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 — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
LOS ANGELES — The last year I was in Maine, I covered my high school, Thornton Academy, as it won its first-ever boys basketball Class A state championship. It was the greatest run for me both professionally and personally because of the team and individuals involved (I was a captain my senior year). Looking back, I feel like I wrote some of my best game stories and columns during that time, and while I might have had some extra motivation to be at my best, I relished in it the moment and tried to remain as objective as humanly possible.
Being there as the final seconds ticked and the celebration and the cutting down of the nets and talking to the kids and coaches afterwards is something I’ll never forget. I felt like I was a part of that team, and for no other reason than I spent a lot of time with them; at their games, at their practices, talking on and off the record to the coaches and players. Saco is a true community, and a giant local sports town, and I’m proud to forever be part of that community for my service there as a student athlete, teacher, and member of the media.
This past weekend, another of Thornton’s teams I have a strong affinity for, did something it hasn’t done in 24 years. The Golden Trojans football team reached the Class A State Championship game with a 20-13 victory over Cheverus in the Western Maine final to earn their first trip to the title game since 1988. We won the Gold Ball that year and if all goes to plan, we ‘ll take it home again on Saturday. I played 3 varsity season during my time as a Thornton Academy student, the last as its quarterback. I’ve known the head coach, Kevin Kezal, since he was my JV baseball coach in 1996. My first year out of college, he brought me in to be the Trojans wide receivers coach; it was one of the best times of my life. I’ve known all the coaches nearly as long and covered them for 5 years. To say I’m close to the program is an understatement.
The funny thing is, when I was home in May, I stopped by Thornton and talked to Kezal and another coach for nearly two hours. It was mostly just catching up, since I hadn’t been home or seen them in a while, but they noted how special this team could be; that they had a chance to finally be the one to end our Gold Ball drought. And now they’re 48 minutes away. It kills me not to be there. Good luck, boys.
We know who The Man is in Maine, let’s find out who’s The Man in the NFL this week.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-8) (32) — The Chiefs took the lead on Monday night for the first time all season. And then lost. Then got a penalty for a sick dance on a play that technically didn’t happen. That tells you all you need to know. #FreeJamaal
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) (31) — I’m glad we can put to bed all this “Alabama would beat the Chiefs or Jaguars” talk, with the Tide’s loss over the weekend to Texas A&M. But wouldn’t a game between them be fun?
30.) Carolina Panthers (2-7) (28) — OK, Cam Newton, I’m going to give you a mulligan for this season. I think you’re a good player. Really, I do. I called it two years ago when co-workers were trashing you, but please please please put the “Superman” dance away for the rest of 2012.
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-7) (30) — Not really much to say about the Browns so allow me to another opportunity to dial up a quickie Extra Butter for the new Bond flick “Skyfall”: I get the impression that in real life, Daniel Craig is a pretty big a-hole. I get it, he’s the biggest star in Europe. I’m sure I’d be one, too. But he’s an awesome Bond. Physical. Imposing. Vulnerable. Those piercing blue eyes. Quick-witted. I dig him. And I did this film. It’s an experience. Javier Bardem is an awesome villain and downright creepy, to be honest. An ex-MI6 agent, he’s seeking revenge for M selling him out to the Chinese years ago. Him battling wits with Bond makes for a riveting 143 minutes. Brockman Stamp of Approval: 4.25/5 shaken martinis.
28.) New York Jets (3-6) (22) — It’s tough to see how Mark Sanchez can continue to be the quarterback of this team. And while a lot of the blame has to be put on his shoulders for his very below average performance this season (9-of-22, 124 yards, INT vs. Seahawks), the coaching staff and management has not done a good job of playing to his strengths and surrounding him with players to bolster his weaknesses. I’m done talking about this team.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-5) (27) — Definitely giving up on this team, so allow me to tell how difficult it is to change a tire when all you have is one of those tiny rinky dink jacks. It’s really hard. And even harder when you try to change it on a public street. You have to angle your car so you have just enough room off the curb and on top of that, it’s was dark and the automatic sprinklers just went off for the 3 foot strip of grass. Then you’re car is low to the ground, so you have to lay on the pavement to spin the
26.) Buffalo Bills (3-6) (29) — Stevie Johnson is the most flamboyant player on the Bills. He wears really cool outfits and makes fun of Plaxico Burress after he scores touchdowns. However, he was not happy after Buffalo’s 37-31 loss to the Patriots.
25.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) (25) — Holy shnikes this team sucks. I mean, what the hell? Can’t Michael Vick go one game without getting his ass kicked like he plays for that team Adam Sandler was the water boy for? I actually think I had a dream last night that Andy Reid shaved his walrus ‘stache. Do you think if he did, that would confuse Eagles fans, reporters and even his own Jeff Lurie into thinking that it was a new coach and therefore no one would get upset and Lurie wouldn’t come damn near close to firing him every Sunday night? That might work, right? Hell, it’s worth a shot. Andy doesn’t have many bullets left in the holster.
24.) Oakland Raiders (3-6) (24) — Literally the only player worth having on the Raiders for fantasy purposes in their tight end, Brandon Myers, who I actually never even heard of about 5 weeks ago, but has been killing it for me in that span. However, he suffered a concussion, along with half the league, this weekend and is questionable against the Saints, which forces me to start Jermichael Finley, who I have grown to loathe this season. He couldn’t catch herpes if he had a threeway with Paris Hilton and Linsday Lohan.*
23.) Washington Redskins (3-6) (20) — Did I see that right, the Redskins have the exact same record at this point in the season as they did last year with Rex Grossman as their quarterback? I’m not saying any more. My Good Friend Robert needs a win though. Pretty badly.
22.) Tennessee Titans (4-6) (26) — I’m conflicted here with the Titans. On one side, I’m happy for Jake Locker that he came back from his injury and won a big road game against an apparently fraudulent Dolphins and got Tennessee back in the playoff mix. On the other side, I’m sad for My Brother Matthew, who won’t get any more burn this season unless Locker goes down with an injury again. Conflicted. Oh, and that TD run by Chris Johnson is one of the plays of the year. Dang, homey.
21.) St. Louis Rams (3-5-1) (23) — See, I knew I wasn’t the only ones who felt indifferent about the Rams. The Football Gods deemed it necessary to have them play in a tie this season. A TIE!!?! It’s been 4 years since the last tie in the NFL and Donovan McNabb regrettably stated he didn’t know the game would end that way. Now, after that episode, you’d think that no NFLer would dare admit that again, but lo and behold, Danny Amendola went and did just that to Peter King afterwards. When are these guys gonna learn to KEEP. THEIR. MOUTHS. SHUT? I’m guessing never.
20.) San Diego Chargers (4-5) (18) — You may not see a worse pass this season than the one Philip Rivers threw that Leonard Johnson intercepted and ran back for a touchdown this week. I don’t get Rivers one bit. Sure, he throws it uglier than Tebow but man he can make plays one minute and then the most boneheaded the next.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (4-5) (21) — It’s ridiculous how there are so many teams with basically the same record but who have very different feelings about their playoff chances. Such as the Bengals, who are 4-5 are in the same boat as the Chargers, but while San Diego might as well be walking the plank, Cincy is down below getting drunk on rum its huge win over the Giants. It’s all about trends and the Orange and Black is trending up.
18.) Detroit Lions (4-5) (17) — The Lions will never win anything until Matthew Stafford turns his hat around. No one ever won anything in a backwards cap. Not Ken Griffey Jr., not Tony Romo, no one.
