LOS ANGELES — When did you first feel like you were a free and independent person? What was that feeling like? Was it when you turned 18 and went and bought cigarettes or lottery tickets or porn at the corner store? Was it when you went away to college and had a boy or girl sleep over in your dorm room? Was it when you turned 21 and bought booze for the first time? Or when you got your first car or learned how to cook or when you finally stopped sharing a room with your sibling? When you got your first job and had your own money? Do you still not feel independent? Does some form of tyranny still rule over your world? Don’t let it.
Thursday is the 4th of July. The biggest party and most important day in our country’s history, when we officially said to Great Britian, “no thanks, we got this from here” and started on this journey of becoming a unified nation; 237 years of work, and counting. We’re not perfect – no country is, but we’re trying (aren’t we?). I mean, look at all the cool stuff we can do and have that others don’t: meatlovers pizzas and 24-hour tattoos parlors, water parks and waffle ice cream cones, and that’s just what I can think of this second while I watch some instant movie on my buddy’s Netflix account. Hundreds of years ago, we needed maps and horses to get around, now there are cars that park themselves and pocket GPS devices that double as telephones and Angry Bird Tweet machines.
Does that make us more independent? Sure, why not. Freedom is a wonderful thing when it’s not abused. Thursday, millions of Americans will exercise their freedom to consume grilled and smoked meat by the poundful, suck down Budweiser and Coors by the gallonful, and argue with friends in the backyard over proper Corn Hole scoring. Apple pie and vanilla ice cream will wash it all down while everyone gathers in front of their flat screens to watch Will Smith and Bill Pullman save the world from aliens.
Today is our Independence Day, and while John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson aren’t walking through that door, if they did, the fathers of our nation might feel a bit lost. And that’s OK. Change is good and we’re becoming more free and independent by the day, which is what the signers of the Declaration would’ve wanted.
Wait, don’t answer that, the Hot Dog Eating Contest is on.
Happy 4th, everyone! Now go watch some fireworks!
LOS ANGELES — It was Halloween this week; such an interesting “holiday.” Kids obviously still love it and department stores still set up months ahead of time with candy and decorations. Since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve warmed to the idea of dressing up and going out to enjoy it with other adults. I still don’t feel right about it, but clearly I’ve participated and enjoyed myself. Past costumes have included Bill Belichick, Al Capone, Tim Tebow and Mr. Blonde. While I’m sure the Halloween celebration across the country has its own unique flavor, here it really is like another big holiday. City streets close off, neighborhoods go all out and parties are sponsored by liquor companies. Halloween takes people watching to the next level. It’s really interesting to me to see, with all the creative people in such a small area, what these artistic minds come up with in terms of intricate and unique costumes. It’s hard to explain but one of those things you need to experience to appreciate.
Let’s see who’s dressed up as The Man.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) (32) –– For the second week in a row, there will be no change in the bottom of these rankings and the three teams you’re about to read about have 3 combined wins. Now stop me if this sounds a little wacked: Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 233 yards in a game earlier this year, had just 5 carries for 4 yards this weekend against the Raiders, when you started Brady Quinn at quarterback. Romeo Crennel’s days are numbered in K.C.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (31) — Saw some tweets floating the Twitterverse last night about how the Jaguars offense is better without Maurice Jones-Drew and how Blaine Gabbert looks better without MJD in the backfield. I hate to go all 2010 on everyone, but CHILD, PLEASE! If Blaine Gabbert can’t succeed with a Top 5 running back in the backfield that’s on HIM, not the Top 5 running back.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-6) (30) — This week in “Let’s Blame Cam Newton For Everything”: 5th straight loss, 20-for-39, 314 yards, Zero TDs, 2 INTs and a 57.0 Passer Rating. Cam did conduct himself better at the postgame press conference
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-6) (29) — SOMEONE BREAK UP THE BROWNS!! Not sure if you saw this game on Sunday, but there was a monsoon in Cleveland and the only thing worse than Norv Turner calling plays dry is Norv Turner calling plays soaking wet. 7-6 is kinda setting today’s pass-happy game back a few decades, but that was a game made for Trent Richardson (122 yards, TD) and he delivered.
