics but not before a few of us hit up Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, which is home to some of the rarest comic books in the world. Jason, Jay and Marc are makeshift nerds and were geeking out upon seeing the first edition Superman and Batman, as well as old action figures, movie posters and the like from pop culture throughout the years. It was a pretty amazing and well curated museum, and the history buff in me enjoyed it immensely. A couple of them even bought Avengers keychains, while I would’ve loved to have taken home an Elvis poster.
But the real reason we were there Friday night was to see some baseball, stuff our face with Boog Powell’s BBQ and announce our keepers for the upcoming season. See, the ROFFL is a 2-player keeper league and you can retain any player for you want for a maximum of three seasons; so there’s definitely some strategy that goes into who you’re keeping on a year-to-year basis. This season was the end of my time with Texans superstar running back Arian Foster, so I was forced to keep Jaguars stud Maurice Jones-Drew and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. I debated keeping Mike Wallace over Ryan since quarterback has some depth this year, and even had a plan hatched earlier in the week to wait and draft Andrew Luck and a Colts receiver, but I chickened out and made the safe play with The Mattural and the high-powered Atlanta offense.
All-in-all, the keepers went pretty much as I predicted in my mock draft, aside from Rob Gronkowski not being kept, one guy keeping Antonio Brown instead of Reggie Wayne and another keeping Ray Rice over Reggie Bush (we’re a PPR league), and so as the Orioles game went on – and they rallied for a 9-7 win thanks to a Brian Roberts’ grand slam – talk in the suite and the bar afterward turned to draft strategy. Back into the mix this season were all-world running backs Adrian Peterson, Foster, LeSean McCoy, and some studs who were not kept, such as Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Larry Fitzgerald and Stevan Ridley. As I was picking in the 8 hole, I figured to have my selection of one of the latter four, which I was completely OK with.
Before I get ahead of myself, Saturday kicked off with a trip to the smallest and most-stupidly-staffed Dunkin Donuts in the 410 and a pre-draft tour of M&T Bank Stadium, also known as the Ravens Nest (I don’t know if anyone actually calls it that, but let’s be honest, they should). Originally, I wasn’t too keen on taking a tour of a football stadium, as I’d been in a couple before, and generally speaking, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Boy was I wrong.
Some highlites: the stadium is made with 1.5 million bricks, and if you laid them out end-to-end would cover 155 miles to Ocean City, Md.; the new-and-improved concourse wasn’t open to the public for last Thursday’s preseason game, which made us the first civilians to walk through it; our tour guide was this 70-year old named Tom who used to be a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band; a luxury suite can be yours for the cool price of $125,000 a year, which includes 28 tickets and 23/hour a day access throughout the entire year; Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s two-story luxury suite has bulletproof glass for when President Obama comes to visit; they have 3 jail cells in the depths and roughly kick out 150 people per game, most of them women; when John Madden used to still broadcast games for Fox and NBC, he’d drink a half case of beer before each contest and Tom said he almost got fired once for knocking a beer all over the broadcast console; our buddy Josh, who set the whole thing up and worked a year for RaveTV, wrote some of the inspirational essays that adorn the Club Level walls, which was pretty neat to see; the Ravens lockeroom is located 30 seconds from the field, whereas the visitors takes a few minutes to access. Tom made sure to let us know that’s a huge advantage come halftime.
However, the ultimate highlite of the tour was when Tom let us go on the field to run rampant like those brats in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but not before we walked through the Ray Lewis Memorial Look At Me And All My Awesomeness Tunnel. Of course, I had to do the dance. The only thing missing was a giant heap of sod for me to throw off myself and shove down my throat, which Tom assured us Ray would do before each game after posing for a picture with the weekly sod giver contest winner. Once on the field, we went Ray Kinsela after he finally finished the Field of Dreams and stood there and soaked in what he had created. Our jaws were agape and eyes buggin’ at what we were absorbing through our sports fan pours. Now, I’ve covered many football games in my sportswriting days and even stood on the sideline next to the head coach for most of them, but I have to admit, it was pretty awesome being on a NFL field with your 10 buddies and a football. My arm isn’t what it used to be, but I turned back the clock a bit throwing touchdown passes to the guys. Oh, and I even dusted off my shoe and drained a 25-yard field goal (on my 2nd attempt). So if Justin Tucker misses any chip shots in the first couple games, I’M READY!!!!