17.) Miami Dolphins (4-5) (16) — The Dolphins had a chance to make as statement, get above .500 for the first time since who knows when and get into the AFC Playoff Picture and what did they do? Get absolutely boat raced at home by the Titans. Inexcusable. I’m so upset by this I need a new picture of Lauren Tannehill to cheer me up. Aaah, that’s better.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (4-5) (19) won — Does anyone stay alive quite like the Dallas Cowboys? They’re like that one last good run at the blackjack table as you’re nearing zeroes that keeps you around just long enough to lose your entire stake. Don’t trust them and never will. But that’s very noble of Jerry Jones to say he’d fire himself. So go ahead and do it, you dope.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (6-4) (15) — Definitely a must-win last weekend, in division against the Lions, for the Vikings. If it wasn’t for Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson would be the MVP of the league right now. You could make an argument the two should share that award and Comeback Player of the Year, which is incredible. Here’s my buddy Jimmy’s take: “Going into the bye 6-4, gonna finish 10-6. You heard it here first.” Yes, we did.
14.) New Orleans Saints (4-5) (14) — One of those annoying Pepsi commercials featuring Drew Brees and some band called “One Direction,” which is why I’m going this route. But is anyone else kind of tired of/annoyed with/want to punch Brees in the face? He hasn’t been doing himself any favors in the last 6 months with the holdout, the Bounty stuff, the tired pregame chants and now these commercials. They’re terrible. Deplorable, even. And on those pregame chants; who takes those seriously? Seeing Brees stand there and be all, “come on, uh huh, yeah” and say things like, “real Saints have swag,” get real, Drew. Don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re out.
13.) New York Giants (6-4) (9) — Even if their bye week wasn’t pre-determined for Week 11, I’m guessing Tom Coughlin would’ve most likely petitioned the league office to make it the Giants week off after the way they’ve played lately. Now with just a two-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East, Big Blue is reeling like it’s fly fishing season. Eli Manning has
12.) Indianapolis Colts (6-3) (13) –– It’s amazing what’s going on in Indianapolis. Truly. And if you think about it, the Colts are a Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts 80-yd bomb in the final two minutes away from being 7-2. That’s one people are going to look back and shake their heads at, especially when the Jags are 1-15 and the Colts are 11-5.
11.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-4) (12) — I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: really like what’s going on in Tampa Bay. Sure, Greg Schiano is a little insane, but this team has offensive firepower coming out its ears. Mike Williams has a 3 TDs in the last 5 games
10.) Seattle Seahawks (6-4) (11) –– I still don’t believe in Russell Wilson, but each week he’s making me look dumber and dumber for saying that.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (7-2) (10) — Seems like this team only plays well and home. And could Ray Lewis really come back and play this season? He was spotted at practice this week. Hmmm.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) (8) — Remember a little over a month ago when I wondered if the Steelers were any good? Well, four straight wins later I think they’ve proved me wrong. However, with Big Ben nursing a dislocated rib with the possibility of puncturing an aorta (what the what?!), Pittsburgh has to turn to 73-year-old Byron Leftwich and his hand crank delivery. At least they don’t play the Ravens two of the next three weeks. What’s that you say, they do? Hmm…
7.) Denver Broncos (6-4) (7) — You know who’s awesome? Von Miller. Here’s why; the dude likes to have fun while playing football. Imagine that. I really like how he does other people’s celebrations when he sacks them or makes a play. He’s Tebow’d, did Aaron Rodgers’ belt celebration, Mile High Saluted, Cam’s Superman and countless others. Always reminding us that it is just a game, and game’s are supposed to be fun.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) (5) — It appears Alex Smith (concussion) will be ready for the Monday Night clash against Chicago, but don’t you kinda get the feeling that the 49ers would like Smith to be out so they could see what life could be like with the dangerous Colin Kaepernick behind center? No? Am I the only one who thinks that? Kaepernick is bigger (hands), has a stronger arm, is faster and can make something from nothing. Sure, Smith is Harbaugh’s guy (when he’s not courting Peyton Manning) but why not rest him and see what you have in the young kid?
5.) New England Patriots (6-3) (6) — The Patriots give up far too many points, yards and big plays (they lead the league in 20+ yard plays) yet somehow find a way to win. It’s why I can’t have them any higher despite their three-game winning streak. I’d also be lying to you if I said I was confident in the 4th Quarter against Buffalo and that I think this weekend’s game against the Colts is a cakewalk. Lying to you.
4.) Chicago Bears (7-2) (2) — How come it seems like every season Jay Cutler does something very Jay Cutler-like (aside from all the douchey stuff) such as getting hurt when his team has a legit shot to go deep in the playoffs? Oh, right, because he does. Last year it was the thumb and this year it’s the concussion thanks to a Tim Dobbins helmet-to-helmet hit when Cutler was scrambling and near the line of scrimmage on a throw. Allow me to the first to wish Jason Campbell congratulations on still being in the league and reminding everyone of that when he walked on the field, Sunday night.
3.) Green Bay Packers (6-3) (4) — Word out of Wisconsin is Aaron Rodgers recently proposed to his girlfriend, Destiny Newton. Could that explain is elevated play in recent weeks? I have no idea, but while you’re here, take a peek at Miss Newton.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (8-1) (1) — Matty Ice and Co. failed to remain unbeaten, falling to the Saints last weekend, but if we’re all honest with one another, I don’t think any of us expected Atlanta to go 16-0. This smells like a 13-3 team. Just not getting enough out of the running game. Not sure if it’s by design, but even when his number is being called, Michael Turner is struggling big time. That’s gotta get fixed for me to be serious about the Dirty Birds as legit contenders.
1.) Houston Texans (8-1) (3) — I have just one rule: when you go on the road and defeat a fellow once-beaten team, and on top of that, knock said once-beaten team’s quarterback out of the game, AND you have Arian Foster, you deserve the top spot in my weekly You’re The Man rankings.
LOS ANGELES — With a third of the regular season down we have exactly one undefeated team (Atlanta) and no longer any winless ones (thanks, Cleveland), and here’s what we know in the National. Football. League.
I’m not convinced any team is great but there’s at least eight teams who are terrible, that’s for certain. The NFL is very medium-heavy right now. There’s at least 10 teams that could be Super Bowl contenders but every single one is missing something to put them over the top or in the driver’s seat.
Oh, and did anyone notice that neither the 49ers or Giants wore any pink on Sunday? Kinda strange given that the league is so gung-ho on it. More on the pink phenomenon next week. Let’s find out who’s the man.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (record: 1-5) (last week: 30) — Hey, all you fans who were booing Matt Cassel last week, which basically means you were clamoring for Brady Quinn, how’d that 22-of-38, 180-yard, 2-interception performance from the former EAS spokesman taste? Did I mention that you lost 38-10 and Quinn had a 48.7 Passer Rating? You’re on your way to the No. 1 pick, your coach getting fired and at least another 3 years before another playoff game. Now you’re done.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4) (32) — The best part about the bye week: moving up a spot when someone proves themselves crappier than you. And because I know you were all wondering, my Maurice Jones-Drew fill-in this week in fantasy, Mr. Brandon Bolden, got me a whopping 28 yards rushing for 1.87 points. #FreeMJD
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-4) (27) — It’s probably a good thing the Panthers had a bye this week or they might have fallen to the bottom of these rankings with another stink bomb of a showing. Seriously, I couldn’t be any lower on this team. Just showing me nothing. And DeAngelo Williams says something about his terrible game in Week 5 and how that shows fantasy owners how they could never be real GMs. Sheesh. Get a life, bro.
29.) Tennessee Titans (2-4) (31) — Not only did I pick the Titans to win last Thursday because I was pulling for my brother and knew that if Tennessee pulled the upset he’d be the best possible postgame, on-set guest, but Matt Hasselbeck then went out and delivered! Couldn’t have been happier for handsome, bald men everywhere. And how great was his son on the set? I seriously thought he was going to decapitate that poor, throwback Kurt Warner bobblehead.
28.) Cleveland Browns (1-5) (29) — What did I tell you last week? I said the Browns, while winless, could at least put points on the board, and therefore should not and would not be ranked last in this poll. And how did they respond? Only went out and made me look good by dropping 34 on the Bengals at home for their first win of the season. And happy 67th birthday Brandon Weeden! Went out and threw for a couple of touchdowns, including a 71-yarder to Josh Gordon.
