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 — Sports fans today are more informed than they’ve ever been. Information about your favorite team is everywhere: legit league and team websites, fan blogs, Twitter, you name it. If you want to know what your favorite player is eating or doing at a given moment, check their Instagram or wait for TMZ to have a report later that night. It’s a blessing and a curse, living in this know-it-all-the-second-it-happens time that we do. But there is once place that exists, a lone Fortress of Information Solitude where everything walks in but nothing seeps its way out, where what happens there, truly stays there: the NFL locker room.
Save for once a year when one team volunteers to allow HBO’s hidden and very public cameras to film every punching player, coaching quarrel and ridiculously resilient rookie for its duration of training camp. The result is annually the best show on television. It’s the access today’s sports fan can’t get anywhere. It can scour the internet and follow every beat writer on Twitter until there is nothing left to click and scan, but it won’t ever know the details of a very real conversation Falcons head coach Mike Smith had with five-year defensive tackle Piera Jerry, who up and announced his retirement near the end of the first week and didn’t have a clue of what he was going to do next.
Yes, the Atlanta Falcons are the featured team on this year’s “Hard Knocks,” and if it wasn’t clear right from the opening video montage of Smith screaming over guys popping each other in a fully padded Day 1 practice, then over the course of the entire 60 minutes you figured out the coaching staff wants the Falcons players to put to bed the notion their physicality is how you say, lacking.
“You’re tough if you play this game,” Smith said in the coaches meeting room, as if trying to convince himself his players have what it takes to stand up and be physical this season, “and we got tough guys.”
This theme of being tough and smart and physical played throughout the entire episode with repeated clips of guys battling at the line of scrimmage for the play and then immediately head-slapping each other and talking tons of trash well after the whistle and usually until they had to be separated by teammates. It got rather old relatively quickly for my taste as it seemed ramped up for the show. Whenever a team featuring Osi Umenyiora claims to be tough, you know it’s B.S. And I know this because last year during the first NFL GameDay Morning meeting I mentioned the two-time Super Bowl winning defensive end’s name as a reason the Falcons defense might be improved and Warren Sapp immediately looked at me, his eyes got very wide and he said, “WHAT!?!” like I insulted the very spirit of the game. “Ain’t so soft tissue in this room, boy,” he said. It was then I realized you never, and I mean ever, bring up Osi’s name in front of Warren Sapp.
Inevitably what happens each year on “Hard Knocks” is you head into the season not really caring about the team in focus, but after a couple episodes find yourself cheering for a particular rookie or enamored with a foul-mouthed assistant coach. Last season on the Bengals it was Giovani Bernard and Mike Zimmer who fit the bill, this time around it appears Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman, and offensive line coach Mike Tice and linebackers coach Bryan Cox who’ll be in the spotlight in that regard. One of the most amusing segments of this first episode was a cut-up of Freeman looking for an apartment somewhere in Atlanta and safety William Moore telling us about, and playing with his kids, inside his mansion, which featured not only an indoor pool with a waterfall but a palm tree. Also indoors. While Freeman was marveling in what appeared to be a relatively pedestrian 4×6-foot walk-in closet, Moore, who signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract a year ago, was showing the world his shoe closet which contained every Air Jordan sneaker ever made. Ever. Of Air Jordans.
Freeman, in what was probably the greatest single scene in the history of “Hard Knocks,” then rode in a golf cart back to his car saying how blessed he was while taking a sip from a Capri Sun.
Do I think this is going to be an interesting season of the Emmy-award winning show? Good question. It was a rather uninspiring first episode. I was pleasantly surprised with how much Matt Ryan was shown, as well as Roddy White, who will probably come away as the biggest TV star when it’s all said and done. If you’ve followed him at all on social media or seen him on NFL Network’s Top 100 show any of the last two years, that’ll come as no surprise. He has a big mouth and it was clearly on display this first go-around. I particularly enjoyed him dropping a line I’m going to now use: that’s the difference between eating steak and still eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Other episode highlites:
– Flowerly Branch, where the Falcons team headquarters is located, is the name of a city that could only be located in The South.
– Rookie linebacker Tyler Starr’s fiance Megan Wheeler may have overtaken Lauren Tannehill has the hottest WAG in the history of “Hard Knocks,” and overall it was a fantastic episode for player’s better halves. Harry Douglas’s wife, a Miss Georgia International (whatever that means) and tight end Bear Pascoe’s wife were both getting it done. Also, respect for getting calf roping and hay farming in this episode, HBO. Mad respect.
– Speaking of Harry Douglas (I never miss an opportunity to write out his full name), what a strange dude. The women’s deodorant didn’t bother me as much as him being really anal and clean about packing. And that giant white teddy bear in his room. Bizarre.
– Devin Hester is on the Falcons? Who knew.
– Steven Jackson opened an art gallery in Los Angeles and I didn’t get the invite? My Hollywood swag is wearing off. Anyway, some of the pieces looked pretty cool, I’ll admit. Though let me ask you all this, which was more surprising: Terrell Owens finding a way to get himself back on camera for a few seconds or Jackson getting hurt during the first week of practice? Tougher answer than you think.
– Why is Jacques Smith messing with Jake Matthews? That just seems like a terrible idea.
– I think we should do the before/after photos with NFL Network employees. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t.
– It’s safe to say we all could have learned a thing or two if we just played high school football with Byran Cox.
– Am I the only one who had no idea Kroy Biermann’s wife is that chick from Real Housewives? Also, no surprise it was low-cut shirt night in the Biermann household this week. Can’t wait to see what she wears for episode 2. And how on earth does he meet this broad to begin with? He’s some hick from Montana.
– The TV producer in me loved the end credits payoff of the earlier shot of Steven Jackson being pissed that someone had “taken” his room only to be revealed it was Matt Ryan, who unknowingly threw is stuff in there because he was first to show up.
– Thomas Dimitroff might have the best hair in football. He definitely is in a neck-and-neck running for Best Wearer of a Visor with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
– First audio cut of the show was Atlanta rapper T.I.’s “Go Get It.” I’m really curious to see how they’ll use the bountiful music choices during this season. No doubt Ludacris makes an appearance. Also hoping for a Magic City segment. (look it up if unfamiliar)
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 — 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
LOS ANGELES — The 2013 season of HBO’s excellent “Hard Knocks” opened Tuesday with some of the Cincinnati Bengals rookies out to dinner with running backs coach Hue Jackson, who was offering sage advice on the eve of the neophytes’ first NFL training camp. Jackson, the former Raiders head coach, was also busting on Giovani Bernard for driving his girlfriend’s mom’s Honda minivan. Bernard said that any car with automatic doors was good enough for him; hard to argue. Almost simultaneously, all-world receiver A.J. Green was getting himself into, and learning how to shift, a brand new BMW luxury sedan. The difference between the two players’ football worlds was clearly on display: one an unknown rookie whose potential seems as high as the Queen City’s skyline, the other a league superstar who’s only getting better and brighter by the day.
There was a line the brilliant narrator Liev Schreiber said during the hour-long episode that struck me: the Bengals are thinking Super Bowl, which is amazing to think about considering where the team was a few years ago during its first go-around on “Hard Knocks” in 2009. Then, Cincinnati was a team with just one winning season in 18 years – the forgetful 2005 campaign which saw Carson Palmer go down in the playoffs against the Steelers with an injured knee – and in that span suffered 13 losing seasons and 4 years of 8-8. You don’t get the nickname “Bungals” for nothing. But something funny happened during that ’09 season: a return to the playoffs. In the aftermath, Palmer threatened sit out or retire before he was finally traded to Oakland mid-year, and a 4-win season in 2010 yielded a new era and leader: Andy Dalton. The result has been back-to-back postseason berths.
