LOS ANGELES — We are hours away from the 14th ROFFL Draft Weekend heading into our 15th year and this time our crew makes its way to Denver for three days of football, brews and whatever other fun we can find. The podcast is back for episode two this season, which I think eclipses last year’s total, and I’m lucky to have The Champ pay me a visit. Three-time Gregg Moore Trophy winner Parker Deay stopped by to chat about another title win, the upcoming weekend and why he hates Nick. It was truly breaking news to my ears but I just let him talk and talk. He couldn’t control himself.
Enjoy and safe travels to all coming to Colorado.
LOS ANGELES — We’re back! It’s OK, I know you missed me. It’s been a long time, trust me, I’m aware. So much has changed, too. Cleveland is a winner, Peyton Manning is gone (though not from my television commercials) and Bill Belichick is giving in-depth press conferences. Whoa, I just got carried away. But the ROFFL Podcast has returned and I couldn’t be happier and more excited as we embark on our 15th season in which we rest our entire Fall’s happiness on the real performance of our very fake roster of NFL players. Once again, Parker is our defending champion (insert disparaging remarks) and Josh is our Toilet Bowl “winner” (insert disparaging remarks about Baltimore) and everyone else is left in between wondering what went wrong (Antonio Gates and the entire San Diego offensive line got injured).
We’ll be in Denver in less than a week for another ROFFL Draft and tensions and expectations are high. Can it top last year in Boston? Will Marc try and draft J.J. Watt? Will Jarrett’s cell phone have service? Just how smelly will it be in there? All valid questions and all will have answers on August 27 around midnight when the last pick will be made, give or take.
My guest for the kickoff to the 2016 season podcast is a two-time champion and the man with the best facial hair in the game, Navid Sadri. We hit on everything in the hour-long episode from the Draft Book to having another kid to watching the Olympics. Hope you enjoy it and can’t wait to see you guys in a week!
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.)
LOS ANGELES — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently the subject of some poor television producing when the topic of his spot in the NFL’s Top 5 QB Elite was discussed. Now, I didn’t pay this one ounce of attention because, well, duh, of course he’s still in there. But for a June conversation, it moved the dial and media outlets deprived of content this time of year ran with it and I’m sure their ratings reflected such discussion involving NFL royalty. Tim Tebow he is not, however.
Fantasy geeks who care only about on-field statistics have their theories as to what qualifies one as NFL Elite and where Brady currently ranks in today’s game. I have my own list but that’s not the point of his article. But to satisfy the stat-heads, let’s just look at basic quarterback measurables over the last three seasons to get an idea: Brady has 1,182 completions, thrown for 14,405 yards and 98 TDs, and just 31 INTs.
In my fantasy league with the scoring as follows – .25pts/comp, 40yds/pt, 6pts/TD and -2pts/INT – that calculates out to 1,181.63 points. There are 14 other QBs who have started a majority of their teams games in the last three seasons – I’ll throw Peyton Manning in there with his 2010 stats as well – so let’s see how they performed purely on a statistical basis:
- Drew Brees: 1,436 comp, 15,815 yards, 128 TD, 45 INT –> 1,432.38 pts
- Peyton Manning: 1,300 comp, 14,836 yards, 125 TD, 38 INT –> 1,369.9 pts
- Tom Brady: 1,182 comp, 14,405 yards, 98 TDs, 31 INT –> 1,181.63 pts
- Matthew Stafford: 1,227 comp, 14,655 yards, 90 TD, 52 INT –> 1,109.13 pts
- Aaron Rodgers: 907 comp, 11,444 yards, 101 TD, 20 INT –> 1,086.85 pts
- Matt Ryan: 1,208 comp, 13,411 yards, 87 TD, 43 INT –> 1,073.28 pts
- Tony Romo: 1,123 comp, 12,915 yards, 90 TD, 39 INT –> 1,065.63 pts
- Philip Rivers: 1,082 comp, 12,708 yards, 85 TD, 46 INT –> 1,006.2 pts
- Andy Dalton: 992 comp, 11,360 yards, 80 TD, 49 INT –> 914 pts
- Ben Roethlisberger: 983 comp, 11,601 yards, 75 TD, 36 INT –> 913.78 pts
- Eli Manning: 997 comp, 12,699 yards, 73 TD, 58 INT –> 888.73 pts
- Joe Flacco: 991 comp, 11,339 yards, 61 TD, 44 INT –> 809.23 pts
- Cam Newton: 882 comp, 11,299 yards, 64 TD, 42 INT –> 802.98 pts (does not include rushing stats/points)
- Alex Smith: 734 comp, 8,194 yards, 53 TD, 17 INT –> 672.35 pts
- Jay Cutler: 661 comp, 7,973 yards, 51 TD, 33 INT –> 604.58 pts
This last Monday, Brady, in so many words, said he didn’t care about those stats fantasy nerds get hard over, that wins and the final score are the only stats that matter to him. This fits with Brady’s Patriotsification over the years. Team first. Winning is all that matters. Get better each game. It is what it is. Of course, his quotes got me thinking about stats vs. wins so I looked them all up and wouldn’t you know the quarterback with the most wins in the last three seasons: Tom Brady.
