LOS ANGELES — To say that HBO’s “True Detective” has taken dramatic television by LSD flashback storm this winter would be a vast understatement. Anytime you can combine a mustachioed and pony-tailed Matthew McConaughey blowing your mind with existential theories on life while making little tin men with empty Lone Star beer cans, and mix it with young Woody Harrelson driving around the Louisiana backwoods looking like a pissed Roger Goodell after Brandon Merriweather just speared someone, you have a recipe for TV success. Throw in the most badass cinematography, the most mind-blowing monologues, and single shots you’ve every seen on the small screen – and did I mention McConaughey and Harrelson giving A+ performances? – then you have a certified hit.
So much so, that fans and media critics can’t even wait until this season’s 8-episode run concludes before throwing out suggestions on who Season 2’s crime-fighting duo should be. You might find this hard to believe, but Twitter has been fascinated in the last week, too, with half-serious, half-jokey ideas. I threw out a couple of my own on Thursday, but then I got to thinking: what NFL pairings would make for a fascinating criminal-hunting duo? Who could capture my attention for 8 riveting episodes of weird fiction? Who is going to give it to me straight or even take it way outside the box? Who would make fireworks? Here’s a few I came up with:
PEYTON MANNING & PAPA JOHN
Who knew these two would overtake Tony Romo and Jason Witten to become the league’s biggest BFFs, but look at them, gazing into each other’s eyes, their matching shirts, all those pizzas. Can’t you just imagine them driving to the crime scene, not even talking but knowing what each other is thinking? Their deep conversations would just be 7 minutes of cruising silence with lots of head nods and knowing glances, and every episode would end with them filling out police reports while brainstorming new topping combinations.
BILL BELICHICK & ERIC MANGINI
Here’s how this season would go down: Belichick would do all the cool stuff, like ya know, catch the killer or get the key confession, only he would bend a few rules, bribe a few hookers, inflict a little Jack Bauer/Frank Pembleton pain to get the job done. Mangini would be all rah-rah while it was going down, but then about 6 months later go to the commissioner and tell him about all the corners Belichick cut to crack the case. Belichick would then get fined and suspended, and Mangini would move on to another precinct where he’d get fired after less than two years because everyone realized he sucked at his job.
STEVE SMITH & AQIB TALIB
First off, just look at these two. Are you telling me you wouldn’t watch ANY show starring these guys?! I’d watch a cooking show, bird watching, you name it. So knowing what we’re working with, and that this pairing gave us arguably the phrase of the 2013 NFL season in “Ice Up, Son,” you can only imagine what viral quips they’d come up with. Stage this season in Atlanta and have every night end breaking down evidence at Magic City or Waffle House, and I don’t see why this wouldn’t be the highest-rated “True Detective” of all-time.
CORTLAND FINNEGAN & ANDRE JOHNSON
The legendary hothead Finnegan, and the known docile Johnson would be a fantastic contrast of emotions as partners for a season of TD. Oh, right, these two once fought in the middle of an NFL game, how could I forget? Yeah, so there’s some volcanic history there that could erupt at the drop of a hat. Couldn’t you just imagine these two on a stakeout having a conversation about jazz or where to get burger/fries and suddenly coming to blows inside the Crown Vic? Me too. They’d be too busy arguing about anything to make any kind case progress. Each week would be a guessing game of what sets them off this time.
BRETT FAVRE & JOHNNY MANZIEL
Favre recently said the player Manziel reminds him of is himself (no kidding, Brett?) which would makes them a natural pairing for a season of TD. And theirs would be your classic “grizzly old vet teaches the new hotshot the lay of the land.” Favre would show Manziel all the backwoods tricks, how to cut corners, the most effective way to interrogate and how to make it look like you’ve got nothing when you’re really close to nailing the bad guy. At some point during the season, Manziel would begin to “get it” and it’ll look like Favre is no longer needed, only the old guy will somehow save the day in the end, proving he still has the goods. That, or a task force or federal agency will come in just before victory, intercept all their evidence and close the case themselves.
RICHIE INCOGNITO & JONATHAN MARTIN
Too obvious? OK, but for kicks and giggles hear me out. Can’t you just see them taking separate cars to crime scenes, desks on completely other sides of the station, and having entire conversations, exchanges of notes and hunches over text message? “U C DA LAB REPORT?” “YA DAWG LOOKS LIKE I KNOCKED UP UR SISTER HA HA” “F U MAN I QUIT”
MICHAEL CRABTREE & RICHARD SHERMAN
McConaughey’s Rust Cohle never actually says he’s a superior detective to Harrelson’s Marty Hart but you know he thinks it. However Sherman wouldn’t just think it, he’d say so and often. Just think how hilarious it would be to see Crabtree screw something up in the field, or not understand where Sherman was going with a lead or idea, and then cut to the next scene where Sherman is storming into his boss’s office screaming, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU PAIRED ME UP WITH SUCH A MEDIOCRE DETECTIVE!!!” This would happen every episode, and I’d laugh every time.
JERRY JONES & JASON GARRETT
Obviously, these two are partners, but it would be great to see how Jerrah would try to undermine Garrett throughout the course of the season. Would it be subtle at first, such as insisting he walk through doors before Garrett, then taking away driving privileges, forgetting to pick up his lunch? Or would he just go straight to forgetting to tell him about witness questioning, stakeouts or even arrests? Like can’t you see Garrett sitting at his desk thumbing through reports while Jerrah walks in dragging the bad guy in cuffs while everyone’s cheering. Cut to Garrett with that dumb ginger look on his face like Tony Romo just threw another game-losing interception. AND SCENE.
REX & ROB RYAN
How could we not have these two buffoons leading the charge to find the next Reggie Ledoux? I just picture a lot of eating and not a lot of detective-ing going on. Rob would be driving and they’d pass a donut shop and he’d be all, “just a quick stop, Rex.” Or by a ribs place. “I promise, in-and-out.” Or by the Tastee Freez. “You want sprinkles on yours?” Meanwhile, Rex has this new figure, the lap band has done it’s thing, and he’s trying to be all good but he’s stress eating and hasn’t shaved in weeks. I also envision we’d break the cable record for F-bombs with this pair or at least flailing arms and notebooks thrown.
SEBASTIAN JANIKOWSKI & JOSH SCOBEE
I have no idea how the two are related aside from the fact they are the two most badass kickers I can think of and it would be hilarious to have a kicker season of TD. Scobee’s badassery is well documented here at The Chris Brockman Website, and SeaBass, well, I mean, come on, he’s been a legend since Jump Street. It would be hilarious to see them skip out on investigating to hit the driving range and 19th hole, fight through the language barrier (maybe we could set this season in Poland?!) and spend most of the 8 episodes complaining how they’re never taken serious by the other detectives; “just because we only show up at the end and either close or blow the case doesn’t mean we don’t put our pants on one leg at a time just like them!”