And that’s where we are when “Hard Knocks: 2013” begins, Andy Dalton doing pilates with his wife and Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis bluntly stating how the team hasn’t won a playoff game despite being in the tournament 3-of-the-last 4 years. Will Cincinnati be among the final two teams when Super Bowl XLVII kicks off this February in New Jersey? My Magic 8 Ball says “check back later.” That’s the NFL’s beauty; no one knows. But what I do know is for the next 4 weeks I’m going to enjoy the hell out of the all-access look at this new beast of the AFC North.
Lots of thoughts from this week’s premiere episode. In no particular order:
- Geno Atkins has the biggest traps/shoulders I’ve ever seen. Is there even a neck on that dude? And I don’t know where that first pitch ended up, but I’m guessing it wasn’t a strike. Though I’m not going to tell him that.
- James Harrison is still, hands down, the scariest dude in the NFL. Didn’t you get the feeling that when Jay Gruden was joking to him about not touching A.J. Green that Harrison was completely serious that he was really going to jack Green up if he came across the middle? Even when Gruden tried to play it off, Harrison never broke. Just pure mean. How great was that montage of him flipping off the HBO cameras or slamming the door in their faces? What a first class a–hole. And who’s Ford station wagon was he getting into? Dude barely fit in the back seat!?
- Marvin Lewis; nice digs, son.
- Of course Pac-Man Jones would run out of gas minutes from the stadium on the first day of Training Camp. That is the most Pac-Man Jones of all things he could’ve done. Ya know, aside from shoot somebody in a “script club.” And could you imagine being that guy’s wife?
- Devastating what happened to Larry Black. Just shows how unreal the raw emotion this show seems to capture year-in and year-out when Black was on the phone with his dad (I’m guessing). I was wondering when the producers were going to introduce the player we all should care about and as soon as they did, he went down. Tragic. Wonder who that player will be next week.
- How many of you out there had the same “damn, I need to get him in fantasy” thought I did during that Tyler Eifert catching montage? Dude is going to be a MONSTER in the red zone this year.
- Does anyone really know what “Who Dey?” means? ‘Cuz I sure don’t.
- Think about this for a minute: if you were to have an Oklahoma Drill at your work, how would you stack up against the competition? And would you rather be on offense or defense?
- It never ceases to amaze me how great “Hard Knocks” is at making me care about a team that, under completely normal circumstances, I’d have zero interest in; same thing happened last year with the Dolphins. Oh, and if you’re scoring at home: Lauren Tannehill > Jordan Dalton. (look them up yourself)
- On that note, I didn’t even have the Bengals on my “Hard Knocks Wish List” that I wrote back in May: check it out.
- Cool off-day montage with some of the guys playing golf (terribly), air hockey and backyard ladder at Dalton’s house. You forget that these Sunday gladiators of the gridiron are really just 20-something year old kids who just wanna play football and have a good time.
- As always, the footage the HBO crew gets is beyond spectacular. The slo-mo montage of players walking out for their first practice into their throws, catches, runs and hits gave me chills. Of course, the music selection helped tap into that emotion. In case you were wondering, the track was “Feeling Good (Bassnectar Remix)” by Nina Simone. Yes, I went back and Shazam’d it.
What did everyone else think?
LOS ANGELES — Whenever NFL Network airs old episodes of “Hard Knocks,” no matter the team, I always tune in. In addition to being fantastically produced by the NFL Films team, they are hilarious to watch with the benefit of hindsight. When the Jets cut little Danny Woodhead in 2010 you had no idea he would turn into this all-world, do-everything back for the Patriots. Nearly three years later, after New York has proven to be the buffoons of the league, the move is even more laughable. Watching the Dolphins last summer you never got the impression they would ever sniff the .500 mark or be a competent football team; you were too busy waiting patiently for any scene with Lauren Tannehill. In 2009, Chad Johnson looked like a lock for Cooperstown and his career faded quicker than the yellow enshrinee jacket. And on and on.
So, with less than 3 months until the 2013 season begins – the Hall of Fame Game between the Miami and Dallas is on Aug. 4 – here’s my wish list for teams for this upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (in no particular order).
Washington Redskins: They have the most dynamic young player in the league who just so happens to be coming off a horrific knee injury in Robert Griffin III, a squirrelly coach in Mike Shanahan, an owner who likes to meddle and flash his deep pockets, and a rabid, rabid fan base thirsty for a winner again. What’s not to like here?!
Seattle Seahawks: Football is back on the Pacific northwest and the Seahawks have a dynamic, rah-rah coach in Pete Carroll and some explosive players (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to go with their charismatic young quarterback, Russell Wilson. Throw in the big mouth of Richard Sherman and the rest of the Boom Squad and this would be a very, very fun season of Hard Knocks.
Atlanta Falcons: I was pulling for them to be the choice last season, as the Falcons were a team on the rise, a thought confirmed as they were a play away from the Super Bowl. This time around is no different. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest pass-catching tight end of all-time, is back for a final season. Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, Mike Smith looks like an extra on “The Sopranos,” Roddy White is among the chattiest in the league, Julio Jones as well; not to mention Brian Banks and his struggle to get back his football life.
Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Cardinals would be extremely entertaining over four weeks of Training Camp. Bruce Arians and his Kangol hats would bound for laughs, Larry Fitzgerald is among the worldly NFL players, Patrick Peterson, the Honey Badger, not to mention Carson Palmer and his old tired arm and perfect hair. Sounds good to me.
New England Patriots: Yes, this is a homer pick, but who wouldn’t want to see exactly how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady perform their magic; to go behind the curtain with a 3-time Super Bowl Champion as they gear up for another AFC-dominating campaign. I know I would, and if you’re honest with yourself, you are, too.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL James Bond and is now paid like a Sultan, same goes for Clay Matthews, who now has enough cashola to have a room full of FatHeads of himself. Throw in Mike McCarthy, the people of Green Bay, the young and exciting Randall Cobb, and you have the recipe for entertainment.
Philadelphia Eagles: This one makes a lot of sense. You got a rookie head coach with a pretty high profile in Chip Kelly and the hype surrounding his new offense, of course there’s Michael Vick and the “dynasty” comments he’s made in recent offseasons, add in the outspoken DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the fans who would be bound to call into local radio to complain about the show, and I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
Buffalo Bills: A bit of a sleeper here, but think about it: Stevie Johnson is the new Chad Johnson right down to the game to back it up, they have a rookie quarterback learning the NFL game in surprise-First-Round-pick E.J. Manuel, a rookie head coach with a larger than life personality and enthusiasm for life in Doug Marrone. I’m guessing C.J. Spiller will wear a bunch of outrageous outfits, Marcel Dareus will do something ridiculous and they’ll eat a lot of wings. I hope.
San Diego Chargers: Two words: Manti Te’o.
LOS ANGELES — Can’t believe it’s Week 13 already. Seems like Hard Knocks just ended and we were getting ready for Dallas and New York to kickoff on the Wednesday Night opener. Nope. Twelve weeks down. Only 10 remain. Who’s the Super Bowl favorite? Beats me. Who’s MVP? Your guess is as good as mine. Coach of the Year, who’s getting fired, your fantasy football league champ? Color me clueless.
