LOS ANGELES — The real refs returned in time for last Thursday night’s game in Baltimore and you can guess how long the love affair lasted. Right, about a quarter. Ask Green Bay if they like the replacements or the regular refs better? If New Orleans can have an interim to the interim head coach, maybe we can get some replacements for the replacement refs just for Packers games. Good thing Rodgers’ Ruffryders came through this week (thanks to a Garrett Hartley missed field goal, to boot) or we might have a Mike McCarthy-led mutiny on our hands. But it was good to see ‘ole Ed Hochuli and his guns out there again. Apparently Sports Illustrated thought so, too. Speaking of, does it look like a lot more of these officials are yoked up these days? Did the new deal involve free Bowflex’s and GNC Gold Card memberships? This is making me feel like a weakling.
OK, I’m gonna mix in some push-ups here while you read who’s the man. Let’s get it.
32.) Cleveland Browns (0-4) (32) — Does anyone on the Browns have a hot wife I can post pictures of to make the bottom of this poll more entertaining and attractive? Someone has to, right? Quick, lemme Google Brandon Weeden’s wife real quick … OK, so this ain’t so bad. I mean, that’s a great view, right? AmIright? [crickets…]
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) (28) — I never thought it would ever come to this, but I actually considered trading MJD from my fantasy team this week. That’s how bad it’s gotten in Jacksonville.
30.) Tennessee Titans (1-3) (27) — OK, Chris Johnson fantasy owners, you can all calm down now. CJ ran for 141 yards this week and while he didn’t score, you have to be encouraged that he did SOMETHING, right? And while you never want to see anyone get hurt, I am glad that my brother Matt Hasselbeck is going to get some burn here for the next couple weeks. Go easy on the Pick 6s, though. #BaldIsBeautiful
29.) Oakland Raiders (1-3) (29) — Richard Seymour, I love ya, buddy. You were a Patriot for years. Won some Super Bowls. But you can’t honestly think your defense is “close” like you said this week, can you? Close to what? Last place in my poll? Yes, you’re close to that. Again. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass.
28.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) (23) — Did I read that right? Matt Cassel has 10 turnovers in four games? Wow. That’s impressive even for me, someone who’s been known to sling it all over the yard in my day. At least that’s what the Biddeford head coach told me when I returned to the area as a reporter. Seriously, first time I interviewed him, he said: “yeah, I remember you. You used to sling it all over the yard at TA, right?” I thought that was pretty cool. And yes, against the Tigers, I threw three interceptions and we lost 42-7. That was 12 years ago. Remember it like it was yesterday.
27.) New Orleans Saints (0-4) (26) — Poor Aaron Kromer. The aforementioned interim to the interim head coach just wants to not go winless in his short coaching stint. Well, he’s got two more games to get one and it doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Chargers coming to the Dome. The Saints played their best game of the season in Green Bay, got a gift from the real refs and still lost. Sometimes it’s just not your year.
26.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) (18) — This team and the Rams I really don’t get. I thought the Bucs were a lock to make the playoffs, then the Falcons have gone out and been the best team in the league and the Saints have been the worst. But Josh Freeman hasn’t improved. Doug Martin hasn’t been the dynamite back we all thought and people seem to think Greg Schiano is an a-hole. Might be a long year in Tampa. And it’s hot there, which sucks.
25. Detroit Lions (1-3) (22) — Remember when I said the Lions were frauds and that I was rolling with the Vikings? Yup, they went out and proved that this week by losing to Minnesota. At home. Detroit’s special teams is atrocious and that vaunted run defense gave up 100+ to a one-legged Adrian Peterson. I hope Jim Schwartz rented his home.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) — I really wish you could have seen what I saw from a certain player in the locker room after the game. It was priceless and tells you all you need to know about the Panthers. They are a mess. But I did like the effort this past week against Atlanta. They can win some games, but they’re definitely not celebrating the win afterwards together, despite what Ryan Kalil has printed on a t-shirt.
23.) Miami Dolphins (1-3) (31) — I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this is the last time the Dolphins are behind the Jets in this poll. Mr. Lauren Tannehill really showed me something. Sure, his stats (26-of-41, 431 yards, TD, 2 INT) were helped by a couple of great catch-and-runs by Brian Hartline, but still, someone has to throw him the ball and that someone was Lauren Tannehill’s husband. Also, if you haven’t watched a Joe Philbin presser, check it out. Underrated funny.