JON GRUDEN & KEYSHAWN JOHNSON
This season would be awesome if only for the scene around the midway point of the season where Gruden flips out for the final time at Keyshawn’s incompetence and kicks him off the case. Then, every time we see Gruden coming back into the office with a key piece of evidence or to celebrate a closure, there’s Key just sitting in the corner reading a book about being a good detective or interior decorating.
WARREN SAPP & MIKE SHERMAN
This pairing would be great just to see how many different ways Sapp would undress Sherman during the 8 episodes. “PUT YOUR BADGE ON!” “TAKE YOUR GUN OUT!” “WHAT!?” “BOY!” And then watching Sherman try to formulate a comeback only to finally mutter one out under his breath when Sapp has already walked away and moved on. Seeing these two sweat through their suits each week would be hilarious as well.
MARK SANCHEZ & BRANDON WEEDEN
The hilarity with this pairing is watching them week-in and week-out fumble and throw away the case with botched evidence collection, totally whiffing on obvious clues and constantly being told by their superior how even a monkey could solve this case. Some jokes write themselves and this season of TD would be full of them. Bad news if you’re a victim looking for justice, of course.
JIM HARBAUGH & PETE CARROLL
These guys hate each other, it’s well documented, but are forced to work together because no one else will be their partners. They spend the first few episodes barely talking while Jim is throwing guys through doors and spitting over everything while Pete just chews his gum and paces smiling while muttering phrases about competing and Zen. This happens over and over and after each time, when they get back in the car, they simultaneously look at and say, “What’s Your Deal?” Cut to black. No case ever gets solved.
(from the editor: The NFL Draft is a big deal. Perhaps you’ve heard. So for the first time, we here at The Chris Brockman Website will be publishing a 1st Round Mock Draft leading up to May 8th’s start to the 2014 NFL Draft. We expect this list to change more than Joan Rivers’ face in the coming months and maybe inspire healthy debate. Enjoy.)
By Shawn Bradley
Special to The Chris Brockman Website
LOS ANGELES — We’ve finally made it through our first football-free week since August – but the ache is deep. Trying to substitute college basketball for the NFL on Sunday felt weaker than Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club” or a white guy dunk attempt. Luckily, we can all start looking forward to the NFL Scouting Combine later this month in Indianapolis. So before Mike Mayock starts drooling over who has “non-stop motors” and “freakish athletic ability,” lets take a look at our first Mock Draft of the NFL Non-Playing Season – which we’ll certainly be saving for ridicule in the early, drunken hours of May 9th.
1.) Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, Jr., DE, South Carolina
Despite all of his on- and off-the-field BS, Clowney’s appetite for destruction makes him the safest pick in this draft. Teaming him with J.J. Watt should be terrifying for years to come and first-year head coach Bill O’Brien knows the fastest way to end his Houston honeymoon is to whiff on a quarterback here only to then watch Clowney wreck the league in a different jersey.
2.) St. Louis Rams — Jake Matthews, Sr., T, Texas A&M
Knowing he has to face two of the NFL’s nastiest defenses four times a year, Jeff Fisher chooses to protect Sam Bradford instead of replacing him. After Jake Long tore up both his MCL and ACL in Week 16, the Rams are in need of an immediate starter at tackle. General Manager Les Snead will most likely trade down with a QB-hungry team and still land Matthews later in the top 10.
3.) Jacksonville Jaguars — Blake Bortles, Jr., QB, Central Florida
After not giving hometown hero Tim Tebow a shot to resurrect his career, the Jaguars take a different beefcake signal caller from their own backyard. Bortles showed some of that Ben Roethlisberger game during the Fiesta Bowl and should only become more attractive during the pre-Draft process, especially if he brings this along with him.
4.) Cleveland Browns — Johnny Manziel, So., QB, Texas A&M
In what will be the ultimate test of his legend, Johnny must extinguish the dumpster fire that is the Browns. Mike Pettine, coaching for a job he just got, must pray that new Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan can help Johnny produce an RGIII-style Rookie of the Year campaign. Having All-Pro receiver Josh Gordon and Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron around should give Johnny a chance at becoming a Cleveland icon, just like his mentor was.
5.) Oakland Raiders — Teddy Bridgewater, Jr., QB, Louisville
Poor Teddy falls face first into the Black Hole where 1st Round picks get lost faster than inner city virginities. Bridgewater appears to have everything except ideal height but he won’t have any time to develop in Oakland and the Raiders should be picking in the top 5 again next year with a new coach and a new GM.
6.) Atlanta Falcons — Anthony Barr, Sr., LB, UCLA
Injuries ravaged the Falcons in 2013 but their defense would have likely been quite poor anyway. Barr repeatedly shows the type of edge-rushing ability in the tape below that makes you think he could have double-digit sacks in his rookie NFL year. After converting from running back, Barr racked up 23 sacks in just 2 defensive seasons with the Bruins.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Sammy Watkins, Jr., WR, Clemson
New Bucs head coach Lovie Smith is fortunate if the most explosive receiver on the board falls to him at No. 6. Watkins solidified his top 10 status with a record-setting Orange Bowl and his versatility should help Tampa Bay’s offense instantly. If Smith has him return kicks, Watkins could have a Cordarrelle Patterson-type of impact in his rookie year.
8.) Minnesota Vikings — Derek Carr, Sr., QB, Fresno St.
Guessing Adrian Peterson stops whatever he’s doing on the night of May 8th so he can call his agent and demand a trade. Mike Zimmer would be trusting Norv Turner and a Fresno State product with the franchise’s immediate future. I’d would rather trust Woody Allen to … hold that thought… My guess is the Vikings have a new coach and quarterback by the time they open up that new stadium in two years.
9.) Buffalo Bills — Mike Evans, So., WR, Texas A&M
The Bills aren’t completely desperate at receiver but they can’t pass up a true No. 1 wideout to pair with E.J. Manuel. Evans was a consistently dominant for two straight seasons at Texas A&M and he put on a show for NFL scouts when he torched Alabama for 279 yards in Week 3. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans is a physical specimen who knows how to use his size downfield.
10.) Detroit Lions — Darqueze Dennard, Sr., CB, Michigan St.
When Rashean Mathis is at the top of your depth chart, it’s time to upgrade the position. The Lions stay local here and take the Spartans’ Dennard, the consensus top corner in the draft. The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner appears to have shut down ability on tape but his 40 time will likely help decide if he goes this high on draft night.
11.) Tennessee Titans — C.J. Mosley, Sr., LB, Alabama
With all the quarterback’s off the board, Ken Whisenhunt safely selects the best defensive player available. Mosley’s sideline-to-sideline speed has some scouts throwing around Luke Kuechly comparisons, which is high praise. Expect new defensive coordinator Ray Horton to push for this pick as the Titans will be switching to a 3-4, which Mosley has been playing in for years.
12.) New York Giants — Taylor Lewan, Sr., T, Michigan
Lack of protection, and Hakeem Nicks’ overall disinterest, are the two best explanations for Eli Manning’s horrifying 2013 season. The Giants address one of those issues by using their 1st Round pick on a tackle for the second straight year. Lewan, a four-year starter at Michigan, was projected to go top 5 just over a year ago before he opted to return for his senior season.