One thing is known, though, who’s the Man. Let’s find out.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (record: 1-10) (last week: 32) — So who’s going to be coaching the Chiefs next year? Chip Kelly? Bill O’Brien? Bill Cowher? And who’s going to be the quarterback? Now that Matt Barkley’s stock has fallen, is it Tyler Wilson from Arkansas? Alex Smith? Blaine Gabbert? Tim Tebow? Kevin Kolb? Michael Vick?
31.) Arizona Cardinals (4-7) (26) — Losers of 7 straight don’t get mentions in this column.
30.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) (28) — See #31.
29.) New York Jets (4-7) (27) — The biggest news to come out of Jets camp this week: Tim Tebow jersey sales down! Oh no!
28.) Oakland Raiders (3-8) (23) — When the Raiders play the Browns this week, do you think Carson Palmer and Brandon Weeden have a side bet of who’s going to throw the first Pick 6? Because they should.
27.) Cleveland Browns (3-8) (30) — See #28.
26.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) (31) — Chris Law is jealous of Chad Henne’s Mo-vember ‘stache. And that’s saying something.
25.) Carolina Panthers (3-8) (29) –– Hey, Cam Newton, you actually won a game, so doing your whole Superman TD celebration actually made sense for once! Congrats!
24.) Tennessee Titans (4-7) (20) — Nate Washington has been in my fantasy starting lineup for a majority of the season. That should tell you all you need to know about the Titans and the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits.
23.) Buffalo Bills (4-7) (24) — Did you catch the Amish Rifle on “The League” a couple weeks ago? That was far and away his best performance of the season. Oof.
22.) San Diego Chargers (4-7) (19) — There are several famous sport plays where things have yet to be finalized: Albert Pujols’ ball he hit off Brad Lidge still hasn’t landed, Matt Holiday still hasn’t touched home plate, Bo Jackson still hasn’t stopped running and Ray Rice still hasn’t crossed the 34-yard line. Still, they should show that 4th and 29 play to high schools across the country and how NOT to tackle someone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) (22) — Alert to all fantasy football owners: Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Steven Jackson had 100 yards! Only the 2nd time all season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (5-6) (25) — When you watched Hard Knocks at the end of the summer, was there any shot you thought you’d be watching a 5-win, on-the-verge-of-the-playoffs team? Didn’t think so.
19.) Detroit Lions (4-7) (18) — Yes, the Lions got semi-hosed on Thanksgiving. Yes, Jim Schwartz should know the rules. Yes, Ndamukong Suh is driving his way out of the league.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (5-6) (16) — I can’t wait until these guys are sinking and the national media can stop talking about them. However, with a matchup with the hapless Eagles in Week 13, which will get Dallas to .500, we’re not out of the woods just yet. Sigh.
17.) Minnesota Vikings (6-5) (15) — Hey, Jimmy, how you feelin’ about your boys now: “You know it’s a bad day when the punt holder scores on you … I think we have 13 total yards this half … My team is so bad today that Fox switched games at the half … I can wait another year for a Super Bowl appearance.”
16.) Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) (17) — This is a team I’d be afraid to play down the stretch, along with the Bucs. Andy Dalton is quietly having himself another Pro Bowl season.
15.) New Orleans Saints (5-6) (12) — Losing last weekend really hurts the Saints playoff chances, but a win against Atlanta would certainly keep them in the mix. But they don’t play any defense, which is kind of a problem in the NFL, unless you’re the Patriots. And how Marques Colston got up after getting upended like he did, I’ll never know.
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) (10) — It baffles me that Pittsburgh didn’t call or David Garrard or Donovan McNabb to fill in at quarterback while Ben Roethlisberger is out. Maybe they did, and we don’t know it, but I feel like that report would’ve gotten out. You can’t roll with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. You can’t. Not when you still have a shot to win the Super Bowl
13.) Seattle Seahawks (6-5) (11) — Let’s see how good that Seahawks defense is when it has to go on the road (Chicago) and defend a red hot Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall without their two best defensive backs. Guessing Seattle falls by the wayside.
12.) Washington Redskins (5-6) (21) — I mean seriously, Robert Griffin The Third, if ya need him. So all My Good Friend Robert did on Thursday was annihilate the Cowboys, at JonesMahal, on Thanksgiving, in front of America. AND he did it by becoming the first rookie quarterback EVER to throw 4 TDs in consecutive games. NBD. I said it before and I’ll say it again, you are NOT changing the channel when the Redskins have the ball. EVER. I love caps lock.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) (9) — Are the Bucs the best of the 6-5 and 5-6 group? I’d say so, though if you can’t defend the home turf against a division rival, maybe you don’t deserve to make the playoffs. That was a tough one to lose, especially when you’re looking up at the Falcons. But two of these teams are going to be playing in January. My hunch is Tampa is there.
10.) Indianapolis Colts (7-4) (13) — Who’s making whom better this season: Andrew Luck or Reggie Wayne? Little of each, right? And to think, we all laughed at Reggie when he announced he was re-upping with the Colts for two more years. Insane! We all said. Who’s laughing now. Colts, back in the playoffs (almost). Crazy. And if they play Denver? Twitter might break.
9.) Green Bay Packers (7-4) (2) — “Paging someone who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Anyone out there who can block for Aaron Rodgers. Please report to Green Bay, Wisconsin immediately. We have a jersey waiting for you.”
8.) New York Giants (7-4) (14) — Man, where has THAT Giants team been all season?! That sure was something on Sunday night. Guess Eli really needed that bye week to rest his dead arm, and the defensive line needed some time off to hone their hunting skills. Sure, the Packers offensive line is about as good as a group of 7th graders, but Green Bay had been rolling lately and New York made it look like chumps. I may have to amend my Super Bowl pick.
7.) Baltimore Ravens (9-2) (7) — Nothing about this Ravens team inspires me. They are ripe for a Divisional Round upset to the Colts.
6.) Chicago Bears (8-3) (8) — Should Jay Cutler be in the MVP discussion? The stats are telling.: 1-6 without him in the last two years, 15-5 with him. Despite his hideous mustache, bro balled out this past weekend and has put himself in the Top 5.
5.) Denver Broncos (8-3) (6) — Is Denver the best team in the NFL? Not yet. But they are playing like it. Pretty unconvincing win against the hapless Chiefs for the best team in the league. That game should’ve been a boat race, but it wasn’t. Still, Peyton Manning is the MVP until someone rips it from him. Arian Foster has a chance. Outside chance.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) (5) — It’s hilarious to me that every former coach-turned-analyst on television right now is saying that Jim Harbaugh is doing the right thing by sticking with Colin Kaepernick, while every player is saying that Alex Smith is getting a raw deal and should get his job back. I’m not saying Smith isn’t a good player, but hell, what CK is doing can’t be duplicated.
3.) Atlanta Falcons (10-1) (4) — There’s a lot of people talking trash about the Falcons; calling them the worst one-loss team this late in the season in quite some time. Well, they’ve won 10 of their 11 games. Whether it was by one point, or 100 points, they’ve done it. Matt Ryan throws 5 picks? No worries, they still win. No running game? They still win. Still, people won’t be satisfied until Ryan and Mike Smith win a playoff game.
2.) New England Patriots (8-3) (3) — Can’t tell you how enjoyable that Thanksgiving Day game was to watch. When this Patriots team has it cookin’ on all cylinders they are a fun group to watch. And say what you want, but if you don’t want Tom Brady out there up 30 points throwing darts downfield, stop him. Just really hope they don’t look past Miami this week toward that Monday Night showdown with the Texans in Week 14.
