LOS ANGELES — We’re back! It’s OK, I know you missed me. It’s been a long time, trust me, I’m aware. So much has changed, too. Cleveland is a winner, Peyton Manning is gone (though not from my television commercials) and Bill Belichick is giving in-depth press conferences. Whoa, I just got carried away. But the ROFFL Podcast has returned and I couldn’t be happier and more excited as we embark on our 15th season in which we rest our entire Fall’s happiness on the real performance of our very fake roster of NFL players. Once again, Parker is our defending champion (insert disparaging remarks) and Josh is our Toilet Bowl “winner” (insert disparaging remarks about Baltimore) and everyone else is left in between wondering what went wrong (Antonio Gates and the entire San Diego offensive line got injured).
We’ll be in Denver in less than a week for another ROFFL Draft and tensions and expectations are high. Can it top last year in Boston? Will Marc try and draft J.J. Watt? Will Jarrett’s cell phone have service? Just how smelly will it be in there? All valid questions and all will have answers on August 27 around midnight when the last pick will be made, give or take.
My guest for the kickoff to the 2016 season podcast is a two-time champion and the man with the best facial hair in the game, Navid Sadri. We hit on everything in the hour-long episode from the Draft Book to having another kid to watching the Olympics. Hope you enjoy it and can’t wait to see you guys in a week!
LOS ANGELES — 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
BALTIMORE — The most exciting day of the year for my college buddies and I isn’t Christmas, any of the eight days of Hanukkah or Thanksgiving. It isn’t a big movie premiere, birthday or even finally getting a date with that girl from the subway; it’s the day in the first week of August when the Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League Draft Book arrives in the mail. It’s the very best day of the year because it means two things are in our immediate future: the upcoming NFL season, and the annual ROFFL Draft Weekend.
The ROFFL dates back to 2002 and as you guessed, consists of me and my Syracuse University buddies, along with a few stragglers we needed back in the day to fill out the league (Binghamton, Haverford and Oneonta are also represented). But it’s turned into much, much more with a website, weekly articles, a podcast, an entire Draft Weekend, trophies for first and last place, and the aforementioned Draft Book. That first season we picked our players via an autodraft, and ironically, the guy who won has never had a winning season in 12 years.
In 2003 though, it all changed when we decided to have a yearly live draft in Atlantic City. For our 10th anniversary we tore down Las Vegas (what can I say, we like to gamble) and for our 13th year we started a new tradition: holding our draft in the city of the team that wins the Super Bowl. So as it was we all packed up our magazines, ADP lists and team gear for the state where crab cakes and football are emphatically done: Maryland.
Admittedly, Baltimore wasn’t my first choice. Being a West Coast Guy now, I was rooting for San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, but to say the Charm City was anything but a fantastic host would be a classic Barry Sanders stretch run. For the 12 of us who made the trek – Parker had to phone in from Los Angeles and Jarrett from New Jersey – it was arguably the most fun we’ve had at a Draft Weekend.
It all started with a night at Camden Yards in a suite to watch the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics but not before a few of us hit up Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, which is home to some of the rarest comic books in the world. Jason, Jay and Marc are makeshift nerds and were geeking out upon seeing the first edition Superman and Batman, as well as old action figures, movie posters and the like from pop culture throughout the years. It was a pretty amazing and well curated museum, and the history buff in me enjoyed it immensely. A couple of them even bought Avengers keychains, while I would’ve loved to have taken home an Elvis poster.
But the real reason we were there Friday night was to see some baseball, stuff our face with Boog Powell’s BBQ and announce our keepers for the upcoming season. See, the ROFFL is a 2-player keeper league and you can retain any player for you want for a maximum of three seasons; so there’s definitely some strategy that goes into who you’re keeping on a year-to-year basis. This season was the end of my time with Texans superstar running back Arian Foster, so I was forced to keep Jaguars stud Maurice Jones-Drew and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. I debated keeping Mike Wallace over Ryan since quarterback has some depth this year, and even had a plan hatched earlier in the week to wait and draft Andrew Luck and a Colts receiver, but I chickened out and made the safe play with The Mattural and the high-powered Atlanta offense.