27.) Oakland Raiders (1-4) (28) — As I explained to Jantzen on Sunday night, Carson Palmer is probably the best bad player in the league who’s actually not that terrible, but he stinks. The thing is, if you think about all of that put together, it makes total sense. The Raiders really should’ve upset the Falcons on Sunday but shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. Palmer threw for 353 yards but had a costly pick six in a tie game, then came down and led a game-tying drive. One minute he’s great, the next he’s bad and then he’s great and then he’s bad again. Plus, if the Raiders defense could stop anyone or get to the quarterback (4 sacks) they’d have more than 1 win. I don’t think they’re that far off.
26.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-3) (15) — It’s official: this Eagles team is garbage and Michael Vick should be benched and Andy Reid fired. That’s whatevery Philly fan is saying this week. And lo and behold, Reid ousted Juan Castillo. Right, because it’s his fault the offense is terrible (27th in scoring). I guess the Eagles 12th ranked defense was too low. Sheesh. Though 30th in sacks is kind of inexcusable. Who knows. This is a one-win team disguised at .500.
25.) Buffalo Bills (3-3) (26) — I honestly have no idea how Buffalo won in Arizona last weekend and I’m not convinced they’re any good. In fact, let me ask my huge Bills fan buddy, Shawn. Me: “how would you assess the Bills at this point?” Him: “Crap… Being a Bills fan is a complete waste of time.” That settles it.
24.) Detroit Lions (2-3) (24) — Anyone else think it’s hilarious that Nate Burelson said the Lions have been too busy trying to better off the field that they’ve gotten too nice on it. Yeah, that’s not the problem, Nate. The problem is that your coach is an a-hole, Matthew Stafford is 24th in Passer Rating and Yds/Attempt and 17th in completion %, and your offense is 18th in scoring despite being 2nd in total yards. You can’t win if you can’t score. And you can’t score if Calvin Johnson has only 1 touchdown.
23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-3) (25) — Sure, the Bucs beatdown the Chiefs last week, who are a catastrophe of an organization right now, but it was still nice to see them handle their business against a team they should. Josh Freeman had his best game of the season (328 yards, 3 TD, INT) and we had a Mike Williams sighting for the second straight game.
22.) Indianapolis Colts (2-3) (18) — Gotta be honest, didn’t see Sunday’s disaster against the Jets coming. Sure, like most, I expected a bit of a letdown after the emotional comeback against Green Bay in Week 5, but that was a legitimate stinkfest against the Jets. It was by far Andrew Luck’s worst game as a pro (3 turnovers, 0 TDs, 51.3 Passer Rating) and Indy’s 3rd ranked defense made Mark Sanchez and Co. look like superstars, which we all know, they are not.
21.) New York Jets (3-3) (23) — If the Jets beat the Patriots this week, I’ll hunt down Roger Lodge and shave his head on the Jim Rome show.
20.) New Orleans Saints (1-4) (22) — Is it possible the Saints come out of their bye week and go on a run and make some noise in the December playoff race? Sure. That’s possible. However, look at the schedule: 2 with the Bucs and Falcons, Broncos, 49ers, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles. Yeah, that’s tough.
19.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (20) — I honestly don’t know what to do about the Cowboys. But I do know that Dez Bryant can’t blame the side judge for him dropping the game-tying 2-point conversion. You’re having a career day buddy, cap it off with a great play to keep your team alive. And I’m guessing those 24-hour a day bodyguards Jerry Jones is making you pay for are working?
18.) St. Louis Rams (3-3) (17) — Brandon Gibson, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis and Brian Quick. No, they’re not the members of the newest boyband sweeping the pop music scene, they’re Sam Bradford’s “weapons” at wide receiver. Though I do like the rookie Daryl Richardson in the backfield. Looked nice last week with 99 total yards.
17.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) (12) — The Bengals freefall continues. No excuse to lose to the Browns if you want to be taken seriously as an AFC contender. None. What. So. Ever. And I know I said this a couple weeks ago, but A.J. Green just continues to make the impossible possible. He’s hands down the best receiver in the NFL right now. Imagine if he had someone other than the Red Rocket throwing him the ball, too. Scary, scary thought.
16.) Pittsburgh Steelers (2-3) (8) — I love Matt Hasselbeck, that is pretty well documented, but the Steelers should not have lost that game last Thursday to the Titans. It appears the injuries are finally catching up with Pittsburgh. Between Polamalu, Harrison and Woodley, and Mendenhall the defense is battered and the running game is inconsistent. Ben Roethsliberger has to sling it all over the yard and that’s not a recipe for success.
15.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) (21) — Not sure why, but I’m starting to like this Dolphins team. And just think, 7 weeks ago they were at the bottom and I was geared up for a season of Lauren Tannehill picture posts and now, while near the bottom of the league in total offense (22nd) and defense (27th), they’re at .500 and a couple of Dan Carpenter field goals from being 5-1.
14.) San Diego Chargers (3-3) (10) — What’s great about the Chargers is they’re good enough to build a 24-0 lead against a quality team like Denver, appear to have it all working, and then in the blink of an eye (or in this case a 12-minute halftime), bad enough to go out and give up 35 straight and fuel talks of their coach getting fired and how their QB hasn’t played well in 18 months. At least Antonio Gates is playing well again.
13.) Arizona Cardinals (4-2) (14) — Consecutive losses. The QB you wanted, then didn’t want but were forced to start anyway is now out for a while after his ribs got separated from torso which leaves with the guy you didn’t want at first, then wanted but couldn’t play because HE got hurt. But hey, at least SOMEONE is passing the ball to Larry Fitzgerald (5 catches in his first 2 games, 31 in the last 4), which has led me to the decision to temporarily suspend the #FreeFitz campaign.
11.) Minnesota Vikings (4-2) (7) — My buddy Slade, a huge Redskins fan, was shocked I picked the Vikings last week and dutifully rubbed it in my face Sunday night. Likewise, friend of the website Jimmy had this to say: “Looking like the ViQueens of last year … yup, we are the ViQueens this week … it’s ok, 14-2 will take the division and give us home field.” Ah, sure.
12.) Washington Redskins (3-3) (19) — Remember when I asked if you’d change the channel whenever Robert Griffin had the ball? How about now after that 76-yard touchdown run and Landover Leap? I’m shocked My Good Friend Robert played in the first place after that hit he took by Sean Weatherspoon of the Falcons (and no shock the league is investigating the Redskins handling of the situation), let alone pulled that ridiculous run off. Been beyond impressed with this kid so far. And I’ll say this every week: hope he keeps it smart and stays on the field.
10.) Denver Broncos (3-3) (13) — That was some Peyton Manning performance in the second half in San Diego, wasn’t it? It was hilarious scrolling Twitter during the first half, with everyone throwing the dirt on his grave, and then in the second half, when everyone was singing his praises. Twitter is great like that. He looked good, no doubt, but let’s not forget the Chargers totally pissed down their own leg and virtually gave it Denver. I’ll say it now: no way the Broncos win a playoff game.
9.) New England Patriots (3-3) (4) — Are the Patriots the best 3-3 team ever? Perhaps. But this goes back to last season, where they reached the Super Bowl despite having the 31st ranked defense; you can’t rely on Brady and Co. to carry you each week because you’re going to play a pesky team like the Seahawks at their place and have dumb mistakes cost you. Seriously, that game should’ve been a 3 or 4 score game in the 4th Quarter and there wouldn’t have been any chance for Russell Wilson late-game heroics. The way New England consistently gives up big plays in the secondary show how much Belichick has blown it in the Draft in recent years.
