LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are. (some spoilers ahead)
TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.
TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.
BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.
PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.
JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.
WALDER FREY — Al Davis, Raiders: Old, crotchety, respected and always one to hold a grudge, there may not be a better Game of Thrones / NFL match that these two, especially after what took place at the Red Wedding. Davis is renowned for suing the league he helped create and living by his “Just Win, Baby” mantra, and well, we all know how Lord Frey likes to party.
BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.
JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.
BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.
ROBB STARK — Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.
TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.
EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.
JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.
BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.
ROOSE BOLTON — Bill Parcells: So let’s say you’ve worked your entire career for one team, had a lot of success with that team and grown really close to that team. Now let’s say, a little later on you went to work for that team’s most hated rival because they paid you a lot of money and it’s gotten to the point so much that your other team doesn’t even know you anymore. Maybe you died your hair blond, I don’t know. That would make you kind of a traitor, huh? Thought so.
HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.
THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.
STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.
DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.
JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.
ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets: Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.
GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.
SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.
PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.
VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.
BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ‘em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.
THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ‘em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.
MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.
TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.
— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.
LOS ANGELES — Whenever NFL Network airs old episodes of “Hard Knocks,” no matter the team, I always tune in. In addition to being fantastically produced by the NFL Films team, they are hilarious to watch with the benefit of hindsight. When the Jets cut little Danny Woodhead in 2010 you had no idea he would turn into this all-world, do-everything back for the Patriots. Nearly three years later, after New York has proven to be the buffoons of the league, the move is even more laughable. Watching the Dolphins last summer you never got the impression they would ever sniff the .500 mark or be a competent football team; you were too busy waiting patiently for any scene with Lauren Tannehill. In 2009, Chad Johnson looked like a lock for Cooperstown and his career faded quicker than the yellow enshrinee jacket. And on and on.
So, with less than 3 months until the 2013 season begins – the Hall of Fame Game between the Miami and Dallas is on Aug. 4 – here’s my wish list for teams for this upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (in no particular order).
Washington Redskins: They have the most dynamic young player in the league who just so happens to be coming off a horrific knee injury in Robert Griffin III, a squirrelly coach in Mike Shanahan, an owner who likes to meddle and flash his deep pockets, and a rabid, rabid fan base thirsty for a winner again. What’s not to like here?!
Seattle Seahawks: Football is back on the Pacific northwest and the Seahawks have a dynamic, rah-rah coach in Pete Carroll and some explosive players (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to go with their charismatic young quarterback, Russell Wilson. Throw in the big mouth of Richard Sherman and the rest of the Boom Squad and this would be a very, very fun season of Hard Knocks.
Atlanta Falcons: I was pulling for them to be the choice last season, as the Falcons were a team on the rise, a thought confirmed as they were a play away from the Super Bowl. This time around is no different. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest pass-catching tight end of all-time, is back for a final season. Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, Mike Smith looks like an extra on “The Sopranos,” Roddy White is among the chattiest in the league, Julio Jones as well; not to mention Brian Banks and his struggle to get back his football life.
Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Cardinals would be extremely entertaining over four weeks of Training Camp. Bruce Arians and his Kangol hats would bound for laughs, Larry Fitzgerald is among the worldly NFL players, Patrick Peterson, the Honey Badger, not to mention Carson Palmer and his old tired arm and perfect hair. Sounds good to me.
New England Patriots: Yes, this is a homer pick, but who wouldn’t want to see exactly how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady perform their magic; to go behind the curtain with a 3-time Super Bowl Champion as they gear up for another AFC-dominating campaign. I know I would, and if you’re honest with yourself, you are, too.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL James Bond and is now paid like a Sultan, same goes for Clay Matthews, who now has enough cashola to have a room full of FatHeads of himself. Throw in Mike McCarthy, the people of Green Bay, the young and exciting Randall Cobb, and you have the recipe for entertainment.
