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.
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.
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.
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 — The final “You’re The Man” rankings of the 2012 National Football League season comes off one of the best Super Bowls of the last few years. The Ravens and 49ers displayed what we love about the big game; the story lines were thick, there were lots of big and memorable plays, there was a freakin’ blackout, a comeback and a goal line stand to decide the Vince Lombardi Trophy’s owner. In the end, the Ravens proved once again you don’t have to dominate the regular season to be crowned champs in the end; you just have to get hot at the right time. And have a quarterback who thinks he’s elite, God and some steroids on your side (allegedly).
As we head into nearly 7 months without real football games being played – though only 10 days until the Combine and 73 until the Draft – let’s take a look at some question marks teams have heading into the offseason, and stay tuned for hopefully other articles about the NFL and who knows what else (probably the Red Sox, Celtics, movies, life in LA and whatever else I can throw together) here at the site. As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars — To pay MJD or not to pay MJD, that is the question. And will they bring in Tim Tebow? Seems like the answer right now to both is “no.”
31.) Kansas City Chiefs — Being a Chiefs fan must be rough these days. How do you think they’re doing talking themselves into Andy Reid right now? At least he trimmed his mustache.
30.) Oakland Raiders — Will they go all-win with Terrell Pryor or bring back Carson Palmer for another go around at nearly 5x as much money?
29.) Philadelphia Eagles — Is Chip Kelly going to stick with Michael Vick to run his hurry-up, college-style offense? Or will he trade up and draft Geno Smith?
28.) Arizona Cardinals — Who’s going to play quarterback? That’s the only discussion Bruce Arians should be having with anyone.
27.) New York Jets — Mark Sanchez started tweeting again, actually he was on a retweeting positive comments binge; just reminding himself people still like him. Will they bring in any offensive weapons for him this offseason, because if they don’t, he might get irrevocably broken next season. (But I tell ya what, JaMarcus Russell rumors don’t appear out of thin air.)
26.) Cleveland Browns — Another team with a new coach. How long will Brandon Weeden be calling the offensive shots? He and Trent Richardson need help.
25.) Tennessee Titans — Is it time for the Titans to cut ties with Chris Johnson?
24.) Detroit Lions — Will this once playoff team find discipline in the offseason? Losing a few knuckleheads is a good start.
23.) Buffalo Bills— CJ Spiller is an emerging NFL star but for the Bills to compete in the AFC East they need to be able to stop the Patriots and the emerging Dolphins.
22.) San Diego Chargers — Now that a new head coach and GM have been hired, will the Chargers make The Leap? Not if they can’t beat the Broncos, which they won’t do with zero running game and a shaky secondary.
21.) St. Louis Rams — The Rams need to make a splash, and they need to reap the rewards of that blockbuster trade with Washington last year. They need a big, household name. Clearly, they can play; undefeated against the NFC champs.
20.) Miami Dolphins — It appears Reggie Bush won’t be back, but the biggest question remains who is going to catch the ball from Ryan Tannehill, since it appears he’ll be a halfway decent NFL quarterback.
19.) New Orleans Saints — Now that Sean Payton is back for the entire offseason, the offense should be back to form, but the Saints need all kinds of defensive help. Will they get it?
18.) Dallas Cowboys — Somehow Jason Garrett still has a job, but others do not. Recently, some questioned if the Cowboys are still Americas team based on their decade-plus of mediocrity. How will this offseason go in restoring that once-great moniker?
17.) Carolina Panthers — Face it, Steve Smith might not like Cam Newton but it’s not Cam’s fault Smith is old and can’t play anymore. The Panthers need a young, big-play receiver or 2013 is going to be a 2012 repeat, which means Ron Rivera will be out of work.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs gave away their best defensive back and then missed the playoffs. I’d say they’d want to get better at stopping people, what with them being in arguably the most talented QB division in football.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Injuries derailed the Steelers this season but finding a running game and some youth on defense are paramount for the black and gold.
14.) New York Giants — It appears the Giants want to be cheaper and younger across the board, let’s see how long that lasts this offseason. Can you buy discounted consistency, too?
13.) Chicago Bears — The defense isn’t getting any younger, it’ll be curious to see how they go about replacing Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest.
12.) Minnesota Vikings — Is Christian Ponder the answer at QB? I’m still not sure. But someone has to be able to catch the ball other than Kyle Rudolph. You gotta give defenses another look besides Adrian Peterson running the ball 30 times a game. Not that you can stop him, but still.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals — Think the Bengals want to go back and change their game plan against the Texans in the Divisional Round to include getting the ball to AJ Green? I’d say so. Still, they need to get better on defense. Especially with the supernova Ravens now kinds of the NFL and AFC North.
10.) Washington Redskins — Clearly, the most important thing facing the Redskins this offseason is the healthy of My Good Friend Robert. All other questions will be deferred until RG runs in a zig-zag line without teetering over like a drunken sorority girl.
9.) Indianapolis Colts — The Colts need some big-time playmakers on defense, because I’m guessing Andrew Luck doesn’t want to come from behind and pull a win out of his ass in 2013 as often as he did this season.
8.) Houston Texans — Matt Schaub finally won a playoff game but having some secondary help might have got him a second.
7.) Green Bay Packers — The Packers were badly exposed by the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which means getting younger and faster on defense should be at the top of Ted Thompson’s offseason priority list.
6.) Denver Broncos — I completely whiffed on the Peyton Manning thing, but the more I think about it, I get the feeling Peyton’s gonna pull a Vikings-era Brett Favre. Remember how great Favre was in 2009? Then remember how terrible he was in 2010? Feel me?
5.) Seattle Seahawks — Top-to-bottom, the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. Russell Wilson proved he can be a big-time quarterback and their defense is as stingy as summer horse flies. Can’t hurt bolstering the offensive/defensive lines.
4.) New England Patriots — For the second year in a row Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots made strange clock management blunders to end the first half and again Wes Welker had a key drop in a situation that could’ve helped put the game out of reach. Is this the end of their decade-long reign or can they fill in the missing pieces – big play receiver, shut down corner, rush edge – to stay at the top?
3.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons were 5 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl but their issue isn’t on offense. In the second half against San Francisco they gave up 14 unanswered and couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick if they were the ones controlling his joystick. How will Atlanta improve on defense this offseason? Being so close to the big game you’d expect them to make a move.
2.) San Francisco 49ers — This is a team than can win the Super Bowl as it is: top-flight defense, an explosive offense and a fiery head coach. While Jim Harbaugh was out-coached Super Sunday by his brother, what the 49ers were missing against Baltimore was a deep threat. It’s clear they missed Mario Manningham, as Randy Moss didn’t give them that stretch of the defense they were expecting. Colin Kaepernick also show signs of what he could be become with a full season under his belt, but why not let him run it down by the goal line? Regardless, he vowed to start preparing for next season immediately, so it appears as if he’s on a mission. San Fran is the class of the NFC, along with Seattle and Atlanta.
1.) Baltimore Ravens — Finally, we’ve found out who’s The Man of this 2012 NFL season. It look 22 weeks but the Ravens emerged from beneath the rubble. Heading into this offseason their biggest question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Baltimore’s offense behind Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and company are an absolute force. But defensively, it will be a different-looking Ravens squad in 2013 with the retirement of Ray Lewis (perhaps you’ve heard) and the likelihood of Ed Reed playing elsewhere, not to mention Terrell Suggs is older and banged up. We’ll see if they make moves to sure up that side of the ball in the coming months and in the Draft.
LOS ANGLES — I don’t know what to think about this Manti Te’o situation, to be completely honest. I’m starting to write this at 4pm pacific time on Thursday and in the last 24 hours I’ve consumed about as much as humanly possible, talked about with friends and colleagues, seen the jokes and speculation on Twitter and I’m about as confused as I was when I first read the Deadspin story Wednesday afternoon. With what is known as of this moment, and all that I’ve read, I think he was 100% complicit and sold this narrative to the media to its fullest because he liked the attention and he wanted to win the Heisman. That’s just what I think. Maybe it started out as a joke and then when the national media got wind of it, it was too late and he got caught too deep in the lie to come clean; he was embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Maybe. But there’s no chance he didn’t know. None.