22.) New York Jets (2-2) (19) — I tell ya what, that was some Rex Ryan post game press conference after Sunday’s spanking by the 49ers. Is it what the Jets needed? Will it work? Who the hell knows. Personally, I think Rex is seriously on the hot seat. This could end badly. Like worse than his lapband surgery. In a way, I kinda miss the fat Rex. He was much more fun and prone to say real stupid junk. How bad is Houston gonna blank them this week on Monday Night Football? 45-0? That’d be great.
21.) Indianapolis Colts (1-2) (25) — Don’t play and move up 4 spots. Why not? But seriously, this Chuck Pagano thing is downright terrible. When I was in elementary school, one of our classmates had Leukemia and I remember our teacher would have a few of us write her letters every couple days. I wasn’t close with her, in fact, her name escapes me at this moment, but I wrote her the best letter I could. And I’m sure that reading them, even from someone like me whom she barely knew, made her feel well and alive. I’m wishing Chuck Pagano my best.
20.) St. Louis Rams (2-2) (30) — I’m excited to get my first real look at this Rams team on Thursday night on NFL Network against the Cardinals. Pretty much if Sam Bradford stays healthy then they’re fine. Danny Amendola is turning into the poor man’s Wes Welker and Steven Jackson is still a beast. I don’t know much else, but beating the Seahawks is good enough for me.
19.) Buffalo Bills (2-2) (21) — Realizing where I just ranked the Bills, I said to myself: “The Bills got shellacked and moved up? That can’t be right.” Well, it is. There are a lot of bad teams right now in the NFL and while I don’t think Buffalo is good by any stretch, they did have the Patriots on the serious ropes for a half. If Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t turn the ball over, the Bills seriously could have won. But where was that defense everyone talked so much about this offseason? I mean, 243 rushing yards to Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden? Jeez, Louise.
18.) Seattle Seahawks (2-2) (14) — Is our love affair with Russell Wilson over yet? Brandon Weeden didn’t play terribly against the Ravens and with Ryan Tannehill throwing up 431 yards, that would push Wilson into the 5-hole among the rookie QBs, right? Seattle’s defense is going to carry this team for a bit until Wilson either flames out or Matt Flynn is healthy enough to assume the starting job.
17.) Dallas Cowboys (2-2) (13) — Where to begin with last night’s Cowboys/Bears game? My friend dubbed this the Douchebag QB Bowl but that’s not really right. I don’t think Tony Romo is a d-bag but he certainly played like one last night. Sure, two of the picks were deflected but the other 3 were terrible. Not even I threw them that egregiously. All that was missing last night was T.O.
16.) Washington Redskins (2-2) (16) — Blow a huge lead and then come back to win it. Well damn, that’s some moxie. Even if it shouldn’t have been that close. Billy, Billy, Billy. What are we going to do with Billy Cundiff? Misses what, three field goals that would’ve put this game out of reach well before Tampa’s comeback and then hits the game-winner? Oh, and tell my good friend Robert it’s OK to SLIDE every once in a while.
15.) New York Giants (2-2) (4) — Maybe this is too far of a drop, but seriously, where in the hell was Eli throwing that ball on the end zone interception? Where? And to whom? Because all I saw were three Eagles there waiting for it. I told you it was going to be one of these seasons. No rhyme or reason. And you’re the NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS, gotta have more than 57 yards rushing. Gotta.
14.) Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2) (10) — You know what I love? Stats like Mike Tomlin is 4-1 coming off a Bye Week. I love that shhh. Totally meaningless, but yet it completely makes sense. Random story about Mike Tomlin. He was at the Senior Bowl earlier this year in Mobile, Ala., as was I. And he wore the same exact outfit two consecutive days, which made me wonder what he was doing the night before. In Mobile. Now I’m not saying I’ve never done it, but I’m also not a Super Bowl-winning head coach who makes millions of dollars a year. But he did have on the tightest Air Force 1s. Dude has serious swag.
13.) Minnesota Vikings (3-1) (20) — Let’s check in with my Vikings fan buddy Jimmy: “D looks like the purple people eaters of old” … “We’re for real Just gotta believe. Remember how everyone laughed when they drafted Ponder? He’s gonna be ok” … “The glory days are back baby.” Yeah, he’s feeling good and those good feelings should remain after they roll through the Titans on Sunday.
12.) San Diego Chargers (3-1) (17) — Probably not a good sign when you bench your 1st Round running back from a couple years ago because he can’t hold onto the football. I’m not expert, but that’s an important skill to have. I wonder if Norv has Ryan Mathews walking around the facility like Omar Epps in “The Program?” Talk about an underrated movie. That one should get remade in a few years, I’m guessing. I’d be down for that. Maybe I could get a part as an assistant coach in charge of HGH administration.