As for the draft itself, I was more than happy to take Ridley with my first pick. I debated between him and Morris for a couple minutes, but in the end, it’s always fun to have a player on the team you root for (and one who could score 15 touchdowns this season). So instead of Tom Brady touchdown passes, I’ll be hoping receivers get tackled at the 5 and Ridley takes it in from there. The problem with my league is that most of my buddies tend to over-think and over-analyze who’s available and their potential. As has been proven time and time again, fantasy football is 98% luck and 2% setting yourself up to have good luck, so there’s roughly no difference between who you’re taking in the later rounds. Such, our draft runs insanely long, and that’s just what happened last weekend. Thankfully, there was an Orioles game going on we could peek out the windows of the B&O Warehouse behind Camden Yards (oh, did I fail to mention we drafted in the warehouse behind Camden Yards? my bad) and take in while Jason and Nick spent an episode of Ray Donovan debating between Brian Hartline and Toby Gerhart.
In the end, I was very satisfied with my top selections (MJD, Ryan, Ridley, Marques Colston, Tony Gonzalez), my defense (Seahawks) and my backups with starting potential (Roy Helu and Andre Roberts). I took a flyer on a couple sleepers (DeAndre Hopkins and Markus Wheaton) and went back to old reliable with my kicker (Sebastian Janikowski). Is this finally the year the Gregg Moore Trophy takes its rightful home at Brockman Manor? I don’t know, since an injury could squash all title hopes faster than you can pronounce Michael Hoomanawanui. The Colt .45 LA Bandits have been so close before and came up short, but with another season anew I’m hopeful, and that’s no fantasy.
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 season of HBO’s excellent “Hard Knocks” opened Tuesday with some of the Cincinnati Bengals rookies out to dinner with running backs coach Hue Jackson, who was offering sage advice on the eve of the neophytes’ first NFL training camp. Jackson, the former Raiders head coach, was also busting on Giovani Bernard for driving his girlfriend’s mom’s Honda minivan. Bernard said that any car with automatic doors was good enough for him; hard to argue. Almost simultaneously, all-world receiver A.J. Green was getting himself into, and learning how to shift, a brand new BMW luxury sedan. The difference between the two players’ football worlds was clearly on display: one an unknown rookie whose potential seems as high as the Queen City’s skyline, the other a league superstar who’s only getting better and brighter by the day.
There was a line the brilliant narrator Liev Schreiber said during the hour-long episode that struck me: the Bengals are thinking Super Bowl, which is amazing to think about considering where the team was a few years ago during its first go-around on “Hard Knocks” in 2009. Then, Cincinnati was a team with just one winning season in 18 years – the forgetful 2005 campaign which saw Carson Palmer go down in the playoffs against the Steelers with an injured knee – and in that span suffered 13 losing seasons and 4 years of 8-8. You don’t get the nickname “Bungals” for nothing. But something funny happened during that ’09 season: a return to the playoffs. In the aftermath, Palmer threatened sit out or retire before he was finally traded to Oakland mid-year, and a 4-win season in 2010 yielded a new era and leader: Andy Dalton. The result has been back-to-back postseason berths.
And that’s where we are when “Hard Knocks: 2013″ begins, Andy Dalton doing pilates with his wife and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis bluntly stating how the team hasn’t won a playoff game despite being in the tournament 3-of-the-last 4 years. Will Cincinnati be among the final two teams when Super Bowl XLVII kicks off this February in New Jersey? My Magic 8 Ball says “check back later.” That’s the NFL’s beauty; no one knows. But what I do know is for the next 4 weeks I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the all-access look at this new beast of the AFC North.