8.) Seattle Seahawks (4-2) (16) — I still have the Seahawks behind the 49ers because I don’t trust Russell Wilson, but damn that was a great throw to beat the Patriots, wasn’t it? As the ball was hurtling through the cold, wet, northwest air I knew where it would land. And wouldn’t you know Sidney Rice was behind the inept Patriots secondary. Oh, and yes, I realize I lost the bet with the Schaffers and “boat race” will not be appearing on The League this season. Such a sad moment for catchphrase pushers everywhere.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (4-2) (2) — After outscoring opponents 79-3 in their previous two games, the 49ers got boatraced by the Giants 26-3 on Sunday in a rematch of the 2011 NFC Championship game. This was telling from San Fran’s perspective. Complete no-show at home with the national TV audience. That’s two games now where this has happened. Real confusing. Not sure what to make of this. Oh, right, it’s Joe Buck’s fault.
6.) Houston Texans (5-1) (3) — Everyone talked about how the Texans really didn’t play anyone through their first fives games; really, they just beat the Broncos, when you think about it. Well, they got their chance on the big stage Sunday night and showed the NFL world what they’re made of. They might has well been playing two-hand touch on the set of “Hey, Dude!” And I know you love it when I talk about my fantasy team, but I was down 22 and change with Arian Foster and the Texans Defense going into Monday night and ended up winning thanks to that B.S. blocked punt and TD with 5:30 left.
5.) New York Giants (4-2) (11) — This could be the best team in football and they’d be higher if I didn’t think they weren’t capable of laying an ostrich egg against the Redskins this weekend. I’ve never seen a team in recent memory play to the level of their opponent more than the Giants. Eli Manning is an absolutely G. The defense remains their biggest question mark. If the 49ers had a better offense I’d be more impressed by holding them to 3 points. Stopping my Good Friend Robert on Sunday will be a good measuring stick.
4.) Green Bay Packers (3-3) (9) — You just know Aaron Rodgers read every last word written about how he and the Packers offense were out of sync, would never capture that 2011 magic again, etc. and then he came out and said Eff You, Guys, I’m Still James Bond Here. How many fantasy owners out there had Rodgers AND Nelson going. How’d that taste?
3.) Chicago Bears (4-1) (5) — There were so many sack/fumbles and Pick 6’s this week I had to double check the schedule to make sure the Bears had a bye. But yup, exactly zero of those were a result of Jay Cutler flashing that patented false bravado and doing something stupid. Weird. Could’ve sworn he was involved.
2.) Baltimore Ravens (5-1) (6) — Yes, the loss of Ray Lewis is a big one. Any time your heart and soul isn’t out on the field, it’s a blow, but losing Ladarius Webb will prove more costly. You may have heard this, but the NFL is a passing league and if you can’t stop the pass, you’re in big trouble (ask the Patriots). Onus on Joe Flacco more now than ever.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (6-0) (1) — Was this week our first sign of chinks in the Matty Ice MVP armor? I’d say so. His first two interceptions Sunday were bad throws and the third he just got lit up and it floated like a wounded quail. However, it says a lot that in these games where he’s played poorly, or the team has trailed in the 4th quarter, that he’s brought them back and won the game or put them in position for a winning field goal. That’s what you call onions and the foundation of an MVP season.
LOS ANGELES — What a difference one week makes. If there’s one thing Bill Parcells was right about, in the National Football League (Ron Jaworski voice), you are what your record is, and what we have is a very balanced league. Six teams are winless, six are undefeated and 20 stand at 1-1. We also have a league on the verge of chaos. Do you remember more games with near brawls, bogus penalties, bad ball spotting, clueless men in stripes, and coaches being more demonstrative than in Week 2? Everyone knew the replacement officials would struggle, but the incompetence was taken to a new level this past weekend. Deion Sanders said it and you can’t argue, it’s like all the kids in science class are picking on the substitute teacher. Oh, and handshake bowl part 2?!
Quick, let’s find out who’s the man before this gets Ron from Queensbridge crazy.
32.) Oakland Raiders (record: 0-2) (last week: 31) — I really thought I’d be able to go the whole season posting one Lauren Tannehill picture after another, but alas Carson Palmer and the Raiders went and took that away from me. Remember last week when I said I was starting a “Free Fitz” campaign? Well, it might be time to start a “Free DMC” one as well. We’re an equal opportunity platform here.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (29) — It hurts me to have my man Maurice Jones-Drew so low here, but I’m here to call a spade a spade; or in this case, a bad football team a bad football team. How many different “Free” campaigns can I have in one season. There has to be a limit, right?
30.) Tennessee Titans (0-2) (28) — At what point do the Titans acknowledge they made a mistake benching my brother and put Matty Hasselbeck back out there? As someone texted me today: “maybe he should’ve stayed with baseball.” And that was an Asian chick, so if she notices something then you know it’s a problem. Oh, and if you see Chris Johnson, tell him… eh, I don’t care. Tell him to pick up a book ‘cuz his career might be O-V-A.
29.) Miami Dolphins (1-1) (32) — Oh what the hell, here’s Lauren Tannehill. And damn, Reggie Bush wasn’t kidding when he said he could win the rushing title. I really thought he was joking. Trying to get some laughs on “Hard Knocks” after Chad got the boot. Someone had to pick up the slack since Joe Philbin was boring as shhh.
28.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (30) — It was nice of Brandon Weeden to throw it to his teammates this week, including Greg Little, who took his benching on my fantasy team to heart and came out and dropped a 5-catch, 57-yard and a touchdown performance. And Trent Richardson said he was going to let his play do the talking and did he ever. That 20-yard TD run where he bounced off like eight dudes was some Mike Alstott jive.
27.) Chiefs (0-2) (21) — So maybe the Chefs aren’t going to win the division like most thought two weeks ago, but Dwayne Bowe sure balled out on Sunday. The problem is perhaps Romeo Sweet Romeo is most likely a better coordinator than a head coach. Like Silvio Dante said, some guys are just meant to be No. 2.
26.) Minnesota Vikings (1-1) (23) — I really hope my buddy Jimmy from home sends me texts after every Vikings game this season, it’ll help their section week-to-week. Here’s his from Sunday: “The good news is the stress of an undefeated season for the Vikings is out. Now we can focus on winning the Super Bowl.” Uh huh, what he said.
25.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (25) — Third week in a row I have the Colts slated 25th, and it’s not on purpose, I swear. But you can see Andrew Luck’s improvement over Week 1. His touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne was a thing of beauty.
24.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (27) — Be honest, raise your hand if you drafted C.J. Spiller and then started him in Week 2. Congrats, you most likely won your fantasy matchup this week, unless you’re my buddy VA, who had Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks AND Spiller and lost by .59. Oh, I’m 2-0 and in 1st place. Thank you, Matt Ryan.
23.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (24) — I like this Rams team. Sure, they only won because Josh Morgan is a mental midget and there was literally a better chance of me being named Mr. Olympia than Billy Cundiff did of making that 62-yarder to win it. And is there anything cooler than Jeff Fisher’s ‘stache? Right, a stadium full of booze-filled fans wearing a fake ‘stache to set a Guinness Book World Record.
22.) New York Jets (1-1) (17) — I don’t care about how the Jets played on the field. Let’s soak in the fact that 37-year old (she claims) Eva Longoria acknowledged she’s dating 25-year old Mark Sanchez. Now, Sanchez is statistically a better quarterback than Tim Tebow, but he’s not as electrifying when compiling those statistics. HOWever, there’s one category where Sanchez is clearly superior: boos. Sanchez, very quietly, has some serious Jeter in him. If we could do a side-by-side chart at this point in their careers, I’d be willing to bet while Jeter might have bigger names (Mariah, etc.) Sanchez’s dames are much more striking. Ya know, if you’re into that exotic, barely speaking English kinda thing.
21.) Seattle Seahawks (1-1) (22) — Has a bandwagon gained more passengers, lost 99% of them and then gained them all back quicker than the Seachickens in the last 8 days? They beat what I thought was a pretty good looking Cowboys team rather easily. But playing up in the great North by Northwest is a different beast. Not everyone can handle it. (Looking right you at, Terrell Owens.)