There are other theories floating across the Twitterverse and blogosphere and talk radio and the like, and sure, those make some kind of sense to me too, but being in this business for nearly 10 years and being around high school, college and professional athletes of all ages, levels and backgrounds, I’ll believe the crazy and outlandish because I’ve heard tales of things I couldn’t possibly imagine could be true, but they were. One-hundred percent. Truth is stranger than fiction, just remember that, and sports is the ultimate reality show. In Te’o's situation, we all missed. We were all caught up. We all wanted Notre Dame to be good again because they are the country’s university and when they are good and playing at an elite level College Football is more interesting. And this was a college football season for the ages.
The public and the media were the ones duped and we were duped by Manti Te’o and his cronies.
If and when the truth comes out and this is proven to be not the case, I’ll admit to being wrong, but I just don’t see how me and others are. The holes in his story and Notre Dame’s are too big. The timeline doesn’t add up. Pete Thamel’s notes and transcript is there to read and shows a guy not even knowing what he’s saying. It’s remarkable. Read the Deadspin story again. And then again. It’s incredible. And now we wait.
(update: so it’s Saturday afternoon now and Te’o has spoke to Jeremy Schaap on Friday and seemingly explained everything, that he was embarrassed and told a lie to his dad, which begat more lies, and he tailored his story to match what was going on. Sounds a lot like lying to me. Watching Schaap on SportsCenter late Friday night, it seemed to me like he believed Te’o, which I find fascinating. And apparently, Te’o didn’t really believe it was a hoax until a couple days ago when Ronaiah Tuisosopo confessed via Twitter to making it all up. But how does this explain him finding out on Dec. 6 and then not telling Notre Dame for 20 days and then him talking his girlfriend in the days leading up to the National Championship game. And then this whole she faked her death to avoid drug dealers story, and he believed that?! Is Te’o the biggest moron in the world? This is the strangest, most bizarre story I’ve ever seen. Who the hell knows what’s true.)
Onto the NFL and what should be two fantastic Championship Games this weekend in Atlanta and Foxborough:
It appears that I’m once again the lone wolf rolling with the Falcons, which suits me just fine. There has been A LOT of noise from the 49ers Hype Machine in the last week after Colin Kaepernick went video game on the Packers in the Divisional Round. And rightfully so. What he did was beyond spectacular. I wondered if it was as surprising as Michael Vick going into Lambeau to beat the Packers in the 2003 playoffs, because for me, I was just as shocked when I saw his final stat line, and because I thought the Packers were starting to peak and looked like a team primed for another Super Bowl run. But Kaepernick stole the show and is playing like seasoned playoff veteran, not a QB who’s only started half the year. There’s been a lot of Brady/Bledsoe comparisons lately and for me, they’re a little unwarranted. Brady isn’t nearly the athlete CK is, he started basically the entire year in 2001 after Mo Lewis knocked out Drew in Week 2 and the game itself so much different than it was 11 years ago. CK is a new-age quarterback. Athletic. Versatile. Mobile. Cannon for an arm. He can make all the throws and if your rush breaks down, he’s proven he can take off and go to the house.
When it comes to the Falcons, it begins and ends with Matt Ryan. He reminds me of a young Peyton Manning with how much he commands their offense, audibles at the line of scrimmage and isn’t afraid to take chances in order to make big plays. Ryan takes grief for throwing interceptions, but to me (and not having won a playoff game which is now moot), throwing interceptions is a combination of not being afraid to make mistakes and get the ball to your receivers in tight spots and misreading your coverage. Ryan takes those chances. No guts, no glory. Atlanta took chances deep against Seattle, had a couple pay off, and they’re going to have to do it again in order to stretch out the 49ers defense. It’ll be interesting if Jim Harbaugh chooses to take away Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez and try and let a Michael Turner/Jacquizz Rodgers run game try and wear them down. Atlanta’s defense can’t really stop anybody, so I’m expecting a shootout.
Prediction: Falcons 27, 49ers 24.
I can’t lie: as a Patriots fan, this Ravens team scares the beejezus out of me. They’ve just seemed to have the Patriots number, dating back to the 2009 Wild Card, when they flew into Foxborough and beat up Tom Brady and mopped up the turf en route to a 33,14 trouncing. That game was just two weeks after Wes Welker went down with a knee injury and Brady was terrible, throwing 3 interceptions and getting sacked 3 times. In 2010, Brady was the league’s MVP and the Patriots defeated Baltimore 23-20, and in 2011 New England was again victorious in last year’s memorable AFC title game by the same 23-20 margin. This year, in Week 3, the Ravens eeked out a 31-30 win when Justin Tucker’s field goal maybe sorta I guess went through the right upright as the clock hit zeroes. But these are different teams playing now than 16 weeks ago. The Patriots are better defensively and can run the football, but are without Rob Gronkowski, and the Ravens are riding this emotional Ray Lewis wave that has carried them to a pair of playoff wins thus far. This has turned into the NFL’s best rivalry (San Francisco and Seattle should be good for a long time), the two teams clearly don’t like each other and Joe Flacco has shown a knack for coming up big in the playoffs on the road. He now has 8 playoff wins in 5 seasons; just one win shy of Peyton Manning for his career. And, as he showed last week, he can throw the deep ball and that’s what scares me. He’s going to take chances with Torrey Smith, who torched the Patriots back in Week 3. If New England doesn’t give up an big plays and keeps Ray Rice in check, then it shouldn’t be a game. A very big if.
For the Patriots, it begins and ends with Tom Brady. A year ago, he was out played by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game; in Week 3, the same. He’s arguably the greatest modern-era quarterback when it matters: the playoffs. He passed Joe Montana with his 17th win all-time last week. A win Sunday and he’d be the only QB in history to reach a 6th Super Bowl. Adding lines to his legacy is not what drives him, being the best is. The best play their best with the moment is the biggest. This is a pretty big moment in front of him. Not having Rob Gronkowski doesn’t worry me; the team has played a good portion of this season without and only scored one less point-per-game. For me, the Patriots have to have a balanced attack offensively. Hurry-up when necessary, but a solid running game will go a long way to building and preserving a lead. Defensively, gotta get pressure on Flacco and not give up the deep ball. All of New England will be holding its breath when No. 5 lets that ball fly on Sunday, because he will and often, and it won’t exhale until it falls down. Incomplete. Let’s hope this one doesn’t come down to a field goal. Again.
Prediction: Patriots 34, Ravens 21.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012′s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
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 — Cool story this week out of league headquarters, where an 11-year old sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and suggested that the referees use pink penalty flags during games in honor of breast cancer awareness month. And you know what, Roger replied and instituted the idea for this week’s Jets/Dolphins game. How about that for taking action?
Player safety? Nope. BountyGate? Fuggeduaboutit. Pink referee flags. Booyah.
My best friend’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. I’m down with the NFL celebrating this month how they do. I know a lot of people who have a problem with it, think it’s tacky, makes the games tough and distracting to watch. To hell with them. The NFL is the biggest sports league in the country and is more popular than all the rest combined and it’s honorable that they do this in support of women across America.
In honor of that, let’s find out who’s the woman this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) (32) – OK, Chiefs fans, looks like you’re stuck with Brady Quinn. Romeo Crennel announced Monday Quinn would be replacing Matt Cassel for the remainder of the season. I’m gonna let that sink in for a second so you can full wrap your mind around Dr. Biceps being your starter the next 9 weeks (let’s be real, you’re not making the playoffs and if you do, I’ll fly to KC and run around town naked. In December).
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (31) – So here’s what my dumbass did this week. Had a trade offer to a buddy involving MJD and Darren McFadden, and a couple of receivers. Said buddy did not get back to me for several days. Another came in with a trade offer of Vincent Jackson for MJD straight up. I turned that down after Jackson left practice with a calf injury, plus, I wanted to get a running back in return since I’d be giving up my No. 2. Guess what happened on Sunday? MJD – 2 carries, 6 yards. VJax – 7 catches, 216 yards, TD. I’m a moron.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-5) (30) –I don’t have to say anything this week about the Panthers, Cam Newton said it all after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys: “The past couple of games has been the same script by the same kind of director. It’s kind of getting boring… I don’t know what it is but something is going to have to change… We just find a way to keep games close and see what happens at the end. It’s not a formula for success. And I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win… I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring a suggestion box. And I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know. I really don’t.”