Lots of thoughts from this week’s premiere episode. In no particular order:
- Geno Atkins has the biggest traps/shoulders I’ve ever seen. Is there even a neck on that dude? And I don’t know where that first pitch ended up, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a strike. Though I’m not going to tell him that.
- James Harrison is still, hands down, the scariest dude in the NFL. Didn’t you get the feeling that when Jay Gruden was joking to him about not touching A.J. Green that Harrison was completely serious that he was really going to jack Green up if he came across the middle? Even when Gruden tried to play it off, Harrison never broke. Just pure mean. How great was that montage of him flipping off the HBO cameras or slamming the door in their faces? What a first class a–hole. And who’s Ford station wagon was he getting into? Dude barely fit in the back seat!?
- Marvin Lewis; nice digs, son.
- Of course Pac-Man Jones would run out of gas minutes from the stadium on the first day of Training Camp. That is the most Pac-Man Jones of all things he could’ve done. Ya know, aside from shoot somebody in a “script club.” And could you imagine being that guy’s wife?
- Devastating what happened to Larry Black. Just shows how unreal the raw emotion this show seems to capture year-in and year-out when Black was on the phone with his dad (I’m guessing). I was wondering when the producers were going to introduce the player we all should care about and as soon as they did, he went down. Tragic. Wonder who that player will be next week.
- How many of you out there had the same “damn, I need to get him in fantasy” thought I did during that Tyler Eifert catching montage? Dude is going to be a MONSTER in the red zone this year.
- Does anyone really know what “Who Dey?” means? ‘Cuz I sure don’t.
- Think about this for a minute: if you were to have an Oklahoma Drill at your work, how would you stack up against the competition? And would you rather be on offense or defense?
- It never ceases to amaze me how great “Hard Knocks” is at making me care about a team that, under completely normal circumstances, I’d have zero interest in; same thing happened last year with the Dolphins. Oh, and if you’re scoring at home: Lauren Tannehill > Jordan Dalton. (look them up yourself)
- On that note, I didn’t even have the Bengals on my “Hard Knocks Wish List” that I wrote back in May: check it out.
- Cool off-day montage with some of the guys playing golf (terribly), air hockey and backyard ladder at Dalton’s house. You forget that these Sunday gladiators of the gridiron are really just 20-something year old kids who just wanna play football and have a good time.
- As always, the footage the HBO crew gets is beyond spectacular. The slo-mo montage of players walking out for their first practice into their throws, catches, runs and hits gave me chills. Of course, the music selection helped tap into that emotion. In case you were wondering, the track was “Feeling Good (Bassnectar Remix)” by Nina Simone. Yes, I went back and Shazam’d it.
What did everyone else think?
LOS ANGELES — If “Varsity Blues” taught me anything about Texas it’s a) waffles dipped in peanut butter and washed down with maple syrup sounds amazing but looks disgusting, b) when your parents go to the Gun Club is a good time to have a sundae, and c) if you are extremely talented at throwing, running or hitting someone with a football you’re treated like a god. And rightfully so. I mean, who needs high school Sex Ed class when you can have show-and-tell with the teacher at the local strip joint?
Here’s what I know through observation about Johnny Manziel: he is famous for playing football in the state of Texas. That’s what happens when you become the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, compile 516 total yards and 4 touchdowns in winning your bowl game by 28 points, and behave like a rock star in the subsequent six months since. Texas A&M’s quarterback has also become famous for being famous; for showing up courtside at NBA Playoff games, carving up Pebble Beach and being photographed with models at bars. A sports version of Paris Hilton, only with talent and minus a sex tape, so far.
It’s a pretty good life, if you can get it. Manziel even came under fire earlier in July for leaving the Manning Passing Camp in Louisiana early due to “dehydration” and “exhaustion.” Reports, though, had Manziel out partying the night before with Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, among others. Johnny Football also appeared in the same day at SEC’s media day in Birmingham, Ala. and the ESPY Awards in Los Angeles. Again, good life if you can handle it.