13.) St. Louis Rams — Justin Gilbert, Sr., CB, Oklahoma St.
After a rough season, and due to earn $9 million in 2014, Cortland Finnegan’s future in St. Louis is in doubt. The Rams gave up a league worst 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2013, so improving their secondary is a must. Gilbert showed strong man coverage ability in the pass happy Big 12 and he might end up being the Rams top corner by opening day.
14.) Chicago Bears — Timmy Jernigan, Jr., DT, Florida St.
With most of Chicago’s defensive line ready to hit free agency, this pick makes too much sense for GM Phil Emery. Plus, when you’re in a division with Adrain Peterson, Eddie Lacy and Reggie Bush, you need to figure out how to stop getting run over. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Jernigan made his presence felt in the BCS Championship and he should be a good fit for the Bears defensive scheme.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Greg Robinson, So., T, Auburn
The Steelers have some glaring defensive needs but here they can turn a perpetual weakness into a strength. Robinson could easily be gone by now but putting him with a healthy Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro would give Pittsburgh a formidable offensive line for years to come. Robinson was outstanding during Auburn’s miraculous 2013 run and he should instantly be able to step in and protect Big Ben’s bathroom breaks.
16.) Dallas Cowboys — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, So., DB, Alabama
Jerrah Jones is out to fix the worst daggum defense in Cowboys history, and since the 32nd ranked unit was such a joke last season, it’s fitting that they pick a kid named Ha Ha. Clinton-Dix is a rangy center fielder and the best of a bad safety crop. The Alabama prospect is overvalued here by a desperate team and I smell another bust in the secondary for Dallas.
17.) Baltimore Ravens — Marqise Lee, Jr., WR, Southern Cal
Following his monstrous sophomore season in 2012, no one thought Lee would be here for the Ravens. Injuries and overall program dysfunction led to a steep drop in production but Lee looked liked himself in the Sun Bowl catching a pair of touchdowns. Also, let’s not forget about the time he put up 345 yards on 16 catches against Arizona.
18.) New York Jets — Eric Ebron, Jr., TE, North Carolina
Absolutely vomit-inducing on offense for long stretches last season, look for the Jets to pick up a new option for Geno Smith. GM John Idzik will likely add receivers through both free agency and the Draft but in this spot he should select a three-down tight end who appears to be a major matchup problem – check out the one-handed catch in the video below.
19.) Miami Dolphins — Zack Martin, Sr., T, Notre Dame
Considering who he replaced, new general manager Dennis Hickey is probably looking for high character guys. With a pair of starters involved in the scandal of the 2013 season and another starter involved in the scandal of the 2013 offseason, it’s a fair assumption that Miami will look for O-line help. With the Buccaneers, Hickey scouted the Midwest for over a decade and he should fall in love with this mauler from Notre Dame.
20.) Arizona Cardinals — Cyrus Kouandjio, Jr., T, Alabama
After spending a Top 10 pick on a guard who never played last season, the Cardinals still proved to be a playoff caliber team in 2013. Kouandijo is just 20-years old and those who have scouted Alabama say he’s already better than Chargers standout D.J. Fluker (11th overall in 2013). This native of Cameroon would be plug-and-play at left tackle for an Arizona team hoping to take the next step in the NFL’s best division.
21.) Green Bay Packers — Trent Murphy, Sr., LB, Stanford
The Packers lack of depth at linebacker was painfully apparent after Clay Matthews and Nick Perry went down. Murphy is an absolute warrior goon who stands 6-foot-6 and recorded 10 sacks last season in Palo Alto. Murphy had a subpar Senior Bowl week because the Falcons staff had him playing end but he should be a perfect fit in Green Bay as an outside rush linebacker.
22.) Philadelphia Eagles — Khalil Mack, Sr., LB, Buffalo
Most Mock Drafts have Mack going in the top 10 and while he did have a record-setting career, it happened at Buffalo. Mack’s Scouting Combine performance will go a long way towards determining where he ends up, but the Eagles would be a good match. Chip Kelly’s defense needs a major pass rushing upgrade after finishing 20th in sacks and last in the league in passing yards allowed in 2013. Plus, this is likely Trent Cole’s last season in Philly.
23.) Kansas City Chiefs — Kelvin Benjamin, So., WR, Florida St.
The Chiefs gave Dwayne Bowe 5 years and $56 million only to see his numbers drop while he got high. By drafting Benjamin, an absolute pterodactyl at 6-foot-5, Andy Reid would be giving Alex Smith a pair of big-bodied receivers while also hopefully freeing up Bowe to find his 2011 form. Benjamin caught 15 touchdowns in 14 games this season including the game-winner in the BCS Championship game and should be an immediate red zone threat.
24.) Cincinnati Bengals — Kony Ealy, Jr., DE, Missouri
I can’t see penny-pinching Mike Brown keeping free agent Michael Johnson, so the Bengals will be thrilled if Ealy is still available. At 6-foot-5 275 pounds, Ealy is lightning quick off the snap and has shown a variety of pass rushing moves even though he played just two seasons for the Tigers. After totaling 9.5 sacks in 2013, Ealy appears primed to fallow former Missouri standouts Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson into NFL stardom.
25.) San Diego Chargers — Jace Amaro, Jr., TE, Texas Tech
Yes, the Chargers have Ledarious Green and Antonio Gates, but Amaro is too good to pass on. He often ilned up in the slot for Texas Tech and was a YAC machine last year while setting the single season FBS record for receiving yards by a tight end. Having the 6-foot-5 Amaro running down the seam with Keenan Allen on the outside should make it easy for Philip Rivers to build off his career year in 2013.
26.) Cleveland Browns — David Yankey, Sr., G, Stanford
The Browns have their new franchise quarterback, now protecting JFF becomes the next order of business. Yankey is a versatile lineman who can play tackle but his best position is guard. That’s good news for Cleveland, which suffered through atrocious guard play in 2013. Coming from Stanford, a program that has become synonymous with physical play in recent years, Yankey is a road grater who should be a 10-year NFL starter.
27.) New Orleans Saints — Kyle Van Noy, Sr., LB, BYU
With Victor Butler coming off ACL surgery, the Saints would love to have another option to rush the passer. Van Noy had an explosive year playing alongside Ziggy Ansah in 2012, notching 13 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. In 2013, he was exposed to constant double teams but still managed 17 TFL. Van Noy would certainly be a perfect fit at outside linebacker in Rob Ryan’s improving defense.
28.) Carolina Panthers — Davante Adams, So., WR, Fresno St.
The Panthers receiving corps isn’t scaring anyone and Cam Newton’s lack of options of blatantly obvious during the Divisional Round loss to San Francisco. Enter Adams, who displays Dez Bryant-ish physicality at times, albeit against inferior competition. But no matter who he was playing against, the dude still caught an eye-popping 24 touchdowns last season.