29.) Cleveland Browns (1-6) (28) – Brandon Weeden has the 2nd most passing yards by a rookie through 7 team games in NFL history (1,783). Do you know who has the most? Cam Newton, last year. Not a good sign, Brandon. He’s also is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10. Needless to say, the Browns like to wing it around the yard, which I like, don’t get me wrong.
28.) Oakland Raiders (2-4) (27) – The Raiders might be the first team in the history of this column, which dates back all the way to September, to win a game and drop. HOWEVER, and I took some serious heat for this, big ups to Carson Palmer, who I explained last week the type of player he is, for getting me nearly 23 points in fantasy. Palmer out-performed his projection by more than 7 points. So, thank you, sir. Keep delivering the rock to Brandon Myers and we’ll remain good.
27.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (25) – It’s pretty bad when the coolest part of your game is when your receiver does an end zone dance of a song that’s already been beaten in the ground. And seriously, HAS ANYONE SEEN MARIO WILLIAMS?? Oh, bye week wrist surgery? Gotcha. Makes sense.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) (23) – The Bucs get points for wearing the cremecicle jerseys. Forget the Chargers powder blues, these babies are my favorite. They lose points for pretty much everything else that goes on on the field. Oh, and eff Vincent Jackson.
25.) Detroit Lions Lions (2-4) (24) – Is it time to start talking about the Madden Curse for Calvin Johnson? We all thought if anyone was going to be immune to the curse, it would be Megatron. But he only has 1 TD this season and everyone is wondering what’s up. Forget the fact that he’s still 5th in receiving yards (592) and 10th in receptions (38). Maybe Matthew Stafford is the problem.
24.) Tennessee Titans (3-4) (29) – My brother, Matthew, is just ballin’ out there. And Chris Johnson turned back the clock a couple years and broke out the fast shoes. That’s three good games in four weeks for CJ. Can he make it 4-for-5 against the Colts? I’d love it. #BaldIsBeautiful
23.) St. Louis Rams (3-4) (18) – London is a long way from St. Louis. The Rams are playing a “home” game against the Patriots at Wembley Stadium this weekend. We had British presenter and celebrity Vernon Kay on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week and he said the city is pumped up for some American football, and I believe him. You’d think with the Patriots coming to town, it would be a Rams crowd, right? They’re still holding a Revolutionary War grudge, I’m guessing.
22.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) (17) — Another disappointing team in 2012, the Bengals choked away a 14-3 lead over the Steelers in a key division home game on Sunday. Can’t give away those babies and expect to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Guessing the Steelers end up running the table, riding the emotions of that win. Oh, and Andy Dalton has 10 picks. Can’t keep that up and expect to win.
21.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (26) – Andy Reid is something like 12-0 in games after a bye week. The No. 1 Falcons are coming to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. Something has to give.
20.) Indianapolis Colts (3-3) (22) — I’m glad the Colts keep winning and I get to keep seeing locker room video of a red-faced Jim Irsay handing out game balls. Go online and find this stuff, peeps, it’s priceless. And someone please tell Andrew Luck to shave the neck beard! I’ll keep saying it til it happens, not a good look, bro.
19.) New York Jets (3-4) (21) – Not gonna lie, I was fairly impressed with Mark Sanchez in the second half against the Patriots, and to be honest, the Jets should’ve won the game. They had it in their hands, and then Stephen Hill dropped it. And don’t feel bad that Sanchez and Eva Longoria have reportedly broken up, he’ll be just fine.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (4-3) (13) – Three losses in a row is not a good look.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (19) – Barely beating the script-following, suggestion-box using Panthers does not a drastic rise in the polls make, dearest Cowboys.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-4) (20) – No doubt, the Saints are moving up, but they still give up too many points for my blood to be a serious threat to anyone as of yet. However, a win on the road this week in Denver would get them into playoff discussion. Plus, Joe Vitt is back as the true interim head coach. Again, not sure what that means, but we’re about to find out. And did Joe Morgan make the catch of the year this week? Or maybe just the play? Either way, it was pretty freakin’ cool.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (15) – I made a bold move this week, and one I never thought I’d even consider back in August when we all watched these clowns on “Hard Knocks:” picked up the Dolphins as my defense this week in fantasy against the Jets. Hoping for one of those classic Mark Sanchez games. You know the ones.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (14) – After last Monday night’s debacle against the Broncos, this team needed a bye week. And what comes out of it, reports of stick-um use?? What year is this? Did Orlando Jones suddenly line up at receiver and we all missed it? Make 7. Up Yours.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (12) -- Whaddya got for me this week, Jimmy: “Back in the win column. Another week closer to New Orleans in February… Tampa, then Seattle. If we bring it we’ll be 7-2 at the bye week. Scary huh?”
12.) Washington Redskins (3-4) (11) – Was there a more badass play than the 4th and 10 from his own 23 wtih 2:07 to play than My Good Friend Robert has had all season? And as you were watching, did you have any doubts in your mind that he’d pull it off? Me neither. Now, I’m not like others who think he’s the MVP of the league, but we’re watching something pretty special right now in Landover.
11.) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (16) – While I was typing this Mike Wallace dropped 4 more passes. Seriously, bro. Call Norv Turner and get some of that Chargers stick-um ’cause you’re KILLING the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Yeah, Mike Tomlin is probably pissed, too.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (10) – Did you know Peyton Manning threw for 4 more TDs and 323 yards during the bye week? No, seriously, he was playing against the Chargers on Madden and they still couldn’t stop him. Maybe I was wrong about #18. Remember, I said I hoped I was wrong. Big game with the Saints this weekend. Big game.
9.) New England Patriots (4-3) (9) – I have no idea about this Patriots team anymore, but I do know one thing: its not any good. Bill Simmons had a tweet on Sunday about getting that Larry Bird in 1990 feel, which I assumed he meant about Tom Brady being near the end of the line. And I’m not ready to go there, but shoot, man, let’s put a freakin’ game away or something.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (8) – Their Week 7 game happened so long ago, I don’t even remember what happened. But I do know I can’t stop talking or thinking about Russell Wilson. It’s really hard not to like this kid, but he has to make more plays out there against good teams (I do not think the Patriots are a good team).
7.) San Francisco 49ers (5-2) (7) – It’s just a given that the Thursday night games kinda stink for three quarters and then heat up in the fourth. So I’m going to give the 49ers a pass for not being as convincing as maybe they should have against Seattle. But they are quite good. Alex Smith had to do more for this team to be a legit Super Bowl contender for me.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (2) – Well, that wasn’t a pretty afternoon in Houston, now was it? I happen to think this is a momentary blip in the road for the Ravens. They still have a top flight offense, Terrell Suggs is back, which will help, and they still have a great coach. However, this is all on Joe Flacco now. If he doesn’t rise up then you can forget being mentioned among the game’s best.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (6) – Nice to see the Texans bounce back after getting embarrassed at home against the Packers. I know the Ravens are banged up, but that was a boat race. Arian Foster proving he might be the league’s MVP through 7 weeks; he leads the NFL in rushing attempts (168), yards (659) and touchdowns (9). Bow on, brotha. And that defense, sweet sassy mollassy. J.J. Watt already has 10 batted passes this season. That has to be some kind of record, right?
4.) New York Giants (5-2) (5) – I saw an interesting stat with Tom Coughlin has head coach, the Giants haven’t started worse than 5-2 since he took over in 2004. Sure, that ’04 team then lost 8 in a row after that, and the Giants have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent and start slowly at home. But ya know, other than that, they’re great.
3.) Green Bay Packers (4-3) (4) – You like numbers? Here’s some numbers: 54-of-74, 680 yards, 9 TDs. Aaron. Rodgers (in the last 2 weeks). If ya need him.
2.) Chicago Bears (5-1) (3) – Admit it, you thought Jay Cutler died when Ndamukong Suh tossed him around like a sack of potatoes and then dropped a Rock Bottom on him middle ring? I know I did. How was Cutler’s right arm not severed at the shoulder after that hit? I did like Suh coming over after celebrating to make sure Jay was OK. Classy. But why is Brandon Marshall still running his mouth? Looked like a clean hit to me. Oh, and that Bears D is naaaaasty.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) – I have only one rule: when you’re undefeated AND have a bye week, you’re not allowed to drop from the top spot of my poll.
LOS ANGELES — There aren’t two more iconic figures in their respective sports than Derek Jeter and Ray Lewis. Consistent staples in a business overrun by constant changes, where players trade hats and jerseys like children exchange … what do kids trade these days? It’s not baseball cards anymore, is it? Emoji messages? STDs?