20.) Arizona Cardinals (2-0) (26) — I took some heat on Twitter for not believing in the Cards after their Week 1 win over Seattle. OK, now I’m a believer… for this week. That defense was bumrushing Mr. Handsome like Kim K. at an All-Star Weekend after party but that offense has to show me something. Again, the “Free Fitz” campaign is two more 1-catch, 4-yard weeks away from having T-shirts, a website and corporate sponsor.
19.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (18) — Now that’s the Who Dey team we thought would come out of the gates in Week 1. Andy Dalton remembered he has A.J. Green on his team and the Law Firm was rushing that rock like he got paid to do. What might scare me a tad was giving up 27 points to the Browns and failing to intercept Brandon “All I Seem To Do Is Look Lost And Throw Interceptions Out There and Yes, I Know I’m Old As Dirt” Weeden.
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (14) — Yes, I’m aware we’re only two weeks into the season, and now is the time to overreact and all that shine, but let me throw this possibility nugget out there for ya: the Lions are frauds and are very likely to finish behind the Vikings in the NFC North. Just let the marinate for a while and get back to me in a few weeks.
17.) New Orleans Saints (0-2) (11) — I don’t want to say I saw this 0-2 or struggles coming… but I kinda saw this coming. I believe I said on the Rich Eisen Podcast the Saints wouldn’t make the playoffs and are going to desperately miss Sean Payton. Just look at the schedule (Woody Paige voice), at best New Orleans will be 3-6 when they head to Oakland on Nov. 19. Then come games against the 49ers, Falcons and Giants. Don’t believe me, check the stats: since 1990 there’s only a 12% chance of making playoff if you start the year 0-2.
16.) Carolina Panthers (1-1) (19) — I saw a headline somewhere online about Cam Newton that said to the effect, Week 2 was a redemption game for the sophomore QB. Redemption from what? It’s Week 2!!?! This is why I don’t like to overpontificate. However, allow me some self-dap for a moment for drafting Brandon LaFell in my fantasy league; I see you, brah. Keep catching that rock.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (8) — What the hell is going on in the NFC East? One week you think someone from this division can win the Super Bowl and the next they couldn’t beat Santa Margarita. I honestly don’t know what’s gonna happen week to week and I sure don’t know what to make of the Cowboys. Tony Romo returned to Seattle and botched more than just the extra-point snap, scoring just 7 points and posting a 74.1 passer rating. But his backwards hat looked really cool!
14.) Chicago Bears (1-1) (6) — I don’t know who laid the biggest stink bomb this week: the Cowboys or Bears but holy Ron Burdandy’s mustache, did two teams look more opposite from week to week that those two? Ya know what, I blame myself for getting caught up in their hype. No two teams suck their fans and pundits in quite like the Bears and Cowboys only to pee down their own legs. Shame on us, America. Oh, and tell me you’ve seen this latest tumblr featuring Jay Cutler. Pure genius.
13.) Tampa Bay Bucs (1-1) (12) — Every season it has to be something, right? Last year, we had the Handshake Bowl and now we have the, what are we even calling this? The Kneel Down Bowl? How great was Tom Coughlin scolding Greg Schiano postgame like he was his son and found his beer/cigar stash in the garage? That said, this Bucs team looks like a playoff team. The only question is if they can stay ahead of the Panthers.
12.) San Diego Chargers (2-0) (16) — Two straight impressive offensive performances against two pretty bad teams. Sounds about right for the Lightning Bolts. But how classy was the retiring of #55? If you haven’t read my column in the initial aftermath of Junior Seau’s passing, you can read it here. We’ll see how striking this team is when Atlanta comes to town this week.
11.) Washington Redskins (1-1) (9) — If Josh Morgan doesn’t go knucklehead and cost the Redskins 15 yards on the final drive, you may not be reading about Washington for a few more paragraphs. Alas, it takes 53 guys to win and lose (not really, but go with it) so here it is at #11. My good friend Robert (Griffin the Third) appeared slightly less video game freakish this week and there’s a good chance he may get sliced in half like The Prestige on one of these runs but until then, I’m not changing the channel when he’s got the ball. Are you?
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0) (20) — Is there a 2-0 team who looks shakier than the Eagles? I mean, it’s not like they’re the first in the 90-plus year history of the NFL to win their first two games by one point each. Oh, they are? Carry on.
9.) Denver Broncos (1-1) (13) — So about Peyton Manning’s arm strength, ball velocity, sharpness and MVP season. In Manning’s defense, he did tell us last week he wasn’t all the way back, and I’m sure he won’t be until about Week 12 or so, which is right around the same time he’ll start to break down because HE HAD FOUR NECK SURGERIES AND MISSED AN ENTIRE SEASON. Can’t hammer that point home enough.
8.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) (15) — Last week I wondered if the Steelers were in for a long year or were better than they let on in Week 1. I think their handling of the Jets proved Black & Yellow should be OK this season. Still not sure who’s running the ball but Mike Wallace doesn’t appear to be feeling the effect of missing training camp, and when James Harrison and Troy Hair God return from injury, things should be back to normal at Heinz Field.
7.) New York Giants (1-1) (10) — After two games, it’s shaping up to be one of those seasons for the G-men. You thought the Romo-coaster was a fun ride. The Bucs game was a pretty good microcosm of Eli Manning’s career. Shitty, shitty, shitty, then awesome and win the game. Ho Hum. And seriously, Tom Coughlin has won 2 Super Bowls and will most likely be a Hall of Famer, but dude is NEVER happy. The homeless guy who calls me “boyyy” every morning begging for dollar bills at least smiles every once in a while. But seriously, falling waaaay behind and having Eli bail you out each week is gonna get old real quick.
6.) New England Patriots (1-1) (3) — Major chink in New England’s armor with this Cardinals loss. And you can’t undervalue the loss of Aaron Hernandez; changes the offense completely. But let’s talk about Wes Welker for a second. Has anything gone right for this guy since he dropped the Super Bowl-clinching catch? He did marry a smoking hot chick, but how long will that last? I love Wes, but maybe his time is up. Maybe Tom Brady really made him a “superstar” or the system did or Randy Moss. But he’s been in New England long enough and should know better how the Patriots do business.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (7) — Seems like it’s been a while since saw the Packers steal the Bears’ lunch money on Thursday Night Football, but yeah, that’s the team we all expected when the season began. Offensively, they still look a little off, though. I don’t get it. Then, Jermichael Finley’s agent went and said Aaron Rodgers isn’t a leader or something. Great. Way to eff up my fantasy tight end who already can’t catch a cold in a Green Bay winter. And I want what Clay’s been having the first two weeks. Holy schnikes.
4.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (1) — We can all agree the Ravens got Roy Jones’d in the ’88 Olympics last week in Philadelphia, which is why I couldn’t drop them further than three spots. They are top-to-bottom one of the handful complete teams in the NFL. However, Joe Flacco, show me some consistency! It’s one thing to call YOURself an elite QB, it’s another to go out and snatch that moniker. Nicknames are given to you, not self-glossed. And Ed Reed did it again. With every pick he climbs my all-time greats list.
3.) Houston Texans (2-0) (5) — Houston will finally get tested this week at Denver, but I still believe they’re a top team. Clearly, BenArian Fosterate is the best running back in the league and Gary Kubiak looks more and more like a gangster whenever I see him. Next time he walks out on the field to berate a replacement official I half expect him to bust out a Tommy Gun and blow them away “Boardwalk Empire” style. Pat Riley thinks your hair has too much product, bro.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (2-0) (4) — I didn’t like how Atlanta took its foot off the gas and let the Broncos back in the game on Monday, but that defensive effort in the first half was impressive. For me, I wondered if that facet of the game could match what Matty Ice and Co. were capable of offensively, and so far, so good. Despite Kansas City’s record, I think they’re a good team, and going on the road and taking them out and then handling their business at home was huge for the Falcons, who many questioned would be able survive in what was looking like a tough NFC South.