Philadelphia Eagles: This one makes a lot of sense. You got a rookie head coach with a pretty high profile in Chip Kelly and the hype surrounding his new offense, of course there’s Michael Vick and the “dynasty” comments he’s made in recent offseasons, add in the outspoken DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the fans who would be bound to call into local radio to complain about the show, and I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
Buffalo Bills: A bit of a sleeper here, but think about it: Stevie Johnson is the new Chad Johnson right down to the game to back it up, they have a rookie quarterback learning the NFL game in surprise-First-Round-pick E.J. Manuel, a rookie head coach with a larger than life personality and enthusiasm for life in Doug Marrone. I’m guessing C.J. Spiller will wear a bunch of outrageous outfits, Marcel Dareus will do something ridiculous and they’ll eat a lot of wings. I hope.
San Diego Chargers: Two words: Manti Te’o.
LOS ANGELES — Week 13 was the wildest we’ve had this season and in quite some time.
Let’s find out who’s the Man.
32.) Arizona Cardinals (record: 4-8) (last week: 31) – That’s eight straight losses, if you’re scoring at home, for the Cardinals. And in the last three games Larry Fitzgerald has 5 catches for 65 yards and probably single handily killing fantasy teams across America. #FreeFitz
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) (26) – Of course Rex Ryan went with Mark Sanchez as his starter this week. He has 8.5 million reasons as to why he did this. And as if things can’t get any worse for Jacksonville, guess who’s coming to town in Week 14? Mr. Timothy Tebow and his two cracked ribs! Will he be active? Will he get more than 2 plays? Will the Jets score more than 6 points? So many questions. #FreeTebow
30.) Oakland Raiders (3-9) (28) – Remember 6 weeks ago or something when I said the Raiders were “close.” Well, I want to explain what I meant by that. I meant Oakland was close to securing the Top Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft which they will undoubtedly take on whomever runs the fastest 40 at the Combine.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) (30) – As you watched the Sunday night game, was there at least a part of you that hoped Nick Foles would somehow engineer an upset win over the Cowboys and give Andy Reid something to smile about? Part of you?
28.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) (32) – There’s not much I can or want to add to the story surrounding the Chiefs. I’m glad they played and I’m glad they won. I hope everyone can heal and find some peace and find a way to move forward. It’s just terrible.
27.) Carolina Panthers (3-9) (25) – This team is not good and it’s not good for my fantasy team that I was forced to start DeAngelo Williams. But he did have 67 rushing yards. So thanks for the 4.5 points.
26.) Tennessee Titans (4-8) (24) – I don’t really have anything to say about the Titans so allow me to gripe about my DirecTV DVR for a second. I haven’t been on board with this season of “Boardwalk Empire” but I still recorded them, same with this season of “Homeland,” which I’ve never seen but heard is quite good. However, I just realized that my DVR has only saved the most recent 5 episodes. Apparently, that’s the default setting when you record a series. Talk about a wicked bummer.
25.) San Diego Chargers (4-8) (22) – Hey, remember when the Chargers were 3-1? Nope, me neither. They were actually 3.5-1 if you count them being up 24-0 on Peyton Manning and the Broncos (I just instinctively wrote “Colts” just now)? Well since then they’ve lost 7-of-8. Who hires Norv Turner next year? And has anyone seen Philip Rivers?
24.) New York Jets (5-7) (29) – I’m not gonna say I enjoyed what went down Sunday at the Meadowlands but it was pretty hilarious. Mark Sanchez getting benched has been on the verge of going down for weeks and it took three 1st half interceptions for Rex Ryan to pull the trigger. It’s only too bad that Tim Tebow was inactive. That would’ve been something and it would’ve been interesting to see how Jets fans reacted.
23.) Cleveland Browns (4-8) (27) – Rookie quarterbacks had a great Week 13 and that includes Brandon Weeden, who went into the Black Hole and threw for 364 yards and a TD (2INT) in a 20-17 win. Don’t look now, but the Browns have won 2 in a row. OK, you can look now.