Jeter and Lewis are legends, and that’s an understatement. First-ballot Hall of Famers, who five years after their retirement will be rightfully celebrated in Cooperstown and Canton. And the best part about the festivities is there won’t be a debate as to what cap or jersey the two will be recognized in. For this generation of sports fans, you can’t think of the Yankees without the dignitary of the dugout, or the Ravens without the gargantuan of the gridiron, coming to mind. Literal faces of their respective franchises.
Both were taken from their teams and sports fans over the weekend in the form of potential career-ending injuries; Jeter with a broken ankle and Lewis in the form of torn triceps muscles. Jeter, already hobbled in the post season, suffered his injury in extra innings of Game 1 of the ALCS diving for a Jhonny Peralta groundball which proved to be the game-winner for the Tigers. Lewis, who was declared lost for the year on Monday, meanwhile, went to the infirmary doing what he’s always done: chasing down a would-be touchdown maker.
The duo are the last of their breed. Superstar athletes who’ve played their entire career with one franchise and did so at the highest possible level; the championship stratosphere. Jeter was the backbone of five Yankees World Series titles; Lewis was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens 35-7 victory over the Giants.
While some have said Lewis’ play has slipped in recent years, he’s still been the unquestioned leader of a perennially top-ranked defense, and showed no signs of slowing down this season. He was on a 152-tackle pace at the time of his injury, which would’ve been his highest since 2003.
Jeter had a spectacular 2012 season in leading the Yankees to another AL East division crown. He played in all but 3 games while going to bat the most times in his most career; his 216 hits were his most since 1999. Jeter was 9-for-27 in the postseason at the time of his injury.
On the field, with a combined 35 years of professional experience in two cities, Jeter and Lewis share adjectives that define their playing style: warrior, leader, charismatic, gamer, clutch. They’re quintessential plays are also quick to come to mind: Jeter’s postseason flip against Oakland, diving into the stands against Boston, a home run for his 3,000th hit, the jump throw and his arms raised in victory; Lewis’ pregame dance, the rousing sideline speeches, punishing hits, his Super Bowl interception and playoff sacks of Tom Brady.
Off the field, their lives couldn’t be more different. Jeter’s bachelorhood is the stuff of legends, the idolization of wannabe teens and playboys everywhere (even A-Rod). The New York penthouse apartment, wooing of Hollywood’s biggest stars and of course, the gift basket. Lewis has several children, is big in his South Florida community and preaches in his spare time. His transformation from potential inmate to pillar of faith and inner strength is what personal redemption is all about.
Phenomenal players and better men. The debate will rage in the coming weeks and into their sports offseasons as to what their futures hold. “Should they retire?” is the question you’ll see on NFL and MLB Networks, on ESPN and in magazines and online articles. I told anyone who would listen I thought Peyton Manning should’ve retired this past summer rather than risk further injury to his neck by playing another football season, but the case for Jeter and Lewis are different. Surely, a broken foot will heal and doesn’t affect the shortstop’s ability to hit a baseball, such torn triceps can be repaired and won’t slow the linebacker’s path to the running back.
Do I think they should come back? Both are playing at a high level, so sure, give it one last go. Major League Baseball and the National Football League are better with those two men in them, competing, representing all they have to offer. But don’t drag it out. Announce at the beginning this is it, a la Chipper Jones and let the fans pay their respects throughout the season. Then walk away gracefully. Like icons.
LOS ANGELES — The real refs returned in time for last Thursday night’s game in Baltimore and you can guess how long the love affair lasted. Right, about a quarter. Ask Green Bay if they like the replacements or the regular refs better? If New Orleans can have an interim to the interim head coach, maybe we can get some replacements for the replacement refs just for Packers games. Good thing Rodgers’ Ruffryders came through this week (thanks to a Garrett Hartley missed field goal, to boot) or we might have a Mike McCarthy-led mutiny on our hands. But it was good to see ‘ole Ed Hochuli and his guns out there again. Apparently Sports Illustrated thought so, too. Speaking of, does it look like a lot more of these officials are yoked up these days? Did the new deal involve free Bowflex’s and GNC Gold Card memberships? This is making me feel like a weakling.
OK, I’m gonna mix in some push-ups here while you read who’s the man. Let’s get it.
32.) Cleveland Browns (0-4) (32) – Does anyone on the Browns have a hot wife I can post pictures of to make the bottom of this poll more entertaining and attractive? Someone has to, right? Quick, lemme Google Brandon Weeden’s wife real quick … OK, so this ain’t so bad. I mean, that’s a great view, right? AmIright? [crickets...]
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) (28) – I never thought it would ever come to this, but I actually considered trading MJD from my fantasy team this week. That’s how bad it’s gotten in Jacksonville.
30.) Tennessee Titans (1-3) (27) – OK, Chris Johnson fantasy owners, you can all calm down now. CJ ran for 141 yards this week and while he didn’t score, you have to be encouraged that he did SOMETHING, right? And while you never want to see anyone get hurt, I am glad that my brother Matt Hasselbeck is going to get some burn here for the next couple weeks. Go easy on the Pick 6s, though. #BaldIsBeautiful
29.) Oakland Raiders (1-3) (29) – Richard Seymour, I love ya, buddy. You were a Patriot for years. Won some Super Bowls. But you can’t honestly think your defense is “close” like you said this week, can you? Close to what? Last place in my poll? Yes, you’re close to that. Again. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass.
28.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) (23) – Did I read that right? Matt Cassel has 10 turnovers in four games? Wow. That’s impressive even for me, someone who’s been known to sling it all over the yard in my day. At least that’s what the Biddeford head coach told me when I returned to the area as a reporter. Seriously, first time I interviewed him, he said: “yeah, I remember you. You used to sling it all over the yard at TA, right?” I thought that was pretty cool. And yes, against the Tigers, I threw three interceptions and we lost 42-7. That was 12 years ago. Remember it like it was yesterday.
27.) New Orleans Saints (0-4) (26) – Poor Aaron Kromer. The aforementioned interim to the interim head coach just wants to not go winless in his short coaching stint. Well, he’s got two more games to get one and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Chargers coming to the Dome. The Saints played their best game of the season in Green Bay, got a gift from the real refs and still lost. Sometimes it’s just not your year.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) (18) – This team and the Rams I really don’t get. I thought the Bucs were a lock to make the playoffs, then the Falcons have gone out and been the best team in the league and the Saints have been the worst. But Josh Freeman hasn’t improved. Doug Martin hasn’t been the dynamite back we all thought and people seem to think Greg Schiano is an a-hole. Might be a long year in Tampa. And it’s hot there, which sucks.
25. Detroit Lions (1-3) (22) – Remember when I said the Lions were frauds and that I was rolling with the Vikings? Yup, they went out and proved that this week by losing to Minnesota. At home. Detroit’s special teams is atrocious and that vaunted run defense gave up 100+ to a one-legged Adrian Peterson. I hope Jim Schwartz rented his home.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) – I really wish you could have seen what I saw from a certain player in the locker room after the game. It was priceless and tells you all you need to know about the Panthers. They are a mess. But I did like the effort this past week against Atlanta. They can win some games, but they’re definitely not celebrating the win afterwards together, despite what Ryan Kalil has printed on a t-shirt.
23.) Miami Dolphins (1-3) (31) – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this is the last time the Dolphins are behind the Jets in this poll. Mr. Lauren Tannehill really showed me something. Sure, his stats (26-of-41, 431 yards, TD, 2 INT) were helped by a couple of great catch-and-runs by Brian Hartline, but still, someone has to throw him the ball and that someone was Lauren Tannehill’s husband. Also, if you haven’t watched a Joe Philbin presser, check it out. Underrated funny.
22.) New York Jets (2-2) (19) – I tell ya what, that was some Rex Ryan post game press conference after Sunday’s spanking by the 49ers. Is it what the Jets needed? Will it work? Who the hell knows. Personally, I think Rex is seriously on the hot seat. This could end badly. Like worse than his lapband surgery. In a way, I kinda miss the fat Rex. He was much more fun and prone to say real stupid junk. How bad is Houston gonna blank them this week on Monday Night Football? 45-0? That’d be great.
