LOS ANGELES — Last week in the NFL was one everyone would like to forget. Unless, of course, you’re one of the handful of teams who improved to 2-0 and thus greatly increased your chance of eventually advancing to the playoffs. If you’re winless as we enter Week 3, then what a pity because in the last five seasons just one team – the 2013 Panthers – has advanced to the tournament after beginning the year as such (you’ll probably read that again soon). If the season ended today, who would be your MVP? Good question, glad I asked it. Peyton Manning? C.J. Spiller? Andy Dalton? J.J. Watt? What about Coach of the Year? Bill O’Brien? Bruce Arians? Ah yes, that’s why they play a full 16 games in the National. Football. League.
Let’s find out who’s the man, shall we?
32.) New York Giants (2014 record: 0-2; last week: 31) — It’s a little too early to determine the top college prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft, but I hope he’ll enjoy living in Manhattan because it’s going to be that kinda year for the G-Men.
31.) Oakland Raiders (0-2; 29) — I’ll let future hall of famer Charles Woodson handle this one: “We’re not very good … We suck. I am embarrassed.” OK, then.
30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2; 30) — According to ESPN’s made up QBR that puts a quantitive score on how well an NFL quarterback performs, Chad Henne got a 4.1 this week. Four-point-one. If you’re scoring at home. We are officially on Blake Bortles watch.
29.) St. Louis Rams (1-1; 32) — Get blasted at home to the Vikings and win on the road against the Bucs; I’m certainly not going to try and figure out this team just two weeks in, but anything’s possible at this point. I’m ready for anything.
28.) Washington Redskins (1-1; 26) — Look, I love Robert as much as anyone. We are forever linked in basic cable television lore but his time as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins is over. This is Kirk Cousins’ team.
27.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1; 27) — It’s amazing what happens when the Cowboys stick to running the football and don’t let Tony Romo freelance behind the line of scrimmage to basically get himself beat to a pulp. What team shows up this week, however, is up in the air.
26.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-2; 24) — If Jamaal Charles is out for a considerable amount of time this team is in trouble, especially after its best defensive player tore his achilles.
25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2; 23) — First you lose to Derek Anderson, then you lose to Austin Davis. Oh, and both games were at home. And you’re supposed to be a playoff team. Something ain’t right down in Tampa Bay.
24.) Cleveland Browns (1-1; 28) — Did anyone give the Browns any kind of chance to beat the Saints last weekend? Nope. Turns out these aren’t your brother’s Browns. Tough. Hard-nosed. Brian Hoyer has moxie. Johnny sure looked good those two snaps, right?
23.) Tennessee Titans (1-1; 16) — How do you go from lambasting a playoff team on the road to getting thrashed at home by an inept pretender? Jake Locker looked great and then horrid. Can’t figure out this Titans squad so far.
22.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1; 14) — Umm, yeah, I don’t know what’s going on there as much as you do but one thing is for certain after the Vikings drubbing at the hand of New England last week: Teddy Bridgewater’s time is coming. Soon.
21.) New York Jets (1-1; 19) — Only the Jets could lose because their offensive coordinator called a time out just a split second before their second-year quarterback who may or may not be any good throws the greatest pass of his short NFL career to a young receiver who makes a leaping grab in the end zone to tie the game but it didn’t count and they go on to lose because of it.
20.) Houston Texans (2-0; 20) — Houston has beat the Redskins and Raiders, so not exactly world beaters, but starting the year 2-0 is impressive and J.J. Watt is on a mission to take over the world. I’m afraid just typing his name.
19.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1; 22) — Disaster week in Baltimore last week and considering what was swirling around that football team, what they were able to do on a short week against a good Steelers team; impressive to say the least.
18.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1; 13) — So the Falcons, after showing us their 2012 selves in Week 1, went and showed us their 2013 edition in Week 2. I’m not riding this roller coaster this season. Pick one and be done with it!
17.) Miami Dolphins (1-1; 9) — I was ready to be a believer in the Dolphins, I really was. But they got dominated by the Bills, even more so after Knowshon Moreno went out with an elbow injury.
16.) Detroit Lions (1-1; 12) — Everyone was saying, myself included, that the Lions needed to show us they could beat a tough team on the road before we would start taking them seriously; and we wait another week.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1; 4) — It was pretty shocking this team let Cleveland get back in the game in Week 1 and then got completely outclassed last Thursday night against a Ravens team fighting controversy.
14.) Buffalo Bills (2-0; 25) — Buffalo has been the most surprisingly impressive team this far, defeating good teams on the road and at home, showing a knack for the big play and coming up with the defense when needed. Gotta see it consistently before I believe though.
13.) Chicago Bears (1-1; 21) — So the Bears, in eight quarters of football this season, have laid an absolute egg in six of them, and absolutely dominant in two. Lucky for them it’s the last two that’s been the most dominant.
12.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0; 18) — Narrowly edging the Chargers at home is sort of impressive, escaping against the Giants is not whatsoever. Not sure what to make of this team so far, but it’s nice that Larry Fitzgerald was targeted 500 times. Quiet his dad for a week.
11.) Indianapolis Colts (0-2; 6) — Why Chuck Pagano doesn’t just turn Andrew Luck loose is beyond me and probably most every Colts fan. But hey, at least Trent Richardson looked like a real life human functioning running back this week, right?
10.) New Orleans Saints (0-2; 7) — The Saints are a team with Super Bowl aspirations, and I know many out there picked them to be as such, but this stat is a very real one: only one team in the last 5 seasons has started the year 0-2 and made the playoffs.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0; 11) — The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to be trailing by 14-or-more points in their first two games and come back to win them both. Soooo maybe they should work on their starts, ya think?
8.) Green Bay Packers (1-1; 8) — How is it possible that Jordy Nelson doesn’t have the respect of defensive coordinators across the league just yet? All he goes out and does is dominate week-in and week-out. Great fortitude to bounce back after looking like a mess in falling behind 18 against the Jets.
7.) New England Patriots (1-1; 10) — Tom Brady is still pissed the offense isn’t clicking like it should but be honest, I wasn’t the only one panicking after the Vikings went up 7-0 Sunday very easily. What followed was the defensive performance we were all expecting from the Patriots.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1; 3) — Talk about a tale of two halves in the opening game at Levi’s Stadium. Colin Kaepernick shows flashes of being one of the best players in the league, then he slips back down to looking like someone still struggling to pick it all up.
5.) San Diego Chargers (1-1; 15) — Boy, the Super Chargers sure showed the rest of the league something last Sunday, huh? Did they expose the Seahawks? I won’t go that far, but San Diego will be there come season’s end.
4.) Carolina Panthers (2-0; 17) — The Panthers win on the road in Week 1 without their starting quarterback and then do it again in Week 2 against one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL without their best defensive player.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1; 1) — Seattle isn’t going undefeated and the big story is how all-world mouth team defensive back Richard Sherman got “exposed.” Well, he’s still wearing the ring so let’s all just calm down about that for a week or two.
2.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0; 5) — The Bengals have been the most consistently balanced and impressive team in the league through the first two weeks. Let’s see it continue or maybe even in January.
1.) Denver Broncos (2-0; 2) — Peyton Manning threw three more TD passes, blah, blah, blah. Wake me when something legitimate happens in Denver.
LOS ANGELES — An exciting and thrilling Week 1 in the National Football league with lots of expectedly surprising results has been overshadowed this week by the Ray Rice domestic violence situation, including Monday’s video release by TMZ, Rice’s termination from the Ravens and suspension from the league, and multiple reports that the league office had seen the video months ago before levying a verdict on Rice’s playing future. None of that has anything to do with the first installment of my season-long You’re The Man Power Rankings, except the football part. I don’t know what’s going to come of this independent investigation either, but one thing I do know, is that Week 2 begins tonight. And we need to find out who’s the man. Let’s get to it.
32.) St. Louis Rams (2014 record: 0-1; last week ranking: 26) — It wasn’t bad enough that Sam Bradford was lost for the year with a preseason injury, but Shaun Hill goes down in Week 1 and his status is up in the air for this Sunday.
31.) New York Giants (0-1; 30) — Eli Manning lead the league in interceptions in 2013 and after one week he’s tied for the lead this season. I’m guessing he’ll finish in the top 3 in picks again when it’s all said and done in 2014; should be a long year in the Meadowlands.
30.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1; 32) — The Jaguars have proven after one week that they’re good enough to build a 17-point lead against a tough opponent on the road, and just Jacksonville enough to blow said lead and lose by double digits.
29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1; 29) — Derek Carr proved that he has the goods to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, it’s just too bad he plays for the Raiders and has to endure what should be a long season.
28.) Cleveland Browns (0-1; 28) — Only the Browns could fall behind by 24 points, climb back into the game and make you think they’d pull off the win only to lose in the most Cleveland way; but hey, at least Brian Hoyer finished the game in one piece.
27.) Dallas Cowboys (0-1; 21) — Wait, yeah, Tony Romo just threw another interception. Awesome. It’s bad in Dallas right now but at least Jerry Jones didn’t get slapped with a sexual assault lawsuit this week … oh. You can’t spell disaster without a Big D.
26.) Washington Redskins (0-1; 20) — Robert Griffin III could be amazing in Jay Gruden’s offense, except it’s probably maybe not really a good quarterback, most likely potentially.
25.) Buffalo Bills (1-0; 31) — I don’t know if Buffalo’s win last week says more about them or their opponent’s lackluster home performance, but E.J. Manuel and others looked completely opposite than they showed in the preseason and that’s a good thing.
24.) Kansas City Chiefs (0-1; 7) — Of all the Week 1 teams that laid an egg, none bigger was the one laid in Kansas City and by their newly minted quarterback Alex Smith making most question whether 2013 was a fluke.
23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1; 14) — The Bucs bandwagon is a little less crowded as we head into Week 2 than it was a few days ago and Josh McCown looked every bit his age and showed why he’s been a career backup.
22.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1; 17) — It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better for the Ravens. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
21.) Chicago Bears (0-1; 12) — There were reports that earlier this summer in Las Vegas the Bears were 6:1 to win the Super Bowl; guessing that is climbing by the minute after an embarrassing showing in the opener against Buffalo.