22.) Detroit Lions (4-8) (19) – Back at the beginning of the year, I predicted Matthew Stafford would lead the league in passing yards. After 13 weeks, look who’s sitting atop the standings: Mr. Stafford at 3,742 passing yards. He has a 68-yard lead on Drew Brees. I feel proud of this because I picked Darren McFadden for the rushing title (currently 30th) and Lovie Smith for Coach of the Year (Bears fading).
21.) St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) (21) – Looked at the NFL standings today and did you know the Rams are currently unbeaten in the NFC West at 4-0-1? How in Sam Bradford’s bad hair did that happen? If they win out, they’ll win the division and make the playoffs. At least it’s better than the time they nearly made it with a losing record. Or did Seattle make it that year at 7-9? Man, the NFC West sucks.
20.) Miami Dolphins (5-7) (20) – OK, Dolphins. You’ve been my punching bag all season and now I turn to you. This week. Week 14. ROFFL Playoffs. One time. Let’s do this. See, there’s no chance I’m playing the Texans Defense against the Patriots this week so with the slim pickens on the free agents list, I went with the Dolphins at the 49ers this week, figuring (hoping) Colin Kaepernick struggles for the second straight game and throws the ball around the yard and takes some sacks. Either way, gonna take a Herculean effort from the Mammals. I believe in you.
19.Buffalo Bills (5-7) (23) – This literally has nothing to do with Buffalo, since I’m guessing he’s never been to the All-American City, but did you see that video of Jay-Z riding the subway to his 8th and final Barclay Center opening concert next to that old lady who didn’t know who he was? It was pretty awesome and and Jay-Z came off as cool as you’d expect him to handle a situation like that. Whether that was staged or not, it makes him look like a down-to-earth dude, which he has every right not to be. Well done.
18.) Minnesota Vikings (6-6) (17) – Adrian Peterson is not human, contrary to what he told Rich Eisen on his Thanksgiving Special, and is making a real threat to 2,000 yards rushing this season. With just 4 games remaining, he needs to average 138 per to to become AD2K. And big ups to Christian Ponder, who announced he’s engaged to ESPN personality Samantha Steele. #PodcastBump
17.) New Orleans Saints (5-7) (15) – This season can’t get over fast enough for the Saints, though they think they probably still have a shot at the playoffs; which they don’t. It’s o-v-a. Which makes this weekend’s game against the Giants interesting. They have traditionally struggled on the road and the giants can’t beat anybody at home.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (6-6) (18) – The Cowboys are so bad they barely beat the carcass Eagles on national television. If Nick Foles was anyone other than Nick Foles the Eagles would’ve won that game and then maybe kept Andy Reid’s job hopes alive. But man, can Dez Bryant ball out when he wants to or when his knucklehead isn’t in the way.
15.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) (11) – I’ll admit to being semi-wrong about this Bucs team. Sure, there’s a chance they win out and make the playoffs, but it seems unlikely. I thought for sure they’d be the 6th seed in the NFC, but it seems like that’ll be reserved for the 12th man. In other news, I have some conflicts with Doug Martin this weekend. Playing against him in ROFFL but have him in a 4-letter league. Let’s hope he throws up a 12-carry, 35-yard crapfest.
14.) Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) (16) – Here’s how this is gonna play out: the Bengals are going to rally to beat Dallas this week when they should beat them by 2 scores because the Cowboys aren’t any good. That sets up Week 16′s cage fight against the Steelers; winner takes the last AFC playoff spot.
13.) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) (14) – Mike Tomlin announced Thursday Ben Roethlisberger is starting against San Diego, which is both shocking and not surprising at all. Roethlisberger had potential life-threatening injuries a mere 3 weeks ago and is now going back out to the field where he is most likely to get hit again in the same manner which levied the previous injuries. Only this time he’ll be wearing a Kevlar chest sleeve of some sort. Like anyone on Chargers cares. Wait, he’ll be fine. The Chargers haven’t hit anyone in weeks.