Tom Terrific is 37-11 in the regular season since 2011, one ahead of Manning for the most in the league. Look at how the rest of the above fantasy studs compare when it comes down to straight wins and losses:
- Tom Brady 37-11
- Peyton Manning 36-12+
- Aaron Rodgers 31-9*
- Drew Brees 31-17
- Alex Smith 30-9-1++
- Andy Dalton 30-18
- Joe Flacco 30-18
- Matt Ryan 27-21
- Ben Roethlisberger 26-18^
- Cam Newton 25-23
- Eli Manning 25-23
- Tony Romo 24-23 **
- Philip Rivers 24-24
- Jay Cutler 22-14^^
- Matthew Stafford 21-27
* missed 7 games in 2013
+ includes 2010 season as Manning missed all of 2011
^ missed 4 games between 2010 & 2011
** missed 1 game in 2013
++ missed 8 games in 2012 & 2013
^^ missed 12 games in 2011, 2012 & 2013
Interesting how they line up, don’t you think? So, yeah, when Brady says he only cares about wins and the final score, he really knows what he’s talking about.
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.
BALTIMORE — The most exciting day of the year for my college buddies and I isn’t Christmas, any of the eight days of Hanukkah or Thanksgiving. It isn’t a big movie premiere, birthday or even finally getting a date with that girl from the subway; it’s the day in the first week of August when the Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League Draft Book arrives in the mail. It’s the very best day of the year because it means two things are in our immediate future: the upcoming NFL season, and the annual ROFFL Draft Weekend.
The ROFFL dates back to 2002 and as you guessed, consists of me and my Syracuse University buddies, along with a few stragglers we needed back in the day to fill out the league (Binghamton, Haverford and Oneonta are also represented). But it’s turned into much, much more with a website, weekly articles, a podcast, an entire Draft Weekend, trophies for first and last place, and the aforementioned Draft Book. That first season we picked our players via an autodraft, and ironically, the guy who won has never had a winning season in 12 years.
In 2003 though, it all changed when we decided to have a yearly live draft in Atlantic City. For our 10th anniversary we tore down Las Vegas (what can I say, we like to gamble) and for our 13th year we started a new tradition: holding our draft in the city of the team that wins the Super Bowl. So as it was we all packed up our magazines, ADP lists and team gear for the state where crab cakes and football are emphatically done: Maryland.
Admittedly, Baltimore wasn’t my first choice. Being a West Coast Guy now, I was rooting for San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, but to say the Charm City was anything but a fantastic host would be a classic Barry Sanders stretch run. For the 12 of us who made the trek – Parker had to phone in from Los Angeles and Jarrett from New Jersey – it was arguably the most fun we’ve had at a Draft Weekend.
It all started with a night at Camden Yards in a suite to watch the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics but not before a few of us hit up Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, which is home to some of the rarest comic books in the world. Jason, Jay and Marc are makeshift nerds and were geeking out upon seeing the first edition Superman and Batman, as well as old action figures, movie posters and the like from pop culture throughout the years. It was a pretty amazing and well curated museum, and the history buff in me enjoyed it immensely. A couple of them even bought Avengers keychains, while I would’ve loved to have taken home an Elvis poster.
But the real reason we were there Friday night was to see some baseball, stuff our face with Boog Powell’s BBQ and announce our keepers for the upcoming season. See, the ROFFL is a 2-player keeper league and you can retain any player for you want for a maximum of three seasons; so there’s definitely some strategy that goes into who you’re keeping on a year-to-year basis. This season was the end of my time with Texans superstar running back Arian Foster, so I was forced to keep Jaguars stud Maurice Jones-Drew and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. I debated keeping Mike Wallace over Ryan since quarterback has some depth this year, and even had a plan hatched earlier in the week to wait and draft Andrew Luck and a Colts receiver, but I chickened out and made the safe play with The Mattural and the high-powered Atlanta offense.
All-in-all, the keepers went pretty much as I predicted in my mock draft, aside from Rob Gronkowski not being kept, one guy keeping Antonio Brown instead of Reggie Wayne and another keeping Ray Rice over Reggie Bush (we’re a PPR league), and so as the Orioles game went on – and they rallied for a 9-7 win thanks to a Brian Roberts’ grand slam – talk in the suite and the bar afterward turned to draft strategy. Back into the mix this season were all-world running backs Adrian Peterson, Foster, LeSean McCoy, and some studs who were not kept, such as Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Larry Fitzgerald and Stevan Ridley. As I was picking in the 8 hole, I figured to have my selection of one of the latter four, which I was completely OK with.
