Jay Cutler

The Jay Cutler Problem

A little word association to start off: First thing that comes to mind when I say “Jay Cutler”. Hold that thought.

Jay Cutler is a pretty unique guy. His advocates will pretty universally agree that he comes off as a douchebag and does himself no favors with media or otherwise. The detractors will at least usually concede that he has phenomenal physical tools and wins a whole lot of games. There are surely radicals on either side that will tell you he is a saint or will tell you he is trash beneath comparison to Matt Cassel. If you have no opinion on Jay Cutler, your opinion probably goes back and forth. This is more or less the norm with Cutler and we h;ave settled into a really nice groove of being able to go back and forth on him as a quarterback while universally condemning his attitude. Generally speaking, I have no issue with this. We remember Ty Cobb as a great baseball player and a hall of fame asshole. T.O. will likely shoulder a similar legacy. This is nothing new. But with both of these players we can acknowledge their great play and also acknowledge that they might not be the ideal role model for children. However, with Cutler, we can’t get past his public perception and facial aesthetics. In our appearance over substance era, hating Jay Cutler has become a perfect microcosm of a cultural ill.

Amazingly, Jay Cutler may be less popular than possums or cancer.

Jay Cutler has a phenomenal arm. No one argues this. Those who dislike him as a quarterback take issue with his decision making, and this is a completely fair assessment. It is particularly fair against the rival Packers who seem to have his number. The general dividing point on Cutler is how much we should account for his offensive line. His critics say he needs to adapt to the line in front of him and that it is no excuse. Others (myself included) think that when given time, Cutler is elite and his bad decision making stems largely from his lack of time in the pocket. This has been a huge part of Tom Brady’s success over the years. While I certainly think the offensive line problem is a substantial one, I am not trying to sway your opinion on Cutler’s decision making. It is a little flawed, and we can agree to disagree on its cause. We can even agree to disagree that maybe part of this decision making issue has to do with how many offensive coordinators he has been with over the years. We can write that all off and just look at his performance week to week.

Over the past two-plus years, Jay Cutler has started 30 games. He has had a passer rating over 95 fourteen times, and a passer rating under 70 eleven times. Those are both pretty substantial numbers. In those good (statistical) games, Cutler has been sacked 30 times for an average of 2.15 sacks/game. There were a few 4 and 5 sack games in that sample size too. In the bad games, Cutler has been sacked 48 times, which works out to 4.4 sacks/game. This includes, among other high totals, the 9-sack game vs the Giants. This bad games stat also requires a bit of an asterisk. These “bad” games include quite a few wins in which Cutler was sacked 2 times or fewer (5-6 W-L record in those games, and sacked twice or fewer in 4 of those). Looking up and down the stat-sheet doesn’t tell us how many of his picks were pressured or what have you, but there is a pretty strong correlation between Cutler’s protection and performance. This doesn’t solve any argument, but only goes to show that when given protection, he is a very good and effective quarterback.

In another statistical breakdown, we find that Cutler appeared to be a douchebag in 30 of those 30 games, though it may be 28 or 29 depending on whose indices you use. This narrative has probably been the dominant one in Cutler’s career. When he tore his MCL, he was labelled a quitter. When he yells at teammates, he is just being a prima donna. His body language gets more attention than just about any sports figure I have seen in years. It appears he can do nothing right.

This should all be a nice big warm blanket to worried Bears fans. Everything is ok because Cutler’s tangibles are great and his intangibles aren’t necessarily his fault! Yet intangibles matter, at least a bit. I’m not going to sit here and tell you intangibles can replace tangibles, because they can’t. But if players in the Bears locker room have the same perception as the media (I doubt this), then there is a serious issue. More than any other sport, belief in your leaders and faith in winning matters. Why? Because if you are going to go put your body and livelihood on the line, you’d best believe in the guy next to you. Buying into the coach is important in basketball, clubhouse chemistry at least carries SOMETHING in baseball since you spend months on end with the same 25 guys, but football is different. With the nature of injuries in the sport, with the non-guaranteed contracts year to year, and for many players, week-to-week, if you don’t believe in your guys, you are not going to put it all on the line and, generally speaking, you are probably not going to win a bunch of games. It is clearly more complex than this, but on some basic level, this is undeniably true.

I will say that I do not see Cutler’s personality as an issue, and that the Bears are a damn good football team year after year with him at QB. The hypothetical issue I mentioned above doesn’t seem to be at play here. But the fact that it is even a possibility that Cutler’s talent could be trumped by not giving off the right vibes is astounding. More incredible than all that is that this seemingly absurd idea being is central narrative with Cutler.

As a side dish, this is not only fair, but interesting and insightful. It serves as a great talking point about leadership, different leadership styles and our public and cultural perception of people and athletes. Yet even after a masterful game against a pretty good Dallas defense, the first talking point is Cutler walking away from his offensive coordinator for about three seconds, then Tice coming up and talking to him while standing. What did we say when Brady yelled at Bill O’Brien or Andy Reid got into it with a D-Lineman (in the preseason no less)? “These things happen in football”. When Cutler did it? “What the hell is he doing”. I am beating a dead horse and I know that. Give the man his credit for his phenomenal skills and then, if you so desire, critique his attitude or body language or whatever.