1.) San Francisco 49ers (2-0) (2) — That wasn’t just a beatdown of the Lions on Sunday night, that was a dissection. Rich Eisen tweeted it out near the end of the game, and he’s right, it’s time to stop saying the 9ers are winning in spite of Alex Smith. He can make every throw, is elusive with his feet and has an offensive line loaded with 1st Round picks. On top of that, have you seen a coach with bigger absolute crazy eyes than Jim Harbaugh? If you told me he gets in full war paint and howls at the moon each night, I’d believe you. Everything is in play.
LOS ANGELES — So, how was that Week 1 for ya? Go down smooth like Saturday’s scotch? How you feelin’ down in NOLA? Up in Green Bay? Out in Philly? Hit the panic button yet? Think Mark Sanchez slept the sleep of kings Sunday night? How about Mike Shanahan? Oh yes, the NFL is back in a big way. Many dazzled (cough, Peyton Manning, cough) and others fizzled (looking right ya, Carson) but you can’t dispute now being the best time of the year. Replacement refs? We’re stuck with them. Oh, and my fantasy teams went 4-1 over the weekend. Four letters. One world. Bang.
The only question I have left: Who’s the Man? Let’s run it down.
32.) Miami Dolphins (record: 0-1) (last week: 31) — I’m guessing the ‘Fins might run their own occupy movement this season. Like, how many consecutive weeks can they occupy the bottom spot in my rankings. I, on the other hand, am going to occupy a new picture of Lauren Tannehill on this space until they climb out of the cellar. Good luck (“Taken” voice.)
31.) Oakland Raiders (0-1) (22) — Sweet mother of Al Davis, Oakland looked terrible. I’m not going to pile on the poor backup longsnapper, but he’s not a real person. Some analyst said the three keys for the Raiders this year is to get the ball to Darren McFadden, get the ball to Darren McFadden and get the ball to Darren McFadden. I can’t disagree.
30.) Cleveland Browns (0-1) (32) — I’m not saying Brandon Weeden would’ve been better off if he just stayed trapped under the giant American Flag like some rightwing R.Kelly, but he would’ve been better off staying under that gigantic American Flag in pregame. Not even 17-year-old Chris Brockman threw 4 picks in a game and I threw a LOT of picks in high school.
29.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) (28) — Maurice Jones-Drew’s 95 total yards squashed the notion that Pocket Hercules was being relegated to “third down back” like Mike Mularkey originally stated. Now, for that defense.
28.) Tennessee Titans (0-1) (24) — So Chris Johnson had 4 rushing yards and Jake Locker got hurt trying to make a tackle on an interception. But hey, Nate Washington had a TD catch (Fantasy Team Alert!) so all is good in Nashville!
27.) Buffalo Bills (0-1) (18) — Well, well, well. This is Earth, Bills fans. Welcome back to it. Look, I thought Buffalo would beat the Jets, too. But but New York went all TSA and stripped down the Amish Rifle and Co. I think this says more about how the Bills are PREtenders than the Jets being CONtenders, but yes, you should be panicking in the 716.
26.) Arizona Cardinals (1-0) (30) — So let me get this straight. Kevin Kolb is the guy now? After one good drive? What week does Larry Fitzgerald demand a trade to New England? It’s election season; I’m starting a “Free Fitz” campaign.
25.) Indianapolis Colts (0-1) (25) — I’m sticking by what I said last week about 25 being the lowest the Colts are all season. Luck is going to have times this year where he looks like a rookie, but these numbers are worth noting: 21-of-37, 302 yds, TD, 3 INT. Not #12’s from Sunday, but Peyton Manning’s from his 1998 debut. #18’s doing all right.
24.) St. Louis Rams (0-1) (27) — Yes, the Rams should’ve beaten the Lions. No, they did not. But that defense sure looked feisty. Once Sam Bradford gets some viable offense weapons not named Steven or Jackson, he’ll be in good shape. He can sling it, though.
23.) Minnesota Vikings (1-0) (29) — My buddy from home texted me right after Blair whatever his name is’s (#StillNotSureKickersArePeopleToo) kick went through the uprights at the Homer Dome: “Perfect season.” So yeah, there’s hope in Minnesota. But let’s not carried away after one week.
22.) Seahawks (0-1) (23) — So the bandwagon got a little less crowded Monday, but that still doesn’t mean the Seachickens aren’t a good team, or any less likely to make the playoffs. They still play tough at home, have a good (we think) coach and Russell Wilson is going to make plays. Starting 0-2, however, not a good look.
21.) Chiefs (0-1) (17) — In Kansas City’s defense, a lot of teams are going to have trouble stopping the Falcons this season. HOWever, Jamaal Charles looked nice in his return from knee surgery, but Matt Cassel has to play better. That’s just the bottom line.
20.) Eagles (1-0) (16) — The funniest thing I’ve read headline-wise in a while is the “Here A Vick, There A Vick, Everywhere A Vick Pick” from the Philly Daily News on Monday. As my high school coach used to say, if you have any confusion, Michael, you’re in green, they’re in white.
19.) Panthers (0-1) (15) — Cue the sophomore slump talk! These are the facts of the case: Cam Newton had just one TD and generated 10 points. But he still threw for 300+ yards and completed 69.7% of his passes. Let’s call it rust and wait a few weeks, shall we?
18.) Bengals (0-1) (8) — So the Bengals have the biggest drop this week, dropping 10 spots. They just looked overwhelmed on the big opening night stage and Dalton appeared to take a step back. That’s the Tuesday Morning QB theme. And who is Andrew Hawkins and could he be the next Darren Sproles? That’s what Marc is hoping in my fantasy league.
17.) Jets (1-0) (26) — So THAT’s where all the good plays have been hiding! Look, the Jets couldn’t beat my high school with how they looked in the preseason, but if this is how Mark Sanchez is gonna play then maybe they’ll be contenders after all. Still don’t know what to make of the “Tebow Package;” is it a ruse? He lined up at WR but only had 5 rushes. I still say Sanchez should’ve demanded a trade the day Tebow was acquired.
16.) Chargers (1-0) (19) — So after blowing out his ACL on the opening kickoff last season, Nate Kaeding kicked 5 field goals in Monday’s win over the Raiders. Yup, same old Chargers.
15.) Steelers (0-1) (12) — So the Steelers were playing without their leading defensive back AND linebacker and barely lost to a resurgent Peyton Manning? Oh, and their running back is out and top WR has only practiced a couple of hours. What was the score again? And a couple linemen were hurt? I can’t tell if Mike Tomlin’s team is fine or in reeeeeeeallllllly bad shape moving forward.
14.) Lions (1-0) (11) — Truthfully, I wanted to drop the Lions even more than 3 spots but they’re definitely better than all these teams below them. But, seriously, come on, Matt Stafford, you’re better than this. Three picks to the Rams? I get all the passing yards, and thanks, since I picked you in the #REPPicks contest, but you gotta do better than a last-second TD pass to win. You made the playoffs last year, for crying out loud.
13.) Broncos (1-0) (14) — Yes, Peyton Manning looked pretty good. I thought for sure he’d leave that game not under his own power. But let’s remember the Broncos beat a pretty banged up Steelers squad. Let’s see how they do on Monday, on the road, against an explosive team. Oh, and good to have you back, #18.
12.) Bucs (1-0) (13) — Well color me surprised. In fact, rain on me surprised and watch me twirl my head around and kick my legs like those strippers on the sideline disguised as Bucs cheerleaders. Seriously, is there another set of pom-pom toters hotter than Tampa Bay’s? So the Bucs are off to a good start. Any time you can hold Cam Newton to 10 points, you’re doing something right. And I’d really like to love me some Josh Freeman again. Say hit to Calypso for me. Don’t let him escape the house again.
11.) Saints (0-1) (7) — It’s too early to tell if it’s panic time in NOLA, but the Saints defense sure didn’t look too good, now did it? I know the player suspensions have been overturned, but they’re not gonna matter much. We’re gonna really find out how important a head coach is to the team this year in the Bayou.