20.) Houston Texans (1-0; 25) — Top overall pick Jadeveon Clowney is lost for upward to 6 weeks with a knee injury but J.J. Watt more than made up for his absence and Ryan Fitzpatrick was competent in a season-opening win.
19.) New York Jets (1-0; 23) — Expectations are low with the Jets and it doesn’t help that they struggled to beat the Raiders at home, but at least Geno Smith looked like an actual starting quarterback.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0; 19) — If someone can explain to me why Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t targeted by Carson Palmer until the fourth quarter then I’ll put the Cards higher up on this list.
17.) Carolina Panthers (1-0; 15) — Derek Anderson hadn’t started a game in the NFL since 2010 and went out and posted a 108.7 passer rating and led the Panthers to victory; no one thought that was happening Week 1.
16.) Tennessee Titans (1-0; 27) — A strong season’s start by the Titans, who went on the road and dominated the Chiefs in all facets of the game, giving credo to those pundits who said Tennessee could be a surprise playoff team.
15.) San Diego Chargers (0-1; 11) — It was nice of the Chargers to go all Chargers on Monday night and play great for three quarters and then remember they were on national television and disappear in the fourth.
14.) Minnesota Vikings (1-0; 24) — Probably the surprise team of Week 1, the Vikings showed a renewed sense of competitiveness in a loaded NFC North; new head coach Mike Zimmer has the defense opportunistic and flying around.
13.) Atlanta Falcons (1-0; 22) — Atlanta is looking to buck the Hard Knocks jinx and showed a glimpse of its 2012 self with a strong division win to start the year; Matty Ice set a career high in passing yards and his dynamic receiving duo backed up that claim.
12.) Detroit Lions (1-0; 18) — Calvin Johnson is good. Like really good. Like good enough to render Matthew Stafford’s terrible mechanics and backwards hat wearing moot.
11.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0; 10) — Nick Foles Philadelphia honeymoon is officially over after his three-turnover performance in the first half Sunday, but thankfully for him, he got it together and pulled out the victory or it would’ve been a rough week on the Philly sports talk show circuit.
10.) New England Patriots (0-1; 3) — Great for one half, absolute dung storm for the second is no way to begin the season, so much so that Tom F’n Brady shaved his beard immediately after the game. He means business.
9.) Miami Dolphins (1-0; 16) — Look out, your first place Miami Dolphins! Great fortitude in the second half, the defense looked strong, offensive line was solid and Ryan Tannehill made enough plays to get it done. Strong run game also helped.
8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1; 5) — Look, the ’85 Bears could’ve played the Seahawks on Thursday night and gotten boatraced, so I’m not judging Aaron Rodgers and the Packers too harshly.
7.) New Orleans Saints (0-1; 4) — Drew Brees led the Saints offense to a floatload of points but the defense couldn’t stop the Falcons and looked like the Saints D of old.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (0-1; 6) — Andrew Luck needed to wait until his team was down a couple of scores before he started playing, that’s just what he does, and he nearly pulled the Sunday night upset.
5.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-0; 9) — Bengals fans were calling for Andy Dalton’s job over the summer and then he goes out on the road and beats a division rival while throwing for 300 yards; good start.
4.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0; 8) — Everyone was waiting to see how this new up-tempo offense was going to work for Ben Roethlisberger & Co. and boy did it work, to the tune of 365 passing yards and a TD; there’s more to come here.
3.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0; 13) — Dallas is a wreck, so I won’t give the 49ers too much credit, but Colin Kaepernick looked good throwing the ball and operating the offense, which was a concern after a shaky preseason.
2.) Denver Broncos (1-0; 2) — Peyton Manning was on his game. Julius Thomas caught a bunch of touchdowns. The Broncos defense looked formidable in the face of another Andrew Luck comeback. Par for the course.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0; 1) — The Champs looked like The Champs in the opener and forced a lot of people to change their Super Bowl pick. I still have them going. They’re that good.
LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to believe seven months have passed since confetti fell on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks after their resounding Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos but it’s gone quickly. A brief rundown of what’s transpired since: Michael Sam had a press conference, Johnny Manziel wore pads for his pro day, Jadeveon Clowney was the top pick, Manziel partied… a lot, so did Jim Irsay, some 49ers got in trouble, Ray Rice and Josh Gordon were suspended, some guys got a whole lotta money, others got hurt and Hard Knocks disapppointed. Of course, other football things happened in between but those were the stories dominating the NFL offseason, which has become appropriately titled the Non-Playing Season because it seems not a day goes by without some kind of important pigskin news. But now all the mumbo jumbo is behind us and it’s time to put foot to ball, shoulders to pads and end zone to dances. Football is back and it’s not going anywhere for the next five months, so strap in, stay hydrated and make sure your fantasy roster is set. Most of all, enjoy.
As I’ve done the last couple years, here are the pre-Week 1 You’re The Man Power Rankings in the form of Burning Questions for each team, based on nothing except what I want to know about each franchise as we begin another glorious season. My playoff predictions and Super Bowl pick are also at column’s end.
Let’s do this.
32.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12, missed playoffs) — The only question I have about this team is why isn’t Blake Bortles starting from the get-go?
31.) BUFFALO BILLS (6-10, missed playoffs) — Based on the preseason it appears the Bills are in trouble this year, but will Doug Marone be around come Week 17?
30.) NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Tom Coughlin has already fined me for finishing this so late, but if Eli Manning struggles mightily again will the 2-time Super Bowl winning coach have his QB on a short leash?
29.) OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — Oakland signed several veterans this offseason but it’s going to be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who determines how far this team goes this season, but who’ll be catching the ball from his talented right arm?
28.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We all know what’s coming with the Browns this season, the questions is how long will the revolution take to be televised?
27.) TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Ken Whisenhunt will coach ’em up, there’s no doubt about that, and with some picking the Titans as a potential sleeper, can Jake Locker make it happen in a make-or-break year?
26.) ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9, missed playoffs) — This season was already going to be the biggest of Sam Bradford’s career before he was lost with an ACL tear, now that Shuan Hill is leading the charge can he pull a Kurt Warner and take the Rams back to the playoffs?
25.) HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14, missed playoffs) — The Brinks truck was backed up for J.J. Watt, and while he deserves it, all the questions marks surrounding this team are on the offensive side of the ball, such as who is throwing the ball and will Arian Foster stay healthy for an entire season?
24.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1, missed playoffs) — Any team with Adrian Peterson and one of the best young tight ends in the game will have the offense to compete, but will the secondary toughen up to defend the aerial assault it’ll see on a weekly basis in division play?
23.) NEW YORK JETS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Everyone wants to make the Jets 2014 success about Geno Smith and his improvements between last year and this, but I’m more curious if the defense, specifically the secondary can match the artillery of its opponents?
22.) ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12, missed playoffs) — One play from the Super Bowl in 2012 to four wins a year later, Atlanta is a curious crew but the question is who are the real Falcons: the team that frightened opponents or the division doormat?
21.) DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Yes, Tony Romo is still recovering from offseason back surgery and the offense is poised to put up crazy fantasy numbers but just how bad is the Cowboys defense going to be?
20.) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13, missed playoffs) — With a new head coach in Jay Gruden, the Redskins are going to live and die with the right arm and two feet of Robert Griffin III and if he chooses to play smart and remain the reckless headache who can’t stay healthy?
19.) ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6, missed playoffs) — Patrick Peterson is finally paid but Darnell Dockett is out for the season for a Cardinals team on the verge of returning to the playoffs; can they really contend in the best division in football?
18.) DETROIT LIONS (7-9, missed playoffs) — The defense is always a curious case up in the D but I wanna know if new head coach Jim Caldwell can take all that talent Matthew Stafford has and mold him into one of the game’s best QBs?
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8, missed playoffs) — These aren’t your daddy’s Ravens, which means there’s a lot of new faces and the defense isn’t as good as year’s past; can it do enough to make up for what was lost following their improbabe Super Bowl win?
16.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8, missed playoffs) — A sneaky 2014 playoff contender, will Miami play spoiler in a division owned by the Patriots for the last dozen years?
15.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — It’s possible I’ll be getting a few snaps at wide receiver this season in Carolina, but with the corps already thin can Kelvin Benjamin put it all together and be the monster he showed this preseason?
14.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We know Lovie Smith is going to have the Bucs flying around the ball on defense, but one stat I enjoyed was Josh McCown is one of four QBs 35+ starting the season across the league; will he make it through his first season as The Man?
13.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4, lost in NFC Championship) — It was not the best offseason in the Bay Area to say the least, the events played out like a soap opera, so the only question is are the 49ers set up for a monumental 2014 fall?
12.) CHICAGO BEARS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Defense is not the name of the game in Chicago anymore, and we saw how good the Bears offense could be WITHOUT Jay Cutler last year, but is No. 6 the man still or does the offense begin and end with Matt Forte?
11.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — Philip Rivers basically willed his team to a playoff win a year ago, but does the Chargers defense have anything in its tank to back him up?
10.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6, lost in NFC Wild Card) — It was a wild 2013 in Philadelphia, between Nick Foles 27-and-2 run and LeSean McCoy running wild, what does Chip Kelly have tucked deep in the playbill for an encore?
9.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — For this team it’s seemed to come down to Andy Dalton, so now that he’s paid like an elite NFL quarterback, will he start playing like one when it matters most?
8.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8, missed playoffs) — You know Dick LeBeau is going to coach up the defense, what I’m curious about is how this new high-tempo Steelers offense is going to look and how Ben Roethlisberger is going to perform in it?
7.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — I know the Chiefs just extended Alex Smith for 4 years and $45M but how far can he really take them with his game managing style of play?
6.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — I’ve seen some NFL experts picking the Colts to win the whole thing and while that’s bold, is anyone going to step up and win a game so Andrew Luck doesn’t have to do everything himself?
5.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1, lost in NFC Wild Card) — When you have Aaron Rodgers I know it’s tempting to throw the ball like it’s backyard football, but will Mike McCarthy use Eddie Lacy like he’s one of the best backs in the NFL (which he is)?
4.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger but all of his offensive weapons return and they look poised for another huge season, but is Rob Ryan’s defense ready to prove last year’s vast improvements weren’t a fluke?