12.) Seattle Seahawks (7-5) (13) – Just when you think they’re out, Russell Wilson pulls you back in. It’s amazing, but Wilson not only has the Seahawks locked into the 6th seed in the NFC right now, but has vaulted himself into the discussion for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Coming into the season, it seemed like a two-man race, so that there’s even a debate on a third is impressive. Speaking of impressive, we uncovered the song Deion Sanders is referencing when he sings for RW. Enjoy.
11.) Washington Redskins (6-6) (12) – Mike Shanahan should declare the season over more often. All that’s happened since is My Good Friend Robert has beaten in succession the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants and gotten the Redskins back into the playoff picture. He’s the toast of D.C. He could run for president and win. He can balance the budget and avoid the cliff. I’m not changing the channel when he has the ball and I’d still rather have Andrew Luck.
10.) Baltimore Ravens (9-3) (7) – I said this a couple weeks ago and I’m going to repeat it: Wild Card loss to Indianapolis. There’s a small chance that the winner of Bengals/Steelers in Week 16 will win the AFC North. Baltimore is primed to blow it.
9.) New York Giants (7-5) (8) – It’s December, this means the Giants aren’t supposed to lose. This means they should be ramping up and hitting their stride. This means. They aren’t supposed to lose division games, especially to second-tier teams like the Redskins. Maybe these Giants aren’t on the same path as their predecessors.
8.) Chicago Bears (8-4) (6) – So the Bears lost a December game at home? There’s a very good chance that this team collapses and misses the playoffs. I think Chi-town should be prepared for this. Brian Urlacher is out for the season, too, doesn’t help that defense which has been killing it.
7.) Indianapolis Colts (8-4) (10) – Nothing that Andrew Luck does anymore surprises me. Nothing. Dude is a baller.
6.) Green Bay Packers (8-4) (9) – I hope you’re all prepared for a ESS-LOAD of chatter in the coming weeks about the screw job in Seattle from the Replacement Ref Era, because it’s coming. And it may end up costing the Packers a home playoff game.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) (4) – OK, so maybe benching Alex Smith wasn’t the best idea. Actually, it still was. Colin Kaepernick will be better for the 49ers in the long run.
4.) Denver Broncos (9-3) (5) – Is Denver the best team in the league? I don’t know. Is Peyton Manning the MVP? Yes. Can the Broncos win the Super Bowl? If Von Miller is playing out of his mind still through the playoffs? Yes. Will that be absolutely insane considering
3.) Atlanta Falcons (11-1) (3) – The most disrespected 11-1 team in NFL history? Very likely.
2.) New England Patriots (9-3) (2) – Caught some of Aqib Talib’s locker room comments this week about the Texans; consider me still worried about the Patriots secondary. They’re going to give up a big play that’s going to cost them a game. Big time. Seattle redux.
1.) Houston Texans (11-1) (1) – Monday night is going to be a badass game. But until the Texans lose, they are the Man.
LOS ANGELES — When it was announced months ago the Miami Dolphins would be featured on this season of HBO’s fantastically produced preseason series “Hard Knocks” my reaction was a common one: not interested. The Dolphins are a .500 team at best with no real star power to carry a show like “Hard Knocks,” have a rookie head coach and play in a division – the AFC East – already loaded with personality and pedigree.
When teams like the Falcons, Buccaneers, Broncos and Texans all reportedly passed on being profiled this year, however, you take what you can get. And what we get is the Dolphins. But when Chad Johnson signed with Miami, the show got 10 times more interesting, even if he was invisible last year with the Patriots and his appeal has grown tired. Then Reggie Bush said he could win the rushing title, and Ryan Tannehill’s wife just happened to look like a bikini model and voila, you have compelling TV each week.
Tuesday, “Hard Knocks” debuted with an sunrise over Miami Beach two months before camp officially opened. Head coach Joe Philbin was addressing his other coaches. The b-roll while he spoke was a construction crew tearing down the existing locker room for new digs before narrator Liev Schreiber chimed in, saying, “the Miami Dolphins are in the process of an overhaul.”