28.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (27) — Let’s be honest, a bye week was just what the doctor ordered in Buffalo.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-4) (18) — You know how much I love stats. Here’s one for ya: three teams have started the year 4-0 and then lost the next four games. The 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, the 2002 Oakland Raiders … and the 2012 Arizona Cardinals. The ship, be a sinkin’. #FreeFitz
26.) Oakland Raiders (3-4) (28) — Don’t look now but the Raiders are only a game back of the Broncos for the AFC West division lead. OK, no one really thinks they have a shot, not with how Peyton Manning is playing, but still. This team was a mess a few weeks ago, and now Carson Palmer has strung together a couple solid performances in a row the #FreeDMC campaign has sunk faster a lead balloon. Which is a good thing. The league is better when the Raiders are competitive. Let’s hope this continues.
25.) Tennessee Titans (3-5) (24) — Heartbreaking loss by my brother Matthew’s team on Sunday after a third-straight win was lost when Vick Ballard leaped towards the pylon in overtime. Ballard’s amazing play aside, the Titans have looked much better in recent weeks. Hasselbeck has averaged a respectable 233 yards per and a TD in 4 starts, and has only turned it over twice in that span. Chris Johnson has averaged 102 yards in his last 4 games. So it’s coming back.
24.) St. Louis Rams (3-5) (23) — I have yet to travel abroad in my 32-year existence (I plan to get to it at some point, please don’t deride) but it appeared to me that the Rams left their game back in St. Louis. And did anyone find it odd that Wembley fans cheered for the Patriots? Ya know, U.S. Revolution and all that stuff?
23.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) (21) — So getting boat raced in the pouring down rain by the Atlanta Falcons is Juan Castillo’s fault, too, I’m guessing? Right, Andy Reid? And now we’re talking about Michael Vick being benched for Nick Foles? Seriously? Someone panicked in my fantasy league and actually picked up Foles. If Nick Foles starts a game this year I’ll be more shocked than that time I was shocked about something shocking.
22.) New York Jets (3-5) (19) — I’m not gonna say I predicted this, but I did pick up the Dolphins defense with Houston on a bye because I felt a Mark Sanchez game coming. And lo and behold: 4 sacks, a couple of turnovers, 2 blocked kicks, a TD and 29 points later and I had myself an upset fantasy win. And what’s with this news Tim Tebow is taking some actress? Yup, this’ll end well.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) (22) — I really hope during this bye week the Bengals figured out what’s going wrong with their defense that’s given up 58 points in their last two games.
20.) Dalllas Cowboys (3-4) (17) — No one gets blown out, comes back, only to blow the game in stupid fashion quite like the Cowboys. I know this has been asked all week, but the the hell, Tony Romo? It’s funny to me people are trying to figure out if he can ever lead the team to the Super Bowl. These guys like Romo and Rivers give us so much evidence that they are who they are. Romo blew a playoff game back in 2006. We had hard evidence 6 years ago! He’s never gonna get it and Dallas is never going to win with him. Period.
19.) San Diego Chargers (3-4) (14) — Groundhog Day in the NFL is every year around this time the talk around the league is how the San Diego is in the tank, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith should be fired and Philip Rivers isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is. Then the Chargers rattle off 5 wins in 6 weeks, save their season, finish 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs.
18.) Detroit Lions (3-4) (25) — Fact: I had no idea who Ryan Broyles was until the third quarter of Week 7. Fact: I picked him up and started him this week. Fact: He scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Fact: I won this week. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but Calvin Johnson has to be hurt or something. That’s the only explanation I’m accepting.
17.) Indianapolis Colts (4-3) (20) — Is that the play of the year from Vick Ballard? Take a look. Watch it again and again. Have you ever seen someone hit the pylon with his head?! A leap is one thing, but a leap, eskimo roll into the head off the pylon. Ridiculous. And don’t look now, but if the playoffs started today, the Colts are in.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-5) (16) — Really surprised the Saints didn’t play better in Denver last week. Brees has looked a little off all season and that defense, I mean, I didn’t think there was a worse secondary than the Patriots, but good golly. New Orleans is porous. They couldn’t stop my high school, which has it’s Western Maine Class A semifinal playoff matchup this Saturday. Go Trojans.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (5-3) (13) — Pretty bad loss by the Vikings, at home, on Thursday night against the Bucs. This season, home teams have dominated the Thursday games and I was expecting more of the same. The Purple Pistol hasn’t looked great in the last 4 games, throwing 7 interceptions. I still think this team can make the playoffs, but a brutal schedule awaits. “Seriously? WTF” was all Jimmy had for me this week.