3.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4, lost in AFC Championship game) — It’s always Super Bowl or bust in New England, but is age finally catching up with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
2.) DENVER BRONCOS (13-3, lost in Super Bowl) — Once again, for me, it’s all about Peyton Manning’s health; if #18 is on his 2013 game then there’s no stopping Denver, but if he takes a few big hits, will the 5-time MVP get up?
1.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3, Super Bowl Champions) — More than any defending champions in recent years, the Seahawks are set up for a repeat run, will they stay hungry enough for 17 weeks to keep that dream alive?
NFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Packers, Seahawks, Redskins & Saints
Wild Cards: Bears & Eagles
NFC Title Game: Seahawks over Saints
AFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Patriots, Colts, Broncos & Steelers
Wild Cards: Chiefs & Bengals
AFC Title Game: Patriots over Broncos
Super Bowl Prediction:
PATRIOTS over Seahawks
LOS ANGELES — Unless you’re still in the theater watching Transformers 4 because that movie is 1800 hours long, or worse yet got traded by the Red Sox, you’re aware that NFL Training Camps started last weekend across the league in Cortland, New York, Oxnard, California and everywhere in between. Rookies are learning playbooks and carrying pads, while veterans are sharpening skills and honing in on what they hope is an upcoming season filled with good health and victorious Sundays. New coaches are finally realizing their dreams of sleeping less than four hours a night and never seeing their families, and us the fans are beginning the early stages of scouting for our upcoming eight fantasy football leagues. Ah, yes, football is back and not a moment too soon. This Sunday marks the officially opening of the 2014 NFL season with the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This year’s class is another star-studded affair with Michael Strahan and Andre Reed highlighting the honorees, and of course, the game between the Giants and Bills Sunday night kicks off football every Sunday from now until February.
So with all that in mind, here’s the latest 8 Things To Look For: NFL Preseason Week 1:
1.) Get Ready For JFFTV — If you’ve noticed a theme in your football programing in the last week, you’re not alone. The Browns haven’t got this much coverage since Jim Brown’s days and why not, between Josh Gordon and Brian Hoyer, they’re actually interesting. Though I’ll be the first to admit, a quarterback battle on a team coming off a 4-12 season isn’t exactly the most appetizing meal, but when one of those quarterbacks is Johnny Manziel all bets are off. Johnny makes headlines whenever he speaks or leaves his house. First it was saying he’s not going to change, then it was his biggest challenge is the playbook, then he threw a couple interceptions in practice, then he got spotted on his off day at a bar. He can’t win. His coach and owner have gone out of their way to praise Brian Hoyer which leads you to believe JFF will start the year holding the clipboard. But why then did the Browns draft him? There was the story about the team being shocked his partying was as ramped up as it was between draft day and camp kickoff. Do none of them have Twitter or Instagram accounts? Look, my position on the kid is well known, but I’ll be excited when actual football is actually being played and we all can judge the kid on what really counts: what goes on between the lines on game day. Until then, hope you got your popcorn ready because we’re going to have a front row seat to EVERYTHING he does for the foreseeable future.
2.) Don’t Listen To Anything Anyone Says — If you’ve heard all the player and coach interviews recently a theme has probably been observed: everyone is awesome, we are going to the Super Bowl. Brandon Marshall told Michael Irvin at Bears camp this week that Jay Cutler could win the 2014 NFL MVP. Now Irvin probably believed this because he was the one who said last year Dez Bryant would be MVP, but that aside, Marshall has seen Jay Cutler play football, right? Cutler is the man who’s thrown at least 14 interceptions in a year five times, including a league-leading 26 in 2009. I know he’s Marshall’s boy but take step back, 15. Do you trust Cutler to win a big game for you? Fourth quarter, two minutes to go, down by six? Didn’t think so. The Bears have seriously high expectations this season predicated on their explosive offense. They are a chic Super Bowl pick. I’ve heard that Las Vegas types are putting serious cashola on them as well. But it all hinges on Cutler. All of it. That should make Bears fans very nervous.
3.) Vampire Injury Biting Back — Sure, “True Blood” is going off the air soon, but vampires are still cool, right? OK, forget it … Regardless, in consecutive days the league lost running backs Vick Ballard (Colts) and Kendall Hunter (49ers) to season-ending Achilles’ and ACL tears, and Giants back David Wilson got concussed again. Texans receiver Andre Johnson strained his hamstring this week and on and on. No quarterbacks have gone down yet, thanks goodness, and while injuries are part of the game, every year a handful of stars go down and the domino effect is palpable. You hate to see anyone go down this time of year, especially, but it makes you appreciate how hard everyone works and just how precious our time in this game is.
4.) Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons — Yearly, it’s the best show on television, and “Hard Knocks” returns next week down in Flowery Branch as the Falcons will be this summer’s featured team. What’s funny is that owner Arthur Blank and head coach Mike Smith volunteered for the gig. Atlanta didn’t fall under the new league-mandated guidelines with having made the playoffs in the last two seasons, but I’m guessing Blank wanted to ramp up the team’s profile and put a little pressure on his talented group of veterans in wake of a disastrous 4-12 2013 campaign. I think this will be a fun season of “Hard Knocks.” There are players we all know and are familiar with in Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, and inevitably a few with personalities we never knew existed will emerge. That’s the beauty of the show; you go in not caring and come out invested in a whole new group of guys.
5.) How Will Holdout Affect Beast Mode — Marshawn Lynch proved last week he’s not only ’bout that action, boss, but he’s also ’bout that paper, boss. The Seahawks running back phoned into NFL Network to announce his hold out and returned Thursday with little bustle. Michael Silver reported Seattle tacked on a few more Skittles onto his existing contract for this season, $1.5 million to be exact, which is always nice. And while Money Lynch was the biggest name who held out this Training Camp others such as Lions all-world DT Ndamukong Suh and Chiefs QB Alex Smith want a new deals before the season kicks of in early September. Many thought Andre Johnson was going to skip Texans training camp but he showed and promptly injured his hammy. How will surrounding contract issues affect these guys? That’s always the question when it appears their main offseason focus has been their wallet and not their body. I’m guessing it’ll be minimal but you never know.
6.) Who’s Awesome/Who’s Trash — Did you hear the one on Monday where Nick Foles is garbage because he came from a rich family and neighborhood and doesn’t scream at his teammates like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Look, I like Buzz Bissinger as much as the next “Friday Night Lights” fan but seriously, Buzz, I think your leather pants are too tight on this one. It’s amazing to me a guy coming off one of the greatest statistical seasons in some time (8-2, 2,981 yards, 27 TD, 2 INT) could be criticized for not being a leader or having what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league, but all it takes is a keyboard to take someone down, and that’s what Buzz did this week. This also plays into a larger preseason theme of declaring a player a superstar or on the cut list when no games have been played.
7.) Revis Island Taking Reservations for Weekend Getaways — The first English settlement of Martha’s Vineyard came in 1642 by Thomas Mayhew and since then the island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has become a playground for the affluent. This fall, however, a new inhabitant will take over the 87.5 square mile paradise island and plant his flag: Darrelle Revis. By all accounts, the Patriots new defensive back has been terrorizing New England practices this July. He even had the gall to intercept Tom Brady not once but twice! In one day! How dare he?! Revis has proven thus far to be the real deal, which is good news for a Patriots secondary that couldn’t stop me and three friends in recent years. If he is locking down half the field this fall, coupled with a healthy Vince Wilfork and Jarod Mayo, New England will be back to being a force defensively.
8.) I Still Have No Idea Who I’m Keeping In Fantasy — I know my fantasy team is always on your mind, but it’s a serious problem I’m having right now and I know I’m not alone. Surely I can’t be the only one who is pacing like Scrooge McDuck trying to decide on two keepers among six legit possibilities, and then after having done a fantasy mock draft factoring in who I think everyone else in my league is going to keep, pacing even more because I can’t decide if I should take Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall or Jimmy Graham or Julio Jones with the third overall pick?! Right? Bueller? OK, fine. Screw you guys. Never mind. I got this. (no, I don’t. help.)
By SHAWN BRADLEY
Special to The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — Moving this year’s NFL Draft to May 8th has proved to be a disaster for pundits and fans alike. The torturous wait is almost over though and the First Round should provide fantastic theatre. This years class could prove to be the greatest of all-time and there’s a good chance we see multiple trades that will create seismic shifts to league landscape. However, predicting such deals is a useless exercise, so for Volume 2 of this Mock Draft we’ll pretend each team is pinned down to it’s original slot. To add a little more drama to this piece, we’re starting at the bottom, and like Drake said, soon well be here. I don’t know exactly where “here” is, but for these soon-to-be NFLers they hope it’s Radio City Music Hall this Thursday.
32.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS — CODY LATIMER, WR, Indiana
Latimer has been rapidly climbing up draft boards after running a 4.38 forty during an stud pro day performance. Surrounded by sub-par talent at Indiana, Latimer battled through a foot injury to up impressive numbers (72 catches, 1,096 yards, 9 TDs) in 2013. His size (6-foot-2, 215 lbs), speed and strength (he led Combine WRs with 23 reps on the bench press) make him an ideal candidate to replace Golden Tate in Seattle.
31.) DENVER BRONCOS — RYAN SHAZIER, LB, Ohio St.
Following their offseason spending spree, the Broncos most glaring need is at inside linebacker. Shazier ran a blazing 4.38 forty a his pro day despite carrying 237 pounds, while also posting a 42 inch vertical leap, highest of any player at this years Combine. Athletically, Shazier is a rare breed and having him join DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the front seven should give Denver a defensive identity to go along with that record-setting offense.
30.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS — KONY EALY, LB, Missouri
Ealy provides Aldon Smith insurance for a 49ers team that appears to be crumbling under the weight of past success. Physically, Ealy (6-foot-4, 273lbs) is almost identical to Smith (6’4, 265) and the very thought of having these two Missouri products rushing off opposite edges should give offensive coordinators fits. Ealy could also bulk up and move down to end whenever 35-year old Justin Smith decides to hang it up.
29.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS — DEONE BUCANNON, S, Washington St.
In his on-going arms race with the Broncos, Bill Belichick keeps an eye on January by completing his renovation of New England’s secondary. A four-year starter who led the Pac-12 in tackles this past season, Bucannon flies to the football with abandon – he forced 7 fumbles to go with 15 interceptions during his career at Washington State. Deploying Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Devin McCourty and Bucannon gives Belichick a chance at stifling Peyton Manning Seahawks-style.