1.) Houston Texans (10-1) (1) — To play 10 quarters of football in roughly 4-and-a-half days, wow, and to win both games (albeit a tad controversially), hell, that’s enough to make you The Man.
LOS ANGELES — Cool story this week out of league headquarters, where an 11-year old sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and suggested that the referees use pink penalty flags during games in honor of breast cancer awareness month. And you know what, Roger replied and instituted the idea for this week’s Jets/Dolphins game. How about that for taking action?
Player safety? Nope. BountyGate? Fuggeduaboutit. Pink referee flags. Booyah.
My best friend’s mom is a breast cancer survivor. I’m down with the NFL celebrating this month how they do. I know a lot of people who have a problem with it, think it’s tacky, makes the games tough and distracting to watch. To hell with them. The NFL is the biggest sports league in the country and is more popular than all the rest combined and it’s honorable that they do this in support of women across America.
In honor of that, let’s find out who’s the woman this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-5) (32) — OK, Chiefs fans, looks like you’re stuck with Brady Quinn. Romeo Crennel announced Monday Quinn would be replacing Matt Cassel for the remainder of the season. I’m gonna let that sink in for a second so you can full wrap your mind around Dr. Biceps being your starter the next 9 weeks (let’s be real, you’re not making the playoffs and if you do, I’ll fly to KC and run around town naked. In December).
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) (31) — So here’s what my dumbass did this week. Had a trade offer to a buddy involving MJD and Darren McFadden, and a couple of receivers. Said buddy did not get back to me for several days. Another came in with a trade offer of Vincent Jackson for MJD straight up. I turned that down after Jackson left practice with a calf injury, plus, I wanted to get a running back in return since I’d be giving up my No. 2. Guess what happened on Sunday? MJD – 2 carries, 6 yards. VJax – 7 catches, 216 yards, TD. I’m a moron.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-5) (30) —I don’t have to say anything this week about the Panthers, Cam Newton said it all after Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys: “The past couple of games has been the same script by the same kind of director. It’s kind of getting boring… I don’t know what it is but something is going to have to change… We just find a way to keep games close and see what happens at the end. It’s not a formula for success. And I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win… I’m going to leave this room and I’m going to bring a suggestion box. And I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know. I really don’t.”
29.) Cleveland Browns (1-6) (28) — Brandon Weeden has the 2nd most passing yards by a rookie through 7 team games in NFL history (1,783). Do you know who has the most? Cam Newton, last year. Not a good sign, Brandon. He’s also is tied for the league lead in interceptions with 10. Needless to say, the Browns like to wing it around the yard, which I like, don’t get me wrong.
28.) Oakland Raiders (2-4) (27) — The Raiders might be the first team in the history of this column, which dates back all the way to September, to win a game and drop. HOWEVER, and I took some serious heat for this, big ups to Carson Palmer, who I explained last week the type of player he is, for getting me nearly 23 points in fantasy. Palmer out-performed his projection by more than 7 points. So, thank you, sir. Keep delivering the rock to Brandon Myers and we’ll remain good.
27.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (25) — It’s pretty bad when the coolest part of your game is when your receiver does an end zone dance of a song that’s already been beaten in the ground. And seriously, HAS ANYONE SEEN MARIO WILLIAMS?? Oh, bye week wrist surgery? Gotcha. Makes sense.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) (23) — The Bucs get points for wearing the cremecicle jerseys. Forget the Chargers powder blues, these babies are my favorite. They lose points for pretty much everything else that goes on on the field. Oh, and eff Vincent Jackson.
25.) Detroit Lions Lions (2-4) (24) — Is it time to start talking about the Madden Curse for Calvin Johnson? We all thought if anyone was going to be immune to the curse, it would be Megatron. But he only has 1 TD this season and everyone is wondering what’s up. Forget the fact that he’s still 5th in receiving yards (592) and 10th in receptions (38). Maybe Matthew Stafford is the problem.
24.) Tennessee Titans (3-4) (29) — My brother, Matthew, is just ballin’ out there. And Chris Johnson turned back the clock a couple years and broke out the fast shoes. That’s three good games in four weeks for CJ. Can he make it 4-for-5 against the Colts? I’d love it. #BaldIsBeautiful
23.) St. Louis Rams (3-4) (18) — London is a long way from St. Louis. The Rams are playing a “home” game against the Patriots at Wembley Stadium this weekend. We had British presenter and celebrity Vernon Kay on the Rich Eisen Podcast this week and he said the city is pumped up for some American football, and I believe him. You’d think with the Patriots coming to town, it would be a Rams crowd, right? They’re still holding a Revolutionary War grudge, I’m guessing.
22.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-4) (17) — Another disappointing team in 2012, the Bengals choked away a 14-3 lead over the Steelers in a key division home game on Sunday. Can’t give away those babies and expect to make a repeat trip to the postseason. Guessing the Steelers end up running the table, riding the emotions of that win. Oh, and Andy Dalton has 10 picks. Can’t keep that up and expect to win.
21.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (26) — Andy Reid is something like 12-0 in games after a bye week. The No. 1 Falcons are coming to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. Something has to give.
20.) Indianapolis Colts (3-3) (22) — I’m glad the Colts keep winning and I get to keep seeing locker room video of a red-faced Jim Irsay handing out game balls. Go online and find this stuff, peeps, it’s priceless. And someone please tell Andrew Luck to shave the neck beard! I’ll keep saying it til it happens, not a good look, bro.
19.) New York Jets (3-4) (21) — Not gonna lie, I was fairly impressed with Mark Sanchez in the second half against the Patriots, and to be honest, the Jets should’ve won the game. They had it in their hands, and then Stephen Hill dropped it. And don’t feel bad that Sanchez and Eva Longoria have reportedly broken up, he’ll be just fine.
18.) Arizona Cardinals (4-3) (13) — Three losses in a row is not a good look.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (3-3) (19) — Barely beating the script-following, suggestion-box using Panthers does not a drastic rise in the polls make, dearest Cowboys.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-4) (20) — No doubt, the Saints are moving up, but they still give up too many points for my blood to be a serious threat to anyone as of yet. However, a win on the road this week in Denver would get them into playoff discussion. Plus, Joe Vitt is back as the true interim head coach. Again, not sure what that means, but we’re about to find out. And did Joe Morgan make the catch of the year this week? Or maybe just the play? Either way, it was pretty freakin’ cool.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (15) — I made a bold move this week, and one I never thought I’d even consider back in August when we all watched these clowns on “Hard Knocks:” picked up the Dolphins as my defense this week in fantasy against the Jets. Hoping for one of those classic Mark Sanchez games. You know the ones.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (14) — After last Monday night’s debacle against the Broncos, this team needed a bye week. And what comes out of it, reports of stick-um use?? What year is this? Did Orlando Jones suddenly line up at receiver and we all missed it? Make 7. Up Yours.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (5-2) (12) –– Whaddya got for me this week, Jimmy: “Back in the win column. Another week closer to New Orleans in February… Tampa, then Seattle. If we bring it we’ll be 7-2 at the bye week. Scary huh?”
12.) Washington Redskins (3-4) (11) — Was there a more badass play than the 4th and 10 from his own 23 wtih 2:07 to play than My Good Friend Robert has had all season? And as you were watching, did you have any doubts in your mind that he’d pull it off? Me neither. Now, I’m not like others who think he’s the MVP of the league, but we’re watching something pretty special right now in Landover.