All-in-all, the keepers went pretty much as I predicted in my mock draft, aside from Rob Gronkowski not being kept, one guy keeping Antonio Brown instead of Reggie Wayne and another keeping Ray Rice over Reggie Bush (we’re a PPR league), and so as the Orioles game went on – and they rallied for a 9-7 win thanks to a Brian Roberts’ grand slam – talk in the suite and the bar afterward turned to draft strategy. Back into the mix this season were all-world running backs Adrian Peterson, Foster, LeSean McCoy, and some studs who were not kept, such as Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Larry Fitzgerald and Stevan Ridley. As I was picking in the 8 hole, I figured to have my selection of one of the latter four, which I was completely OK with.
Before I get ahead of myself, Saturday kicked off with a trip to the smallest and most-stupidly-staffed Dunkin Donuts in the 410 and a pre-draft tour of M&T Bank Stadium, also known as the Ravens Nest (I don’t know if anyone actually calls it that, but let’s be honest, they should). Originally, I wasn’t too keen on taking a tour of a football stadium, as I’d been in a couple before, and generally speaking, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Boy was I wrong.
Some highlites: the stadium is made with 1.5 million bricks, and if you laid them out end-to-end would cover 155 miles to Ocean City, Md.; the new-and-improved concourse wasn’t open to the public for last Thursday’s preseason game, which made us the first civilians to walk through it; our tour guide was this 70-year old named Tom who used to be a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band; a luxury suite can be yours for the cool price of $125,000 a year, which includes 28 tickets and 23/hour a day access throughout the entire year; Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s two-story luxury suite has bulletproof glass for when President Obama comes to visit; they have 3 jail cells in the depths and roughly kick out 150 people per game, most of them women; when John Madden used to still broadcast games for Fox and NBC, he’d drink a half case of beer before each contest and Tom said he almost got fired once for knocking a beer all over the broadcast console; our buddy Josh, who set the whole thing up and worked a year for RaveTV, wrote some of the inspirational essays that adorn the Club Level walls, which was pretty neat to see; the Ravens lockeroom is located 30 seconds from the field, whereas the visitors takes a few minutes to access. Tom made sure to let us know that’s a huge advantage come halftime.
However, the ultimate highlite of the tour was when Tom let us go on the field to run rampant like those brats in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but not before we walked through the Ray Lewis Memorial Look At Me And All My Awesomeness Tunnel. Of course, I had to do the dance. The only thing missing was a giant heap of sod for me to throw off myself and shove down my throat, which Tom assured us Ray would do before each game after posing for a picture with the weekly sod giver contest winner. Once on the field, we went Ray Kinsela after he finally finished the Field of Dreams and stood there and soaked in what he had created. Our jaws were agape and eyes buggin’ at what we were absorbing through our sports fan pours. Now, I’ve covered many football games in my sportswriting days and even stood on the sideline next to the head coach for most of them, but I have to admit, it was pretty awesome being on a NFL field with your 10 buddies and a football. My arm isn’t what it used to be, but I turned back the clock a bit throwing touchdown passes to the guys. Oh, and I even dusted off my shoe and drained a 25-yard field goal (on my 2nd attempt). So if Justin Tucker misses any chip shots in the first couple games, I’M READY!!!!
As for the draft itself, I was more than happy to take Ridley with my first pick. I debated between him and Morris for a couple minutes, but in the end, it’s always fun to have a player on the team you root for (and one who could score 15 touchdowns this season). So instead of Tom Brady touchdown passes, I’ll be hoping receivers get tackled at the 5 and Ridley takes it in from there. The problem with my league is that most of my buddies tend to over-think and over-analyze who’s available and their potential. As has been proven time and time again, fantasy football is 98% luck and 2% setting yourself up to have good luck, so there’s roughly no difference between who you’re taking in the later rounds. Such, our draft runs insanely long, and that’s just what happened last weekend. Thankfully, there was an Orioles game going on we could peek out the windows of the B&O Warehouse behind Camden Yards (oh, did I fail to mention we drafted in the warehouse behind Camden Yards? my bad) and take in while Jason and Nick spent an episode of Ray Donovan debating between Brian Hartline and Toby Gerhart.