28.) CAROLINA PANTHERS — MOSES MORGAN, T, Virginia
Cam Newton’s lack of pass catchers has been well documented this offseason but his lack of pass protection should be an even bigger concern. Long-time left tackle Jordan Gross called it quits after 2013 and Moses (6-foot-6, 314lbs) would become his immediate – and long-term – successor. Ankle surgery currently has Newton in a walking boot so he’d surely enjoy having a long armed (35 3/8″) body guard like Morgan watching his back this season.
27.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — KELVIN BENJAMIN, WR, Florida St.
Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are gone, plus Marques Colston will be 31 when the season kicks off – time to find a new target for Drew Brees. Benjamin possesses imposing size at 6-foot-5, 240lbs and came out of nowhere to catch 15 TDs in 14 games for the Seminoles, averaging a score every 3.6 receptions. With Jimmy Graham, Colston and Benjamin all measuring in at 6’4 or taller, Brees should be unstoppable in the red zone.
26.) CLEVELAND BROWNS — JASON VERRETT, CB, TCU
Just like his old boss Rex Ryan, Mike Pettine needs high quality corners for his defense to thrive. Verrett’s speed (4.38) and swagger make his height (5-foot-9) irrelevant and the Browns currently have someone named Buster Skrine atop the depth chart across from All-Pro Joe Haden. When your division rivals have guys like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown the secondary becomes primary – Cleveland can wait 8 more picks to take a quarterback like Zach Mettenberger, Tom Savage or Aaron Murray.
25.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS — KYLE FULLER, CB, Virginia Tech
After facing Peyton Manning three times last season the Chargers can’t pass on a corner like Fuller. Because of a hernia, Fuller played in just three games in 2013 – and he still picked off two passes and defended 10 others (4th in the ACC). Last year, San Diego GM Tom Telesco picked Keenan Allen, who was coming off a significant injury, so he can only hope Fuller is just as productive off the bat.
24.) CINCINNATI BENGALS — BRADLEY ROBY, CB, Ohio St.
Leon Hall is coming off a torn ACL while Dre Kirkpatrick can only be considered a bust at this point, so Cincinnati could certainly use an upgrade at corner. Even though he was burned repeatedly in 2013, Roby is so physically gifted that he has become one of the Draft’s late risers. Roby recently came close to driving over some kids after ingesting alcohol but since when have the Bengals been scared off by character concerns?
23.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS — JOEL BITONIO, G, Nevada
For the second straight year, Andy Reid tries to bolster his offensive line by spending a first round pick on a left tackle. However Bitonio, who started 38 games on the blindside at Nevada, will move to right guard to fill a gaping hole for the Chiefs. Bitonio has a nasty streak, often finishing blocks beyond the whistle and he’s become a favorite of offensive line coaches around the league fallowing his Senior Bowl and Combine performances.
22.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — MARQISE LEE, WR, USC
While at still at Oregon, Chip Kelly sat front row while Lee piled up 20 catches for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games against the Ducks. Lee owns or shares an astounding 22 USC records despite the fact that he left school early following a disappointing junior season. It’ll be an interesting story line to watch as Lee endures season long comparisons to DeSean Jackson in Philly.
21.) GREEN BAY PACKERS — CJ MOSLEY, LB, Alabama
After winning the Butkus Award in the middle of Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense, Mosley is a perfect schematic fit for Dom Capers. The Packers allowed almost 27 points per game last season, so a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine like Mosley would be a welcome addition. With Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews attacking off the edge – plus Mosley patrolling the middle, Green Bay could be headed for a defensive resurgence in 2014.
20.) ARIZONA CARDINALS — CALVIN PRYOR, S, Louisville
Amazingly Teddy Bridgewater won’t be the first Louisville Cardinal to be selected in 2014. Pryor plays with violence and is constantly around the ball wreaking havoc. Adding a sledgehammer safety like Pryor to go along with Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and a healthy Tyrann Mathieu gives Arizona perhaps the NFL’s most talented secondary.
19.) MIAMI DOLPHINS — XAVIER SU’A FILO, T, UCLA
With all the top-tier tackles off the board, Miami fills its hole at right guard with the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Samoan from UCLA. Su’a Filo was a captain and even got voted the Bruin’s offensive MVP in 2013. After becoming the first true freshman in school history to start as a freshman, Su’a Filo spent two years on a Mormon mission and he should bring a level of maturity that the Dolphins offensive line has been missing recently.
18.) NEW YORK JETS — BRANDIN COOKS, WR, Oregon St.
Steadily improving its anemic offense, here the Jets add the speedy Cooks to free agent acquisitions Eric Decker, Michael Vick and Chris Johnson. Cooks put up eye-popping numbers (128 catches, 1,730 yards, 16 TDs) on his way to winning the Biletnikoff award before scorching a 4.33 forty at the Combine. Former Eagles and current Jets OC Marty Mornhingweg, who attended Cooks’ pro day at Oregon State, might be envisioning a DeSean Jackson type role for the diminutive receiver.
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS — ODELL BECKHAM, JR., WR, LSU
Even with a $100-million quarterback, Baltimore averaged just 6.3 yards per pass attempt – same as the Jaguars. New Ravens receiver Steve Smith should serve as the perfect mentor for Beckham, Jr., who just like Smith, plays much bigger than his size (5-foot-11, 198lbs). Beckham, Jr. is also explosive in the return game, bringing back two punts for touchdowns during his final season in Baton Rouge.
16.) DALLAS COWBOYS — HA HA CLINTON-DIX, CB, Alabama
You get the feeling that Jerrah is jonesing to make a splash with a dramatic deal but nabbing the Draft’s best safety at 16 would be a nice consolation prize. Clinton-Dix is a rangy ball hawk who collected 7 interceptions in his brief Alabama career and he should be a huge upgrade for the worst defense in Cowboy’s history. Dallas currently boasts Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox atop their depth chart at safety; enough said.
15.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS — DARQUEZE DENNARD, CB, Michigan St.
Pittsburgh’s secondary has been decaying for years and Dennard’s physicality makes him a good fit for Dick LeBeau’s defense. The Steelers intercepted just 10 passes last season, a number which should improve if the 2013 Thorpe Award winner ends up wearing Black and Gold. Having to go up against Josh Gordon and A.J. Green four games a year makes this an easy pick for Mike Tomlin.
14.) CHICAGO BEARS — AARON DONALD, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald would join Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen as the Bears rebuild a unit that gave up a league worst 161.4 rushing yards a game. Posting 11 sacks in 2013, Donald displays rare pass rushing ability for an interior lineman and that’s more good news for a Chicago defense that tied for last with just 31 QB takedowns. Being relatively undersized is the only thing keeping the ACC Defensive Player of the Year out of the top 10.
13.) ST. LOUIS RAMS — JUSTIN GILBERT, CB, Oklahoma
The top tier tackles are off the board in this scenario – but the Rams have another glaring weakness in the secondary. Gilbert had seven picks this past season, returning two for touchdowns and he’ll be the #1 corner right away for a defense that gave up an embarrassing 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2013. Gilbert also has value as a return man, using his 4.37 speed to return six kickoffs for touchdowns during his four years at Oklahoma State.
12.) NEW YORK GIANTS — ZACK MARTIN, G, Notre Dame
Big Blue struggled to block anyone last season allowing Eli Manning to be sacked a career-high 39 times in 2013. A two-time captain who started every game of his Notre Dame career, Martin’s tenacity more than makes up for the fact that he lacks ideal size (6-foot-4, 308lbs) and length. Versatile enough to play anywhere along the line, Martin will help a Giants team that has serious concerns at both left tackle and right guard.
11.) TENNESSEE TITANS — ANTHONY BARR, LB, UCLA
Ken Whisenhunt will wait until round 2 for a quarterback and take a chance on Barr, who appears to be a classic boom-or-bust pick. Barr played only 2 seasons at linebacker after converting from running back, but in those two years he accumulated 23.5 sacks. At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Barr looks like an ideal fit for the attacking 3-4 defense new defensive coordinator Ray Horton brings to Tennessee.
— Check back soon for picks 10 through 1
LOS ANGELES — I have to write about Tony Romo this week. Wow, what a game he played last Sunday against Denver. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and nearly came out victorious. Nearly. That seems to be a word we use often to describe Romo and his play. He nearly puts it all together. He nearly comes away with big victories when his team needs them the most. He nearly is among the top QBs in the league. In the offseason, when Jerry Jones signed Romo to that outrageous $108M contract, Jones said he wanted his quarterback to be more like Manning. He meant this in terms of being a complete football guy. Putting in the extra hours in the film room, working out, running routes with his receivers. Romo even went out of his way bypass his annual attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open this summer. And look, it’s shown. Romo has been out of his mind this year. He’s second in TD passes (13), INTs (2) and passer rating (114.3), and third in completion percentage (71.8%) but yet the Cowboys are only 2-3. Why is this? Is it all on his shoulders? When you get paid nine figures it all goes on you whether it’s your fault or not. Team can’t run the football? Who cares, you’re getting $100M. Defense can’t get off the field? BFD. You’re getting paid $100M. The NFC East is primed for Dallas’ taking and it’s up to Romo to take it.
Let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (record: 0-5) (last week: 32) — For a second, didn’t you think Jacksonville might pull off the upset against St. Louis? And Justin Blackmon, nice wheels.
31.) New York Giants (0-5) (30) — This is getting ugly with the Giants. Real ugly.
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) (31) — So now McGlennon (as Warren Sapp calls him) is the captaining the pirate ship. I’m guessing a lotta turnovers and handoffs to Doug Martin (my pick to win the rushing crown) this week against the Eagles.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) (29) — Who woulda thought that Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, with four Super Bowl rings between them, wouldn’t have a win after five weeks. Sure as hell not me. And not you, either.
28.) Minnesota Vikings (1-3) (25) — Is it amusing to anyone else that three of the bottom five teams all had byes last week? Welcome to town, Josh Freeman! What week is Freeman the full-time starter? Seven? Eight?
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) — Heard an interesting stat: Cam Newton’s top two career passing games are still his first two ever played back in 2011. You believe that?