11.) Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) (16) — While I was typing this Mike Wallace dropped 4 more passes. Seriously, bro. Call Norv Turner and get some of that Chargers stick-um ’cause you’re KILLING the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Yeah, Mike Tomlin is probably pissed, too.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (10) — Did you know Peyton Manning threw for 4 more TDs and 323 yards during the bye week? No, seriously, he was playing against the Chargers on Madden and they still couldn’t stop him. Maybe I was wrong about #18. Remember, I said I hoped I was wrong. Big game with the Saints this weekend. Big game.
9.) New England Patriots (4-3) (9) — I have no idea about this Patriots team anymore, but I do know one thing: its not any good. Bill Simmons had a tweet on Sunday about getting that Larry Bird in 1990 feel, which I assumed he meant about Tom Brady being near the end of the line. And I’m not ready to go there, but shoot, man, let’s put a freakin’ game away or something.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-3) (8) — Their Week 7 game happened so long ago, I don’t even remember what happened. But I do know I can’t stop talking or thinking about Russell Wilson. It’s really hard not to like this kid, but he has to make more plays out there against good teams (I do not think the Patriots are a good team).
7.) San Francisco 49ers (5-2) (7) — It’s just a given that the Thursday night games kinda stink for three quarters and then heat up in the fourth. So I’m going to give the 49ers a pass for not being as convincing as maybe they should have against Seattle. But they are quite good. Alex Smith had to do more for this team to be a legit Super Bowl contender for me.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (2) — Well, that wasn’t a pretty afternoon in Houston, now was it? I happen to think this is a momentary blip in the road for the Ravens. They still have a top flight offense, Terrell Suggs is back, which will help, and they still have a great coach. However, this is all on Joe Flacco now. If he doesn’t rise up then you can forget being mentioned among the game’s best.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (6) — Nice to see the Texans bounce back after getting embarrassed at home against the Packers. I know the Ravens are banged up, but that was a boat race. Arian Foster proving he might be the league’s MVP through 7 weeks; he leads the NFL in rushing attempts (168), yards (659) and touchdowns (9). Bow on, brotha. And that defense, sweet sassy mollassy. J.J. Watt already has 10 batted passes this season. That has to be some kind of record, right?
4.) New York Giants (5-2) (5) — I saw an interesting stat with Tom Coughlin has head coach, the Giants haven’t started worse than 5-2 since he took over in 2004. Sure, that ’04 team then lost 8 in a row after that, and the Giants have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent and start slowly at home. But ya know, other than that, they’re great.
3.) Green Bay Packers (4-3) (4) — You like numbers? Here’s some numbers: 54-of-74, 680 yards, 9 TDs. Aaron. Rodgers (in the last 2 weeks). If ya need him.
2.) Chicago Bears (5-1) (3) — Admit it, you thought Jay Cutler died when Ndamukong Suh tossed him around like a sack of potatoes and then dropped a Rock Bottom on him middle ring? I know I did. How was Cutler’s right arm not severed at the shoulder after that hit? I did like Suh coming over after celebrating to make sure Jay was OK. Classy. But why is Brandon Marshall still running his mouth? Looked like a clean hit to me. Oh, and that Bears D is naaaaasty.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) — I have only one rule: when you’re undefeated AND have a bye week, you’re not allowed to drop from the top spot of my poll.
LOS ANGELES — Admit it, as you got ready for Monday Night Football this week and went through your normal routine of reading online articles, scrolling Twitter and watching pregame shoes you came across the nugget that it was 666th editing of MNF. And as you let that sink in, it also dawned on you that Monday’s game was to feature one Tim Tebow. And knowing what we know about Tim Tebow you thought to yourself: “hmm… something screwy might happen tonight.”
It was then, I came to the slow realization that I would not complete an epic fantasy football comeback (down 48 with Arian Foster and the Texans defense) and that yes, something screwy is DEFINITELY going to happen tonight. Well, we were all duped. Yes, the Jets were in the game, but it had nothing to do with anything Tim Tebow did, which sucks. Rex Ryan totally deprived us of a classic Tebow moment when, down 6 and with the ball with 3:28 to go Mark Sanchez trotted out under center and naturally he didn’t do jack and the Texans won.
Seriously, how great would that last drive have been if it was all Tebow? No doubt he would’ve found a way to win the game and implode Twitter all at the same time.
While God Blesses you, let’s find out who’s the man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) (31) — Did you know in the last two games Maurice Jones-Drew has 25 total carries, while Blaine Gabbert has thrown it 77 times, with three of those landing into the hands of the Jaguars opponents? No, it’s true. I looked it up. That ratio seems kinda off kilter to me. Hopefully during the bye week Mike Mularkey can get that ironed out. #FreeMJD
31.) Tennessee Titans (1-4) (30) — Chris Johnson is proving to be that girl you grew up with who always talked the talked but never walked the walk when walking was required, if ya know what I mean. Either do something or shut the hell up. And I feel for my brother Matt Hasselbeck. He’s not getting ANY help out there. At he’s still handsome as f–k.
30.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-4) (28) — Eric Winston is my new favorite player in the NFL. Kudos for standing up for your quarterback and everyone in the NFL. Having said that, the fans still have a right to boo. Doesn’t make it right or make them tasteful for doing it.
29.) Cleveland Browns (0-5) (32) — You may be looking at this list and wondering how a winless team is not ranked as the worst team. If not, then you and I are on the same page. I think of it like this, at least the Browns CAN score and have proven they have the ability to put the ball in the end zone. After 5 games they have 100 points, which is more than the 1-win Chiefs (94), Titans (88) and Jaguars (65). Trent Richardson is proving he’s past the knee problems.
28.) Oakland Raiders (1-3) (29) — There’s a good chance I may only have the Raiders this high because I picked up Carson Palmer on my fantasy team for a bye-week replacement for Matt Ryan in Week 7. Maybe. #FreeDMC
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-4) (24) — I wasn’t buying the “What’s Wrong With Cam?” headlines after Week 2, but five weeks is a good enough sample size to start wondering what’s going on with him. Newton is 17th in the NFL in yards, 20th in Passer Rating, has just 4 TD passes and has been sacked 13 times. Not exactly Superman efforts.
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (19) — I hope Matt Barkley owns some winter clothes, knows how to operate a wood stove and can drive in the snow, because those Buffalo winters are FRIGID!! Seriously, it’s time to set the Ryan Fitzpatrick (1,057yds, 12TD, 8INT) ship out to sea blazen with that green stuff from Game Of Thrones. All that’s missing is Braun launching the flaming arrow into Lake Erie.
25.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) (26) — The best thing that could’ve happened for the Bucs was that they were off last week, which means their coach couldn’t do something stupid and their players couldn’t poorly execute his stupid decisions. I want to like this Tampa Bay team. And with the Chiefs coming to town, it better get a win if it wants any shot at the postseason.
24.) Detroit Lions (1-3) (25) — Ya know, every year Maloney and I wonder who’s the first coach to get fired. It’s a fun little game we play and he always says it’s Lovie Smith and I try to really think about it. Well, the Bears are 4-1 so it won’t be him, but maybe it’s time to ask: is Jim Schwartz on the hot seat?
23.) New York Jets (2-3) (22) — I posted on Twitter during the game Monday how the Jets are who we thought and the Texans needed adjusting. Then someone said how I should give the Jets some credit. Credit for what? Showing up for a Monday Night Football game? So I should get credit for showing up to work today? It’s like that Chris Rock sketch about Ns and black people. Ns always trying to take credit for stuff they’re SUPPOSED to do. I would hope you’d come out and play during a nationally televised game. I would hope. God Bless.