In the end, I was very satisfied with my top selections (MJD, Ryan, Ridley, Marques Colston, Tony Gonzalez), my defense (Seahawks) and my backups with starting potential (Roy Helu and Andre Roberts). I took a flyer on a couple sleepers (DeAndre Hopkins and Markus Wheaton) and went back to old reliable with my kicker (Sebastian Janikowski). Is this finally the year the Gregg Moore Trophy takes its rightful home at Brockman Manor? I don’t know, since an injury could squash all title hopes faster than you can pronounce Michael Hoomanawanui. The Colt .45 LA Bandits have been so close before and came up short, but with another season anew I’m hopeful, and that’s no fantasy.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.
LOS ANGELES — Week 13 was the wildest we’ve had this season and in quite some time.
Let’s find out who’s the Man.
32.) Arizona Cardinals (record: 4-8) (last week: 31) — That’s eight straight losses, if you’re scoring at home, for the Cardinals. And in the last three games Larry Fitzgerald has 5 catches for 65 yards and probably single handily killing fantasy teams across America. #FreeFitz
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) (26) — Of course Rex Ryan went with Mark Sanchez as his starter this week. He has 8.5 million reasons as to why he did this. And as if things can’t get any worse for Jacksonville, guess who’s coming to town in Week 14? Mr. Timothy Tebow and his two cracked ribs! Will he be active? Will he get more than 2 plays? Will the Jets score more than 6 points? So many questions. #FreeTebow
30.) Oakland Raiders (3-9) (28) — Remember 6 weeks ago or something when I said the Raiders were “close.” Well, I want to explain what I meant by that. I meant Oakland was close to securing the Top Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft which they will undoubtedly take on whomever runs the fastest 40 at the Combine.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) (30) — As you watched the Sunday night game, was there at least a part of you that hoped Nick Foles would somehow engineer an upset win over the Cowboys and give Andy Reid something to smile about? Part of you?
28.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) (32) — There’s not much I can or want to add to the story surrounding the Chiefs. I’m glad they played and I’m glad they won. I hope everyone can heal and find some peace and find a way to move forward. It’s just terrible.
27.) Carolina Panthers (3-9) (25) — This team is not good and it’s not good for my fantasy team that I was forced to start DeAngelo Williams. But he did have 67 rushing yards. So thanks for the 4.5 points.
26.) Tennessee Titans (4-8) (24) — I don’t really have anything to say about the Titans so allow me to gripe about my DirecTV DVR for a second. I haven’t been on board with this season of “Boardwalk Empire” but I still recorded them, same with this season of “Homeland,” which I’ve never seen but heard is quite good. However, I just realized that my DVR has only saved the most recent 5 episodes. Apparently, that’s the default setting when you record a series. Talk about a wicked bummer.
25.) San Diego Chargers (4-8) (22) — Hey, remember when the Chargers were 3-1? Nope, me neither. They were actually 3.5-1 if you count them being up 24-0 on Peyton Manning and the Broncos (I just instinctively wrote “Colts” just now)? Well since then they’ve lost 7-of-8. Who hires Norv Turner next year? And has anyone seen Philip Rivers?
24.) New York Jets (5-7) (29) — I’m not gonna say I enjoyed what went down Sunday at the Meadowlands but it was pretty hilarious. Mark Sanchez getting benched has been on the verge of going down for weeks and it took three 1st half interceptions for Rex Ryan to pull the trigger. It’s only too bad that Tim Tebow was inactive. That would’ve been something and it would’ve been interesting to see how Jets fans reacted.