29.) New England Patriots — Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr., TE, Washington
Would The Hoodie dare roll the dice again on a talented tight end who’s draped in red flags? I’m guessing Bill Belichick says “eff it, Tommy needs a new toy.” Seferian-Jenkins is a twoering 6-foot-7, 270-pound seam-splitting nightmare and when he wasn’t drunkenly smashing into trees on U-Dubb’s campus, he was breaking every major Huskies tight end receiving record.
30.) San Francisco 49ers — Stephon Tuitt, Jr., DE, Notre Dame
Slowed by preseason sports hernia surgery, Tuitt struggled to replicate his stellar 12-sack sophomore season in 2013. When healthy though, he is shockingly agile for being a 6-foot-7, 322-pound beast and he’ll surely benefit learning from Justin Smith, one of football’s premiere 3-4 defensive ends. Expect this hulking human mover to light up the Scouting Combine and cement himself as a 1st Round-worthy prospect.
31.) Denver Broncos — Jason Verrett, Sr., CB, TCU
Even if the Broncos bring back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, corner is still a sore spot for the AFC champs. The Super Bowl bummer will certainly force Denver to toughen up on D, and Verrett is exactly the kind of physical corner that would fit with the Seahawks secondary. Over the last two seasons, no FBS player had more passes defended than Verrett, who had almost as many breakups as Taylor Swift.
32.) Seattle Seahawks — Jordan Matthews, Sr., WR, Vanderbilt
Matthews is the perfect Seahawks receiver: underrated with a chip on his shoulder. Despite putting up record numbers in the NFL’s AAA affiliate, Matthews is garnering little 1st Round buzz. At 6-foot-3, he possesses desired size but his speed is being called into question. Still, anyone who averages 19 ypc in the SEC must be able to get down field quick enough.
We’ve seen this movie before.
Three times actually; twice for a trip to the Super Bowl.
And each time the victor went on to hoist Lombardi.
Tom Brady vee Peyton Manning.
Two of the NFL’s Mount Rushmore signal callers squaring off in the playoffs.
For all the proverbial marbles.
Their 2013 narrative has been as such: Manning sprinted through the regular season, surgically registered his greatest statistical campaign and should win his record 5th MVP.
Brady withstood season-ending injuries to several Pro Bowl teammates, and carried a group of one-offs and little-known rookies to what seemed like weekly comeback wins en route to a record 8th AFC title game appearance.
Today, the future Hall of Famers meet with another trip to Super Sunday at stake.
It will be electric.
It will be epic.
And we’ll all be watching.
LOS ANGELES — This essay I penned for NFL Network’s GameDay Morning Saturday pregame show is my fun take on how Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, who face off Saturday at Foxobrough in what should be a thrilling AFC Divisional matchup, have created their own blueprint to winning football games. Brady, in his long, celebrated career has done it more often than not in the coolest way possible; while Luck, in his short but thrilling campaign, is a little rough around the edges, so to speak.
The final produced television product is fantastic. Hope you check it out during our coverage beginning at Noon EST on Saturday on NFL Network.
The blueprint for championship quarterbacks is ever-changing.
For every free-wheeler there is the precisionist.
Gunslingers and game managers have all hoisted Lombardi.
But rarely will we see a pair of contrasting signal callers like we’ll see tonight in Foxborough.
Tom Brady and Andrew Luck couldn’t be more opposite except when it comes to orchestrating thrilling victories.
One looks like a Senator from a Ben Affleck movie.
Appears on magazine covers.
And shows up at red carpet events with his supermodel wife.
The other uses a flip phone, and could guest star on Deadliest Catch.
Tom Brady sells Uggs and wears Stetson.
Andrew Luck has a beard only a paper towel pitchman would love.
On the field, it’s also day and night.
One is Michelangelo in the pocket, with perfect hair and a pristine jersey.
Firing downfield darts and head butting teammates with the fire of a 6th round pick.
The other is a top overall selection with a permanent smile.
Happy-go-lucky with a linebacker’s build and a rocket arm.
Regularly leading his team back from historic deficits.
Tom Brady and Andrew Luck.
Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks proving the only blueprint that matters, is winning.
Sports and rivalries go hand in hand.
Rivalries make the games matter.
You know what sports would be without rivalries?
Rivalries make us scream like kids on a roller coaster.
Make us pick sides.
Make us care.
Think about it:
Magic had Bird.
Tiger has Phil.
Manning and Brady have each other.
Eighteen verse twelve. And it’s always a war.
A 60-minute battle for the ages with the football world watching every throw.
Every stare. Every fist pump.
Who ya got?
It’s like picking Picasso or Rembrandt.
Candy or ice cream.
Super bowls? Yah, they’ve got Super Bowls.
MVPs? Those, too.
Passing records. Pizza joints. Supermodels.
Yup. Done. Check.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Rivals. Friends. Excellence.
You can’t choose.
Just soak it in.
And enjoy history.
LOS ANGELES — I have to write about Tony Romo this week. Wow, what a game he played last Sunday against Denver. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and nearly came out victorious. Nearly. That seems to be a word we use often to describe Romo and his play. He nearly puts it all together. He nearly comes away with big victories when his team needs them the most. He nearly is among the top QBs in the league. In the offseason, when Jerry Jones signed Romo to that outrageous $108M contract, Jones said he wanted his quarterback to be more like Manning. He meant this in terms of being a complete football guy. Putting in the extra hours in the film room, working out, running routes with his receivers. Romo even went out of his way bypass his annual attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open this summer. And look, it’s shown. Romo has been out of his mind this year. He’s second in TD passes (13), INTs (2) and passer rating (114.3), and third in completion percentage (71.8%) but yet the Cowboys are only 2-3. Why is this? Is it all on his shoulders? When you get paid nine figures it all goes on you whether it’s your fault or not. Team can’t run the football? Who cares, you’re getting $100M. Defense can’t get off the field? BFD. You’re getting paid $100M. The NFC East is primed for Dallas’ taking and it’s up to Romo to take it.
Let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (record: 0-5) (last week: 32) — For a second, didn’t you think Jacksonville might pull off the upset against St. Louis? And Justin Blackmon, nice wheels.
31.) New York Giants (0-5) (30) — This is getting ugly with the Giants. Real ugly.
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) (31) — So now McGlennon (as Warren Sapp calls him) is the captaining the pirate ship. I’m guessing a lotta turnovers and handoffs to Doug Martin (my pick to win the rushing crown) this week against the Eagles.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) (29) — Who woulda thought that Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, with four Super Bowl rings between them, wouldn’t have a win after five weeks. Sure as hell not me. And not you, either.
28.) Minnesota Vikings (1-3) (25) — Is it amusing to anyone else that three of the bottom five teams all had byes last week? Welcome to town, Josh Freeman! What week is Freeman the full-time starter? Seven? Eight?
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) — Heard an interesting stat: Cam Newton’s top two career passing games are still his first two ever played back in 2011. You believe that?