And that’s where the wheels have come off in the last few months. The “handling it” part. I tend to lean towards the “20-year olds like to act like 20-year olds” camp, and let him figure out his life along the way. Ya know, much like we all did. Jon Voight’s line from VB makes a lot of sense to me: when he’s eating in the diner and asks the cops if his boys are too much to handle; the cops quit complaining and say “no” and go on their way. We need to stop complaining, stop hounding and stop fishing in Manziel’s pond, and all this will go away and he can be just another wildly exciting and talented football player with oodles of potential.
I tweeted this a while ago and stand by it: I’m rooting hard for a fantastic Eff You season from Manziel this fall and then three months of “should he be the first QB taken in the Draft” debate. But mostly, I’m rooting for peace of mind for the kid. He didn’t ask for all this nonsense, but he’s not behaving like he doesn’t like it. In a way, all the great ones do. He needs to figure out what kind of hero he wants to be.
ESPN’s Wright Thompson wrote a pretty brilliant piece on Manziel and his family that posted Tuesday detailing his insane life and what it’s become. I strongly recommend it while at the same time feeling like I’m contributing to his exploitation by reading/writing about it. Alas, an argument for another time. Without giving too much away, I figured I’d run down some of the more surprising reveals in the piece, with some commentary, of course:
- The Manziels have money from oil: not surprising, I guess, but I’m glad this mystery has been solved once and for all. Maybe it was well known, but I always wondered how JF was “rich” in the first place. And how awesome was it that people used to think the family was a) mobbed up (I’m willing to bet back in the day the mob couldn’t pick out Texas on map) and b) the dad described it as “not Garth Brooks money” but still “a lot”? Good to know Garth is still the go-to country reference for some folks.
- Johnny is a golf club thrower/breaker: probably the least shocking reveal in the piece. Oh, you’re telling me this crazy person competitive athlete with a temper problem throws golf clubs and wants to break them after every bad shot?! Welcome to all of our hack golfing lives, buddy.
- JF has a personal assistant: not only is he a college student with a personal assistant but it’s a high school buddy nicknamed “Uncle Nate.” I’ve known a few people with assistants/managers and every time they started a sentence with “Well, my manager said…” I’ve wanted to punch them in the face. So I can see how this would make people believe Manziel isn’t exactly shying away from any unwanted spotlight.
- JF’s parents wanted to get “jffmom” and “jffdad” on their license plates: how awesome is that, that your parents are so proud of you they’re willing to suggest the F-word on their vehicles at all times in your name? I can see BrockmanMary’s yellow whip now: cfbmom. His sister should be ashamed for talking them out of this. They should at least change their Twitter handles to that, right? Or get hats. Something!
- Tiger Woods is an asshole: let’s be honest, that had to have been the least-shocking reveal in the whole piece.
- There’s a Pantheon of Overgrown-Boy Drinks: who knew? I anxiously await the rest of this list to slowly be leaked by Texas A&M this season.
- JF is friends with, and hung out with, Drake: Drake seems like the least-cool rapper I’ve ever seen. Drake should fly across the country to hang out with Manziel to pick up some cool pointers or something, not the other way around.
- The waiter casually asks JF if he wants another beer: this reminded me of the scene in VB when after his first win Moxon puts the bottle of Coke on the counter and the clerk quickly replaces with a six-pack of beer and says, “nice game ,son.” Just completely normal way of doing things, nothing to see here. #TexasForever
- JF is a tickler: so long as he’s not a Tickle Monster, we’re all set.
LOS ANGELES — One theme of this NFL offseason (aside from dudes getting arrested – though that seems to be a yearly tradition) is quarterbacks taking their teams to the woodshed for contract extensions. You can blame Joe Flacco for this. In fact, I’m going to start blaming Mr. Delaware Blue Hen for most of the league’s problems – blackouts, high-concession prices, Jon Gruden. (Maybe I’ll stretch this blame game into my personal life, too, but that’s another column.)