22.) New Orleans Saints (1-4) (27) — Drew Brees throwing a touchdown pass Monday night was as likely to occur as me pulling up for 3 on a fast break in pickup basketball on Saturday. But, what made that record special was that it was caught by #19, since that was Johnny U’s number AND his son Joe being in attendance. However, this record doesn’t impress me that much given how advanced today’s passing games are and how easy it is for receivers. What’s more impressive in regards to Brees, is his longevity and consistency.
21.) Miami Dolphins (2-3) (23) — When watching “Hard Knocks” earlier this summer, I didn’t even think this Dolphins team would get to 2 wins for the season, let alone after 5 weeks of the NFL year. It’s clear that starting Lauren Tannehill’s husband and cutting Chad Johnson were the right moves. However, would like to see some more defense before they climb out of the 20s.
20.) Dallas Cowboys (2-2) (17) — Jerry Jones and I have nothing in common. He’s a billionaire. I’m a thousandaire. He owns Texas. I’ve been there once. He likes plastic surgery. I have still a scar on my back from falling out of an avocado tree earlier this spring. However, we both have this going for us: we’ll be on the Season 4 Premiere of the FX fantasy football comedy “The League” this Thursday at 10:30pm ET. Tune in.
19.) Washington Redskins (2-3) (16) — I’m not saying I saw the Robert Griffin injury coming, but when he rounded the corner I braced myself for a collision from my couch. And when he got hit, I knew he wouldn’t be getting up and returning to the game. You can’t keep playing with a reckless abandon and live to see the next week. There’s a reason Michael Vick has played just ONE full season in his 9-year career. Slide. Run out of bounds. Throw it away. Do something other than get KTFO.
18.) Indianapolis Colts (2-2) (21) — You wanna know why I love sports? For moments like what happened in the second half of the Colts/Packers game. Indy had no business being in that game on Sunday. Down 21-3 at halftime. That baby was over. But strange things happen when other forces are at work. You think the Raiders winning last year a couple days after Al Davis died as a coincidence? Brett Favre going ape balls the day after his dad passed away. Sports are crazy man. I love them. #ChuckStrong
17.) St. Louis Rams (3-2) (20) — Wow, that was some defensive performance last week. Now, I probably could’ve probably went all Reggie White against that Arizona offensive line but still, I was impressed. Tough break for Wes Welker Lite 2.0, Danny Amendola, who was killing it in PPR fantasy leagues. Some guys are just injury prone, that’s a cruel reality of football.
16.) Seattle Seahawks (3-2) (18) — I was about to call Sunday’s victory over the Panthers an “impressive road win” before I remembered they beat Carolina, which sucks. Seriously, it’s terrible. We’ll find out how good this team really is this weekend when the Patriots visit. In fact, did you know it’s Tom Brady’s first-ever game against the Seahawks? AND, I have a little wager on the line with the creator of the FX hit comedy “The League,” Jeff Schaffer, who’s a big Seattle fan. Fast forward to the 50:09 mark of this week’s Rich Eisen Podcast and take a listen.
15.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) (9) — I played quarterback in high school and my coach used always tell me the same thing over and over: make sure we come back to the huddle after each play with the ball. Meaning, don’t turn it over. He had to say this often, because, well, I had a knack for giving it away to the other team. This is the problem with Michael Vick. One week after saying he knows what to do with the ball, etc., he turns it over twice on fumbles, raising his giveaway total to 11 on the season. I guess, if there’s good news here, he hasn’t thrown an INT since Week 2. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
14.) Arizona Cardinals (4-1) (7) — How much do the Cardinals actually like Kevin Kolb? Based on how they tried to get him killed with their offensive line play last Thursday, I’d say not much. Kolb is the most-sacked QB in the league at 22 take downs, and with upcoming games against Buffalo, Minnesota and San Francisco coming up, that number doesn’t appear to be doing anything but going up. Good luck (Taken voice).
13.) Denver Broncos (2-3) (11) — Has there been a team with more white skill players than these Broncos? Seriously, Peyton Manning, Eric Decker, Joel Dreeson, Brandon Stokley. That’s half a fantasy team right there. They need to trade for Peyton Hillis and Danny Woodhead, pull Jason Sehorn away from retirement and living off Angie Harmon’s TNT money and make this official. They’re like the NFL’s BYU or Utah Jazz. And seriously, WTF is that red blotch on Manning’s head? He’s played football for the last 20 years and he still hasn’t found a helmet that fits him?
12.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (5) — You know how on Wall St. there is such a thing as a Market Correction? Well, this was a Man Correction on the Bengals. What in the hell was that against the Dolphins? So maybe these cats aren’t as good as we think, but man, can A.J. Green play some football, huh? He’s the top-rated WR in my fantasy league and the guy who has him would rather start Donald Brown and Kendall Hunter at running back rather than trade me Green for MJD. That tells you all you need to know.
11.) New York Giants (3-2) (15) — Allow me to channel Chuck Klosterman for a minute: Victor Cruz has some above average football skills. He’s able to make plays that differentiate him from 95% of the receivers currently playing the game of football. But what are the chances the general public, not specific to the American Football viewing segment of the populous has vastly overrated the person Victor Cruz is due to his seductive salsa dancing?
10.) San Diego Chargers (3-2) (12) — Week 5 was one of those “weird forces are at work in the NFL” weeks with the Colts and then with the Saints. Though New Orleans might’ve been a league-influenced scenario. But did you really think Drew Brees WASN’T going to break Johnny Unitas’ record and they weren’t going to win with Sean Payton, Joe Vitt and Mickey Loomis in the house on special permission? And I still hate how Philip Rivers throws. Shot putting is not throwing.
9.) Green Bay Packers (2-3) (6) — The stories making the rounds this week are how the Packers offense is mediocre, a severely flawed version of the 2011 model, which lit the NFL on fire. Well, since numbers never lie, let’s see what the stats tell us: Total Offense – 21st (338 ypg); Passing – 15th (240.8 ypg); Rushing – 20th (95.6 ypg). Yup, that’s below average. For perspective, that’s less total yards per game than juggernauts Chiefs (4th), Dolphins (13th) and Bills (17th). Yikes.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) (14) — Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty good coming back from ACL surgery against the Eagles; 107 total yards and a TD. But does it seem like the Steelers are always bitten by the injury bug? And could this be it for Troy Polamalu?
7.) Minnesota Vikings (4-1) (13) — Christian Ponder is a good dude, but he’s like Ebbie Calvin Laloosh; he needs a nickname. That said, here’s what my Maine buddy Jimmy had to say about his Vikings this week: “4-1 baby, the machine rolls on!!” Wow, the Vikings are a machine now? And can anyone stop Percy Harvin? Dude seems to take a kick back every other week right now.
6.) Baltimore Ravens (4-1) (3) — If you can’t score more than 9 points against the Chiefs, then yes, I don’t care if you win, you are not worthy of being The Man and must drop in rankings of that name. Some teams want it, and some don’t. Right now the Ravens do not want it.
5.) Chicago Bears (4-1) (10) — Remember a couple weeks ago when everyone was skewering Jay Cutler like he was tailgate BBQ? Man, those were fun days, weren’t they? Well, now, ole smoking Jay has thrown for an average of 283 yards and 2 TDs in the last two games, the Bears are in first place and no one remembers how he screamed at his lineman in Week 2.