11.) Denver Broncos (2-2) (9) — Quick look at Peyton Manning’s line from Sunday: 30-of-38, 338 yards, 3 TDs. I’d say he’s back. Funny, listening to Bill Belichick talk about Manning (it’s Patriots v. Broncos in Week 5) and he said No. 18 looks like his old self and the Broncos are running 95% of the Colts old offense; really interesting. Let’s hope the results follow history’s path. Brady is 8-4 against Manning all-time.
10.) Chicago Bears (3-1) (12) — That’s what everyone envisioned what Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall would look like when the Bears traded for the enigmatic receiver. He sure torched the Cowboys, didn’t he? Look, I hate Cutler just as much as the next guy, but I love how every move he makes on the sideline now is scrutinized like the Zapruder Film. In his defense, though, I wouldn’t want to stand next to Mike Tice for that long, either. Oh, and Chicago’s defense sure looks pretty good, huh? Though, Tony Romo made it pretty easy for them.
9.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-1) (15) — Well, that was an impressive win against the Giants, Sunday night. I still don’t think Michael Vick is going to remain upright for the entire season. However, if Andy Reid wants to keep winning, he’ll keep feeding LeSean McCoy (123 yards vs. Giants). There isn’t another back in the league who makes open-field moves like Shady. He should get 30 touches a game.
8.) New England Patriots (2-2) (8) — The first half of last weeks’ game illustrated the Patriots’ deficiencies; the second half showed how explosive this offense can be and why some said it could be better than 2007. Tom Brady was Tom Brady, but who knew the running game could be that dynamic? Stevan Ridley? Brandon Bolden? I went and picked up Bolden when he was around the 70-yard mark, who knew he still had 70 more to go?
7.) Arizona Cardinals (4-0) (11) — I’m not quite a believer in the Cardinals, but I’m getting there. But, I did like this stat: they’ve won 11-of-their-last-13 games dating back to last year. That has to count for something, right? And by a show of hands, how many of you immediately picked up or put in a waiver claim for Andre Roberts as soon as Kevin Kolb’s ball hit his hands for a touchdown on that last drive?
6.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (6) — The highest ranked of the .500 teams, the Packers finally played a complete game and it almost still wasn’t enough. But it was good to see Aaron Rodgers go off (319 yards, 4 TDs) for fantasy owners and I’ve decided there’s not a cooler sack celebration than Clay Matthews’ beast. Jared Allen’s calf rope had been my No. 1 but I’m down with Matthews now. Plus, I’m still diggin’ those State Farm commercials: “Show me, show me what ya got, Raji”.
5.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1) (7) — The Ginger Rocket is no joke (5th in Passer Rating and 4th in TDs). And I have to hear every Sunday night how awesome A.J. Green is because he went to Georgia from Jantzen, but don’t you get the feeling that at some point Marvin Lewis is going to remember he’s Marvin Lewis and FUBAR this whole operation up? Until then, the Bengals are going to Who Dey all over everyone to more wins.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (3-1) (5) — That’s more like it from the 49ers; a spanking of an overmatched opponent. Before the season, I was talking to some people about fantasy running backs and wondered why no one had Frank Gore near the top. Got a lot of, “he’s too old” comments. How about the 1,300-yard pace he’s on now? That OK for everyone? Thought so. Would like to see more from their WRs though. Mario Manningham can’t be your No. 1. He just can’t.
3.) Baltimore Ravens (3-1) (3) — As is the case with all the Thursday night teams, I have basically forgotten what you did to make you so impressive, but I know you didn’t do anything to drop. So here are the Ravens. Torrey Smith is ballin’ right now. And in my fantasy league, my buddy still has Joe Flacco on his bench, which just seems silly at this point, even if he is starting Cam Newton.
2.) Houston Texans (4-0) (2) — Number one in total defense. Second against the pass. Fifth in sacks. Yes, the Texans opponents have a combined 6-10 but you can only play who’s in front of you and they’ve dominated all comers to this point. Arian Foster is on a 412-carry pace, which concerns me and Andre Johnson has been real quiet so far. More offensive balance would be nice but with that division, expect Gary Kubiak’s mug to be near the top all season.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (4-0) (1) — How ’bout the onions on Matt Ryan on that throw on 1st and 10 from the 1-foot line late in the Panthers game last weekend? That would make me react like this, too. In fact, that last time I saw someone literally just drop back and throw the ball as far as they could, well, it was me. Senior year at Syracuse, first game of the flag football season. For some reason, our game against these freshman came down to the wire and on the last play of the game I reared back and let it fly 60 yards to the right corner of the end zone, where it landed in the hands of my buddy James for a touchdown. My now buddy, Sean McBride, was defending and will tell you exactly how it went down. Oh, right, the Falcons are good.