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (21) — Really feel for E.J. Manuel, but he’s fortunate his knee injury isn’t as serious as Brian Hoyer’s, who’s hit looked less severe in comparison. Can’t believe it’s gonna be Tuel Time for the next couple weeks. There is some bad NFL quarerbacking going on in a few of these cities.
25.) St. Louis Rams (2-3) (27) — If the Rams lost to the Jaguars there were going to be MAJOR problems. Now comes a winnable game against the floundering Texans. Five-hundred a real possibility and a new season.
24.) Oakland Raiders (2-3) (28) — I’ve always said I wanted to like the Raiders. Not sure why, maybe it’s the simplistic badassery of their uniforms, or the “Just Win, Baby” attitude, but now I have a legitimate reason with the way Terrelle Pryor is playing. As Rich Eisen likes to say, he’s a factor.
23.) Washington Redskins (1-3) (26) — Another week’s rest for My Good Friend Robert can’t be a bad thing, nor is it bad for Alfred Morris’s banged-up ribs. But now they return to play on Sunday night against a Dallas team that’s feeling itself after hanging better than maybe anyone will this season against the Broncos.
22.) Houston Texans (2-3) (14) — In our Saturday GameDay Morning meeting, the guys throw out Bold Predictions and see what sticks. Well, before Marshall Faulk settled on taking Terrelle Pryor topping the Chargers in rushing yards, he toyed with the idea of taking Matt Schaub to throw a Pick 6 for a fourth straight game. Seemed laughable at the time.
21.) Atlanta Falcons (1-4) (15) — The wheels are falling off the Falcons bus with Monday’s shocking loss to the Jets and then Tuesday’s news that Julio Jones is most likely lost for the season with a foot injury. Good thing I have Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez on my also 1-4 fantasy team. Oh wait.
20.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) (23) — The Eagles have been outscored by 24 points this season, haven’t won at home and yet are tied for the lead in the NFC East but have a big task with Mike vick on the shelf for at least this week. That’s how wide open the NFC is. It’s going to be a such a fun ride the second half of the season.
19.) Arizona Cardinals (3-2) (22) — Raise your hand if you thought the Arizona Cardinals were 3-2? My hand is not raised. I had to double check that. It seems like they’re winning in spite of Carson Palmer, who’s completed less than 60% of his passes, has a passer rating of 67.0 and has nine interceptions to only five touchdowns.
18.) Cleveland Browns (3-2) (19) — Really excited for Browns fans and the city of Cleveland. What an awesome ride the last three weeks have been. Really feel for Brian Hoyer though, who was enjoying his best go as a professional quarterback before tearing his ACL last Thursday. Highly doubt Brandon Weeden can keep it going.
17.) San Diego Chargers (2-3) (13) — If Tony Romo went Tony Romo on Sunday, then the Chargers went Chargers Sunday night against the Raiders. I mean, how classic was opening-drive interception followed by giving up a bomb for a TD?
16.) Tennessee Titans (3-2) (12) — The Amish Rifle had the Titans so close to knocking off the Chiefs but you just knew he was going to turn it over at a key moment, and lo and behold, he did.
15.) Baltimore Ravens (3-2) (18) — Impressive win last week, going down to Miami and taking care of business. Still, it’s a little concerning Ray Rice is still only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season. Though fantasy owners have to be pleased by his two scores.
14.) New York Jets (3-2) (20) — What did I tell you about the Geno Smith roller coaster?! Wow, that was something on Monday. I officially have no clue about the Jets. They could beat the Steelers this week by 20 or lose by 10. It’s all in play.
13.) Chicago Bears (3-2) (11) — This is the Jay Cutler Era for ya; win three straight, lose two. I’m expecting another 3-game run here followed by an injury and crushed playoff hopes.
12.) Detroit Lions (3-2) (10) — Well, I guess we see how important Calvin Johnson is to the Detriot Football Lions. Still think they’re better than the Bears, though.
11.) Miami Dolphins (3-2) (7) — There’s a lot of teams in the same boat this season. Hard to tell if that boat is sailing toward Playoff Island or not. Also, Brian Hartline was at NFL Network this week and I told him how my buddy Jason took 25 minutes to take him in the 8th round of my fantasy draft. Needless to say he was flabbergasted.
10.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (17) — I still say the Cowboys win the NFC East and then get blown out in the Wild Card. But hey, at least they made it, right? That’s worth $108 million. Right?
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (16) — Yes, there was a monsoon right as Tom Brady was going to make this trademark comeback. Yes, the Patriots trotted out a JV corps of wide receivers. Yes, they only scored 13 points. But still, the Bengals gutted out that win and look like a playoff team.
8.) New England Patriots (4-1) (6) — At the end of the day, the Patriots are still 4-1 but six points is not going to cut it. The offense has to get better and if Rob Gronkowski comes back this week, it will. Just not sure it’s enough to take down the Saints.
7.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (9) — Would’ve liked to have seen the Packers blow out the Calvin Johnson-less Lions but a win is a win is a win. If they can run the football a little better, Green Bay should contend in the action-packed NFC.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (4-1) (8) — Rich Eisen was on Dan Patrick Thursday morning talking Top 10 NFL quarterbacks and didn’t want to put Andrew Luck in there. I would have him in there. He’s damn good. And this is a damn good football team.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) (5) — Colin Kaepernick had just six completions and the 49ers routed Houston. Not sure if that says more about the state of the Texans or how potent this San Francisco offense is when clicking on all cylinders.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) (4) — The Chiefs faced a little adversity on Sunday on the road, and when the going got tough made the plays needed to remain unbeaten. Of course, they were playing against the Amish Rifle, so yeah, maybe it wasn’t that impressive.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (4-1) (1) — If the Seahawks had pulled another comeback win on the road I would’ve been very shocked. As it were, they suffered their first loss and are no longer The Man.
2.) New Orleans Saints (5-0) (3) — The Saints have reached the point where there’s no chance I’m ever picking against them. Zero. They are in full-out Eff You Mode and I like it. Even though Sean Payton strikes me as that annoying frat guy who’s always gets hammered and runs his mouth about how rich his daddy is.
1.) Denver Broncos (5-0) (2) — We know how good Peyton Manning is, but the biggest question the remainder of the season will be can that defense get stops when needed. We’ll find out next week when Von MIller returns from suspension.
LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot to be learned after just three weeks of a football season, yet at the same time it’s still a little early to come to conclusions about teams and players’ fate. I’m sure we all don’t expect Peyton Manning to keep this up or the Giants to be this dreadful, though surely we’re all surprised by Trent Richardson’s trade and Josh Freeman’s benching. This we do know: there are several teams and players performing very poorly and a few teams who look really good. One or two will stay on this path and everyone else will go up and down as the season ebbs and flows towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
That’s just how the National. Football. League. works. And why we live and die with it each week and why we love it. I can’t wait to see what Week 4 will bring. Until then, let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (32) — Of course, the game I bench Maurice Jones-Drew, since he’s playing against the vaunted Seattle defense, at home no less, he scores a late, garbage touchdown. Thank goodness that didn’t cost me a win, since my team is terrible. Then I really would’ve thrown something at my television. Even more so than watching the crappy “Dexter” finale.
31.) Minnesota Vikings (0-3) (30) — We’re about two more brutal losses to teams of the Browns quality (no offense, Cleveland) from me starting a Free Adrian campaign.
30.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-3) (29) — How much would you pay to watch a webcam of the Bucs lockerroom? $2? $5? I think there’s some mess going on in there that I’m guessing is pretty damn interesting. Oh, and good luck, Mike Glennon, you’re gonna need it. And it’s time for a decent haircut, you’re a starting NFL quarterback now.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) (28) — When my dad knows the Steelers are in trouble, they really are. Seriously, how are they going to score points outside of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown breaking free on a long bomb?
28.) Washington Redskins (0-3) (24) — Preseason Week 3 went about as well as it could go, right? And did you know this is the first time EVER the Giants and Redskins have both started the year 0-3?
27.) New York Giants (0-3) (20) — The Giants are only this high because they’ve shown in the past it doesn’t matter how they start, they always seem to make it interesting down the stretch. How many more losses before the New York media starts calling for Tom Coughlin’s job?
26.) Cleveland Browns (1-2) (31) — So apparently the formula is: trade your best player, start your 3rd string QB and start winning games. Which team will be the next to follow this to Ws?
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-2) (25) — I really hope Terrelle Pryor isn’t hurt long term because he could become a special player. Though it might be time to have the conversation about the end of Darren McFadden, or at him being in need of a change of scenery to inject some life into his career.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) (27) — Thirty-eight points?! Where did that come from this week? And does it say more about the Panthers being capable of turning this season around (they’re on a bye this upcoming week) or how miserable this Giants season is going to be?
23.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (22) — Almost positive this Cardinals team is going to be the one this season where I have no idea what to write about it each week. Most weeks it’ll probably be a lot of me gushing about the Honey Badger.
22.) St. Louis Rams (1-2) (21) — The Rams are the Cardinals are very similar in the respect that both have quarterbacks who aren’t really good but can make plays every once in a while, have solid skill guys who are underused, and defenses who could be great but something or another holds them back. Doesn’t help they play in the hardest division in football.
21.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) (24) — Not sure why but I like this team. I like E.J. Manuel. I like Doug Marrone. And I like that Manuel likes throwing to Stevie Johnson (have I mentioned that before?) They went up against a tough Jets team (can’t believe I just typed those words) on the road and nearly won. They’re going to be OK here in a bit.
20.) New York Jets (2-1) (26) — A month ago, I really thought we’d be talking about the temperature of Rex Ryan’s hot seat, not a 2-1 team with a rookie quarterback playing decently and a defense near the top of the league. Just amazing. When you think you have the NFL figured out, you realize you have no idea.
19.) Detroit Lions (2-1) (18) — The Lions got their first-ever win in Washington last week and then in the most bizarre story we’ve had this season, Nate Burleson broke is arm in a car accident when he was distracted by falling pizza and then hit the median. Your move, Bengals.
18.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) (16) — We know the Eagles don’t play any defense, but we also know the Eagles are still figuring out their own offense. Since the first half of the win against the Redskins they’ve been punked by the Chargers and Chiefs. I still think they’re going to be OK though. Not enough to make the playoffs but enough to lay the foundation.