4.) New England Patriots (3-2) (8) — We all knew the Patriots offense has been on a different level since 2007 but when did they turn into Oregon? I was waiting in the second half for them to come out in matte red helmets with flaming muskets on their neon blue jerseys and fluorescent white cleats. They ran 80-something plays and got 35 first downs against the Broncos. That’s not even video game shh. When you’re No. 1 in total yards (439 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring (33 ppg), that’s like the level above All-Madden.
3.) Houston Texans (5-0) (2) — Had Houston lost on Monday, it would have dropped further than just one slot. But the Texans inability to put away an inferior Jets team slightly discouraged me. They’re still undefeated though, and as long as they have Arian Foster (532 yds, 5 TD) bowing and not knowing who random Dolphins are, they’re going to be near the top of these rankings.
2.) San Francisco 49ers (4-1) (4) — So, lemme get this straight: the game management, Alex Smith led 49ers offense has outscored its last two opponents 79-3? That’s right, right? No big deal, Smith just leads the NFL in Passer Rating (108.7).
1.) Atlanta Falcons (5-0) (1) — Remember when everyone said the Falcons were going to be pass first, pass second, pass third, run fourth? Well, that hasn’t been entirely untrue five games into the season. Sure, Matty Ice (sorry @richeisen, I’m riding with the original nickname over The Mattural) is 3rd in attempts (199) but Michael Turner has run for 250 yards in the last three games. I’m guessing it’ll be another high-flying offensive game for the Falcons this weekend the Raiders.
LOS ANGELES — What a difference one week makes. If there’s one thing Bill Parcells was right about, in the National Football League (Ron Jaworski voice), you are what your record is, and what we have is a very balanced league. Six teams are winless, six are undefeated and 20 stand at 1-1. We also have a league on the verge of chaos. Do you remember more games with near brawls, bogus penalties, bad ball spotting, clueless men in stripes, and coaches being more demonstrative than in Week 2? Everyone knew the replacement officials would struggle, but the incompetence was taken to a new level this past weekend. Deion Sanders said it and you can’t argue, it’s like all the kids in science class are picking on the substitute teacher. Oh, and handshake bowl part 2?!
Quick, let’s find out who’s the man before this gets Ron from Queensbridge crazy.
32.) Oakland Raiders (record: 0-2) (last week: 31) — I really thought I’d be able to go the whole season posting one Lauren Tannehill picture after another, but alas Carson Palmer and the Raiders went and took that away from me. Remember last week when I said I was starting a “Free Fitz” campaign? Well, it might be time to start a “Free DMC” one as well. We’re an equal opportunity platform here.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (29) — It hurts me to have my man Maurice Jones-Drew so low here, but I’m here to call a spade a spade; or in this case, a bad football team a bad football team. How many different “Free” campaigns can I have in one season. There has to be a limit, right?
30.) Tennessee Titans (0-2) (28) — At what point do the Titans acknowledge they made a mistake benching my brother and put Matty Hasselbeck back out there? As someone texted me today: “maybe he should’ve stayed with baseball.” And that was an Asian chick, so if she notices something then you know it’s a problem. Oh, and if you see Chris Johnson, tell him… eh, I don’t care. Tell him to pick up a book ‘cuz his career might be O-V-A.
29.) Miami Dolphins (1-1) (32) — Oh what the hell, here’s Lauren Tannehill. And damn, Reggie Bush wasn’t kidding when he said he could win the rushing title. I really thought he was joking. Trying to get some laughs on “Hard Knocks” after Chad got the boot. Someone had to pick up the slack since Joe Philbin was boring as shhh.
28.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (30) — It was nice of Brandon Weeden to throw it to his teammates this week, including Greg Little, who took his benching on my fantasy team to heart and came out and dropped a 5-catch, 57-yard and a touchdown performance. And Trent Richardson said he was going to let his play do the talking and did he ever. That 20-yard TD run where he bounced off like eight dudes was some Mike Alstott jive.
27.) Chiefs (0-2) (21) — So maybe the Chefs aren’t going to win the division like most thought two weeks ago, but Dwayne Bowe sure balled out on Sunday. The problem is perhaps Romeo Sweet Romeo is most likely a better coordinator than a head coach. Like Silvio Dante said, some guys are just meant to be No. 2.
26.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1) (23) — I really hope my buddy Jimmy from home sends me texts after every Vikings game this season, it’ll help their section week-to-week. Here’s his from Sunday: “The good news is the stress of an undefeated season for the Vikings is out. Now we can focus on winning the Super Bowl.” Uh huh, what he said.
25.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (25) — Third week in a row I have the Colts slated 25th, and it’s not on purpose, I swear. But you can see Andrew Luck’s improvement over Week 1. His touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne was a thing of beauty.
24.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (27) — Be honest, raise your hand if you drafted C.J. Spiller and then started him in Week 2. Congrats, you most likely won your fantasy matchup this week, unless you’re my buddy VA, who had Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks AND Spiller and lost by .59. Oh, I’m 2-0 and in 1st place. Thank you, Matt Ryan.
23.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (24) — I like this Rams team. Sure, they only won because Josh Morgan is a mental midget and there was literally a better chance of me being named Mr. Olympia than Billy Cundiff did of making that 62-yarder to win it. And is there anything cooler than Jeff Fisher’s ‘stache? Right, a stadium full of booze-filled fans wearing a fake ‘stache to set a Guinness Book World Record.
22.) New York Jets (1-1) (17) — I don’t care about how the Jets played on the field. Let’s soak in the fact that 37-year old (she claims) Eva Longoria acknowledged she’s dating 25-year old Mark Sanchez. Now, Sanchez is statistically a better quarterback than Tim Tebow, but he’s not as electrifying when compiling those statistics. HOWever, there’s one category where Sanchez is clearly superior: boos. Sanchez, very quietly, has some serious Jeter in him. If we could do a side-by-side chart at this point in their careers, I’d be willing to bet while Jeter might have bigger names (Mariah, etc.) Sanchez’s dames are much more striking. Ya know, if you’re into that exotic, barely speaking English kinda thing.
21.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1) (22) — Has a bandwagon gained more passengers, lost 99% of them and then gained them all back quicker than the Seachickens in the last 8 days? They beat what I thought was a pretty good looking Cowboys team rather easily. But playing up in the great North by Northwest is a different beast. Not everyone can handle it. (Looking right you at, Terrell Owens.)
20.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0) (26) — I took some heat on Twitter for not believing in the Cards after their Week 1 win over Seattle. OK, now I’m a believer… for this week. That defense was bumrushing Mr. Handsome like Kim K. at an All-Star Weekend after party but that offense has to show me something. Again, the “Free Fitz” campaign is two more 1-catch, 4-yard weeks away from having T-shirts, a website and corporate sponsor.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (18) — Now that’s the Who Dey team we thought would come out of the gates in Week 1. Andy Dalton remembered he has A.J. Green on his team and the Law Firm was rushing that rock like he got paid to do. What might scare me a tad was giving up 27 points to the Browns and failing to intercept Brandon “All I Seem To Do Is Look Lost And Throw Interceptions Out There and Yes, I Know I’m Old As Dirt” Weeden.
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (14) — Yes, I’m aware we’re only two weeks into the season, and now is the time to overreact and all that shine, but let me throw this possibility nugget out there for ya: the Lions are frauds and are very likely to finish behind the Vikings in the NFC North. Just let the marinate for a while and get back to me in a few weeks.