10.) Giants (0-1) (1) — Sorry, but me oh my, Giants fans. Here we go again. Why is it every year your team puts you through this? Wouldn’t you just like to have a normal season, where it’s clear whether you’re going to make the playoffs or you not? Sure, I get it, you’ve won 2 titles in the last 5 years, I’ll shut my mouth now. Go about your season however you see fit.
9.) Redskins (1-0) (20) — How many burgundy “Griffin III” jerseys are going to be sold this week in the Beltway? 100,000? 200,000? Perhaps I’m overreacting to how good this Redskins team is, but I’m OK with that, ’cause damn are they exciting. Finally, VA and Scotty Watt and Archie’s dad have something cheer for. Not even Mike Shanahan can screw this up. Wait, can he?
8.) Cowboys (1-0) (21) — An over-reactive, dramatic rise? Perhaps. Is Jerry Jones’s personal eye-glass cleaner actually writing this? Maybes. But I thought there was no way the ‘Boys were winning the opener. Not when the Super Bowl champs were 8-0 in these games. And Tony Romo showed me something. Well, he basically showed me the same thing he’s showed everyone in the last few years: he can win during the regular season in sometimes spectacular fashion. Let’s see what ya got in January, dimples.
7.) Packers (0-1) (3) — So the Packers still aren’t gonna play any defense, is that what they’re saying? Just let me know so I can adjust my Super Bowl pick accordingly. Cripes, Alex Smith looked like … quick, who’s a good quarterback named Smith … umm … well, he looked like a good player. And by a show of hands, who thought (hoped) Randy Moss was going to moon the Green Bay crowd? [raises hand] How awesome would that have been? How do you think Joe Buck would’ve called it? Better than this, I’m guessing.
Eat it, Joe Buck.
6.) Bears (1-0) (10) — Did you see any of Jay Cutler’s press conference on Tuesday? Good to see ole’ Jay found his inner douche in the offseason. Glad being a dad hasn’t taken that inner Hamptonite out of him. Seriously, this guy. If he didn’t have a missile launcher for a right arm, he’d be just another mail man from Santa Claus. And not the cool kind who wears pointed shoes and a fuzzy ball on his hat.
5.) Texans (1-0) (6) — This is my darkhorse for the Super Bowl this year, no pun intended. Potentially great defense. Explosive offense. I mean, did you see how many times Arian Foster bowed on Sunday!?! Twice!! I was singing Rocky Top and slapping my logger Melanie’s hand repeatedly. She was pretty clueless as to my joy. She doesn’t play fantasy football.
4.) Falcons (1-0) (9) — Well hello there, Julio Jones. So that’s why Thomas Dimitroff traded all those picks to take you two years ago. I knew there was a reason. Winning on the road was impressive, but will the Falcons’ new uptempo style of play be ready for Monday Night and Peyton Manning? I’m ready. Nearly dropped a few dollars on some Falcons gear on NFL Shop this week. Another Matty Ice performance like Week 1’s and I’ll click “buy” this time around.
3.) New England Patriots (1-0) (2) — OK, I jinxed Tom Brady’s handsomeness. New England’s prince charming possibly broke his nose in the Patriots win over the Titans on Sunday (but Gisele likes it, so that means I like it). But the big story was New England’s rush attack. Stevan Ridley ran for 120 yards and is possibly Antoine Smith reincarnated. OK, maybe not. Certainly Rob Gronkowski won’t flub up the spike and Aaron Hernandez won’t NOT make it rain after touchdowns moving forward.
2.) 49ers (1-0) (5) — We knew the 49ers were good. But on the road in the Green Bay good? Yup. And we see you Randy Moss. Welcome back.
1.) Ravens (1-0) (4) — Their field goal kicker doesn’t need to worry about making chip shots when Joe Flacco and Co. are throwing it all over the schoolyard like 10-year old Chris Brockman at Valley Park Elementary. Oh, and Ed Reed. That is all.
LOS ANGELES — Riding the tidal wave of last year’s rousing success, I decided to bring back my NFL Burning Questions column, only this time with a twist. Instead of doing one question for each number of Super Bowls, I’m going to borrow an idea I’ve seen elsewhere in the sports blogosphere and do an inquiry for all 32 teams and put them in a pre-Week 1 “You’re The Man” power ranking. (I mean, I have to be somewhat original, right?) Perhaps each week I’ll revisit the previous week’s question to see if an answer as been reached and re-rank accordingly. Hmm… (hamster gets off couch and peers at the wheel…)
So without any more adieu, let’s boast about other people’s football manhood!!
32.) Cleveland Browns — I have Greg Little on my main fantasy team this year, but will there be enough of a run game to allow Brandon Weeden time to throw him the ball and focus on something else other than all the 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs the Browns will eventually be in all season?
31.) Miami Dolphins — The only way Miami’s going to be able to score is if Ryan Tannehill’s wife lines up at WR and distracts the defense, thus allowing Reggie Bush to run rampant. So the question is, can Mrs. Tannehill play WR? I mean, no one else can on that team.
30.) Arizona Cardinals — At this rate, I’m next up in the QB Carousel down in Arizona. Seriously, does Kurt Warner really not want to play anymore? I’ve seen him in the hallways at NFL Network and I’m willing to bet he can still sling it better than Skelton/Kolb.
29.) Minnesota Vikings — If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota. However, with the aerial assassins in that division – Packers, Lions, Bears – can the Vikings defense be able to stop anyone?
28.) Jacksonville Jaguars — PHEW! Maurice Jones-Drew is back. Now, what week do I start him in fantasy? Can Justin Blackmon keep himself out of trouble long enough to become the next Anquan Boldin?
27.) St. Louis Rams — Can Jeff Fisher’s mustache play WR? Who is Sam Bradford supposed to throw it to? I feel for Steven Jackson because I’m guessing he’s going to take another pounding this season.
26.) New York Jets — If Tim Tebow comes in the game and scores a touchdown, would you take him out? What if the defense scores; can you send them out on offense? That’s how bad their offense is.
25.) Indianapolis Colts — I’m guessing this is the lowest the Colts will be all season. Just a hunch and my faith in Luck’s talent. He’s that good. Put it this way: would you rather have the Jets defense and their mess at QB or Andrew Luck? Yup, me too.
24.) Tennessee Titans — Jake Locker officially has the reigns of the Titans offense, having won them from my brother Matt Hasselbeck this preseason, but can Chris Johnson regain his 2010 form?
23.) Seattle Seahawks — I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about Russell Wilson, but remember: he dominated the PRE-season. Different beast when the games count for real. Can he legitimately make the Seahawks a challenger to the 49ers in the NFC West?
22.) Oakland Raiders — The good news for Rolando McClain is the Black Hole is probably the only place were shooting off your guns in public is considered tame behavior. I’m guessing the Raiders offense is going to be fine; can the defense carry its weight with Peyton, the explosive Chiefs and potentially deadly Chargers in the way?
21.) Dallas Cowboys — Will Dez Bryant’s “bodyguards” be with him on the sideline to let him know when to go out in the huddle? More importantly, and for Tony Romo’s sake, will they actually suit up and play offensive line?
20.) Washington Redskins — I’m among those who think Robert Griffin III has the potential to have a Cam Newton-Lite type of season but will Mike Shanahan’s penchant for using 18 running backs during the season screw with Robert’s mojo?
19.) San Diego Chargers — The only question is will the Chargers start out hot and then fizzle to finish 8-8 or fizzle and get hot down the stretch to finish 8-8? Either way, they’ll be watching the playoffs from their over-priced recliners.
18.) Buffalo Bills — The offense started hot in 2011 as the Bills were the league’s darling. Now the defense is better with the addition of Mario Williams. Who will lead them this season?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs — Now that the Chiefs have a coach they like and a young defense said likable coach, who has a few Super Bowl rings, is creating schemes for, is Matt Cassel the man everyone in Arrowhead thinks he can be?