17.) San Diego Chargers (1-2) (15) — Tennessee has proven to be a tough, hard-fighting team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. It seems like the AFC West is going to be more than a Denver runaway and the Chargers aren’t going to be an easy beat this year.
16.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (17) — I don’t know how the Ravens are above .500 but somehow they are. Very good win last week. Emotional with the retiring of Ray Lewis’s number and they found a way. That’s going to be their M.O. this season: finding a way.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) (14) — See what happens when DeMarco Murray gets his carries? Now if only he could run against the Rams each week he’d be in Adrian Peterson territory. I happen to think Dallas will beat San Diego this week which will set the ‘Boys up nicely this season, but we’ll see. They’re bound for a stinker.
14.) Houston Texans (2-1) (7) — There’s something about the Texans I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it. Matt Schaub has done some Matt Schaub-like things this year. Arian Foster seems a bit disgruntled. Andre Johnson is dinged. But J.J. Watt is still awesome, but how long can he carry this team?
13.) Tennessee Titans (2-1) (13) — I haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the Titans play but I know Warren Sapp loves their defense. And when a first ballot Hall of Famer tells you something, you listen. Jake Locker is also proving to be very dangerous with his feet, which is something you can’t ever prepare for.
12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (19) — Andrew Luck bent his old coach over his leg and gave him a spanking last week. I don’t know how else to explain what happened against the 49ers. Trent Richardson’s first carry in the blue and white was a touchdown and Indy’s defense made Colin Kaepernick look like a novice back there. This could be a dangerous team.
11.) Atlanta Falcons (1-2) (10) — I’m not convinced the Falcons could be fine without Steven Jackson, but an unhealthy Roddy White is really limiting Matt Ryan’s vertical attack. His offensive line isn’t giving him much, either, but this still is an explosive offense and a playoff team.
10.) New England Patriots (3-0) (8) — It’s hard to be undefeated yet still drop each week in the rankings, but that’s just what the Patriots have done thus far. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Tom Brady hasn’t been good through three games, tantrums, dropped passes or not. He’s missed a lot of throws. But as long as the defense keeps bringing its A Game, the Pats will be OK.
9.) Green Bay Packers (1-2) (5) — Their running backs ran hard, aside from Jonathan Franklin’s late-game fumble, and the defense was opportunistic, Aaron Rodgers made a couple bad throws late in the game which cost Green Bay. This is still a dangerous team but the jury is out if it’s playoff bound.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) (9) — Andy Dalton is a good, not great, quarterback. He’s taken this team to the playoffs the last two seasons. He has playmakers all around him and a good defense. The Bengals should win the AFC North going away and contend in the conference. They should.
7.) Miami Dolphins (3-0) (12) — Raise your hand if you saw an undefeated start from the Dolphins coming? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Their running backs aren’t great and you can’t name one of their receivers other than Mike Wallace. But they play hard, Mr. Lauren Tannehill is slingin’ it and Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan are pinching the ends like mofos. They’re gonna be in the hunt all season.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4) — I still think the 49ers are good. I still think Colin Kaepernick is a superstar in the making, but as someone said to me last weekend, he’s feeling himself a little too much. He’s buying into his own hype a little too much. Take him favoriting all the “hate” tweets this week. Why? How does that motivate you?
5.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (11) — What an awesome scene in Philly last week. Really proud of the fans for showing Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb the respect they deserved. Too bad they couldn’t show the same gratitude when the two of them were leading the Eagles to NFC East titles and conference championship games. Chiefs are making the playoffs. Mark it down. That defense and zero turnovers, along with Jamaal Charles, they might even beat Denver.
4.) New Orleans Saints (3-0) (6) — Would you believe the Saints are 4th in Total Defense (295.7 ypg) and 6th in Offense (404.3 ypg)? Jimmy Graham is out of his mind right now and though it appears New Orleans has zero running game right now, at least it doesn’t have to worry about always being in a shootout with teams.
3.) Chicago Bears (3-0) (3) — Jay Cutler has the mojo working so far but before we all get carried away, myself included, let’s remember he’s gotten off to hot starts each of the last few seasons with the Bears with nothing to show for it. So while he looks great now, let’s not count the cubs before they’re done hibernating.
2.) Denver Broncos (3-0) (2) — Actual Yahoo headline on Tuesday: “Is it too early to give Peyton Manning the 2013 NFL MVP?” Manning’s stat line this season is ridiculous with 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and ZERO picks, not to mention his 73% completion rate, only 4.2% higher than his previous career high, but MVP? After 3 weeks? Slow the truck down, people.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0) (1) — Yes, the Seahawks gave up 17 points to the Jaguars. Yes, that is unacceptable. Yes, they’ve won 10 in a row at home. No, they will not lose at home this season. Yes, they are The Man until there’s a something in the “L” column.
LOS ANGELES — Passionate fan bases are part of what makes sports so amazing and unique and special, but it’s not just that we are fans of our favorite teams, rather it’s how we go about cheering them on to victory that makes it so awesome. Sunday, I watched the first half of the Seahawks/49ers game at a Seattle bar and in it where about 150-200 of the most insane people I’ve ever met. Every single one of them was decked out in some kind of Seahawks’ paraphernalia, including some pretty awesome old jerseys: Steve Largent, Jon Kitna, Joey Galloway and then today’s stars, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. One of the dudes, who was in the group I was in – my friend Stacye invited me out after I told her I had to watch a game with her given how rabid she is about Pete Carroll’s crew – even had a 12th Man jersey with “U Mad Bro” on the back. Oh, and it was sleeveless.
The other thing that struck me about everyone in the bar was their decibel level. Ironic that the Q set the record for outdoor noise the same night, because it felt about 136db around me every time Wilson was shown on TV. Seriously, these people went ape nuts every time anything happened. Seattle’s tight end DROPPED a touchdown and everyone lost their mind. It was pretty awesome to be there, too bad I missed most of the scoring plays, surely I would’ve lost my hearing by then. Even on Twitter everyone is crazy about them. I posted a couple nuggets and got immediate response. Love it.
The Hawks’ beatdown of San Francisco this week was definitely as impressive as their fans’ loyalty and devotion, but was it enough to make them The Man this week?
Let’s find out.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (32) — I wonder what Teddy Bridgewater thinks of the Jaguars helmets? Because if he doesn’t like them, you can be he’s going to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning and refuse to play for them when he’s drafted No. 1 overall less than 8 months from now. And I know no one cares about anyone else’s fantasy team, but you guys are my people, so I assume you care about mine. Well guess who got hurt Sunday for the Jags? You guessed it: EFFIN’ MAURICE JONES-DREW. I’m never taking him again. Ever. Ever.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (31) — I’ve seen “Old School” at least 150 times, no joke, and one of my favorite lines (among a hundred) is when Blue dies, and , his funeral Vince Vaughn says to Luke Wilson, “dammit, Blue was old, that’s what old people do, they die.” I feel like this is what we have to say about Brandon Weeden. Except he’s only 29. It’s just funny.
30.) Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (25) — Early Sunday a report was circulating that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman at odds and that Freeman might be traded on Tampa’s bye week. Immediately, I started seeing rumors of him going to the Vikings. I know Minnesota would do that faster than Adrian Peterson can sprint 78 yards for at touchdown, but who does Tampa want in return? Sure as hell not Christian Ponder.
29.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-2) (30) — So yeah, who’s going to be quarterbacking this team a month from now? I think Vince Young and Matt Leinart are available. Also, for the second week in a row, the game was handed to them to win and they flubbed it up and got the L. That really tells you all you really need to know.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) (28) — It could be a long year in the Steel City. Ten points last night against the Bengals, nine the week before against the Titans. No running game. Lost their center for the year, another starter on defense.
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-2) (27) — Something’s not right with Cam Newton. Clearly, I don’t know what it is, but watching Sunday’s game, he was downright Weedenonian in the first half. Overthrowing guys by 15 yards, balls into the turf, bad sacks. He got better in the second half, but this is beginning his third year, he should be further along than this. He should be beating the Bills.
26.) New York Jets (1-1) (26) — I’ll give the Jets this: they sure played hard on Thursday and really should’ve beaten the Patriots. Geno Smith showed his rookie colors in the New England downpour and let one too many ball sail on him, but that Jets defense stymied Tom Brady the entire game, save for the opening drive. It’ll be interesting how this plays out, but Rex coached ’em up and if they can get any offense, they got a punchers chance.
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-1) (29) — For years it was so typical of the Raiders to have the most money on their team tied up in their kickers. Now it’s their fullback who’s cashing big checks. Well, Marcel Reese scored a touchdown Sunday to “justify” the pay day. And good for him. Fullbacks are people, too. And I know they played Jacksonville, but the Silver & Black’s defense didn’t look half bad.
24.) Washington Redskins (0-2) (15) — Umm… so this was Preseason Week 2, right?
23.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (24) — Impressive win on Sunday, even though it was against the Panthers, but EJ Manuel didn’t play great – he left a lot out there despite Carolina giving him multiple chances – but he led an impressive sub-2-minute drive (got some help on a phantom PI call on Luke Kuechly) and tossed a game-winning TD pass. Once he figures out what he’s doing in this league, he’s going to be a good one. And if there’s any silver lining for my fantasy team this season (yes, I’m already thinking about next year) it’s that he LOVES throwing to Stevie Johnson. It’s only just two games in, but it appears Doug Marrone made the right move going all-in on EJ.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1) (22) — Even with a hobbling Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona still managed to find a way to pull out a come-from-behind win against what looks like a pretty decent Lions team. Tryann Mathieu yet again made a big defensive play and Carson Palmer did just enough not to lose it. Not sure what to make of their running game but the Cardinals can compete with anyone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (21) — So THAT’s how Jeff Fisher wants to use Tavon Austin. Got it. That kid might have a future in this league. I like how the Rams showed some fortitude in coming back when it appeared they were gonna get blown out by the Falcons. They play in the toughest division in football and last year went 4-1-1 in that division. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that again.
20.) New York Giants (0-2) (13) — David Wilson gets benched for two fumbles and Eli Manning keeps his job despite 7 interceptions. Now, I understand how the quarterback position works. There’s a lot that goes into some of those picks; deflections, bad routes, and so on. But this is not a good start for the Blue Men Group. Again. Tom Coughlin on the hot seat in 3…2…1…
19.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (16) — Andrew Luck’s magic couldn’t extend for a second week in a row, but T.Y. Hilton showed why many raved about him in the preseason, hauling in 6 passes for 124 yards. This is a tricky team to get. The Colts won a lot of games last year in the closing minutes. Has their good fortune run out?