Remember your word from the word association at the beginning? If you needed any persuading from this column at all, the word was probably asshole, douchebag or something of the sort. Try your best to change that, if only by moving it to the second word because Jay Cutler is one hell of a quarterback haunted by a random intangible he likely can’t control.

Ferrells and Fallons: Week 11

By: Matt Kroeger

This Sunday’s game between the Colts and Pats has me predictably over-the-top excited. I am, SHOCKINGLY, a Colts fan. This is the game you clear you see on the schedule at the beginning of the season and clear your calendar for. It is always a dramatic game, one full of history. The Patriots are our mortal enemies and have been over the course of my lifetime. There are many, many fighting points between the two groups: Manning vs. Brady (the biggie), undefeated seasons, Spygate, passing records, Super Bowl rings, intense playoff games, Marvin Harrison’s inexplicable shooting, injuries (this year at least). What this all boils down to is a serious rivalry between two sports families, a rivalry that leads me to type the following sentences: I hope Brady gets his face smashed into the grass on Sunday. I hope he throws five interceptions and fumbles the ball away another three times. I hope Peyton torches that defense for six TDs…in the first half. I hope Belichick cries. I hope Wes Welker gets his bell rung by our third-string safety. I hope a Pats fan gets arrested for running onto the field only to be dragged off on a stretcher because Jeff Saturday pancakes him. I hope Tony Dungy is positively elated with that creepy smile of his on Sunday Night Football, while Rodney Harrison appears noticeably pissed off, leaving Dan Patrick to clumsily break the tension and awkwardly segue into a commercial break.

Now some might think those statements are horrible. “Why would you wish so much malice on them!” It’s nothing personal (well, sort of). It’s just the nature of sports. It’s a rivalry. That’s what you do. I wouldn’t hold it against Patriots fans if they felt the same way about me, just like I would expect them not to hold those comments against me. We can despise each other’s teams while still respecting the competition. Rivalries are what make sports infinitely more entertaining.

But here’s what I really wanted to get at. No one in the sports media openly shows their personal fandom. Reporters, writers, anchors…none of them have a team. Or at least they don’t show it. Rooting for your team is what makes sports so fun, yet these media types are told to remain completely objective and neutral. I understand the rationality for it, but c’mon! Have an opinion! Instead, they all act like Sports is a Biology textbook that they need to study intently before a final exam. Everything is analytical and watered down. There’s no passion.

I want to know who these guys are cheering for. One thing that makes ESPN writer Bill Simmons so interesting is that he openly admits his fan biases. No one holds it against him because he still retains a fair, objective point of view. In fact, I respect him more. He EMBRACES the fan side of it–something you never see anywhere else. Now, I’m not saying that all media members need to go crazy and channel their inner Lou Holtz by blindly supporting their team at all times (that wouldn’t make you a true fan anyway). I just want to see why you’re watching the game to begin with. I still want all the fair and balanced analysis, but when something great or disappointing or surprising or whatever happens for YOUR team, let’s see some emotion. I don’t think that is too much to ask.

Ferrells:

Yes, this Troy Smith.

QB: Troy Smith (SF). The former Heisman-winner has put up back-to-back 115+ QB rating games, and more importantly, won both of them. San Franciscans (and Mike Singletary) rejoice! Finally, a competent QB! I had a soft side towards Alex Smith, but when you need to make a change, you need to make a change.  I liked the fact that that Troy threw for 356 yards and 1 TD last week on only 28 passes. I like that he is mobile. I like that he is under control (no picks). The Bucs are great against the pass statistically, but I think their record is a little misleading. Six wins against Cleveland, Carolina (twice), Cincy, St. Louis, and Arizona. Those five teams have a combined record of 13-32. They’re hanging tough and shocking the world, but I wouldn’t let my expectations get carried away for them.

Other options: Michael Vick (PHI), Kyle Orton (DEN), Tom Brady (NE)

(Last week: Eli Manning vs. DAL…33-48, 373 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT)

RB: Jamal Charles (KC). Charles sort of slips under the radar sometimes, but he is averaging six yards per carry. That is freaking impressive. And he catches balls out of the backfield. Somehow Charles only has three total touchdowns. He may match that number this week alone against the Cardinals. The Cards are 28th against the run and are just miserable all-around, yet they have three wins and are still in the division race. Remarkable. These guys need to draft a quarterback desperately. But back to Charles: it shocks me that Haley doesn’t give him more opportunities. I guess that’s the downside of a tandem-back strategy.