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (21) — Really feel for E.J. Manuel, but he’s fortunate his knee injury isn’t as serious as Brian Hoyer’s, who’s hit looked less severe in comparison. Can’t believe it’s gonna be Tuel Time for the next couple weeks. There is some bad NFL quarerbacking going on in a few of these cities.
25.) St. Louis Rams (2-3) (27) — If the Rams lost to the Jaguars there were going to be MAJOR problems. Now comes a winnable game against the floundering Texans. Five-hundred a real possibility and a new season.
24.) Oakland Raiders (2-3) (28) — I’ve always said I wanted to like the Raiders. Not sure why, maybe it’s the simplistic badassery of their uniforms, or the “Just Win, Baby” attitude, but now I have a legitimate reason with the way Terrelle Pryor is playing. As Rich Eisen likes to say, he’s a factor.
23.) Washington Redskins (1-3) (26) — Another week’s rest for My Good Friend Robert can’t be a bad thing, nor is it bad for Alfred Morris’s banged-up ribs. But now they return to play on Sunday night against a Dallas team that’s feeling itself after hanging better than maybe anyone will this season against the Broncos.
22.) Houston Texans (2-3) (14) — In our Saturday GameDay Morning meeting, the guys throw out Bold Predictions and see what sticks. Well, before Marshall Faulk settled on taking Terrelle Pryor topping the Chargers in rushing yards, he toyed with the idea of taking Matt Schaub to throw a Pick 6 for a fourth straight game. Seemed laughable at the time.
21.) Atlanta Falcons (1-4) (15) — The wheels are falling off the Falcons bus with Monday’s shocking loss to the Jets and then Tuesday’s news that Julio Jones is most likely lost for the season with a foot injury. Good thing I have Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez on my also 1-4 fantasy team. Oh wait.
20.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) (23) — The Eagles have been outscored by 24 points this season, haven’t won at home and yet are tied for the lead in the NFC East but have a big task with Mike vick on the shelf for at least this week. That’s how wide open the NFC is. It’s going to be a such a fun ride the second half of the season.
19.) Arizona Cardinals (3-2) (22) — Raise your hand if you thought the Arizona Cardinals were 3-2? My hand is not raised. I had to double check that. It seems like they’re winning in spite of Carson Palmer, who’s completed less than 60% of his passes, has a passer rating of 67.0 and has nine interceptions to only five touchdowns.
18.) Cleveland Browns (3-2) (19) — Really excited for Browns fans and the city of Cleveland. What an awesome ride the last three weeks have been. Really feel for Brian Hoyer though, who was enjoying his best go as a professional quarterback before tearing his ACL last Thursday. Highly doubt Brandon Weeden can keep it going.
17.) San Diego Chargers (2-3) (13) — If Tony Romo went Tony Romo on Sunday, then the Chargers went Chargers Sunday night against the Raiders. I mean, how classic was opening-drive interception followed by giving up a bomb for a TD?
16.) Tennessee Titans (3-2) (12) — The Amish Rifle had the Titans so close to knocking off the Chiefs but you just knew he was going to turn it over at a key moment, and lo and behold, he did.
15.) Baltimore Ravens (3-2) (18) — Impressive win last week, going down to Miami and taking care of business. Still, it’s a little concerning Ray Rice is still only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season. Though fantasy owners have to be pleased by his two scores.
14.) New York Jets (3-2) (20) — What did I tell you about the Geno Smith roller coaster?! Wow, that was something on Monday. I officially have no clue about the Jets. They could beat the Steelers this week by 20 or lose by 10. It’s all in play.
13.) Chicago Bears (3-2) (11) — This is the Jay Cutler Era for ya; win three straight, lose two. I’m expecting another 3-game run here followed by an injury and crushed playoff hopes.
12.) Detroit Lions (3-2) (10) — Well, I guess we see how important Calvin Johnson is to the Detriot Football Lions. Still think they’re better than the Bears, though.
11.) Miami Dolphins (3-2) (7) — There’s a lot of teams in the same boat this season. Hard to tell if that boat is sailing toward Playoff Island or not. Also, Brian Hartline was at NFL Network this week and I told him how my buddy Jason took 25 minutes to take him in the 8th round of my fantasy draft. Needless to say he was flabbergasted.
10.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (17) — I still say the Cowboys win the NFC East and then get blown out in the Wild Card. But hey, at least they made it, right? That’s worth $108 million. Right?
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (16) — Yes, there was a monsoon right as Tom Brady was going to make this trademark comeback. Yes, the Patriots trotted out a JV corps of wide receivers. Yes, they only scored 13 points. But still, the Bengals gutted out that win and look like a playoff team.
8.) New England Patriots (4-1) (6) — At the end of the day, the Patriots are still 4-1 but six points is not going to cut it. The offense has to get better and if Rob Gronkowski comes back this week, it will. Just not sure it’s enough to take down the Saints.
7.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (9) — Would’ve liked to have seen the Packers blow out the Calvin Johnson-less Lions but a win is a win is a win. If they can run the football a little better, Green Bay should contend in the action-packed NFC.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (4-1) (8) — Rich Eisen was on Dan Patrick Thursday morning talking Top 10 NFL quarterbacks and didn’t want to put Andrew Luck in there. I would have him in there. He’s damn good. And this is a damn good football team.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) (5) — Colin Kaepernick had just six completions and the 49ers routed Houston. Not sure if that says more about the state of the Texans or how potent this San Francisco offense is when clicking on all cylinders.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) (4) — The Chiefs faced a little adversity on Sunday on the road, and when the going got tough made the plays needed to remain unbeaten. Of course, they were playing against the Amish Rifle, so yeah, maybe it wasn’t that impressive.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (4-1) (1) — If the Seahawks had pulled another comeback win on the road I would’ve been very shocked. As it were, they suffered their first loss and are no longer The Man.
2.) New Orleans Saints (5-0) (3) — The Saints have reached the point where there’s no chance I’m ever picking against them. Zero. They are in full-out Eff You Mode and I like it. Even though Sean Payton strikes me as that annoying frat guy who’s always gets hammered and runs his mouth about how rich his daddy is.
1.) Denver Broncos (5-0) (2) — We know how good Peyton Manning is, but the biggest question the remainder of the season will be can that defense get stops when needed. We’ll find out next week when Von MIller returns from suspension.
LOS ANGELES — There’s a lot to be learned after just three weeks of a football season, yet at the same time it’s still a little early to come to conclusions about teams and players’ fate. I’m sure we all don’t expect Peyton Manning to keep this up or the Giants to be this dreadful, though surely we’re all surprised by Trent Richardson’s trade and Josh Freeman’s benching. This we do know: there are several teams and players performing very poorly and a few teams who look really good. One or two will stay on this path and everyone else will go up and down as the season ebbs and flows towards Super Bowl XLVIII.