Before I get ahead of myself, Saturday kicked off with a trip to the smallest and most-stupidly-staffed Dunkin Donuts in the 410 and a pre-draft tour of M&T Bank Stadium, also known as the Ravens Nest (I don’t know if anyone actually calls it that, but let’s be honest, they should). Originally, I wasn’t too keen on taking a tour of a football stadium, as I’d been in a couple before, and generally speaking, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Boy was I wrong.
Some highlites: the stadium is made with 1.5 million bricks, and if you laid them out end-to-end would cover 155 miles to Ocean City, Md.; the new-and-improved concourse wasn’t open to the public for last Thursday’s preseason game, which made us the first civilians to walk through it; our tour guide was this 70-year old named Tom who used to be a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band; a luxury suite can be yours for the cool price of $125,000 a year, which includes 28 tickets and 23/hour a day access throughout the entire year; Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s two-story luxury suite has bulletproof glass for when President Obama comes to visit; they have 3 jail cells in the depths and roughly kick out 150 people per game, most of them women; when John Madden used to still broadcast games for Fox and NBC, he’d drink a half case of beer before each contest and Tom said he almost got fired once for knocking a beer all over the broadcast console; our buddy Josh, who set the whole thing up and worked a year for RaveTV, wrote some of the inspirational essays that adorn the Club Level walls, which was pretty neat to see; the Ravens lockeroom is located 30 seconds from the field, whereas the visitors takes a few minutes to access. Tom made sure to let us know that’s a huge advantage come halftime.
However, the ultimate highlite of the tour was when Tom let us go on the field to run rampant like those brats in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but not before we walked through the Ray Lewis Memorial Look At Me And All My Awesomeness Tunnel. Of course, I had to do the dance. The only thing missing was a giant heap of sod for me to throw off myself and shove down my throat, which Tom assured us Ray would do before each game after posing for a picture with the weekly sod giver contest winner. Once on the field, we went Ray Kinsela after he finally finished the Field of Dreams and stood there and soaked in what he had created. Our jaws were agape and eyes buggin’ at what we were absorbing through our sports fan pours. Now, I’ve covered many football games in my sportswriting days and even stood on the sideline next to the head coach for most of them, but I have to admit, it was pretty awesome being on a NFL field with your 10 buddies and a football. My arm isn’t what it used to be, but I turned back the clock a bit throwing touchdown passes to the guys. Oh, and I even dusted off my shoe and drained a 25-yard field goal (on my 2nd attempt). So if Justin Tucker misses any chip shots in the first couple games, I’M READY!!!!
As for the draft itself, I was more than happy to take Ridley with my first pick. I debated between him and Morris for a couple minutes, but in the end, it’s always fun to have a player on the team you root for (and one who could score 15 touchdowns this season). So instead of Tom Brady touchdown passes, I’ll be hoping receivers get tackled at the 5 and Ridley takes it in from there. The problem with my league is that most of my buddies tend to over-think and over-analyze who’s available and their potential. As has been proven time and time again, fantasy football is 98% luck and 2% setting yourself up to have good luck, so there’s roughly no difference between who you’re taking in the later rounds. Such, our draft runs insanely long, and that’s just what happened last weekend. Thankfully, there was an Orioles game going on we could peek out the windows of the B&O Warehouse behind Camden Yards (oh, did I fail to mention we drafted in the warehouse behind Camden Yards? my bad) and take in while Jason and Nick spent an episode of Ray Donovan debating between Brian Hartline and Toby Gerhart.
In the end, I was very satisfied with my top selections (MJD, Ryan, Ridley, Marques Colston, Tony Gonzalez), my defense (Seahawks) and my backups with starting potential (Roy Helu and Andre Roberts). I took a flyer on a couple sleepers (DeAndre Hopkins and Markus Wheaton) and went back to old reliable with my kicker (Sebastian Janikowski). Is this finally the year the Gregg Moore Trophy takes its rightful home at Brockman Manor? I don’t know, since an injury could squash all title hopes faster than you can pronounce Michael Hoomanawanui. The Colt .45 LA Bandits have been so close before and came up short, but with another season anew I’m hopeful, and that’s no fantasy.
LOS ANGELES — It’s that time of the year, people: Fantasy Football Playoffs. I don’t know about you, but of all the league’s I’m in (that would be one, two, three, four, FIVE), there’s only one that I really care about and pay attention to 24/7: The Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League.
This season is our 11th and it’s just as competitive as Season 1. It’s also been a wild one for the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Started out hot, winning the first 3 weeks, then lost the next two, before climbing to 6-3. But a three-game losing streak had me wondering if the playoffs were a pipe dream. But a Week 13 win had me again in the tournament, which is where you want to be. The closest I’ve come to winning was a year ago. I fell to Drew Brees and his owner, Parker Deay, in the finals. A finals that seemed out of reach when I began the year 0-4, but nonetheless I reached after upsetting a pair of higher seeds in the first two rounds.