21.) Indianapolis Colts (1-2) (25) – Don’t play and move up 4 spots. Why not? But seriously, this Chuck Pagano thing is downright terrible. When I was in elementary school, one of our classmates had Leukemia and I remember our teacher would have a few of us write her letters every couple days. I wasn’t close with her, in fact, her name escapes me at this moment, but I wrote her the best letter I could. And I’m sure that reading them, even from someone like me whom she barely knew, made her feel well and alive. I’m wishing Chuck Pagano my best.
20.) St. Louis Rams (2-2) (30) – I’m excited to get my first real look at this Rams team on Thursday night on NFL Network against the Cardinals. Pretty much if Sam Bradford stays healthy then they’re fine. Danny Amendola is turning into the poor man’s Wes Welker and Steven Jackson is still a beast. I don’t know much else, but beating the Seahawks is good enough for me.
19.) Buffalo Bills (2-2) (21) – Realizing where I just ranked the Bills, I said to myself: “The Bills got shellacked and moved up? That can’t be right.” Well, it is. There are a lot of bad teams right now in the NFL and while I don’t think Buffalo is good by any stretch, they did have the Patriots on the serious ropes for a half. If Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t turn the ball over, the Bills seriously could have won. But where was that defense everyone talked so much about this offseason? I mean, 243 rushing yards to Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden? Jeez, Louise.
18.) Seattle Seahawks (2-2) (14) – Is our love affair with Russell Wilson over yet? Brandon Weeden didn’t play terribly against the Ravens and with Ryan Tannehill throwing up 431 yards, that would push Wilson into the 5-hole among the rookie QBs, right? Seattle’s defense is going to carry this team for a bit until Wilson either flames out or Matt Flynn is healthy enough to assume the starting job.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (2-2) (13) – Where to begin with last night’s Cowboys/Bears game? My friend dubbed this the Douchebag QB Bowl but that’s not really right. I don’t think Tony Romo is a d-bag but he certainly played like one last night. Sure, two of the picks were deflected but the other 3 were terrible. Not even I threw them that egregiously. All that was missing last night was T.O.
16.) Washington Redskins (2-2) (16) – Blow a huge lead and then come back to win it. Well damn, that’s some moxie. Even if it shouldn’t have been that close. Billy, Billy, Billy. What are we going to do with Billy Cundiff? Misses what, three field goals that would’ve put this game out of reach well before Tampa’s comeback and then hits the game-winner? Oh, and tell my good friend Robert it’s OK to SLIDE every once in a while.
15.) New York Giants (2-2) (4) – Maybe this is too far of a drop, but seriously, where in the hell was Eli throwing that ball on the end zone interception? Where? And to whom? Because all I saw were three Eagles there waiting for it. I told you it was going to be one of these seasons. No rhyme or reason. And you’re the NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS, gotta have more than 57 yards rushing. Gotta.
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) (10) – You know what I love? Stats like Mike Tomlin is 4-1 coming off a Bye Week. I love that shhh. Totally meaningless, but yet it completely makes sense. Random story about Mike Tomlin. He was at the Senior Bowl earlier this year in Mobile, Ala., as was I. And he wore the same exact outfit two consecutive days, which made me wonder what he was doing the night before. In Mobile. Now I’m not saying I’ve never done it, but I’m also not a Super Bowl-winning head coach who makes millions of dollars a year. But he did have on the tightest Air Force 1s. Dude has serious swag.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (3-1) (20) – Let’s check in with my Vikings fan buddy Jimmy: “D looks like the purple people eaters of old” … “We’re for real Just gotta believe. Remember how everyone laughed when they drafted Ponder? He’s gonna be ok” … “The glory days are back baby.” Yeah, he’s feeling good and those good feelings should remain after they roll through the Titans on Sunday.
12.) San Diego Chargers (3-1) (17) – Probably not a good sign when you bench your 1st Round running back from a couple years ago because he can’t hold onto the football. I’m not expert, but that’s an important skill to have. I wonder if Norv has Ryan Mathews walking around the facility like Omar Epps in “The Program?” Talk about an underrated movie. That one should get remade in a few years, I’m guessing. I’d be down for that. Maybe I could get a part as an assistant coach in charge of HGH administration.
11.) Denver Broncos (2-2) (9) – Quick look at Peyton Manning’s line from Sunday: 30-of-38, 338 yards, 3 TDs. I’d say he’s back. Funny, listening to Bill Belichick talk about Manning (it’s Patriots v. Broncos in Week 5) and he said No. 18 looks like his old self and the Broncos are running 95% of the Colts old offense; really interesting. Let’s hope the results follow history’s path. Brady is 8-4 against Manning all-time.
10.) Chicago Bears (3-1) (12) – That’s what everyone envisioned what Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall would look like when the Bears traded for the enigmatic receiver. He sure torched the Cowboys, didn’t he? Look, I hate Cutler just as much as the next guy, but I love how every move he makes on the sideline now is scrutinized like the Zapruder Film. In his defense, though, I wouldn’t want to stand next to Mike Tice for that long, either. Oh, and Chicago’s defense sure looks pretty good, huh? Though, Tony Romo made it pretty easy for them.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) (15) – Well, that was an impressive win against the Giants, Sunday night. I still don’t think Michael Vick is going to remain upright for the entire season. However, if Andy Reid wants to keep winning, he’ll keep feeding LeSean McCoy (123 yards vs. Giants). There isn’t another back in the league who makes open-field moves like Shady. He should get 30 touches a game.
8.) New England Patriots (2-2) (8) – The first half of last weeks’ game illustrated the Patriots’ deficiencies; the second half showed how explosive this offense can be and why some said it could be better than 2007. Tom Brady was Tom Brady, but who knew the running game could be that dynamic? Stevan Ridley? Brandon Bolden? I went and picked up Bolden when he was around the 70-yard mark, who knew he still had 70 more to go?
7.) Arizona Cardinals (4-0) (11) – I’m not quite a believer in the Cardinals, but I’m getting there. But, I did like this stat: they’ve won 11-of-their-last-13 games dating back to last year. That has to count for something, right? And by a show of hands, how many of you immediately picked up or put in a waiver claim for Andre Roberts as soon as Kevin Kolb’s ball hit his hands for a touchdown on that last drive?
6.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (6) – The highest ranked of the .500 teams, the Packers finally played a complete game and it almost still wasn’t enough. But it was good to see Aaron Rodgers go off (319 yards, 4 TDs) for fantasy owners and I’ve decided there’s not a cooler sack celebration than Clay Matthews’ beast. Jared Allen’s calf rope had been my No. 1 but I’m down with Matthews now. Plus, I’m still diggin’ those State Farm commercials: “Show me, show me what ya got, Raji”.
5.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) (7) – The Ginger Rocket is no joke (5th in Passer Rating and 4th in TDs). And I have to hear every Sunday night how awesome A.J. Green is because he went to Georgia from Jantzen, but don’t you get the feeling that at some point Marvin Lewis is going to remember he’s Marvin Lewis and FUBAR this whole operation up? Until then, the Bengals are going to Who Dey all over everyone to more wins.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (3-1) (5) – That’s more like it from the 49ers; a spanking of an overmatched opponent. Before the season, I was talking to some people about fantasy running backs and wondered why no one had Frank Gore near the top. Got a lot of, “he’s too old” comments. How about the 1,300-yard pace he’s on now? That OK for everyone? Thought so. Would like to see more from their WRs though. Mario Manningham can’t be your No. 1. He just can’t.
3.) Baltimore Ravens (3-1) (3) – As is the case with all the Thursday night teams, I have basically forgotten what you did to make you so impressive, but I know you didn’t do anything to drop. So here are the Ravens. Torrey Smith is ballin’ right now. And in my fantasy league, my buddy still has Joe Flacco on his bench, which just seems silly at this point, even if he is starting Cam Newton.
2.) Houston Texans (4-0) (2) – Number one in total defense. Second against the pass. Fifth in sacks. Yes, the Texans opponents have a combined 6-10 but you can only play who’s in front of you and they’ve dominated all comers to this point. Arian Foster is on a 412-carry pace, which concerns me and Andre Johnson has been real quiet so far. More offensive balance would be nice but with that division, expect Gary Kubiak’s mug to be near the top all season.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (4-0) (1) – How ’bout the onions on Matt Ryan on that throw on 1st and 10 from the 1-foot line late in the Panthers game last weekend? That would make me react like this, too. In fact, that last time I saw someone literally just drop back and throw the ball as far as they could, well, it was me. Senior year at Syracuse, first game of the flag football season. For some reason, our game against these freshman came down to the wire and on the last play of the game I reared back and let it fly 60 yards to the right corner of the end zone, where it landed in the hands of my buddy James for a touchdown. My now buddy, Sean McBride, was defending and will tell you exactly how it went down. Oh, right, the Falcons are good.