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (19) — Every time I watch Matthew Stafford throw the ball I’m reminded of how I must’ve looked growing up playing pick-up football in the field behind our house in the Coast Guard housing complex. Just slinging it from all angles. And is anyone else concerned that Reggie Bush is already ailing in a few different places?
17.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (14) — Still getting the champions discount, this Ravens team is a funny one. Struggled to beat the Browns on the day they raised the banner, no great offensive go-to guy outside of Ray Rice, who’s banged up. A defense without an identity. Good thing John Harbaugh is a helluva coach.
16.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) (10) — Michael Vick had another outstanding offensive game (guy in my fantasy league has him AND Peyton Manning, as if that’s fair). As did DeSean Jackson. But that defense gave up a boatload of points, that’s what would concern me moving forward. Really excited for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs, ya know, that team coached by Andy Reid.
15.) San Diego Chargers (1-1) (23) — The Chargers are one of those teams who should be undefeated, but alas, they’ve looked much better than most expected to start. Philip Rivers seems to have fixed what’s been ailing him the last two seasons. Still without a run game, he’s really doing it all on his own. To beat an Eagles team on the road in the early east coast game was damn impressive.
14.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (7) — Dallas has never lost a game when DeMarco Murray rushes 20-or-more times, but yet he only had 12 carries in Week 2 after 21 in Week 1; a win. We’ll see if he gets the rock this Sunday. Nice of Dez Bryant have himself a game, and you can see how he can affect a game when he’s ballin’. Also another good game from that Cowboys defense.
13.) Tennessee Titans (1-1) (20) — It’s crazy to think about a team like Tennessee, which everyone was writing off heading into the season, is a play away from being 2-0. Chris Johnson has 50 carries through the first two games and appears to be his old self. Jake Locker isn’t playing competently, and this defense appears tough, despite giving up the lead to Houston.
12.) Miami Dolphins (2-0) (18) — Maybe I should’ve kept Mike Wallace in fantasy after all, as dude blew up to help the Dolphins to a surprise start and take out the Colts on the road. Now they head home and host the Falcons with a chance to lead the AFC East for the first time since they won the division back in 2008. Warren Sapp said Lauren Tannehill’s husband was going to break Dan Marino’s team passing record and he’s on his way.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) (17) — We kinda figured the Jaguars weren’t that good, so it was tough to judge just what we had with the Chiefs after Week 1, but after a Week 2 home win against Dallas, I’m a Chiefs believer. Alex Smith has been solid, the defense is flying around, and Jamaal Charles is running hard. I’m happy for Andy Reid and all the rib places in K.C.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) (6) — Matt Ryan is ballin’ out of control right now, but the big question is can his line keep the $100M man upright, especially now that Steven Jackson is out a couple weeks with a soft tissue injury. Roddy White’s health is a concern but if he can get healthy and Tony Gonzalez keeps playing his way into shape, there’s no stopping this offense.
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (4) — I still need to see more out of Andy Dalton. He missed some easy throws Monday night against Pittsburgh but that defense was strong and Gio Bernard looked like a mini-Ray Rice out there. That Bengals defense is stingy, too. Pacman is playing some solid corner. Oh, and I know they won and dropped a few places, but that an adjustment since I had them over-rated a bit last week.
8.) New England Patriots (2-0) (5) — You know what, if I was Tom Brady, and believe me, I’ve thought about what that would be like, I’d be yelling too at everyone on the sideline, in the stands, on Twitter, if my receivers dropped balls like his did. Julian Edelman is the Patriots No. 1 option. Think about that for a second. Go ahead. I’ll wait … if you’re a Patriots fan, I’d be worried. Unbeaten or not.
7.) Houston Texans (2-0) (11) — What was the stat I saw, the Texans are the first team in NFL history to win their first two games of a season on the last play of the game. Think about that, and the handful of teams who could have their records reversed if one or two things went differently. Matt Schaub looks good so far and DeAndre Hopkins looks like the real deal after this game-winning TD grab (possibly the lone bright spot on my fantasy squad?). And not sure if you saw J.J. Watt on “The League” the last two weeks, but pretty hilarious stuff. As always.
6.) New Orleans Saints (2-0) (12) — The Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last season and so that led Marshall Faulk to make a bold prediction that they would be Top 5 by the end of the year. Currently, after two games, they are 11th. Subsequently, they are undefeated. These two items are not unrelated.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (8) — You think Aaron Rodgers was sick of hearing about all these young quarterbacks taking over the league? Especially when one of them was coming to his house? How’s almost 400 yards in the first half taste? Granted, me, Rich and Law and a few of the other NFL Media folks could probably score 30 on the Redskins, but damn, Aaron Rodgers can sling it. Now, the Pack just needs to play some defense and this is once again a legit Super Bowl contender.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) (1) — It’s safe to say none of us saw that Sunday night stinkfest coming out of the 49ers. That was a beatdown to the Nth degree. Anquan Boldin was held to one catch after turning the clock way back in Game 1 and Colin Kaepernick looked nothing like the superstar he showed himself to be against the Packers. It’s also worth nothing that no one wins in Seattle, so I wouldn’t be too worried.
3.) Chicago Bears (2-0) (9) — Could this really be the new Jay Cutler? Not getting sacked, throwing game-winning TD passes and generally acting like the opposite of the football player we know him to be. We’ve seen this act before out of the Bears; fast start, looking like a playoff team, then Cutler gets hurt and Bears fall apart. I wanna see some consistency. A win against Pittsburgh would be a nice proving ground.
2.) Denver Broncos (2-0) (2) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. He’s pretty good.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (2-0) (3) — If Seattle gets homefield in the NFC, it’s going to the Super Bowl. There’s no bones about it. The Seahawks can’t lose there. When it’s that loud and Beast Mode is running like he’s on a Skittles high and First Name Russell, Last Name Wilson is throwing darts and the Legion of Boom is lowering the hammer. Shoot. No wonder Pete Carroll is always smiling.
LOS ANGELES — Wow. What a Week 1 in the National. Football. League. Hey, what do you think Ryan Seacrest? Cool. Seriously, though, it had stunning plays, fantastic finishes and rousing introductions to the league, it’s hard to believe we went seven months without football. Seriously, it’s almost as if the epic Super Bowl 46 and Ray Lewis’s final cry were an eternity ago, and combine that with what seemed like an offseason cloud that would never lift. But lift it has, and the 2013 NFL season couldn’t be off to a more amazing start.
When I last left you here at the “You’re The Man” rankings back in February, I asked questions each team should be thinking about heading into the offseason, along with their final rankings. Now, as we head into Week 2, I’m going to give you their rank along with how they answered my question plus one more to think about as we embark on 22 weeks of pure football bliss.
As always, these are scientifically proven and 100% accurate. Now let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2013 record: 0-1) (2012 final YTM ranking: 32) — Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t get paid and Shad Khan didn’t bring in Tim Tebow, which means you can bet MoJo will be doing the Eisen Podcast End Zone Dance for another team next year while Blaine Gabbert continues to throw interceptions for the worst dressed team in the NFL. Seriously, how bad are those helmets? Burning Question: How do they get worse? Honestly, what do they do for an encore, sign that 9-year old girl from the YouTube videos last year to return kicks? Wait, that might actually work.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-1) (26) — Brandon Weeden has some great AARP insurance because it guaranteed him the starting job this season, and would you believe the help he and Trent Richardson were seeking actually came? Maybe it’s because I watched two Browns preseason games and they looked above average, or maybe I got drunk listening to Bernie Kosar during the broadcasts. Burning Question: Every year there’s a team that surprises, could the Browns be this team?
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) (16) — If you want to stop explosive passing offenses you go out and trade for a guy like Darrelle Revis. Or you just go get the man himself. Now, whether or not he’s 100% healthy is another question, but in the NFC South, the Bucs are the only team who improved defensively. That’s a start. Burning Question: Josh Freeman was all over the map in Week 1; if Tampa Bay wants to be a player, he needs to be consistent and consistently great. Jury’s out.
29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1) (30) — Well, it’s always nice to start the column off with a correct prediction, like I did in accurately guessing Carson Palmer would be let go in favor of Terrelle Pryor. What I didn’t anticipate is Matt Flynn crapping down his pants in the process after being given the keys to the… wait, what kind of car would the Raiders be? I’m thinking the burnt out minivan Thomas Kubb has to drive at the end of “Project X” (awesome movie). But hey, at least he had wheels. Burning Question: At what point this season will Darren McFadden just say “eff it” and stop showing up for work? Week 6? 10? 2?
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) (15) — The Steelers thought they found some running help, then Le’veon Bell got hurt and is out six weeks. Now, their most important offensive player not named Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season, after Maurkice Pouncey’s knee injury in Week 1 vs. Tennessee. Burning Question: A team without an identity heading into the season, Pittsburgh’s back is against the wall immediately. What team will emerge from the smoke as the season rolls on?
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-1) (17) — So the Panthers went out and kept their roster basically the same as 2012 and what happened, Cam Newton had his lowest total yardage output of his career in Week 1. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Burning Question: This is something to monitor as the beginning of the season moves on, because Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and faster.
26.) New York Jets (1-0) (27) — Turns out Mark Sanchez got irrevocably broken sooner than I anticipated. But for the second year in a row, the Jets did Sanchez dirty (see what I did there) by bringing in another quarterback while at the same time pledging he was the man. He’s never been the man. Ask me point blank and I can’t tell you why I feel bad for Sanchez, I just do. He didn’t deserve all this. He could’ve been a fine NFL backup for a dozen years. Sadly, I think he’s out of the league in two. Burning Question: How exactly will Rex Ryan go down? Will it be guns blazin’ “Desperado” style? Will it be quietly in his sleep? Will there be a bloody horse head? Will he choke on a Krispy Kreme? I just hope it’s broadcast live on NFL Network.