This season, I’m again the 7th seed and Parker, a two-time champion, is again No. 1, so I had to get him over to Trojan Manor to chat about the season and the upcoming ROFFL Playoffs, which begin this Thursday with the Broncos at Raiders on Thursday Night Football.
Enjoy the banter, boys!
LOS ANGELES — The last year I was in Maine, I covered my high school, Thornton Academy, as it won its first-ever boys basketball Class A state championship. It was the greatest run for me both professionally and personally because of the team and individuals involved (I was a captain my senior year). Looking back, I feel like I wrote some of my best game stories and columns during that time, and while I might have had some extra motivation to be at my best, I relished in it the moment and tried to remain as objective as humanly possible.
Being there as the final seconds ticked and the celebration and the cutting down of the nets and talking to the kids and coaches afterwards is something I’ll never forget. I felt like I was a part of that team, and for no other reason than I spent a lot of time with them; at their games, at their practices, talking on and off the record to the coaches and players. Saco is a true community, and a giant local sports town, and I’m proud to forever be part of that community for my service there as a student athlete, teacher, and member of the media.
This past weekend, another of Thornton’s teams I have a strong affinity for, did something it hasn’t done in 24 years. The Golden Trojans football team reached the Class A State Championship game with a 20-13 victory over Cheverus in the Western Maine final to earn their first trip to the title game since 1988. We won the Gold Ball that year and if all goes to plan, we ‘ll take it home again on Saturday. I played 3 varsity season during my time as a Thornton Academy student, the last as its quarterback. I’ve known the head coach, Kevin Kezal, since he was my JV baseball coach in 1996. My first year out of college, he brought me in to be the Trojans wide receivers coach; it was one of the best times of my life. I’ve known all the coaches nearly as long and covered them for 5 years. To say I’m close to the program is an understatement.
The funny thing is, when I was home in May, I stopped by Thornton and talked to Kezal and another coach for nearly two hours. It was mostly just catching up, since I hadn’t been home or seen them in a while, but they noted how special this team could be; that they had a chance to finally be the one to end our Gold Ball drought. And now they’re 48 minutes away. It kills me not to be there. Good luck, boys.
We know who The Man is in Maine, let’s find out who’s The Man in the NFL this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) (32) — The Chiefs took the lead on Monday night for the first time all season. And then lost. Then got a penalty for a sick dance on a play that technically didn’t happen. That tells you all you need to know. #FreeJamaal
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) (31) — I’m glad we can put to bed all this “Alabama would beat the Chiefs or Jaguars” talk, with the Tide’s loss over the weekend to Texas A&M. But wouldn’t a game between them be fun?
30.) Carolina Panthers (2-7) (28) — OK, Cam Newton, I’m going to give you a mulligan for this season. I think you’re a good player. Really, I do. I called it two years ago when co-workers were trashing you, but please please please put the “Superman” dance away for the rest of 2012.
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-7) (30) — Not really much to say about the Browns so allow me to another opportunity to dial up a quickie Extra Butter for the new Bond flick “Skyfall”: I get the impression that in real life, Daniel Craig is a pretty big a-hole. I get it, he’s the biggest star in Europe. I’m sure I’d be one, too. But he’s an awesome Bond. Physical. Imposing. Vulnerable. Those piercing blue eyes. Quick-witted. I dig him. And I did this film. It’s an experience. Javier Bardem is an awesome villain and downright creepy, to be honest. An ex-MI6 agent, he’s seeking revenge for M selling him out to the Chinese years ago. Him battling wits with Bond makes for a riveting 143 minutes. Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25/5 shaken martinis.
28.) New York Jets (3-6) (22) — It’s tough to see how Mark Sanchez can continue to be the quarterback of this team. And while a lot of the blame has to be put on his shoulders for his very below average performance this season (9-of-22, 124 yards, INT vs. Seahawks), the coaching staff and management has not done a good job of playing to his strengths and surrounding him with players to bolster his weaknesses. I’m done talking about this team.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) (27) — Definitely giving up on this team, so allow me to tell how difficult it is to change a tire when all you have is one of those tiny rinky dink jacks. It’s really hard. And even harder when you try to change it on a public street. You have to angle your car so you have just enough room off the curb and on top of that, it’s was dark and the automatic sprinklers just went off for the 3 foot strip of grass. Then you’re car is low to the ground, so you have to lay on the pavement to spin the
26.) Buffalo Bills (3-6) (29) — Stevie Johnson is the most flamboyant player on the Bills. He wears really cool outfits and makes fun of Plaxico Burress after he scores touchdowns. However, he was not happy after Buffalo’s 37-31 loss to the Patriots.