16.) Philadelphia Eagles — Dream Team. Dynasty. Is there another D-word an overrated player on the Eagles can throw out describing their underachieving ball club?
15.) Carolina Panthers — I’m not sure how many of you know this, but Cam Newton is not liked but a certain Southern California native wide receiver who happens to be his teammate. That said, can the offense stay as surprisingly explosive in Year 2?
14.) Denver Broncos — Peyton Manning is one of my favorite players. I have an autographed 8×10 he sent me when he was in college after I wrote him a letter as a high school junior. I think he should have retired after last year. I don’t think he’ll make it through this year unscathed. I hope I’m wrong. If he’s healthy, how will he make those around him better?
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — This is not the same Bucs team that lost 10 straight last year. I think. Can Greg Schiano inject some new life into the organization and can Josh Freeman bounce back from his disaster 2011 campaign to lead this young, potentially dangerous team?
12.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Ben Roethlisberger said during a sideline, preseason interview that he called his own plays. Hmm. So why was Todd Haley brought in again? Will Mike Wallace feel the effects of his hold out? And who’s the running back again? Get the feeling the trend of the last few years of this not being my daddy’s smashmouth Steelers will continue.
11.) Detroit Lions — You wanna talk about a team that throws it all over the school yard; your Detroit Lions, everybody! But can their secondary stop anyone? We know Ndamukong Suh has the front seven on lockdown, but can the back four prevent Matthew Stafford of having to engineer 4th Quarter comebacks all season?
10.) Chicago Bears — The Cutler & Marshall band is back together at Soldier Field this season, but will they make the same sweet Denver music?
9.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons are running out of excuses as to why they haven’t won a playoff game. Is Matty really Ice or is he the Cooler?
8.) Cincinnati Bengals — No one saw the 2011 Bengals coming, not even themselves. Can they equal last year’s surprising season or will a sophomore slump bite Andy Dalton and A.J. Green?
7.) New Orleans Saints — We’re going to find out in a hurry just how important a head coach is to a professional football team. Hell, we’re going to find out in a hurry just how important an INTERIM head coach is to a football team. Can Drew Brees be both AND the greatest passer this side of a 10-year-old Chris Brockman with a Nerf ball?
6.) Houston Texans — Arian Foster likes to bow after scoring touchdowns. I like to watch him bow after scoring touchdowns because that means 6+ points for my fantasy team. With Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy, and Ben Tate the best backup RB in the game, how often does Gary Kubiak like watching Foster bow after scoring TDs?
5.) San Francisco 49ers — Can Alex Smith come out and make everyone forget his coach tried to woo Peyton Manning and then lied about it by showing how he nearly got the 9ers to the Super Bowl last year?
4.) Baltimore Ravens — Can the Ravens new kicker make a 32-yard field goal?
3.) Green Bay Packers — Quick Aaron Rodgers story: I was at the same ESPY’s after-after party earlier this summer as the 2011 NFL MVP, and he walked around like James freakin’ Bond. It was uncanny the control of the room (or rooftop in this case) he had. I ended up exiting the party with him, the Hasselbecks (all 3), Sage Steele, among others, and Rodgers made fun of us for all being bald. I said something inconsequential back and the night ended. Just thought I’d share. Oh, and is Cedric Benson really the answer for the Pack’s running woes?
2.) New England Patriots — I think we all know what to expect from the Patriots offense, but what about the defense? They can’t get much much worse than 31st in total defense, as they were in 2011. Oh, I thought of an offensive question: can Tom Brady get better looking this year? Like physically. He’s so dreamy. Seriously, look at those eyes.
1.) New York Giants — You all remember the Giants, don’t you? They’re the OTHER team that plays in New York (or New Jersey, but who cares about geography). You may know them as the ones who actually win in that town. You probably haven’t heard much from them since the Jets have dominated the back pages. Oh, right, a question … hmm … Will Tom Coughlin smile at all this season?
LOS ANGELES — True reality television – and let’s be honest, what claims to be real isn’t by any stretch these days – is raw, emotional and has you on the edge of your seat. The second episode of “Hard Knocks” was reality television at its finest. Osi Umenyiora agreed. Chad Johnson, not so much.
When news broke last Saturday evening that Johnson had been arrested following a domestic dispute with his wife of a month, “reality star” Evelyn Lozada, I was shocked. Like most, I didn’t think of Johnson rolled that way. His off-field shenanigans were just that: usually playful, over-the-top, yes, but never brought true harm to anyone. He had never been arrested during his playing career so it wasn’t anything you expected.
The dispute, which depending on who you believe involved a receipt for condoms, and according to the police report, a headbutt, clearly, went too far this time and ultimately it cost him his job and probably his NFL career. At 34, Johnson is years removed from the peak of his playing days and endzone dance routines. He had a nice run with Carson Palmer in Cincinnati but completely lost it in New England last year, and early reports in Miami was he was too slow and didn’t have the hands to compete, despite its lack of wide receiver depth. One scene in Episode Two was telling for me, where the QBs were talking in their meeting about how even they didn’t know what Chad was doing half the time. David Garrard even wondered if he was getting the plays.
The NFL is a production-based league – like all sports – and if you can still perform at a high level people will continue to make excuses for your poor behavior. Johnson couldn’t and so he was let go. It’s sad, yes, because of the circumstances surrounding the release.
When the news broke, I immediately wondered how the producers would handle it. Turns out they went with some buildup talking about the other receivers and how Johnson was struggling, even dropping a sure catch in the Dolphins preseason game that Friday. Then, it happened and Joe Philbin took almost immediate action. In the room, I thought the coach handled it with class. It was obvious Chad was nervous, pensive, bewildered and knew it was coming. In fact, the director of security who talked with Chad said he was freaking out and “he may have an inkling of what’s coming.” But as someone pointed out on Twitter, he never once denied the incident, just that he’d never gotten in trouble before. “I let you down,” he told Philbin, who was not amused from the get-go with Johnson’s behavior. On the phone before the meeting, Philbin told someone, “(Johnson’s) temperament isn’t right for us.”
There was an amazing shot from the locker room of the Dolphins equipment guy cleaning out Johnson’s locker while Les Brown, the former basketball-playing finance man who’s trying to become an NFL tight end, looked on. It was telling because it appeared, almost with certainty, that Brown would be among the first Philbin cut. Alas, it was Johnson, who not only lost his job but his VH1 reality show he was filming with Lozada which was set to premiere in September. It was canceled in wake of the news.
The NFL, the ultimate reality show.
Other things I liked/noticed from this week’s episode: It’s really too bad the Chad Johnson situation overshadowed what started the episode, the tragedy involving Eagles coach Andy Reid and the passing of his son, Garrett. Philbin lost his son within the last year as tragically and knew exactly what Reid was going through. I thought that segment was well done … my man, Les Brown, got a lot of air time this week. He was the first to show up for the meeting and one coach wondered if it was because the HBO was there; “I was in here before the coaches, coach.” Too bad he didn’t see any passes come gametime … Mike Sherman = Dan Campbell = badass … poor David Garrard, who earlier said he was happy and healthy, apparently hurts his knee playing with his kids in the pool. Also, loving the Louis V man purse … It took 32 minutes before we saw Mrs. Tannehill and 39 before the Dolphins cheerleaders made an appearance. Come on, guys … The rookies’ haircuts was easily the funniest part of the first two episodes. Shaving eyebrows makes the bleach blonde hair from earlier look good. And how awesome was Philbin’s reaction to JC’s head penis? “Glad we’re such a first class organization.” Dying for the McKayla Maroney meme with the Philbin NOT IMPRESSED face … Loved the storm time lapse and the helmet in-bump before the preseason game … Offensive line coach Jim Turner’s becoming a quiet star along with Sherman, with the line of the show in reference to showing the cheerleaders’ “Call Me Maybe” video: “I saw the happy faces and the desks were up 6 inches.”