25.) Minnesota Vikings (0-1) (12) — It’s almost as if the Vikings read my column back in February, because they went out and signed Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to be pass catchers for Christian Ponder. But in Week 1 they were hardly effective. And after a 78-yard jaunt on his first play, Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on 15 carries. Get used to this, Vikings fans. Burning Question: It’s still all about Ponder for the Vikings. If he can develop and make teams respect the pass attack, this will be continue to be a playoff team.
24.) Buffalo Bills (0-1) (23) — The Bills were 7 seconds away from beating the Patriots, and the Dolphins took care of Cleveland in Week 1, which means Bills fans have something to be encouraged by. However, CJ Spiller was held in check and failed to show anything really of what made people think last season he could be a superstar in this league. EJ Manuel, however, now there’s something Bills fans should be encouraged by. Burning Question: Will Manuel be the guy this season and make Buffalo forget about Fitz, Trend Edwards, Rob Johnson, and all the other jamokes it trotted out behind center since No. 12 hung ’em up?
23.) San Diego Chargers (0-1) (22) — Do you think Norv Turner watched the Monday night game? Let’s say that he did. What do you think his range of emotions were? Kinda like Deb on “Dexter” I’m guessing. In the end, Norv got the last laugh after the Chargers choked away what would’ve been a pretty big statement win to start the year. Now who do you blame? Philip Rivers? Burning Question: Will Manti Te’o get himself a real-life girlfriend this year? I hope that’s reported on to no end like we all did his fake one.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (0-1) (28) — Bruce Arians decided on his quarterback and the name he pulled out of his Kangol hat was Carson Palmer. I’ll let you make your own joke. I actually think the Blonde Bomber could have a big season and no, he didn’t pay me to say that. Burning Question: Will we see the Larry Fitzgerald of old this year or did the year’s of gawd-awful quarterbacking suck the superstar blood from his veins?
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-0) (21) — Tavon Austin might not be a huge, household name as we head into Week 2, but it was a splash, and a potentially explosive one for Sam Bradford and that Rams offense. Austin wasn’t showcased at all in the preseason and exactly how he’ll be used is something everyone is watching for. Burning Question: Is Sam Bradford going to finally show he was worth of that #1 pick back in 2010?
20.) Tennessee Titans (1-0) (25) — The Titans kept Chris Johnson and his 1,200 yards around this year and people are predicting a comeback season for CJ. Looking at his stats, he’s never had a sub-1,000 yard season, which is pretty amazing. You wonder how much he has left in that tank. Burning Question: What will the Titans get out of Jake Locker this season and can he be a franchise quarterback?
19.) Detroit Lions (1-0) (24) — I don’t think anyone on the Lions got arrested this offseason (though league-wide odds would say otherwise) so that’s a good start, but this team is still full of knuckleheads and it begins with the head coach. Burning Question: Matthew Stafford got a boatload of cash this offseason for his 17 career wins; does he improve from the chubby gunslinger to elite status to carry his team?
18.) Miami Dolphins (1-0) (20) — The Dolphins went and out signed Steelers big-play receiver Mike Wallace to catch the ball from Lauren Tannehill’s husband but that didn’t stop No. 11 from saying the media should “ask the coach” after the game as to why he wasn’t more involved in the offense. Uh oh. Burning Question: Do they have enough defense to stop the Patriots and win the AFC East?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) (31) — Here’s the funny thing, even I’ve talked myself into being a Chiefs fan. I’m almost ready to pick them to win the AFC West. Unlike most, I don’t think Denver can repeat 2012 and San Diego/Oakland are completely inept. Burning Question: How much weight will Andy Reid put on this season? OK, a serious question: will Jamaal Charles carry the ball on consecutive plays?
16.) Indianapolis Colts (1-0) (9) — The Colts picked up right up where 2012 left off, meaning Andrew Luck had to lead them from behind to victory, against the hapless Raiders, no less. Indy didn’t get any better on defense so look for Luck to have a lot of games like Week 1. Burning Question: Peyton Manning made a huge leap in his second year in the league; can Luck do the same and a repeat playoff berth as well?
15.) Washington Redskins (0-1) (10) — In the first half against the Eagles, it looked as if My Good Friend Robert hadn’t run or played football in quite some time; which he hadn’t. He either a) shouldn’t have been out there or b) should’ve played some in the preseason. His health is paramount. Burning Question: Will Robert stay quiet this season (the opposite of his M.O. this offseason) and let his superb play do the talking?
14.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1) (1) — It isn’t exactly clear who replaced Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Dannell Ellerbe, or even Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin, but they still have the hardware and every team this year is going to give the Ravens their best. That is a fact. Burning Question: When the Ravens get behind in games, much like they did in Week 1, who is going to be their go-to guy to bring them back? Bueller?
13.) New York Giants (0-1) (14) — As it turns out, consistency is not for sale at any price, though Tom Coughlin probably wishes there was a price tag attached so he would at least know what it might cost him. You saw the famed Giants roller coaster on full display Sunday night in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys. Six, count ’em, six turnovers but yet there they were, a final drive touchdown away from victory. Get used to it. Burning Question: In the wake of Andre Brown’s injury and David Wilson pissing down his leg for the second straight season opener, what will New York do at running back to compliment Eli Manning? ‘Cause they have to do SOMEthing.
12.) New Orleans Saints (1-0) (19) — The Saints were DFL in the NFL in defense last season and hired Rob Ryan to make them less sucky. So far, so good, holding the explosive Falcons to 17 points in a huge Week 1 win. Hey, when you hit rock bottom, there’s only two ways to go: straight up or sideways. Burning Question: Will New Orleans consistently be able to stop teams so that Drew Brees doesn’t have to score 40 a game to win?
11.) Houston Texans (8) (1-0) — There’s no boost to the secondary like adding the words “Ed” and “Reed,” however you’d like to get the Ed Reed that was making Pro Bowls and winning Super Bowls, not the one who looks better in a tux at the Oscars Red Carpet with me. Unfortunately, that’s who the Texans have at the moment. Who knows when Ed is going to play again, because he sure doesn’t. Burning Question: Could this be the beginning of the end for Arian Foster? Simmons threw out Larry Johnson’s name in his Cousin Sal podcast and it doesn’t seem that far off given how Monday night played out.
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) (29) — Not only did Chip Kelly stick with Michael Vick, but after watching what a disaster Geno Smith has turned into with the Jets, I’m sure Mr. Hurry-Up is doubly glad he didn’t trade his whole draft away to get him. This new college-style offense seems tailor made for Vick, who is flying under the radar as someone who could have a potential monster season (OK, I’m talking myself into him after drafting him in my 5th fantasy league). 2013 Burning Question: When will the first column be written saying “I told you so” about Chip’s offense never being able to work in the NFL?
9.) Chicago Bears (1-0) (13) — It seems as if the Bears are going to replace Brian Urlacher with an even better version of 2012’s Peanut Tillman. It took him all of 15 minutes to have two forced turnovers. Though rookie MLB Jon Bostic looks as if he could be the real deal. Burning Question: As always, the onus is on Jay Cutler to lead this team and be the new face of the franchise. Whether he can do it is a whole other red hot question.
8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1) (7) — Green Bay didn’t get younger or faster on defense and guess what happened? Colin Kaepernick torched them again. Oops. Packers/49ers is turning into one awesome rivalry. Burning Question: Will Aaron Rodgers score enough points this season to render the inept Green Bay defense unnecessary?
7.) Dallas Cowboys (1-0) (18) — Dallas brought in Monte Kiffin to call the defense and Bill Callahan to call the offense, leaving head coach Jason Garrett to supervise and ya know, be the head coach. While try as they might to lose it, a Week 1 win against the rival Giants is a good start. Still, gotta be weary of Tony Romo’s bruised ribs. Burning Question: Will Dez Bryant be the all-world guy we saw the last 8 weeks of last season or the dog of the first 9?
6.) Atlanta Falcons (0-1) (3) — You want to know how the Falcons improved on defense? They let John Abraham and Brent Grimes walk, and signed Osi Umenyiora. That’s it. Not sure how they stop the 49ers and Seahawks with that, let alone the Saints, Cowboys or Packers. Burning Question: Can Matt Ryan complete 4th and Goal to advance to the Super Bowl? Because Arthur Blank sure has hell didn’t pay him serious Home Depot money not to.
5.) New England Patriots (1-0) (4) — The Patriots did sign a receiver this offseason. That is a fact. They did not sign a big-play corner guy (Aqib Talib re-signed) nor did they bring in a big-time rush end. Now, if you had Game 2 as the first Danny Amendola would miss, raise your hand. I see too many hands up. Maybe my roommate was right. Who knows what the Pats are gonna do this season. Burning Question: Who will emerge as the darkhorse offensive go-to guy, since it has to be someone?
4.) Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) (11) — If “Hard Knocks” star Jay Gruden uses his Week 1 gameplan for A.J. Green in the playoffs this time around, I’m guessing the Bengals will have a different result. Dude is a beast and could be better than Calvin Johnson this season. It’s just up to Gruden and Andy Dalton to get him the ball. Burning Question: How will the Bengals handle the title role of expected greatness?
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) (5) — Despite the suspensions and notoriety the Seahawks got this offseason, I still stand by them being the most complete team in the NFL, though they’re not my pick to win the Super Bowl. I also can’t recall if they bolstered their offensive or defensive lines. Go Hawks! Burning Question: What will Percy Harvin look like when he returns to the team for the final month? Will he make an impact or will it not matter at that point?
2.) Denver Broncos (1-0) (6) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. OK, back to the column… In other news, was I really that stupid to predict a Favre-in-2010-esque season for Manning this year? Jesus. No wonder I’ve never won the ROFFL championship. Burning Question: Will Rahim Moore be able to knock down a 2nd-and-72 Hail Mary?
1.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) (2) — Oh, you want Colin Kaepernick to stand in the pocket and beat you? No problem. You didn’t think they had a deep threat with Michael Crabtree out? How’s Anquan Boldin doing these days? Forgot how awesome that defense was? How’s Aaron Rodgers feeling this week? Burning Question: As the tape grows on Kaepernick, will someone figure out a way to stop this kid, or will he continue to wreck the whole league?
Finally, we made our picks on the Rich Eisen Podcast last week and here’s who I said would take home individual crowns:
Passing Champion: Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rushing Champion: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots
MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots
Super Bowl: Patriots vs. Falcons