25.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) (25) — Holy shnikes this team sucks. I mean, what the hell? Can’t Michael Vick go one game without getting his ass kicked like he plays for that team Adam Sandler was the water boy for? I actually think I had a dream last night that Andy Reid shaved his walrus ‘stache. Do you think if he did, that would confuse Eagles fans, reporters and even his own Jeff Lurie into thinking that it was a new coach and therefore no one would get upset and Lurie wouldn’t come damn near close to firing him every Sunday night? That might work, right? Hell, it’s worth a shot. Andy doesn’t have many bullets left in the holster.
24.) Oakland Raiders (3-6) (24) — Literally the only player worth having on the Raiders for fantasy purposes in their tight end, Brandon Myers, who I actually never even heard of about 5 weeks ago, but has been killing it for me in that span. However, he suffered a concussion, along with half the league, this weekend and is questionable against the Saints, which forces me to start Jermichael Finley, who I have grown to loathe this season. He couldn’t catch herpes if he had a threeway with Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan.*
23.) Washington Redskins (3-6) (20) — Did I see that right, the Redskins have the exact same record at this point in the season as they did last year with Rex Grossman as their quarterback? I’m not saying any more. My Good Friend Robert needs a win though. Pretty badly.
22.) Tennessee Titans (4-6) (26) — I’m conflicted here with the Titans. On one side, I’m happy for Jake Locker that he came back from his injury and won a big road game against an apparently fraudulent Dolphins and got Tennessee back in the playoff mix. On the other side, I’m sad for My Brother Matthew, who won’t get any more burn this season unless Locker goes down with an injury again. Conflicted. Oh, and that TD run by Chris Johnson is one of the plays of the year. Dang, homey.
21.) St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) (23) — See, I knew I wasn’t the only ones who felt indifferent about the Rams. The Football Gods deemed it necessary to have them play in a tie this season. A TIE!!?! It’s been 4 years since the last tie in the NFL and Donovan McNabb regrettably stated he didn’t know the game would end that way. Now, after that episode, you’d think that no NFLer would dare admit that again, but lo and behold, Danny Amendola went and did just that to Peter King afterwards. When are these guys gonna learn to KEEP. THEIR. MOUTHS. SHUT? I’m guessing never.
20.) San Diego Chargers (4-5) (18) — You may not see a worse pass this season than the one Philip Rivers threw that Leonard Johnson intercepted and ran back for a touchdown this week. I don’t get Rivers one bit. Sure, he throws it uglier than Tebow but man he can make plays one minute and then the most boneheaded the next.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) (21) — It’s ridiculous how there are so many teams with basically the same record but who have very different feelings about their playoff chances. Such as the Bengals, who are 4-5 are in the same boat as the Chargers, but while San Diego might as well be walking the plank, Cincy is down below getting drunk on rum its huge win over the Giants. It’s all about trends and the Orange and Black is trending up.
18.) Detroit Lions (4-5) (17) — The Lions will never win anything until Matthew Stafford turns his hat around. No one ever won anything in a backwards cap. Not Ken Griffey Jr., not Tony Romo, no one.
17.) Miami Dolphins (4-5) (16) — The Dolphins had a chance to make as statement, get above .500 for the first time since who knows when and get into the AFC Playoff Picture and what did they do? Get absolutely boat raced at home by the Titans. Inexcusable. I’m so upset by this I need a new picture of Lauren Tannehill to cheer me up. Aaah, that’s better.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (4-5) (19) won — Does anyone stay alive quite like the Dallas Cowboys? They’re like that one last good run at the blackjack table as you’re nearing zeroes that keeps you around just long enough to lose your entire stake. Don’t trust them and never will. But that’s very noble of Jerry Jones to say he’d fire himself. So go ahead and do it, you dope.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (6-4) (15) — Definitely a must-win last weekend, in division against the Lions, for the Vikings. If it wasn’t for Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson would be the MVP of the league right now. You could make an argument the two should share that award and Comeback Player of the Year, which is incredible. Here’s my buddy Jimmy’s take: “Going into the bye 6-4, gonna finish 10-6. You heard it here first.” Yes, we did.
14.) New Orleans Saints (4-5) (14) — One of those annoying Pepsi commercials featuring Drew Brees and some band called “One Direction,” which is why I’m going this route. But is anyone else kind of tired of/annoyed with/want to punch Brees in the face? He hasn’t been doing himself any favors in the last 6 months with the holdout, the Bounty stuff, the tired pregame chants and now these commercials. They’re terrible. Deplorable, even. And on those pregame chants; who takes those seriously? Seeing Brees stand there and be all, “come on, uh huh, yeah” and say things like, “real Saints have swag,” get real, Drew. Don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re out.