LOS ANGELES — What a difference one week makes. If there’s one thing Bill Parcells was right about, in the National Football League (Ron Jaworski voice), you are what your record is, and what we have is a very balanced league. Six teams are winless, six are undefeated and 20 stand at 1-1. We also have a league on the verge of chaos. Do you remember more games with near brawls, bogus penalties, bad ball spotting, clueless men in stripes, and coaches being more demonstrative than in Week 2? Everyone knew the replacement officials would struggle, but the incompetence was taken to a new level this past weekend. Deion Sanders said it and you can’t argue, it’s like all the kids in science class are picking on the substitute teacher. Oh, and handshake bowl part 2?!
Quick, let’s find out who’s the man before this gets Ron from Queensbridge crazy.
32.) Oakland Raiders (record: 0-2) (last week: 31) – I really thought I’d be able to go the whole season posting one Lauren Tannehill picture after another, but alas Carson Palmer and the Raiders went and took that away from me. Remember last week when I said I was starting a “Free Fitz” campaign? Well, it might be time to start a “Free DMC” one as well. We’re an equal opportunity platform here.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (29) – It hurts me to have my man Maurice Jones-Drew so low here, but I’m here to call a spade a spade; or in this case, a bad football team a bad football team. How many different “Free” campaigns can I have in one season. There has to be a limit, right?
30.) Tennessee Titans (0-2) (28) – At what point do the Titans acknowledge they made a mistake benching my brother and put Matty Hasselbeck back out there? As someone texted me today: “maybe he should’ve stayed with baseball.” And that was an Asian chick, so if she notices something then you know it’s a problem. Oh, and if you see Chris Johnson, tell him… eh, I don’t care. Tell him to pick up a book ‘cuz his career might be O-V-A.
29.) Miami Dolphins (1-1) (32) – Oh what the hell, here’s Lauren Tannehill. And damn, Reggie Bush wasn’t kidding when he said he could win the rushing title. I really thought he was joking. Trying to get some laughs on “Hard Knocks” after Chad got the boot. Someone had to pick up the slack since Joe Philbin was boring as shhh.
28.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (30) – It was nice of Brandon Weeden to throw it to his teammates this week, including Greg Little, who took his benching on my fantasy team to heart and came out and dropped a 5-catch, 57-yard and a touchdown performance. And Trent Richardson said he was going to let his play do the talking and did he ever. That 20-yard TD run where he bounced off like eight dudes was some Mike Alstott jive.
27.) Chiefs (0-2) (21) – So maybe the Chefs aren’t going to win the division like most thought two weeks ago, but Dwayne Bowe sure balled out on Sunday. The problem is perhaps Romeo Sweet Romeo is most likely a better coordinator than a head coach. Like Silvio Dante said, some guys are just meant to be No. 2.
26.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1) (23) – I really hope my buddy Jimmy from home sends me texts after every Vikings game this season, it’ll help their section week-to-week. Here’s his from Sunday: “The good news is the stress of an undefeated season for the Vikings is out. Now we can focus on winning the Super Bowl.” Uh huh, what he said.
25.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (25) – Third week in a row I have the Colts slated 25th, and it’s not on purpose, I swear. But you can see Andrew Luck’s improvement over Week 1. His touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne was a thing of beauty.
24.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (27) – Be honest, raise your hand if you drafted C.J. Spiller and then started him in Week 2. Congrats, you most likely won your fantasy matchup this week, unless you’re my buddy VA, who had Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks AND Spiller and lost by .59. Oh, I’m 2-0 and in 1st place. Thank you, Matt Ryan.
23.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (24) – I like this Rams team. Sure, they only won because Josh Morgan is a mental midget and there was literally a better chance of me being named Mr. Olympia than Billy Cundiff did of making that 62-yarder to win it. And is there anything cooler than Jeff Fisher’s ‘stache? Right, a stadium full of booze-filled fans wearing a fake ‘stache to set a Guinness Book World Record.
22.) New York Jets (1-1) (17) – I don’t care about how the Jets played on the field. Let’s soak in the fact that 37-year old (she claims) Eva Longoria acknowledged she’s dating 25-year old Mark Sanchez. Now, Sanchez is statistically a better quarterback than Tim Tebow, but he’s not as electrifying when compiling those statistics. HOWever, there’s one category where Sanchez is clearly superior: boos. Sanchez, very quietly, has some serious Jeter in him. If we could do a side-by-side chart at this point in their careers, I’d be willing to bet while Jeter might have bigger names (Mariah, etc.) Sanchez’s dames are much more striking. Ya know, if you’re into that exotic, barely speaking English kinda thing.
21.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1) (22) – Has a bandwagon gained more passengers, lost 99% of them and then gained them all back quicker than the Seachickens in the last 8 days? They beat what I thought was a pretty good looking Cowboys team rather easily. But playing up in the great North by Northwest is a different beast. Not everyone can handle it. (Looking right you at, Terrell Owens.)
20.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0) (26) – I took some heat on Twitter for not believing in the Cards after their Week 1 win over Seattle. OK, now I’m a believer… for this week. That defense was bumrushing Mr. Handsome like Kim K. at an All-Star Weekend after party but that offense has to show me something. Again, the “Free Fitz” campaign is two more 1-catch, 4-yard weeks away from having T-shirts, a website and corporate sponsor.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (18) – Now that’s the Who Dey team we thought would come out of the gates in Week 1. Andy Dalton remembered he has A.J. Green on his team and the Law Firm was rushing that rock like he got paid to do. What might scare me a tad was giving up 27 points to the Browns and failing to intercept Brandon “All I Seem To Do Is Look Lost And Throw Interceptions Out There and Yes, I Know I’m Old As Dirt” Weeden.
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (14) – Yes, I’m aware we’re only two weeks into the season, and now is the time to overreact and all that shine, but let me throw this possibility nugget out there for ya: the Lions are frauds and are very likely to finish behind the Vikings in the NFC North. Just let the marinate for a while and get back to me in a few weeks.
17.) New Orleans Saints (0-2) (11) – I don’t want to say I saw this 0-2 or struggles coming… but I kinda saw this coming. I believe I said on the Rich Eisen Podcast the Saints wouldn’t make the playoffs and are going to desperately miss Sean Payton. Just look at the schedule (Woody Paige voice), at best New Orleans will be 3-6 when they head to Oakland on Nov. 19. Then come games against the 49ers, Falcons and Giants. Don’t believe me, check the stats: since 1990 there’s only a 12% chance of making playoff if you start the year 0-2.
16.) Carolina Panthers (1-1) (19) – I saw a headline somewhere online about Cam Newton that said to the effect, Week 2 was a redemption game for the sophomore QB. Redemption from what? It’s Week 2!!?! This is why I don’t like to overpontificate. However, allow me some self-dap for a moment for drafting Brandon LaFell in my fantasy league; I see you, brah. Keep catching that rock.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (8) – What the hell is going on in the NFC East? One week you think someone from this division can win the Super Bowl and the next they couldn’t beat Santa Margarita. I honestly don’t know what’s gonna happen week to week and I sure don’t know what to make of the Cowboys. Tony Romo returned to Seattle and botched more than just the extra-point snap, scoring just 7 points and posting a 74.1 passer rating. But his backwards hat looked really cool!
14.) Chicago Bears (1-1) (6) – I don’t know who laid the biggest stink bomb this week: the Cowboys or Bears but holy Ron Burdandy’s mustache, did two teams look more opposite from week to week that those two? Ya know what, I blame myself for getting caught up in their hype. No two teams suck their fans and pundits in quite like the Bears and Cowboys only to pee down their own legs. Shame on us, America. Oh, and tell me you’ve seen this latest tumblr featuring Jay Cutler. Pure genius.
13.) Tampa Bay Bucs (1-1) (12) – Every season it has to be something, right? Last year, we had the Handshake Bowl and now we have the, what are we even calling this? The Kneel Down Bowl? How great was Tom Coughlin scolding Greg Schiano postgame like he was his son and found his beer/cigar stash in the garage? That said, this Bucs team looks like a playoff team. The only question is if they can stay ahead of the Panthers.