14.) Washington Redskins (3-5) (12) — This team is close, but still shows signs of not being that close. Alfred Morris has been out of this world good but you get the feeling against good teams they don’t know how to win yet. It’ll happen. My Good Friend Robert is too special.
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) (26) — Yes, I have the Bucs jumping up 13 spots this week. Yes, that is a record in the 9 weeks of this poll (I think). Yes, this may be an overreaction. Yes, Doug Martin is fast, and yes, Josh Freeman has a snake named Eisen.
12.) Miami Dolphins (4-3) (15) — As much as I feel for Lauren Tannehill’s husband for getting injured, I’m really glad for Matt Moore, whom I always thought got a raw deal down in Miami. Good to see him come in and play well. And like I said earlier, big ups to that defense for getting me a win in fantasy this week.
11.) Seattle Seahawks (4-4) (8) — The SeaChickens better hope they win the NFC West and get homefield, because that’s the only way they have a chance of winning a playoff game. Never seen a team struggle so much on the road. They’re the Bizarro Giants.
10.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (11) — I don’t know who Jonathan Dwyer is or how much he weighs, but he sure looks like Jerome Bettis, doesn’t he? Runs like him, too. Could be dangerous for opponents going forward if they start playing like the Steelers of old.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (6) — When you’re coming off a bye week, I generally don’t have much to say about you. But by no fault of their own, the Ravens have gotten skipped over by a few teams who just have that mojo working right now.
8.) Denver Broncos (4-3) (10) — We may be witnessing the greatest Peyton Manning season in his 15-year career. Call me crazy, but what he’s doing is incredible. I was on record, here and everywhere, that I thought Manning should have retired. Four neck surgeries. A season off. I didn’t think there was any way he could come back and be the Peyton we’ve known. All he’s done lately is 4 straight 300+ yard, 3+ TD games and has the Broncos in the driver’s seat in the AFC West.
7.) New England Patriots (5-3) (9) — The Patriots brought their full artillery to the motherland and put down a full musket whooping of the Rams. Tom Brady leads the league in passing yards (2,408) and Stevan Ridley is 5th in rushing (716 yards). Sure, we all say the former coming but no one saw the latter. If that maintains, and this Thursday trade for Aqib Talib pans out. Look out.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2) (7) — I know the Cardinals have gone in the tank since starting the season 4-0, but dang did the 49ers put the bang thing (@richeisen voice) on them this Monday. And nice of Randy Moss to dust off the cleats and show us some of that 2007 speed.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (5) — Arian Foster was out in California last week to have his jersey retired by his high school. That’s pretty awesome, but shouldn’t every player in the NFL have their jersey retired by their high school? It goes to figure if they made it to the NFL, they’re at least in the 99.9% of players who’ve EVER played at their high school? What in the hell took so long for Foster? What is taking so long Thornton Academy? Oh, right, I wasn’t any good.
4.) Green Bay Packers (5-3) (3) — Aaron Rodgers is still ballin’ out of control right now, and as long as that’s happening, who cares if the Packers only beat the hapless Jaguars 24-15?
3.) New York Giants (6-2) (4) — Only the Giants are good enough to go on the road and rack up a 23-0 lead against a division opponent who beat them earlier in the year. And only the Giants are bad enough to blow that lead and then hold on to win the game because the opponent’s star receiver’s fingers are an inch too long. They’ll probably win the Super Bowl again.
2.) Chicago Bears (6-1) (2) — Before the season we made preseason prediction on the Rich Eisen Podcast and for Coach of the Year, I said Lovie Smith and was laughed at. I said, if the Bears have a good season, which they could with a healthy Jay Cutler (they were on their way last year before he got hurt), then Lovie was going to get serious consideration. I think I’m sitting pretty at the season’s midway point.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (7-0) (1) — The Falcons showed no rust coming out of the bye week; going on the road and putting it down on the Eagles. Matty Ice (or the Mattural) strengthened his MVP campaign with 3 more TD passes as Atlanta remained unbeaten. It hosts the Cowboys this week in what will either end their season or keep their chatter on our tongues for some time to come. Please let it be the reaper (Frasier Crane voice).