An understatement, yes. And a natural transition as we go from the open to the Dolphins three quarterbacks fighting to become QB1: Matt Moore, David Garrard and Tannehill, in their homes. Moore, shown with his wife and child, played well above average in the final 9 games of last season, leading Miami to a 6-3 record while tossing 15 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions but was almost relegated immediately to third string after the signing of Garrard and the drafting of Tannehill. Garrard sat out of all of 2011 after he underwent back surgery and Tannehill, the gigantic rookie from Texas A&M only has 13 career collegiate starts under his belt and was once a wide receiver.
The biggest issue for the Dolphins as a football team entering this season is who’s going to start at quarterback. They’ve been searching the successor to Dan Marino since he retired in 1999. This offseason, Miami flirted with Matt Flynn before he signed with Seattle and were rumored to be in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes before he signed in Denver. So it’s hard not to feel for Moore when he bluntly states into the camera, “I understand there’s other guys in the running as well,” after he’s asked about the starting job. Clearly, he thinks he’s done enough to be the top guy entering camp. It’s hard to disagree with him.
Of course, the star of the first episode was Johnson, who makes his first appearance by sticking his head into a coaches only meeting and asking for a chair, saying he can’t go home until after training camp. He eventually leaves but it’s apparent he’s reverted back to the old Chad, the one who celebrated vibrantly and without abandon; not the one who failed to learn the Patriots playbook or mesh with, or learn from, the greatest quarterback of all-time. No surprising, his wife, Evelyn Lozada, was on hand for a practice and had on the biggest hoop earrings I’ve ever seen. She then proceeded to tell the story of how Chad and her met; on Twitter. Of course they did.
He did manage to drop a few good one-liners, not to mention show off his enormous pink watch he displayed while playing FIFA with Bush. On his terrible 2011 season: “last year I took a year off to give everybody a chance to catch up.” On how he knew Lozada was the one: “if you pause call of duty for someone, that’s the f—ing one.” On if he still has his once-fantastic speed: “I feel like a cheetah, I feel black.”
One of the coolest segments of any Hard Knocks season is the underdog, that player who really shouldn’t have any shot to make the team, but for one reason or another you root for. This season, that is tight end Les Brown, who hasn’t done anything athletic in two years and played basketball at Westminster College. He is this year’s Danny Woodhead, a finance guy who’s trying to play football. He’s basically Rudy. It’s clear he’s undersized and overmatched against even other rookies. He asks for another chance after getting blown up in drill. Later, in a coaches meeting, someone says Brown is a “complete liability in pass coverage and run blocking.” I’ll put his chances of making the team at 15%.
In addition to the crisp, majestic slo-mo b-roll shots that NFL Films is known for, my favorite aspect of the show are the personnel meetings. It’s that insider, backroom honesty that people love; talking about how’s rising, who’s falling and who flat out can’t play. Seeing the Dolphins meeting makes me wonder what the world class organization’s meetings – Patriots, Steelers, Giants – would be like. How amazing would a “Hard Knocks: Patriots” be?
Other things I noticed/liked from the premiere episode: the biggest fail is that it took 43 minutes to show the Dolphins cheerleaders and we only got one shot of Mrs. Tannehill … David Garrard looked pretty comfortable on water skis … Mike Pouncey getting his hair cut in the kitchen was awesome, though I could’ve done without the nose hairs close up. It was pretty cool, though, him defending Tim Tebow later during a massage … Joe Philbin towered over Chad during their sideline practice chat following Chad’s expletive-laced presser, he’s gotta be at least 6-foot-4. Also, does Philbin look a little like Joe Hagen’s (think “Godfather”) younger brother? … great framing on the shot of Tannehill signing his contract with the photo of Dan Marino in the background … Wiz Kahalifa on the soundtrack = nice.