12.) San Diego Chargers (2-0) (16) – Two straight impressive offensive performances against two pretty bad teams. Sounds about right for the Lightning Bolts. But how classy was the retiring of #55? If you haven’t read my column in the initial aftermath of Junior Seau’s passing, you can read it here. We’ll see how striking this team is when Atlanta comes to town this week.
11.) Washington Redskins (1-1) (9) – If Josh Morgan doesn’t go knucklehead and cost the Redskins 15 yards on the final drive, you may not be reading about Washington for a few more paragraphs. Alas, it takes 53 guys to win and lose (not really, but go with it) so here it is at #11. My good friend Robert (Griffin the Third) appeared slightly less video game freakish this week and there’s a good chance he may get sliced in half like The Prestige on one of these runs but until then, I’m not changing the channel when he’s got the ball. Are you?
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) (20) – Is there a 2-0 team who looks shakier than the Eagles? I mean, it’s not like they’re the first in the 90-plus year history of the NFL to win their first two games by one point each. Oh, they are? Carry on.
9.) Denver Broncos (1-1) (13) – So about Peyton Manning’s arm strength, ball velocity, sharpness and MVP season. In Manning’s defense, he did tell us last week he wasn’t all the way back, and I’m sure he won’t be until about Week 12 or so, which is right around the same time he’ll start to break down because HE HAD FOUR NECK SURGERIES AND MISSED AN ENTIRE SEASON. Can’t hammer that point home enough.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) (15) – Last week I wondered if the Steelers were in for a long year or were better than they let on in Week 1. I think their handling of the Jets proved Black & Yellow should be OK this season. Still not sure who’s running the ball but Mike Wallace doesn’t appear to be feeling the effect of missing training camp, and when James Harrison and Troy Hair God return from injury, things should be back to normal at Heinz Field.
7.) New York Giants (1-1) (10) – After two games, it’s shaping up to be one of those seasons for the G-men. You thought the Romo-coaster was a fun ride. The Bucs game was a pretty good microcosm of Eli Manning’s career. Shitty, shitty, shitty, then awesome and win the game. Ho Hum. And seriously, Tom Coughlin has won 2 Super Bowls and will most likely be a Hall of Famer, but dude is NEVER happy. The homeless guy who calls me “boyyy” every morning begging for dollar bills at least smiles every once in a while. But seriously, falling waaaay behind and having Eli bail you out each week is gonna get old real quick.
6.) New England Patriots (1-1) (3) – Major chink in New England’s armor with this Cardinals loss. And you can’t undervalue the loss of Aaron Hernandez; changes the offense completely. But let’s talk about Wes Welker for a second. Has anything gone right for this guy since he dropped the Super Bowl-clinching catch? He did marry a smoking hot chick, but how long will that last? I love Wes, but maybe his time is up. Maybe Tom Brady really made him a “superstar” or the system did or Randy Moss. But he’s been in New England long enough and should know better how the Patriots do business.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (7) – Seems like it’s been a while since saw the Packers steal the Bears’ lunch money on Thursday Night Football, but yeah, that’s the team we all expected when the season began. Offensively, they still look a little off, though. I don’t get it. Then, Jermichael Finley’s agent went and said Aaron Rodgers isn’t a leader or something. Great. Way to eff up my fantasy tight end who already can’t catch a cold in a Green Bay winter. And I want what Clay’s been having the first two weeks. Holy schnikes.
4.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (1) – We can all agree the Ravens got Roy Jones’d in the ’88 Olympics last week in Philadelphia, which is why I couldn’t drop them further than three spots. They are top-to-bottom one of the handful complete teams in the NFL. However, Joe Flacco, show me some consistency! It’s one thing to call YOURself an elite QB, it’s another to go out and snatch that moniker. Nicknames are given to you, not self-glossed. And Ed Reed did it again. With every pick he climbs my all-time greats list.
3.) Houston Texans (2-0) (5) – Houston will finally get tested this week at Denver, but I still believe they’re a top team. Clearly, BenArian Fosterate is the best running back in the league and Gary Kubiak looks more and more like a gangster whenever I see him. Next time he walks out on the field to berate a replacement official I half expect him to bust out a Tommy Gun and blow them away “Boardwalk Empire” style. Pat Riley thinks your hair has too much product, bro.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (2-0) (4) – I didn’t like how Atlanta took its foot off the gas and let the Broncos back in the game on Monday, but that defensive effort in the first half was impressive. For me, I wondered if that facet of the game could match what Matty Ice and Co. were capable of offensively, and so far, so good. Despite Kansas City’s record, I think they’re a good team, and going on the road and taking them out and then handling their business at home was huge for the Falcons, who many questioned would be able survive in what was looking like a tough NFC South.
1.) San Francisco 49ers (2-0) (2) – That wasn’t just a beatdown of the Lions on Sunday night, that was a dissection. Rich Eisen tweeted it out near the end of the game, and he’s right, it’s time to stop saying the 9ers are winning in spite of Alex Smith. He can make every throw, is elusive with his feet and has an offensive line loaded with 1st Round picks. On top of that, have you seen a coach with bigger absolute crazy eyes than Jim Harbaugh? If you told me he gets in full war paint and howls at the moon each night, I’d believe you. Everything is in play.
LOS ANGELES — So, how was that Week 1 for ya? Go down smooth like Saturday’s scotch? How you feelin’ down in NOLA? Up in Green Bay? Out in Philly? Hit the panic button yet? Think Mark Sanchez slept the sleep of kings Sunday night? How about Mike Shanahan? Oh yes, the NFL is back in a big way. Many dazzled (cough, Peyton Manning, cough) and others fizzled (looking right ya, Carson) but you can’t dispute now being the best time of the year. Replacement refs? We’re stuck with them. Oh, and my fantasy teams went 4-1 over the weekend. Four letters. One world. Bang.
The only question I have left: Who’s the Man? Let’s run it down.
32.) Miami Dolphins (record: 0-1) (last week: 31) — I’m guessing the ‘Fins might run their own occupy movement this season. Like, how many consecutive weeks can they occupy the bottom spot in my rankings. I, on the other hand, am going to occupy a new picture of Lauren Tannehill on this space until they climb out of the cellar. Good luck (“Taken” voice.)
31.) Oakland Raiders (0-1) (22) – Sweet mother of Al Davis, Oakland looked terrible. I’m not going to pile on the poor backup longsnapper, but he’s not a real person. Some analyst said the three keys for the Raiders this year is to get the ball to Darren McFadden, get the ball to Darren McFadden and get the ball to Darren McFadden. I can’t disagree.
30.) Cleveland Browns (0-1) (32) – I’m not saying Brandon Weeden would’ve been better off if he just stayed trapped under the giant American Flag like some rightwing R.Kelly, but he would’ve been better off staying under that gigantic American Flag in pregame. Not even 17-year-old Chris Brockman threw 4 picks in a game and I threw a LOT of picks in high school.
29.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) (28) — Maurice Jones-Drew’s 95 total yards squashed the notion that Pocket Hercules was being relegated to “third down back” like Mike Mularkey originally stated. Now, for that defense.
28.) Tennessee Titans (0-1) (24) — So Chris Johnson had 4 rushing yards and Jake Locker got hurt trying to make a tackle on an interception. But hey, Nate Washington had a TD catch (Fantasy Team Alert!) so all is good in Nashville!
27.) Buffalo Bills (0-1) (18) — Well, well, well. This is Earth, Bills fans. Welcome back to it. Look, I thought Buffalo would beat the Jets, too. But but New York went all TSA and stripped down the Amish Rifle and Co. I think this says more about how the Bills are PREtenders than the Jets being CONtenders, but yes, you should be panicking in the 716.
26.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0) (30) — So let me get this straight. Kevin Kolb is the guy now? After one good drive? What week does Larry Fitzgerald demand a trade to New England? It’s election season; I’m starting a “Free Fitz” campaign.
25.) Indianapolis Colts (0-1) (25) — I’m sticking by what I said last week about 25 being the lowest the Colts are all season. Luck is going to have times this year where he looks like a rookie, but these numbers are worth noting: 21-of-37, 302 yds, TD, 3 INT. Not #12′s from Sunday, but Peyton Manning’s from his 1998 debut. #18′s doing all right.