That’s just how the National. Football. League. works. And why we live and die with it each week and why we love it. I can’t wait to see what Week 4 will bring. Until then, let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3) (32) — Of course, the game I bench Maurice Jones-Drew, since he’s playing against the vaunted Seattle defense, at home no less, he scores a late, garbage touchdown. Thank goodness that didn’t cost me a win, since my team is terrible. Then I really would’ve thrown something at my television. Even more so than watching the crappy “Dexter” finale.
31.) Minnesota Vikings (0-3) (30) — We’re about two more brutal losses to teams of the Browns quality (no offense, Cleveland) from me starting a Free Adrian campaign.
30.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-3) (29) — How much would you pay to watch a webcam of the Bucs lockerroom? $2? $5? I think there’s some mess going on in there that I’m guessing is pretty damn interesting. Oh, and good luck, Mike Glennon, you’re gonna need it. And it’s time for a decent haircut, you’re a starting NFL quarterback now.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3) (28) — When my dad knows the Steelers are in trouble, they really are. Seriously, how are they going to score points outside of Emmanuel Sanders or Antonio Brown breaking free on a long bomb?
28.) Washington Redskins (0-3) (24) — Preseason Week 3 went about as well as it could go, right? And did you know this is the first time EVER the Giants and Redskins have both started the year 0-3?
27.) New York Giants (0-3) (20) — The Giants are only this high because they’ve shown in the past it doesn’t matter how they start, they always seem to make it interesting down the stretch. How many more losses before the New York media starts calling for Tom Coughlin’s job?
26.) Cleveland Browns (1-2) (31) — So apparently the formula is: trade your best player, start your 3rd string QB and start winning games. Which team will be the next to follow this to Ws?
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-2) (25) — I really hope Terrelle Pryor isn’t hurt long term because he could become a special player. Though it might be time to have the conversation about the end of Darren McFadden, or at him being in need of a change of scenery to inject some life into his career.
24.) Carolina Panthers (1-2) (27) — Thirty-eight points?! Where did that come from this week? And does it say more about the Panthers being capable of turning this season around (they’re on a bye this upcoming week) or how miserable this Giants season is going to be?
23.) Arizona Cardinals (1-2) (22) — Almost positive this Cardinals team is going to be the one this season where I have no idea what to write about it each week. Most weeks it’ll probably be a lot of me gushing about the Honey Badger.
22.) St. Louis Rams (1-2) (21) — The Rams are the Cardinals are very similar in the respect that both have quarterbacks who aren’t really good but can make plays every once in a while, have solid skill guys who are underused, and defenses who could be great but something or another holds them back. Doesn’t help they play in the hardest division in football.
21.) Buffalo Bills (1-2) (24) — Not sure why but I like this team. I like E.J. Manuel. I like Doug Marrone. And I like that Manuel likes throwing to Stevie Johnson (have I mentioned that before?) They went up against a tough Jets team (can’t believe I just typed those words) on the road and nearly won. They’re going to be OK here in a bit.
20.) New York Jets (2-1) (26) — A month ago, I really thought we’d be talking about the temperature of Rex Ryan’s hot seat, not a 2-1 team with a rookie quarterback playing decently and a defense near the top of the league. Just amazing. When you think you have the NFL figured out, you realize you have no idea.
19.) Detroit Lions (2-1) (18) — The Lions got their first-ever win in Washington last week and then in the most bizarre story we’ve had this season, Nate Burleson broke is arm in a car accident when he was distracted by falling pizza and then hit the median. Your move, Bengals.
18.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) (16) — We know the Eagles don’t play any defense, but we also know the Eagles are still figuring out their own offense. Since the first half of the win against the Redskins they’ve been punked by the Chargers and Chiefs. I still think they’re going to be OK though. Not enough to make the playoffs but enough to lay the foundation.
17.) San Diego Chargers (1-2) (15) — Tennessee has proven to be a tough, hard-fighting team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. It seems like the AFC West is going to be more than a Denver runaway and the Chargers aren’t going to be an easy beat this year.
16.) Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (17) — I don’t know how the Ravens are above .500 but somehow they are. Very good win last week. Emotional with the retiring of Ray Lewis’s number and they found a way. That’s going to be their M.O. this season: finding a way.
15.) Dallas Cowboys (2-1) (14) — See what happens when DeMarco Murray gets his carries? Now if only he could run against the Rams each week he’d be in Adrian Peterson territory. I happen to think Dallas will beat San Diego this week which will set the ‘Boys up nicely this season, but we’ll see. They’re bound for a stinker.
14.) Houston Texans (2-1) (7) — There’s something about the Texans I don’t like. I can’t put my finger on it. Matt Schaub has done some Matt Schaub-like things this year. Arian Foster seems a bit disgruntled. Andre Johnson is dinged. But J.J. Watt is still awesome, but how long can he carry this team?
13.) Tennessee Titans (2-1) (13) — I haven’t seen more than a few seconds of the Titans play but I know Warren Sapp loves their defense. And when a first ballot Hall of Famer tells you something, you listen. Jake Locker is also proving to be very dangerous with his feet, which is something you can’t ever prepare for.
12.) Indianapolis Colts (2-1) (19) — Andrew Luck bent his old coach over his leg and gave him a spanking last week. I don’t know how else to explain what happened against the 49ers. Trent Richardson’s first carry in the blue and white was a touchdown and Indy’s defense made Colin Kaepernick look like a novice back there. This could be a dangerous team.
11.) Atlanta Falcons (1-2) (10) — I’m not convinced the Falcons could be fine without Steven Jackson, but an unhealthy Roddy White is really limiting Matt Ryan’s vertical attack. His offensive line isn’t giving him much, either, but this still is an explosive offense and a playoff team.
10.) New England Patriots (3-0) (8) — It’s hard to be undefeated yet still drop each week in the rankings, but that’s just what the Patriots have done thus far. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but Tom Brady hasn’t been good through three games, tantrums, dropped passes or not. He’s missed a lot of throws. But as long as the defense keeps bringing its A Game, the Pats will be OK.
9.) Green Bay Packers (1-2) (5) — Their running backs ran hard, aside from Jonathan Franklin’s late-game fumble, and the defense was opportunistic, Aaron Rodgers made a couple bad throws late in the game which cost Green Bay. This is still a dangerous team but the jury is out if it’s playoff bound.
8.) Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) (9) — Andy Dalton is a good, not great, quarterback. He’s taken this team to the playoffs the last two seasons. He has playmakers all around him and a good defense. The Bengals should win the AFC North going away and contend in the conference. They should.
7.) Miami Dolphins (3-0) (12) — Raise your hand if you saw an undefeated start from the Dolphins coming? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Their running backs aren’t great and you can’t name one of their receivers other than Mike Wallace. But they play hard, Mr. Lauren Tannehill is slingin’ it and Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan are pinching the ends like mofos. They’re gonna be in the hunt all season.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (1-2) (4) — I still think the 49ers are good. I still think Colin Kaepernick is a superstar in the making, but as someone said to me last weekend, he’s feeling himself a little too much. He’s buying into his own hype a little too much. Take him favoriting all the “hate” tweets this week. Why? How does that motivate you?