13.) New York Giants (6-4) (9) — Even if their bye week wasn’t pre-determined for Week 11, I’m guessing Tom Coughlin would’ve most likely petitioned the league office to make it the Giants week off after the way they’ve played lately. Now with just a two-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East, Big Blue is reeling like it’s fly fishing season. Eli Manning has
12.) Indianapolis Colts (6-3) (13) –– It’s amazing what’s going on in Indianapolis. Truly. And if you think about it, the Colts are a Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts 80-yd bomb in the final two minutes away from being 7-2. That’s one people are going to look back and shake their heads at, especially when the Jags are 1-15 and the Colts are 11-5.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) (12) — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: really like what’s going on in Tampa Bay. Sure, Greg Schiano is a little insane, but this team has offensive firepower coming out its ears. Mike Williams has a 3 TDs in the last 5 games
10.) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) (11) –– I still don’t believe in Russell Wilson, but each week he’s making me look dumber and dumber for saying that.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (7-2) (10) — Seems like this team only plays well and home. And could Ray Lewis really come back and play this season? He was spotted at practice this week. Hmmm.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) (8) — Remember a little over a month ago when I wondered if the Steelers were any good? Well, four straight wins later I think they’ve proved me wrong. However, with Big Ben nursing a dislocated rib with the possibility of puncturing an aorta (what the what?!), Pittsburgh has to turn to 73-year-old Byron Leftwich and his hand crank delivery. At least they don’t play the Ravens two of the next three weeks. What’s that you say, they do? Hmm…
7.) Denver Broncos (6-4) (7) — You know who’s awesome? Von Miller. Here’s why; the dude likes to have fun while playing football. Imagine that. I really like how he does other people’s celebrations when he sacks them or makes a play. He’s Tebow’d, did Aaron Rodgers’ belt celebration, Mile High Saluted, Cam’s Superman and countless others. Always reminding us that it is just a game, and game’s are supposed to be fun.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) (5) — It appears Alex Smith (concussion) will be ready for the Monday Night clash against Chicago, but don’t you kinda get the feeling that the 49ers would like Smith to be out so they could see what life could be like with the dangerous Colin Kaepernick behind center? No? Am I the only one who thinks that? Kaepernick is bigger (hands), has a stronger arm, is faster and can make something from nothing. Sure, Smith is Harbaugh’s guy (when he’s not courting Peyton Manning) but why not rest him and see what you have in the young kid?
5.) New England Patriots (6-3) (6) — The Patriots give up far too many points, yards and big plays (they lead the league in 20+ yard plays) yet somehow find a way to win. It’s why I can’t have them any higher despite their three-game winning streak. I’d also be lying to you if I said I was confident in the 4th Quarter against Buffalo and that I think this weekend’s game against the Colts is a cakewalk. Lying to you.
4.) Chicago Bears (7-2) (2) — How come it seems like every season Jay Cutler does something very Jay Cutler-like (aside from all the douchey stuff) such as getting hurt when his team has a legit shot to go deep in the playoffs? Oh, right, because he does. Last year it was the thumb and this year it’s the concussion thanks to a Tim Dobbins helmet-to-helmet hit when Cutler was scrambling and near the line of scrimmage on a throw. Allow me to the first to wish Jason Campbell congratulations on still being in the league and reminding everyone of that when he walked on the field, Sunday night.
3.) Green Bay Packers (6-3) (4) — Word out of Wisconsin is Aaron Rodgers recently proposed to his girlfriend, Destiny Newton. Could that explain is elevated play in recent weeks? I have no idea, but while you’re here, take a peek at Miss Newton.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-1) (1) — Matty Ice and Co. failed to remain unbeaten, falling to the Saints last weekend, but if we’re all honest with one another, I don’t think any of us expected Atlanta to go 16-0. This smells like a 13-3 team. Just not getting enough out of the running game. Not sure if it’s by design, but even when his number is being called, Michael Turner is struggling big time. That’s gotta get fixed for me to be serious about the Dirty Birds as legit contenders.
1.) Houston Texans (8-1) (3) — I have just one rule: when you go on the road and defeat a fellow once-beaten team, and on top of that, knock said once-beaten team’s quarterback out of the game, AND you have Arian Foster, you deserve the top spot in my weekly You’re The Man rankings.
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).
LOS ANGELES — Cool story this week out of league headquarters, where an 11-year old sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and suggested that the referees use pink penalty flags during games in honor of breast cancer awareness month. And you know what, Roger replied and instituted the idea for this week’s Jets/Dolphins game. How about that for taking action?
Player safety? Nope. BountyGate? Fuggeduaboutit. Pink referee flags. Booyah.
My best friend’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. I’m down with the NFL celebrating this month how they do. I know a lot of people who have a problem with it, think it’s tacky, makes the games tough and distracting to watch. To hell with them. The NFL is the biggest sports league in the country and is more popular than all the rest combined and it’s honorable that they do this in support of women across America.