When Flacco decided to play out the the 2012 season without signing an extension it reminded me of Rod Tidwell in “Jerry Maguire” playing out his crappy contract at the behest of his wife, Marcy. She convinced Rod it his only move and the loudmouthed receiver hence told Jerry, “you bet on me like I bet on you.” Flacco bet on himself and cashed the biggest poker chip the table allows. He won the whole damn thing, which forced Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to open up his wallet and Cut The Check (Rasheed voice). Nine figures later the Ravens locked up their Super Bowl MVP quarterback (though probably at the expense of their other free agents).
That was the first domino which has since seen Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers sign monster nine-figure extensions of their own; Matt Ryan should get his soon. Rodgers is himself a Super Bowl MVP, and everyone in the free NFL world can see why he’s max player, but Romo? There’s not enough words to explain why his $100 million man is a bad move, but I’ll let Cowboys fans justify it to themselves all they want. “Look at the stats!” they all say. Sure, Romo might win you a few fantasy games, but he only has one playoff win in his career. That’s it. One.
If one playoff win gets you Scrooge McDuck money, complete with a vault and diving board, then zero playoff wins and a lifetime winning percentage of .378 gets you $76.5 million, which is like a Scrooge hot tub. That’s what Lions doughboy quarterback Matthew Stafford signed for on Wednesday, inking a three-year, $53-million extension with $41.5 million in guaranteed cashola. Add that to the $41.7 million he received when he was the top overall pick in 2009 (the penultimate year of the crazy money given to untested and unproven first round picks) and that puts $83.2 million in his bank.
And do you know how many games he’ won for the Lions in his four-year stint as their starting quarterback? Here’s a hint: Justin Bieber has more speeding tickets and Amanda Bynes has had more nose jobs. OK, now I’m just being silly.
I’ll tell you how many wins: Seventeen.
Seventeen whopping wins in four seasons. Sure, he led them to a playoff appearance in 2011 and even threw for 41 touchdowns that year, but they got shellacked by the Saints. At the risk of sounding like Darren Rovell, that’s $4.89 million per win and $1.04 million per touchdown pass (80 career TDs). Awesome. Now can you please shave, get a hair cut, and stop wearing baseball caps and shopping at Ross.
With the extension, Stafford becomes the 7th highest paid quarterback in the NFL, cashing a check for a little over 15 million per season. Here’s who he trails on that list:
- Joe Flacco 20,100,000
- Drew Brees 20,000,000
- Peyton Manning 19,200,000
- Aaron Rodgers 18,678,571
- Tony Romo 17,071,429
- Eli manning 15,280,000
Here’s a fun game; look at that list: would you take Stafford over any of those quarterbacks? Maybe Romo but definitely not any of the others. Now run through the league and look at each team’s starting quarterback; where does Stafford rank for you? Depending on your personal preference, you could have last season’s standouts Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III ahead of the Georgia bulldog. (It should never be a question if Andrew Luck is ahead; he is.)
By my accounts, I’d rather have 14 other quarterbacks than Stafford (which is different than calling him the 15th best QB in the league). Sure, he has a big arm, but how many times does he throw off his back foot Jay Cutler style? Far too many for my liking. Yeah, he throws for a lot of yards, but Calvin Johnson can salvage a lot of poor throws. Is he ahead of Cutler? Philip Rivers? Romo? Sam Bradford? Eh. They’re all the same player. None will ultimately win because they can’t be counted on with the game on the line. Games are won in the 4th quarter and these guys don’t deliver. If you’re starting a franchise today, perhaps you’d change your tune because Stafford is only 25. Again, another debate.
Notice someone you didn’t see on that list above: Tom Brady. And all he’s done is lead the Patriots to 5 Super Bowls in 11 full years starting for New England (he played 1 game in 2000 and 2008). And while both Mannings and Brees are among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, those teams chose to reward them handsomely at the expense of letting other pieces to their championship teams go. Brady routinely takes less money so that the Patriots can build around him to continue their winning tradition (136 career wins).
Because in the end, you play to win the game, but unfortunately a lot of these signal callers play to get paid.