5.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) (11) — What an awesome scene in Philly last week. Really proud of the fans for showing Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb the respect they deserved. Too bad they couldn’t show the same gratitude when the two of them were leading the Eagles to NFC East titles and conference championship games. Chiefs are making the playoffs. Mark it down. That defense and zero turnovers, along with Jamaal Charles, they might even beat Denver.
4.) New Orleans Saints (3-0) (6) — Would you believe the Saints are 4th in Total Defense (295.7 ypg) and 6th in Offense (404.3 ypg)? Jimmy Graham is out of his mind right now and though it appears New Orleans has zero running game right now, at least it doesn’t have to worry about always being in a shootout with teams.
3.) Chicago Bears (3-0) (3) — Jay Cutler has the mojo working so far but before we all get carried away, myself included, let’s remember he’s gotten off to hot starts each of the last few seasons with the Bears with nothing to show for it. So while he looks great now, let’s not count the cubs before they’re done hibernating.
2.) Denver Broncos (3-0) (2) — Actual Yahoo headline on Tuesday: “Is it too early to give Peyton Manning the 2013 NFL MVP?” Manning’s stat line this season is ridiculous with 1,143 yards, 12 TDs and ZERO picks, not to mention his 73% completion rate, only 4.2% higher than his previous career high, but MVP? After 3 weeks? Slow the truck down, people.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (3-0) (1) — Yes, the Seahawks gave up 17 points to the Jaguars. Yes, that is unacceptable. Yes, they’ve won 10 in a row at home. No, they will not lose at home this season. Yes, they are The Man until there’s a something in the “L” column.
LOS ANGELES — Passionate fan bases are part of what makes sports so amazing and unique and special, but it’s not just that we are fans of our favorite teams, rather it’s how we go about cheering them on to victory that makes it so awesome. Sunday, I watched the first half of the Seahawks/49ers game at a Seattle bar and in it where about 150-200 of the most insane people I’ve ever met. Every single one of them was decked out in some kind of Seahawks’ paraphernalia, including some pretty awesome old jerseys: Steve Largent, Jon Kitna, Joey Galloway and then today’s stars, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice. One of the dudes, who was in the group I was in – my friend Stacye invited me out after I told her I had to watch a game with her given how rabid she is about Pete Carroll’s crew – even had a 12th Man jersey with “U Mad Bro” on the back. Oh, and it was sleeveless.
The other thing that struck me about everyone in the bar was their decibel level. Ironic that the Q set the record for outdoor noise the same night, because it felt about 136db around me every time Wilson was shown on TV. Seriously, these people went ape nuts every time anything happened. Seattle’s tight end DROPPED a touchdown and everyone lost their mind. It was pretty awesome to be there, too bad I missed most of the scoring plays, surely I would’ve lost my hearing by then. Even on Twitter everyone is crazy about them. I posted a couple nuggets and got immediate response. Love it.
The Hawks’ beatdown of San Francisco this week was definitely as impressive as their fans’ loyalty and devotion, but was it enough to make them The Man this week?
Let’s find out.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (32) — I wonder what Teddy Bridgewater thinks of the Jaguars helmets? Because if he doesn’t like them, you can be he’s going to pull a John Elway/Eli Manning and refuse to play for them when he’s drafted No. 1 overall less than 8 months from now. And I know no one cares about anyone else’s fantasy team, but you guys are my people, so I assume you care about mine. Well guess who got hurt Sunday for the Jags? You guessed it: EFFIN’ MAURICE JONES-DREW. I’m never taking him again. Ever. Ever.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-2) (31) — I’ve seen “Old School” at least 150 times, no joke, and one of my favorite lines (among a hundred) is when Blue dies, and , his funeral Vince Vaughn says to Luke Wilson, “dammit, Blue was old, that’s what old people do, they die.” I feel like this is what we have to say about Brandon Weeden. Except he’s only 29. It’s just funny.
30.) Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (25) — Early Sunday a report was circulating that Bucs head coach Greg Schiano and quarterback Josh Freeman at odds and that Freeman might be traded on Tampa’s bye week. Immediately, I started seeing rumors of him going to the Vikings. I know Minnesota would do that faster than Adrian Peterson can sprint 78 yards for at touchdown, but who does Tampa want in return? Sure as hell not Christian Ponder.
29.) Tampa Bay Bucanneers (0-2) (30) — So yeah, who’s going to be quarterbacking this team a month from now? I think Vince Young and Matt Leinart are available. Also, for the second week in a row, the game was handed to them to win and they flubbed it up and got the L. That really tells you all you really need to know.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2) (28) — It could be a long year in the Steel City. Ten points last night against the Bengals, nine the week before against the Titans. No running game. Lost their center for the year, another starter on defense.
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-2) (27) — Something’s not right with Cam Newton. Clearly, I don’t know what it is, but watching Sunday’s game, he was downright Weedenonian in the first half. Overthrowing guys by 15 yards, balls into the turf, bad sacks. He got better in the second half, but this is beginning his third year, he should be further along than this. He should be beating the Bills.
26.) New York Jets (1-1) (26) — I’ll give the Jets this: they sure played hard on Thursday and really should’ve beaten the Patriots. Geno Smith showed his rookie colors in the New England downpour and let one too many ball sail on him, but that Jets defense stymied Tom Brady the entire game, save for the opening drive. It’ll be interesting how this plays out, but Rex coached ’em up and if they can get any offense, they got a punchers chance.
25.) Oakland Raiders (1-1) (29) — For years it was so typical of the Raiders to have the most money on their team tied up in their kickers. Now it’s their fullback who’s cashing big checks. Well, Marcel Reese scored a touchdown Sunday to “justify” the pay day. And good for him. Fullbacks are people, too. And I know they played Jacksonville, but the Silver & Black’s defense didn’t look half bad.
24.) Washington Redskins (0-2) (15) — Umm… so this was Preseason Week 2, right?
23.) Buffalo Bills (1-1) (24) — Impressive win on Sunday, even though it was against the Panthers, but EJ Manuel didn’t play great – he left a lot out there despite Carolina giving him multiple chances – but he led an impressive sub-2-minute drive (got some help on a phantom PI call on Luke Kuechly) and tossed a game-winning TD pass. Once he figures out what he’s doing in this league, he’s going to be a good one. And if there’s any silver lining for my fantasy team this season (yes, I’m already thinking about next year) it’s that he LOVES throwing to Stevie Johnson. It’s only just two games in, but it appears Doug Marrone made the right move going all-in on EJ.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (1-1) (22) — Even with a hobbling Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona still managed to find a way to pull out a come-from-behind win against what looks like a pretty decent Lions team. Tryann Mathieu yet again made a big defensive play and Carson Palmer did just enough not to lose it. Not sure what to make of their running game but the Cardinals can compete with anyone.
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-1) (21) — So THAT’s how Jeff Fisher wants to use Tavon Austin. Got it. That kid might have a future in this league. I like how the Rams showed some fortitude in coming back when it appeared they were gonna get blown out by the Falcons. They play in the toughest division in football and last year went 4-1-1 in that division. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t do that again.