23.) Cleveland Browns (4-8) (27) — Rookie quarterbacks had a great Week 13 and that includes Brandon Weeden, who went into the Black Hole and threw for 364 yards and a TD (2INT) in a 20-17 win. Don’t look now, but the Browns have won 2 in a row. OK, you can look now.
22.) Detroit Lions (4-8) (19) — Back at the beginning of the year, I predicted Matthew Stafford would lead the league in passing yards. After 13 weeks, look who’s sitting atop the standings: Mr. Stafford at 3,742 passing yards. He has a 68-yard lead on Drew Brees. I feel proud of this because I picked Darren McFadden for the rushing title (currently 30th) and Lovie Smith for Coach of the Year (Bears fading).
21.) St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) (21) — Looked at the NFL standings today and did you know the Rams are currently unbeaten in the NFC West at 4-0-1? How in Sam Bradford’s bad hair did that happen? If they win out, they’ll win the division and make the playoffs. At least it’s better than the time they nearly made it with a losing record. Or did Seattle make it that year at 7-9? Man, the NFC West sucks.
20.) Miami Dolphins (5-7) (20) — OK, Dolphins. You’ve been my punching bag all season and now I turn to you. This week. Week 14. ROFFL Playoffs. One time. Let’s do this. See, there’s no chance I’m playing the Texans Defense against the Patriots this week so with the slim pickens on the free agents list, I went with the Dolphins at the 49ers this week, figuring (hoping) Colin Kaepernick struggles for the second straight game and throws the ball around the yard and takes some sacks. Either way, gonna take a Herculean effort from the Mammals. I believe in you.
19.Buffalo Bills (5-7) (23) — This literally has nothing to do with Buffalo, since I’m guessing he’s never been to the All-American City, but did you see that video of Jay-Z riding the subway to his 8th and final Barclay Center opening concert next to that old lady who didn’t know who he was? It was pretty awesome and and Jay-Z came off as cool as you’d expect him to handle a situation like that. Whether that was staged or not, it makes him look like a down-to-earth dude, which he has every right not to be. Well done.
18.) Minnesota Vikings (6-6) (17) — Adrian Peterson is not human, contrary to what he told Rich Eisen on his Thanksgiving Special, and is making a real threat to 2,000 yards rushing this season. With just 4 games remaining, he needs to average 138 per to to become AD2K. And big ups to Christian Ponder, who announced he’s engaged to ESPN personality Samantha Steele. #PodcastBump
17.) New Orleans Saints (5-7) (15) — This season can’t get over fast enough for the Saints, though they think they probably still have a shot at the playoffs; which they don’t. It’s o-v-a. Which makes this weekend’s game against the Giants interesting. They have traditionally struggled on the road and the giants can’t beat anybody at home.
16.) Dallas Cowboys (6-6) (18) — The Cowboys are so bad they barely beat the carcass Eagles on national television. If Nick Foles was anyone other than Nick Foles the Eagles would’ve won that game and then maybe kept Andy Reid’s job hopes alive. But man, can Dez Bryant ball out when he wants to or when his knucklehead isn’t in the way.
15.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) (11) — I’ll admit to being semi-wrong about this Bucs team. Sure, there’s a chance they win out and make the playoffs, but it seems unlikely. I thought for sure they’d be the 6th seed in the NFC, but it seems like that’ll be reserved for the 12th man. In other news, I have some conflicts with Doug Martin this weekend. Playing against him in ROFFL but have him in a 4-letter league. Let’s hope he throws up a 12-carry, 35-yard crapfest.
14.) Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) (16) — Here’s how this is gonna play out: the Bengals are going to rally to beat Dallas this week when they should beat them by 2 scores because the Cowboys aren’t any good. That sets up Week 16’s cage fight against the Steelers; winner takes the last AFC playoff spot.