24.) St. Louis Rams (0-1) (27) — Yes, the Rams should’ve beaten the Lions. No, they did not. But that defense sure looked feisty. Once Sam Bradford gets some viable offense weapons not named Steven or Jackson, he’ll be in good shape. He can sling it, though.
23.) Minnesota Vikings (1-0) (29) — My buddy from home texted me right after Blair whatever his name is’s (#StillNotSureKickersArePeopleToo) kick went through the uprights at the Homer Dome: “Perfect season.” So yeah, there’s hope in Minnesota. But let’s not carried away after one week.
22.) Seahawks (0-1) (23) — So the bandwagon got a little less crowded Monday, but that still doesn’t mean the Seachickens aren’t a good team, or any less likely to make the playoffs. They still play tough at home, have a good (we think) coach and Russell Wilson is going to make plays. Starting 0-2, however, not a good look.
21.) Chiefs (0-1) (17) — In Kansas City’s defense, a lot of teams are going to have trouble stopping the Falcons this season. HOWever, Jamaal Charles looked nice in his return from knee surgery, but Matt Cassel has to play better. That’s just the bottom line.
20.) Eagles (1-0) (16) — The funniest thing I’ve read headline-wise in a while is the “Here A Vick, There A Vick, Everywhere A Vick Pick” from the Philly Daily News on Monday. As my high school coach used to say, if you have any confusion, Michael, you’re in green, they’re in white.
19.) Panthers (0-1) (15) — Cue the sophomore slump talk! These are the facts of the case: Cam Newton had just one TD and generated 10 points. But he still threw for 300+ yards and completed 69.7% of his passes. Let’s call it rust and wait a few weeks, shall we?
18.) Bengals (0-1) (8) — So the Bengals have the biggest drop this week, dropping 10 spots. They just looked overwhelmed on the big opening night stage and Dalton appeared to take a step back. That’s the Tuesday Morning QB theme. And who is Andrew Hawkins and could he be the next Darren Sproles? That’s what Marc is hoping in my fantasy league.
17.) Jets (1-0) (26) — So THAT’s where all the good plays have been hiding! Look, the Jets couldn’t beat my high school with how they looked in the preseason, but if this is how Mark Sanchez is gonna play then maybe they’ll be contenders after all. Still don’t know what to make of the “Tebow Package;” is it a ruse? He lined up at WR but only had 5 rushes. I still say Sanchez should’ve demanded a trade the day Tebow was acquired.
16.) Chargers (1-0) (19) — So after blowing out his ACL on the opening kickoff last season, Nate Kaeding kicked 5 field goals in Monday’s win over the Raiders. Yup, same old Chargers.
15.) Steelers (0-1) (12) — So the Steelers were playing without their leading defensive back AND linebacker and barely lost to a resurgent Peyton Manning? Oh, and their running back is out and top WR has only practiced a couple of hours. What was the score again? And a couple linemen were hurt? I can’t tell if Mike Tomlin’s team is fine or in reeeeeeeallllllly bad shape moving forward.
14.) Lions (1-0) (11) — Truthfully, I wanted to drop the Lions even more than 3 spots but they’re definitely better than all these teams below them. But, seriously, come on, Matt Stafford, you’re better than this. Three picks to the Rams? I get all the passing yards, and thanks, since I picked you in the #REPPicks contest, but you gotta do better than a last-second TD pass to win. You made the playoffs last year, for crying out loud.
13.) Broncos (1-0) (14) — Yes, Peyton Manning looked pretty good. I thought for sure he’d leave that game not under his own power. But let’s remember the Broncos beat a pretty banged up Steelers squad. Let’s see how they do on Monday, on the road, against an explosive team. Oh, and good to have you back, #18.
12.) Bucs (1-0) (13) – Well color me surprised. In fact, rain on me surprised and watch me twirl my head around and kick my legs like those strippers on the sideline disguised as Bucs cheerleaders. Seriously, is there another set of pom-pom toters hotter than Tampa Bay’s? So the Bucs are off to a good start. Any time you can hold Cam Newton to 10 points, you’re doing something right. And I’d really like to love me some Josh Freeman again. Say hit to Calypso for me. Don’t let him escape the house again.
11.) Saints (0-1) (7) – It’s too early to tell if it’s panic time in NOLA, but the Saints defense sure didn’t look too good, now did it? I know the player suspensions have been overturned, but they’re not gonna matter much. We’re gonna really find out how important a head coach is to the team this year in the Bayou.
10.) Giants (0-1) (1) – Sorry, but me oh my, Giants fans. Here we go again. Why is it every year your team puts you through this? Wouldn’t you just like to have a normal season, where it’s clear whether you’re going to make the playoffs or you not? Sure, I get it, you’ve won 2 titles in the last 5 years, I’ll shut my mouth now. Go about your season however you see fit.
9.) Redskins (1-0) (20) – How many burgundy “Griffin III” jerseys are going to be sold this week in the Beltway? 100,000? 200,000? Perhaps I’m overreacting to how good this Redskins team is, but I’m OK with that, ’cause damn are they exciting. Finally, VA and Scotty Watt and Archie’s dad have something cheer for. Not even Mike Shanahan can screw this up. Wait, can he?
8.) Cowboys (1-0) (21) – An over-reactive, dramatic rise? Perhaps. Is Jerry Jones’s personal eye-glass cleaner actually writing this? Maybes. But I thought there was no way the ‘Boys were winning the opener. Not when the Super Bowl champs were 8-0 in these games. And Tony Romo showed me something. Well, he basically showed me the same thing he’s showed everyone in the last few years: he can win during the regular season in sometimes spectacular fashion. Let’s see what ya got in January, dimples.
7.) Packers (0-1) (3) — So the Packers still aren’t gonna play any defense, is that what they’re saying? Just let me know so I can adjust my Super Bowl pick accordingly. Cripes, Alex Smith looked like … quick, who’s a good quarterback named Smith … umm … well, he looked like a good player. And by a show of hands, who thought (hoped) Randy Moss was going to moon the Green Bay crowd? [raises hand] How awesome would that have been? How do you think Joe Buck would’ve called it? Better than this, I’m guessing.
Eat it, Joe Buck.
6.) Bears (1-0) (10) — Did you see any of Jay Cutler’s press conference on Tuesday? Good to see ole’ Jay found his inner douche in the offseason. Glad being a dad hasn’t taken that inner Hamptonite out of him. Seriously, this guy. If he didn’t have a missile launcher for a right arm, he’d be just another mail man from Santa Claus. And not the cool kind who wears pointed shoes and a fuzzy ball on his hat.
5.) Texans (1-0) (6) — This is my darkhorse for the Super Bowl this year, no pun intended. Potentially great defense. Explosive offense. I mean, did you see how many times Arian Foster bowed on Sunday!?! Twice!! I was singing Rocky Top and slapping my logger Melanie’s hand repeatedly. She was pretty clueless as to my joy. She doesn’t play fantasy football.
4.) Falcons (1-0) (9) – Well hello there, Julio Jones. So that’s why Thomas Dimitroff traded all those picks to take you two years ago. I knew there was a reason. Winning on the road was impressive, but will the Falcons’ new uptempo style of play be ready for Monday Night and Peyton Manning? I’m ready. Nearly dropped a few dollars on some Falcons gear on NFL Shop this week. Another Matty Ice performance like Week 1′s and I’ll click “buy” this time around.
3.) New England Patriots (1-0) (2) – OK, I jinxed Tom Brady’s handsomeness. New England’s prince charming possibly broke his nose in the Patriots win over the Titans on Sunday (but Gisele likes it, so that means I like it). But the big story was New England’s rush attack. Stevan Ridley ran for 120 yards and is possibly Antoine Smith reincarnated. OK, maybe not. Certainly Rob Gronkowski won’t flub up the spike and Aaron Hernandez won’t NOT make it rain after touchdowns moving forward.
2.) 49ers (1-0) (5) — We knew the 49ers were good. But on the road in the Green Bay good? Yup. And we see you Randy Moss. Welcome back.
1.) Ravens (1-0) (4) – Their field goal kicker doesn’t need to worry about making chip shots when Joe Flacco and Co. are throwing it all over the schoolyard like 10-year old Chris Brockman at Valley Park Elementary. Oh, and Ed Reed. That is all.