20.) New York Giants (0-2) (13) — David Wilson gets benched for two fumbles and Eli Manning keeps his job despite 7 interceptions. Now, I understand how the quarterback position works. There’s a lot that goes into some of those picks; deflections, bad routes, and so on. But this is not a good start for the Blue Men Group. Again. Tom Coughlin on the hot seat in 3…2…1…
19.) Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (16) — Andrew Luck’s magic couldn’t extend for a second week in a row, but T.Y. Hilton showed why many raved about him in the preseason, hauling in 6 passes for 124 yards. This is a tricky team to get. The Colts won a lot of games last year in the closing minutes. Has their good fortune run out?
18.) Detroit Lions (1-1) (19) — Every time I watch Matthew Stafford throw the ball I’m reminded of how I must’ve looked growing up playing pick-up football in the field behind our house in the Coast Guard housing complex. Just slinging it from all angles. And is anyone else concerned that Reggie Bush is already ailing in a few different places?
17.) Baltimore Ravens (1-1) (14) — Still getting the champions discount, this Ravens team is a funny one. Struggled to beat the Browns on the day they raised the banner, no great offensive go-to guy outside of Ray Rice, who’s banged up. A defense without an identity. Good thing John Harbaugh is a helluva coach.
16.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) (10) — Michael Vick had another outstanding offensive game (guy in my fantasy league has him AND Peyton Manning, as if that’s fair). As did DeSean Jackson. But that defense gave up a boatload of points, that’s what would concern me moving forward. Really excited for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs, ya know, that team coached by Andy Reid.
15.) San Diego Chargers (1-1) (23) — The Chargers are one of those teams who should be undefeated, but alas, they’ve looked much better than most expected to start. Philip Rivers seems to have fixed what’s been ailing him the last two seasons. Still without a run game, he’s really doing it all on his own. To beat an Eagles team on the road in the early east coast game was damn impressive.
14.) Dallas Cowboys (1-1) (7) — Dallas has never lost a game when DeMarco Murray rushes 20-or-more times, but yet he only had 12 carries in Week 2 after 21 in Week 1; a win. We’ll see if he gets the rock this Sunday. Nice of Dez Bryant have himself a game, and you can see how he can affect a game when he’s ballin’. Also another good game from that Cowboys defense.
13.) Tennessee Titans (1-1) (20) — It’s crazy to think about a team like Tennessee, which everyone was writing off heading into the season, is a play away from being 2-0. Chris Johnson has 50 carries through the first two games and appears to be his old self. Jake Locker isn’t playing competently, and this defense appears tough, despite giving up the lead to Houston.
12.) Miami Dolphins (2-0) (18) — Maybe I should’ve kept Mike Wallace in fantasy after all, as dude blew up to help the Dolphins to a surprise start and take out the Colts on the road. Now they head home and host the Falcons with a chance to lead the AFC East for the first time since they won the division back in 2008. Warren Sapp said Lauren Tannehill’s husband was going to break Dan Marino’s team passing record and he’s on his way.
11.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) (17) — We kinda figured the Jaguars weren’t that good, so it was tough to judge just what we had with the Chiefs after Week 1, but after a Week 2 home win against Dallas, I’m a Chiefs believer. Alex Smith has been solid, the defense is flying around, and Jamaal Charles is running hard. I’m happy for Andy Reid and all the rib places in K.C.
10.) Atlanta Falcons (1-1) (6) — Matt Ryan is ballin’ out of control right now, but the big question is can his line keep the $100M man upright, especially now that Steven Jackson is out a couple weeks with a soft tissue injury. Roddy White’s health is a concern but if he can get healthy and Tony Gonzalez keeps playing his way into shape, there’s no stopping this offense.
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (1-1) (4) — I still need to see more out of Andy Dalton. He missed some easy throws Monday night against Pittsburgh but that defense was strong and Gio Bernard looked like a mini-Ray Rice out there. That Bengals defense is stingy, too. Pacman is playing some solid corner. Oh, and I know they won and dropped a few places, but that an adjustment since I had them over-rated a bit last week.
8.) New England Patriots (2-0) (5) — You know what, if I was Tom Brady, and believe me, I’ve thought about what that would be like, I’d be yelling too at everyone on the sideline, in the stands, on Twitter, if my receivers dropped balls like his did. Julian Edelman is the Patriots No. 1 option. Think about that for a second. Go ahead. I’ll wait … if you’re a Patriots fan, I’d be worried. Unbeaten or not.
7.) Houston Texans (2-0) (11) — What was the stat I saw, the Texans are the first team in NFL history to win their first two games of a season on the last play of the game. Think about that, and the handful of teams who could have their records reversed if one or two things went differently. Matt Schaub looks good so far and DeAndre Hopkins looks like the real deal after this game-winning TD grab (possibly the lone bright spot on my fantasy squad?). And not sure if you saw J.J. Watt on “The League” the last two weeks, but pretty hilarious stuff. As always.
6.) New Orleans Saints (2-0) (12) — The Saints had the worst defense in the NFL last season and so that led Marshall Faulk to make a bold prediction that they would be Top 5 by the end of the year. Currently, after two games, they are 11th. Subsequently, they are undefeated. These two items are not unrelated.
5.) Green Bay Packers (1-1) (8) — You think Aaron Rodgers was sick of hearing about all these young quarterbacks taking over the league? Especially when one of them was coming to his house? How’s almost 400 yards in the first half taste? Granted, me, Rich and Law and a few of the other NFL Media folks could probably score 30 on the Redskins, but damn, Aaron Rodgers can sling it. Now, the Pack just needs to play some defense and this is once again a legit Super Bowl contender.
4.) San Francisco 49ers (1-1) (1) — It’s safe to say none of us saw that Sunday night stinkfest coming out of the 49ers. That was a beatdown to the Nth degree. Anquan Boldin was held to one catch after turning the clock way back in Game 1 and Colin Kaepernick looked nothing like the superstar he showed himself to be against the Packers. It’s also worth nothing that no one wins in Seattle, so I wouldn’t be too worried.
3.) Chicago Bears (2-0) (9) — Could this really be the new Jay Cutler? Not getting sacked, throwing game-winning TD passes and generally acting like the opposite of the football player we know him to be. We’ve seen this act before out of the Bears; fast start, looking like a playoff team, then Cutler gets hurt and Bears fall apart. I wanna see some consistency. A win against Pittsburgh would be a nice proving ground.
2.) Denver Broncos (2-0) (2) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. He’s pretty good.
1.) Seattle Seahawks (2-0) (3) — If Seattle gets homefield in the NFC, it’s going to the Super Bowl. There’s no bones about it. The Seahawks can’t lose there. When it’s that loud and Beast Mode is running like he’s on a Skittles high and First Name Russell, Last Name Wilson is throwing darts and the Legion of Boom is lowering the hammer. Shoot. No wonder Pete Carroll is always smiling.
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