13.) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) (14) — Mike Tomlin announced Thursday Ben Roethlisberger is starting against San Diego, which is both shocking and not surprising at all. Roethlisberger had potential life-threatening injuries a mere 3 weeks ago and is now going back out to the field where he is most likely to get hit again in the same manner which levied the previous injuries. Only this time he’ll be wearing a Kevlar chest sleeve of some sort. Like anyone on Chargers cares. Wait, he’ll be fine. The Chargers haven’t hit anyone in weeks.
12.) Seattle Seahawks (7-5) (13) — Just when you think they’re out, Russell Wilson pulls you back in. It’s amazing, but Wilson not only has the Seahawks locked into the 6th seed in the NFC right now, but has vaulted himself into the discussion for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Coming into the season, it seemed like a two-man race, so that there’s even a debate on a third is impressive. Speaking of impressive, we uncovered the song Deion Sanders is referencing when he sings for RW. Enjoy.
11.) Washington Redskins (6-6) (12) — Mike Shanahan should declare the season over more often. All that’s happened since is My Good Friend Robert has beaten in succession the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants and gotten the Redskins back into the playoff picture. He’s the toast of D.C. He could run for president and win. He can balance the budget and avoid the cliff. I’m not changing the channel when he has the ball and I’d still rather have Andrew Luck.
10.) Baltimore Ravens (9-3) (7) — I said this a couple weeks ago and I’m going to repeat it: Wild Card loss to Indianapolis. There’s a small chance that the winner of Bengals/Steelers in Week 16 will win the AFC North. Baltimore is primed to blow it.
9.) New York Giants (7-5) (8) — It’s December, this means the Giants aren’t supposed to lose. This means they should be ramping up and hitting their stride. This means. They aren’t supposed to lose division games, especially to second-tier teams like the Redskins. Maybe these Giants aren’t on the same path as their predecessors.
8.) Chicago Bears (8-4) (6) — So the Bears lost a December game at home? There’s a very good chance that this team collapses and misses the playoffs. I think Chi-town should be prepared for this. Brian Urlacher is out for the season, too, doesn’t help that defense which has been killing it.
7.) Indianapolis Colts (8-4) (10) — Nothing that Andrew Luck does anymore surprises me. Nothing. Dude is a baller.
6.) Green Bay Packers (8-4) (9) — I hope you’re all prepared for a ESS-LOAD of chatter in the coming weeks about the screw job in Seattle from the Replacement Ref Era, because it’s coming. And it may end up costing the Packers a home playoff game.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) (4) — OK, so maybe benching Alex Smith wasn’t the best idea. Actually, it still was. Colin Kaepernick will be better for the 49ers in the long run.
4.) Denver Broncos (9-3) (5) — Is Denver the best team in the league? I don’t know. Is Peyton Manning the MVP? Yes. Can the Broncos win the Super Bowl? If Von Miller is playing out of his mind still through the playoffs? Yes. Will that be absolutely insane considering
3.) Atlanta Falcons (11-1) (3) — The most disrespected 11-1 team in NFL history? Very likely.
2.) New England Patriots (9-3) (2) — Caught some of Aqib Talib’s locker room comments this week about the Texans; consider me still worried about the Patriots secondary. They’re going to give up a big play that’s going to cost them a game. Big time. Seattle redux.
1.) Houston Texans (11-1) (1) — Monday night is going to be a badass game. But until the Texans lose, they are the Man.
LOS ANGELES — It’s that time of the year, people: Fantasy Football Playoffs. I don’t know about you, but of all the league’s I’m in (that would be one, two, three, four, FIVE), there’s only one that I really care about and pay attention to 24/7: The Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League.
This season is our 11th and it’s just as competitive as Season 1. It’s also been a wild one for the Colt .45 Hollywood Bandits. Started out hot, winning the first 3 weeks, then lost the next two, before climbing to 6-3. But a three-game losing streak had me wondering if the playoffs were a pipe dream. But a Week 13 win had me again in the tournament, which is where you want to be. The closest I’ve come to winning was a year ago. I fell to Drew Brees and his owner, Parker Deay, in the finals. A finals that seemed out of reach when I began the year 0-4, but nonetheless I reached after upsetting a pair of higher seeds in the first two rounds.