In honor of that, let’s find out who’s the woman this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) (32) — OK, Chiefs fans, looks like you’re stuck with Brady Quinn. Romeo Crennel announced Monday Quinn would be replacing Matt Cassel for the remainder of the season. I’m gonna let that sink in for a second so you can full wrap your mind around Dr. Biceps being your starter the next 9 weeks (let’s be real, you’re not making the playoffs and if you do, I’ll fly to KC and run around town naked. In December).
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (31) — So here’s what my dumbass did this week. Had a trade offer to a buddy involving MJD and Darren McFadden, and a couple of receivers. Said buddy did not get back to me for several days. Another came in with a trade offer of Vincent Jackson for MJD straight up. I turned that down after Jackson left practice with a calf injury, plus, I wanted to get a running back in return since I’d be giving up my No. 2. Guess what happened on Sunday? MJD – 2 carries, 6 yards. VJax – 7 catches, 216 yards, TD. I’m a moron.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-5) (30) —I don’t have to say anything this week about the Panthers, Cam Newton said it all after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys: “The past couple of games has been the same script by the same kind of director. It’s kind of getting boring… I don’t know what it is but something is going to have to change… We just find a way to keep games close and see what happens at the end. It’s not a formula for success. And I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win… I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring a suggestion box. And I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know. I really don’t.”
29.) Cleveland Browns (1-6) (28) — Brandon Weeden has the 2nd most passing yards by a rookie through 7 team games in NFL history (1,783). Do you know who has the most? Cam Newton, last year. Not a good sign, Brandon. He’s also is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10. Needless to say, the Browns like to wing it around the yard, which I like, don’t get me wrong.
28.) Oakland Raiders (2-4) (27) — The Raiders might be the first team in the history of this column, which dates back all the way to September, to win a game and drop. HOWEVER, and I took some serious heat for this, big ups to Carson Palmer, who I explained last week the type of player he is, for getting me nearly 23 points in fantasy. Palmer out-performed his projection by more than 7 points. So, thank you, sir. Keep delivering the rock to Brandon Myers and we’ll remain good.
27.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (25) — It’s pretty bad when the coolest part of your game is when your receiver does an end zone dance of a song that’s already been beaten in the ground. And seriously, HAS ANYONE SEEN MARIO WILLIAMS?? Oh, bye week wrist surgery? Gotcha. Makes sense.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) (23) — The Bucs get points for wearing the cremecicle jerseys. Forget the Chargers powder blues, these babies are my favorite. They lose points for pretty much everything else that goes on on the field. Oh, and eff Vincent Jackson.
25.) Detroit Lions Lions (2-4) (24) — Is it time to start talking about the Madden Curse for Calvin Johnson? We all thought if anyone was going to be immune to the curse, it would be Megatron. But he only has 1 TD this season and everyone is wondering what’s up. Forget the fact that he’s still 5th in receiving yards (592) and 10th in receptions (38). Maybe Matthew Stafford is the problem.
24.) Tennessee Titans (3-4) (29) — My brother, Matthew, is just ballin’ out there. And Chris Johnson turned back the clock a couple years and broke out the fast shoes. That’s three good games in four weeks for CJ. Can he make it 4-for-5 against the Colts? I’d love it. #BaldIsBeautiful
23.) St. Louis Rams (3-4) (18) — London is a long way from St. Louis. The Rams are playing a “home” game against the Patriots at Wembley Stadium this weekend. We had British presenter and celebrity Vernon Kay on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week and he said the city is pumped up for some American football, and I believe him. You’d think with the Patriots coming to town, it would be a Rams crowd, right? They’re still holding a Revolutionary War grudge, I’m guessing.
22.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) (17) — Another disappointing team in 2012, the Bengals choked away a 14-3 lead over the Steelers in a key division home game on Sunday. Can’t give away those babies and expect to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Guessing the Steelers end up running the table, riding the emotions of that win. Oh, and Andy Dalton has 10 picks. Can’t keep that up and expect to win.
21.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (26) — Andy Reid is something like 12-0 in games after a bye week. The No. 1 Falcons are coming to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. Something has to give.
20.) Indianapolis Colts (3-3) (22) — I’m glad the Colts keep winning and I get to keep seeing locker room video of a red-faced Jim Irsay handing out game balls. Go online and find this stuff, peeps, it’s priceless. And someone please tell Andrew Luck to shave the neck beard! I’ll keep saying it til it happens, not a good look, bro.