17.) New Orleans Saints (0-2) (11) — I don’t want to say I saw this 0-2 or struggles coming… but I kinda saw this coming. I believe I said on the Rich Eisen Podcast the Saints wouldn’t make the playoffs and are going to desperately miss Sean Payton. Just look at the schedule (Woody Paige voice), at best New Orleans will be 3-6 when they head to Oakland on Nov. 19. Then come games against the 49ers, Falcons and Giants. Don’t believe me, check the stats: since 1990 there’s only a 12% chance of making playoff if you start the year 0-2.
16.) Carolina Panthers (1-1) (19) — I saw a headline somewhere online about Cam Newton that said to the effect, Week 2 was a redemption game for the sophomore QB. Redemption from what? It’s Week 2!!?! This is why I don’t like to overpontificate. However, allow me some self-dap for a moment for drafting Brandon LaFell in my fantasy league; I see you, brah. Keep catching that rock.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (8) — What the hell is going on in the NFC East? One week you think someone from this division can win the Super Bowl and the next they couldn’t beat Santa Margarita. I honestly don’t know what’s gonna happen week to week and I sure don’t know what to make of the Cowboys. Tony Romo returned to Seattle and botched more than just the extra-point snap, scoring just 7 points and posting a 74.1 passer rating. But his backwards hat looked really cool!
14.) Chicago Bears (1-1) (6) — I don’t know who laid the biggest stink bomb this week: the Cowboys or Bears but holy Ron Burdandy’s mustache, did two teams look more opposite from week to week that those two? Ya know what, I blame myself for getting caught up in their hype. No two teams suck their fans and pundits in quite like the Bears and Cowboys only to pee down their own legs. Shame on us, America. Oh, and tell me you’ve seen this latest tumblr featuring Jay Cutler. Pure genius.
13.) Tampa Bay Bucs (1-1) (12) — Every season it has to be something, right? Last year, we had the Handshake Bowl and now we have the, what are we even calling this? The Kneel Down Bowl? How great was Tom Coughlin scolding Greg Schiano postgame like he was his son and found his beer/cigar stash in the garage? That said, this Bucs team looks like a playoff team. The only question is if they can stay ahead of the Panthers.
12.) San Diego Chargers (2-0) (16) — Two straight impressive offensive performances against two pretty bad teams. Sounds about right for the Lightning Bolts. But how classy was the retiring of #55? If you haven’t read my column in the initial aftermath of Junior Seau’s passing, you can read it here. We’ll see how striking this team is when Atlanta comes to town this week.
11.) Washington Redskins (1-1) (9) — If Josh Morgan doesn’t go knucklehead and cost the Redskins 15 yards on the final drive, you may not be reading about Washington for a few more paragraphs. Alas, it takes 53 guys to win and lose (not really, but go with it) so here it is at #11. My good friend Robert (Griffin the Third) appeared slightly less video game freakish this week and there’s a good chance he may get sliced in half like The Prestige on one of these runs but until then, I’m not changing the channel when he’s got the ball. Are you?
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) (20) — Is there a 2-0 team who looks shakier than the Eagles? I mean, it’s not like they’re the first in the 90-plus year history of the NFL to win their first two games by one point each. Oh, they are? Carry on.
9.) Denver Broncos (1-1) (13) — So about Peyton Manning’s arm strength, ball velocity, sharpness and MVP season. In Manning’s defense, he did tell us last week he wasn’t all the way back, and I’m sure he won’t be until about Week 12 or so, which is right around the same time he’ll start to break down because HE HAD FOUR NECK SURGERIES AND MISSED AN ENTIRE SEASON. Can’t hammer that point home enough.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) (15) — Last week I wondered if the Steelers were in for a long year or were better than they let on in Week 1. I think their handling of the Jets proved Black & Yellow should be OK this season. Still not sure who’s running the ball but Mike Wallace doesn’t appear to be feeling the effect of missing training camp, and when James Harrison and Troy Hair God return from injury, things should be back to normal at Heinz Field.
7.) New York Giants (1-1) (10) — After two games, it’s shaping up to be one of those seasons for the G-men. You thought the Romo-coaster was a fun ride. The Bucs game was a pretty good microcosm of Eli Manning’s career. Shitty, shitty, shitty, then awesome and win the game. Ho Hum. And seriously, Tom Coughlin has won 2 Super Bowls and will most likely be a Hall of Famer, but dude is NEVER happy. The homeless guy who calls me “boyyy” every morning begging for dollar bills at least smiles every once in a while. But seriously, falling waaaay behind and having Eli bail you out each week is gonna get old real quick.
6.) New England Patriots (1-1) (3) — Major chink in New England’s armor with this Cardinals loss. And you can’t undervalue the loss of Aaron Hernandez; changes the offense completely. But let’s talk about Wes Welker for a second. Has anything gone right for this guy since he dropped the Super Bowl-clinching catch? He did marry a smoking hot chick, but how long will that last? I love Wes, but maybe his time is up. Maybe Tom Brady really made him a “superstar” or the system did or Randy Moss. But he’s been in New England long enough and should know better how the Patriots do business.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (7) — Seems like it’s been a while since saw the Packers steal the Bears’ lunch money on Thursday Night Football, but yeah, that’s the team we all expected when the season began. Offensively, they still look a little off, though. I don’t get it. Then, Jermichael Finley’s agent went and said Aaron Rodgers isn’t a leader or something. Great. Way to eff up my fantasy tight end who already can’t catch a cold in a Green Bay winter. And I want what Clay’s been having the first two weeks. Holy schnikes.
4.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (1) — We can all agree the Ravens got Roy Jones’d in the ’88 Olympics last week in Philadelphia, which is why I couldn’t drop them further than three spots. They are top-to-bottom one of the handful complete teams in the NFL. However, Joe Flacco, show me some consistency! It’s one thing to call YOURself an elite QB, it’s another to go out and snatch that moniker. Nicknames are given to you, not self-glossed. And Ed Reed did it again. With every pick he climbs my all-time greats list.
3.) Houston Texans (2-0) (5) — Houston will finally get tested this week at Denver, but I still believe they’re a top team. Clearly, BenArian Fosterate is the best running back in the league and Gary Kubiak looks more and more like a gangster whenever I see him. Next time he walks out on the field to berate a replacement official I half expect him to bust out a Tommy Gun and blow them away “Boardwalk Empire” style. Pat Riley thinks your hair has too much product, bro.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (2-0) (4) — I didn’t like how Atlanta took its foot off the gas and let the Broncos back in the game on Monday, but that defensive effort in the first half was impressive. For me, I wondered if that facet of the game could match what Matty Ice and Co. were capable of offensively, and so far, so good. Despite Kansas City’s record, I think they’re a good team, and going on the road and taking them out and then handling their business at home was huge for the Falcons, who many questioned would be able survive in what was looking like a tough NFC South.
1.) San Francisco 49ers (2-0) (2) — That wasn’t just a beatdown of the Lions on Sunday night, that was a dissection. Rich Eisen tweeted it out near the end of the game, and he’s right, it’s time to stop saying the 9ers are winning in spite of Alex Smith. He can make every throw, is elusive with his feet and has an offensive line loaded with 1st Round picks. On top of that, have you seen a coach with bigger absolute crazy eyes than Jim Harbaugh? If you told me he gets in full war paint and howls at the moon each night, I’d believe you. Everything is in play.