This season, I’m again the 7th seed and Parker, a two-time champion, is again No. 1, so I had to get him over to Trojan Manor to chat about the season and the upcoming ROFFL Playoffs, which begin this Thursday with the Broncos at Raiders on Thursday Night Football.
Enjoy the banter, boys!
LOS ANGELES — It was Halloween this week; such an interesting “holiday.” Kids obviously still love it and department stores still set up months ahead of time with candy and decorations. Since I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve warmed to the idea of dressing up and going out to enjoy it with other adults. I still don’t feel right about it, but clearly I’ve participated and enjoyed myself. Past costumes have included Bill Belichick, Al Capone, Tim Tebow and Mr. Blonde. While I’m sure the Halloween celebration across the country has its own unique flavor, here it really is like another big holiday. City streets close off, neighborhoods go all out and parties are sponsored by liquor companies. Halloween takes people watching to the next level. It’s really interesting to me to see, with all the creative people in such a small area, what these artistic minds come up with in terms of intricate and unique costumes. It’s hard to explain but one of those things you need to experience to appreciate.
Let’s see who’s dressed up as The Man.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) (32) –– For the second week in a row, there will be no change in the bottom of these rankings and the three teams you’re about to read about have 3 combined wins. Now stop me if this sounds a little wacked: Jamaal Charles, who rushed for 233 yards in a game earlier this year, had just 5 carries for 4 yards this weekend against the Raiders, when you started Brady Quinn at quarterback. Romeo Crennel’s days are numbered in K.C.
31.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (31) — Saw some tweets floating the Twitterverse last night about how the Jaguars offense is better without Maurice Jones-Drew and how Blaine Gabbert looks better without MJD in the backfield. I hate to go all 2010 on everyone, but CHILD, PLEASE! If Blaine Gabbert can’t succeed with a Top 5 running back in the backfield that’s on HIM, not the Top 5 running back.
30.) Carolina Panthers (1-6) (30) — This week in “Let’s Blame Cam Newton For Everything”: 5th straight loss, 20-for-39, 314 yards, Zero TDs, 2 INTs and a 57.0 Passer Rating. Cam did conduct himself better at the postgame press conference
29.) Cleveland Browns (2-6) (29) — SOMEONE BREAK UP THE BROWNS!! Not sure if you saw this game on Sunday, but there was a monsoon in Cleveland and the only thing worse than Norv Turner calling plays dry is Norv Turner calling plays soaking wet. 7-6 is kinda setting today’s pass-happy game back a few decades, but that was a game made for Trent Richardson (122 yards, TD) and he delivered.
28.) Buffalo Bills (3-4) (27) — Let’s be honest, a bye week was just what the doctor ordered in Buffalo.
27.) Arizona Cardinals (4-4) (18) — You know how much I love stats. Here’s one for ya: three teams have started the year 4-0 and then lost the next four games. The 1993 Philadelphia Eagles, the 2002 Oakland Raiders … and the 2012 Arizona Cardinals. The ship, be a sinkin’. #FreeFitz
26.) Oakland Raiders (3-4) (28) — Don’t look now but the Raiders are only a game back of the Broncos for the AFC West division lead. OK, no one really thinks they have a shot, not with how Peyton Manning is playing, but still. This team was a mess a few weeks ago, and now Carson Palmer has strung together a couple solid performances in a row the #FreeDMC campaign has sunk faster a lead balloon. Which is a good thing. The league is better when the Raiders are competitive. Let’s hope this continues.
25.) Tennessee Titans (3-5) (24) — Heartbreaking loss by my brother Matthew’s team on Sunday after a third-straight win was lost when Vick Ballard leaped towards the pylon in overtime. Ballard’s amazing play aside, the Titans have looked much better in recent weeks. Hasselbeck has averaged a respectable 233 yards per and a TD in 4 starts, and has only turned it over twice in that span. Chris Johnson has averaged 102 yards in his last 4 games. So it’s coming back.