19.) New York Jets (3-4) (21) — Not gonna lie, I was fairly impressed with Mark Sanchez in the second half against the Patriots, and to be honest, the Jets should’ve won the game. They had it in their hands, and then Stephen Hill dropped it. And don’t feel bad that Sanchez and Eva Longoria have reportedly broken up, he’ll be just fine.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (4-3) (13) — Three losses in a row is not a good look.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (19) — Barely beating the script-following, suggestion-box using Panthers does not a drastic rise in the polls make, dearest Cowboys.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-4) (20) — No doubt, the Saints are moving up, but they still give up too many points for my blood to be a serious threat to anyone as of yet. However, a win on the road this week in Denver would get them into playoff discussion. Plus, Joe Vitt is back as the true interim head coach. Again, not sure what that means, but we’re about to find out. And did Joe Morgan make the catch of the year this week? Or maybe just the play? Either way, it was pretty freakin’ cool.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (15) — I made a bold move this week, and one I never thought I’d even consider back in August when we all watched these clowns on “Hard Knocks:” picked up the Dolphins as my defense this week in fantasy against the Jets. Hoping for one of those classic Mark Sanchez games. You know the ones.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (14) — After last Monday night’s debacle against the Broncos, this team needed a bye week. And what comes out of it, reports of stick-um use?? What year is this? Did Orlando Jones suddenly line up at receiver and we all missed it? Make 7. Up Yours.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (12) –– Whaddya got for me this week, Jimmy: “Back in the win column. Another week closer to New Orleans in February… Tampa, then Seattle. If we bring it we’ll be 7-2 at the bye week. Scary huh?”
12.) Washington Redskins (3-4) (11) — Was there a more badass play than the 4th and 10 from his own 23 wtih 2:07 to play than My Good Friend Robert has had all season? And as you were watching, did you have any doubts in your mind that he’d pull it off? Me neither. Now, I’m not like others who think he’s the MVP of the league, but we’re watching something pretty special right now in Landover.
11.) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (16) — While I was typing this Mike Wallace dropped 4 more passes. Seriously, bro. Call Norv Turner and get some of that Chargers stick-um ’cause you’re KILLING the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Yeah, Mike Tomlin is probably pissed, too.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (10) — Did you know Peyton Manning threw for 4 more TDs and 323 yards during the bye week? No, seriously, he was playing against the Chargers on Madden and they still couldn’t stop him. Maybe I was wrong about #18. Remember, I said I hoped I was wrong. Big game with the Saints this weekend. Big game.
9.) New England Patriots (4-3) (9) — I have no idea about this Patriots team anymore, but I do know one thing: its not any good. Bill Simmons had a tweet on Sunday about getting that Larry Bird in 1990 feel, which I assumed he meant about Tom Brady being near the end of the line. And I’m not ready to go there, but shoot, man, let’s put a freakin’ game away or something.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (8) — Their Week 7 game happened so long ago, I don’t even remember what happened. But I do know I can’t stop talking or thinking about Russell Wilson. It’s really hard not to like this kid, but he has to make more plays out there against good teams (I do not think the Patriots are a good team).
7.) San Francisco 49ers (5-2) (7) — It’s just a given that the Thursday night games kinda stink for three quarters and then heat up in the fourth. So I’m going to give the 49ers a pass for not being as convincing as maybe they should have against Seattle. But they are quite good. Alex Smith had to do more for this team to be a legit Super Bowl contender for me.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (2) — Well, that wasn’t a pretty afternoon in Houston, now was it? I happen to think this is a momentary blip in the road for the Ravens. They still have a top flight offense, Terrell Suggs is back, which will help, and they still have a great coach. However, this is all on Joe Flacco now. If he doesn’t rise up then you can forget being mentioned among the game’s best.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (6) — Nice to see the Texans bounce back after getting embarrassed at home against the Packers. I know the Ravens are banged up, but that was a boat race. Arian Foster proving he might be the league’s MVP through 7 weeks; he leads the NFL in rushing attempts (168), yards (659) and touchdowns (9). Bow on, brotha. And that defense, sweet sassy mollassy. J.J. Watt already has 10 batted passes this season. That has to be some kind of record, right?
4.) New York Giants (5-2) (5) — I saw an interesting stat with Tom Coughlin has head coach, the Giants haven’t started worse than 5-2 since he took over in 2004. Sure, that ’04 team then lost 8 in a row after that, and the Giants have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent and start slowly at home. But ya know, other than that, they’re great.
3.) Green Bay Packers (4-3) (4) — You like numbers? Here’s some numbers: 54-of-74, 680 yards, 9 TDs. Aaron. Rodgers (in the last 2 weeks). If ya need him.
2.) Chicago Bears (5-1) (3) — Admit it, you thought Jay Cutler died when Ndamukong Suh tossed him around like a sack of potatoes and then dropped a Rock Bottom on him middle ring? I know I did. How was Cutler’s right arm not severed at the shoulder after that hit? I did like Suh coming over after celebrating to make sure Jay was OK. Classy. But why is Brandon Marshall still running his mouth? Looked like a clean hit to me. Oh, and that Bears D is naaaaasty.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) — I have only one rule: when you’re undefeated AND have a bye week, you’re not allowed to drop from the top spot of my poll.