24.) St. Louis Rams (3-5) (23) — I have yet to travel abroad in my 32-year existence (I plan to get to it at some point, please don’t deride) but it appeared to me that the Rams left their game back in St. Louis. And did anyone find it odd that Wembley fans cheered for the Patriots? Ya know, U.S. Revolution and all that stuff?
23.) Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) (21) — So getting boat raced in the pouring down rain by the Atlanta Falcons is Juan Castillo’s fault, too, I’m guessing? Right, Andy Reid? And now we’re talking about Michael Vick being benched for Nick Foles? Seriously? Someone panicked in my fantasy league and actually picked up Foles. If Nick Foles starts a game this year I’ll be more shocked than that time I was shocked about something shocking.
22.) New York Jets (3-5) (19) — I’m not gonna say I predicted this, but I did pick up the Dolphins defense with Houston on a bye because I felt a Mark Sanchez game coming. And lo and behold: 4 sacks, a couple of turnovers, 2 blocked kicks, a TD and 29 points later and I had myself an upset fantasy win. And what’s with this news Tim Tebow is taking some actress? Yup, this’ll end well.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-4) (22) — I really hope during this bye week the Bengals figured out what’s going wrong with their defense that’s given up 58 points in their last two games.
20.) Dalllas Cowboys (3-4) (17) — No one gets blown out, comes back, only to blow the game in stupid fashion quite like the Cowboys. I know this has been asked all week, but the the hell, Tony Romo? It’s funny to me people are trying to figure out if he can ever lead the team to the Super Bowl. These guys like Romo and Rivers give us so much evidence that they are who they are. Romo blew a playoff game back in 2006. We had hard evidence 6 years ago! He’s never gonna get it and Dallas is never going to win with him. Period.
19.) San Diego Chargers (3-4) (14) — Groundhog Day in the NFL is every year around this time the talk around the league is how the San Diego is in the tank, Norv Turner and A.J. Smith should be fired and Philip Rivers isn’t as good as everyone thinks he is. Then the Chargers rattle off 5 wins in 6 weeks, save their season, finish 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs.
18.) Detroit Lions (3-4) (25) — Fact: I had no idea who Ryan Broyles was until the third quarter of Week 7. Fact: I picked him up and started him this week. Fact: He scored a touchdown for the second straight week. Fact: I won this week. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but Calvin Johnson has to be hurt or something. That’s the only explanation I’m accepting.
17.) Indianapolis Colts (4-3) (20) — Is that the play of the year from Vick Ballard? Take a look. Watch it again and again. Have you ever seen someone hit the pylon with his head?! A leap is one thing, but a leap, eskimo roll into the head off the pylon. Ridiculous. And don’t look now, but if the playoffs started today, the Colts are in.
16.) New Orleans Saints (2-5) (16) — Really surprised the Saints didn’t play better in Denver last week. Brees has looked a little off all season and that defense, I mean, I didn’t think there was a worse secondary than the Patriots, but good golly. New Orleans is porous. They couldn’t stop my high school, which has it’s Western Maine Class A semifinal playoff matchup this Saturday. Go Trojans.
15.) Minnesota Vikings (5-3) (13) — Pretty bad loss by the Vikings, at home, on Thursday night against the Bucs. This season, home teams have dominated the Thursday games and I was expecting more of the same. The Purple Pistol hasn’t looked great in the last 4 games, throwing 7 interceptions. I still think this team can make the playoffs, but a brutal schedule awaits. “Seriously? WTF” was all Jimmy had for me this week.
14.) Washington Redskins (3-5) (12) — This team is close, but still shows signs of not being that close. Alfred Morris has been out of this world good but you get the feeling against good teams they don’t know how to win yet. It’ll happen. My Good Friend Robert is too special.
13.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4) (26) — Yes, I have the Bucs jumping up 13 spots this week. Yes, that is a record in the 9 weeks of this poll (I think). Yes, this may be an overreaction. Yes, Doug Martin is fast, and yes, Josh Freeman has a snake named Eisen.
12.) Miami Dolphins (4-3) (15) — As much as I feel for Lauren Tannehill’s husband for getting injured, I’m really glad for Matt Moore, whom I always thought got a raw deal down in Miami. Good to see him come in and play well. And like I said earlier, big ups to that defense for getting me a win in fantasy this week.
11.) Seattle Seahawks (4-4) (8) — The SeaChickens better hope they win the NFC West and get homefield, because that’s the only way they have a chance of winning a playoff game. Never seen a team struggle so much on the road. They’re the Bizarro Giants.
10.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (11) — I don’t know who Jonathan Dwyer is or how much he weighs, but he sure looks like Jerome Bettis, doesn’t he? Runs like him, too. Could be dangerous for opponents going forward if they start playing like the Steelers of old.
9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (6) — When you’re coming off a bye week, I generally don’t have much to say about you. But by no fault of their own, the Ravens have gotten skipped over by a few teams who just have that mojo working right now.
8.) Denver Broncos (4-3) (10) — We may be witnessing the greatest Peyton Manning season in his 15-year career. Call me crazy, but what he’s doing is incredible. I was on record, here and everywhere, that I thought Manning should have retired. Four neck surgeries. A season off. I didn’t think there was any way he could come back and be the Peyton we’ve known. All he’s done lately is 4 straight 300+ yard, 3+ TD games and has the Broncos in the driver’s seat in the AFC West.
7.) New England Patriots (5-3) (9) — The Patriots brought their full artillery to the motherland and put down a full musket whooping of the Rams. Tom Brady leads the league in passing yards (2,408) and Stevan Ridley is 5th in rushing (716 yards). Sure, we all say the former coming but no one saw the latter. If that maintains, and this Thursday trade for Aqib Talib pans out. Look out.
6.) San Francisco 49ers (6-2) (7) — I know the Cardinals have gone in the tank since starting the season 4-0, but dang did the 49ers put the bang thing (@richeisen voice) on them this Monday. And nice of Randy Moss to dust off the cleats and show us some of that 2007 speed.
5.) Houston Texans (6-1) (5) — Arian Foster was out in California last week to have his jersey retired by his high school. That’s pretty awesome, but shouldn’t every player in the NFL have their jersey retired by their high school? It goes to figure if they made it to the NFL, they’re at least in the 99.9% of players who’ve EVER played at their high school? What in the hell took so long for Foster? What is taking so long Thornton Academy? Oh, right, I wasn’t any good.
4.) Green Bay Packers (5-3) (3) — Aaron Rodgers is still ballin’ out of control right now, and as long as that’s happening, who cares if the Packers only beat the hapless Jaguars 24-15?
3.) New York Giants (6-2) (4) — Only the Giants are good enough to go on the road and rack up a 23-0 lead against a division opponent who beat them earlier in the year. And only the Giants are bad enough to blow that lead and then hold on to win the game because the opponent’s star receiver’s fingers are an inch too long. They’ll probably win the Super Bowl again.
2.) Chicago Bears (6-1) (2) — Before the season we made preseason prediction on the Rich Eisen Podcast and for Coach of the Year, I said Lovie Smith and was laughed at. I said, if the Bears have a good season, which they could with a healthy Jay Cutler (they were on their way last year before he got hurt), then Lovie was going to get serious consideration. I think I’m sitting pretty at the season’s midway point.
1.) Atlanta Falcons (7-0) (1) — The Falcons showed no rust coming out of the bye week; going on the road and putting it down on the Eagles. Matty Ice (or the Mattural) strengthened his MVP campaign with 3 more TD passes as Atlanta remained unbeaten. It hosts the Cowboys this week in what will either end their season or keep their chatter on our tongues for some time to come. Please let it be the reaper (Frasier Crane voice).