Other options: BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE), Cedric Benson (CIN), Felix Jones (DAL)

(Last week: Foster vs. JAC…15 rush, 56 yds, 1 TD)

WR: Greg Jennings (GB). Jennings has been on fire the past four weeks: 25 grabs, 368 yards and 3 TDs. Interestingly, he’s reverted back to elite receiver status only after his teammates went down with injuries. Can we really say that he is elite, then? Regardless, I wrote on Ducks that I felt like this was Favre’s last game as he will either be a) injured, b) benched for poor performance during a blowout, or c) benched for week 12 after a loss that nudges the Vikings out of playoff contention. Either way, I like the Packers’ players’ fantasy odds this week, sort of like a milder version of the Eagles’ performances in week 10.

Other options: Dwayne Bowe (KC, who I owe an apology for doubting earlier in the year), Jacob Tamme (IND), Malcom Floyd (SD)

(Last week: Mike Wallace vs. NE…8 catch, 136 yds, 2 TD)

Fallons:

QB: Jay Cutler (CHI). Dolphins are sixth against the pass and are at home, plus Cutler is unpredictable. And don’t think that o-line fixed itself in two games; the Bears played the Bills and Vikings, both of which are bad teams. So there.

Other candidates: Peyton Manning (IND), Brett Favre (MIN), David Garrard (JAC)

(Last week: Flacco vs. ATL…22-34, 215 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT)

"You da man, Big Ben!"

RB: Rashard Mendenall (PIT). This is a major blow to my fantasy team. Ben Roethlisberger is single-handedly crippling my team, and he isn’t even on it. I was afraid this would happen. The Steelers looked like a dominant team before he got there. They ran the ball, and they ran it WELL. Mendenhall was piling up yardage, and the team was controlling the ball. They went 3-1 pre-Ben, and probably should’ve gone undefeated.

Now? The Steelers have gone 3-2 since Ben’s return, but they lucked into the Dolphins win. Still, Mendenhall is slowly being fazed out of the offense; Ben is the primary focus on offense now. After a brutal loss to the Patriots, my question is: why not stick with what works? Run the ball. Instead, Tomlin is channeling his inner-Wade Philips and allowing the quarterback to overshadow a successful running game. Sucks for me.

Other candidates: Ronnie Brown (MIA), Matt Forte (CHI), Brandon Jackson (GB)

(Last week:  Gore vs. STL…22 rush, 87 yds, 1 TD, 3 catch, 67 yds)

WR: Mike Williams (SEA). What a great story…that I have to sour. I love that he has reincarnated himself in Seattle under his college coach and worked his way back on the field in a big way. Eleven catches for 145 yards last week is nothing to scoff at. The problem I have with Williams, though, is that he has had three great games this season, but the other six have been HORRIBLE showings (look it up). He is inconsistent. Whether that inconsistency is a result of Hasselbeck’s play or not doesn’t change the fact that he isn’t a steady fantasy option. Plus, those three breakout games came against crappy defenses (Arizona twice and Chicago). I think the Saints are going to shut him down again this week.

Other options: Pierre “Slippery Fingers” Garcon (IND), Kevin Walter (HOU), Roddy White (ATL)

(Last week: Santana Moss vs. PHI…3 catch, 28 yds)

Pigskin Pick’em: November 7th

Due to some travel on Friday, we were not able to get the picks in before Saturday’s college football games. I had TCU over Utah, but that really does you no good now, since it already happened. How can I make it up to you? You want me to pick 5 NFL games instead of splitting it? Deal. Screw this intro, let’s get to the picks.

 

What happens when you make Matt Cassel beat you? The Raiders are looking forward to finding out.

 

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders

I have been back and forth about 100 times on this one. If I was a Chiefs fan, I’d like my chances. The Chiefs definitely have what it takes to stop the Raiders attack, and Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones should be able to find some running room against the Raiders. As a Chiefs fan, I even like my chances on Special Teams with Dexter McCluster. If I am a Raiders fan, I am thrilled. 4-4, a home game to knock the division leader down a peg, and all the tools to do it. With the Raiders’ defensive style of going man to man around the outside, and putting 8 in the box, I like my chances of stopping the Chiefs. I love the idea of Matt Cassel having to beat me if I am a Raiders fan.

The big problem is how similar they are. Powerful running games, solid defenses for their situations, and on a roll. I think the pick basically has to come down to whether you like Oakland chances at home in a big game (for them), or if you like the consistency the Chiefs have shown this year and think that the Raiders are due for a let down.

The worst thing is that I generally like both of those things to happen. I am going with the Raiders, but it feels like nothing separates these teams. It could be a long week for pickin’ em.

Chiefs 19, Raiders 20

San Diego Chargers @ Houston Texans

This is probably the most intriguing game of the weekend. You get the Chargers off a pretty solid showing against Tennesseee against a Houston team that was really held under control by the Colts on Monday night. Rivers vs the horrible pass defense in Houston would seem to be the deciding factor, but the Chargers complete lack of special teams gives plenty of hope for Houston fans. Just the fact that the Chargers have the #1 offense and #1 defense and are below .500 should tell you all you need to know about them; they find ways to lose games.

I am taking Rivers over the Houston defense, but I really do not know if the Chargers are about to go on their traditional November tear, or if they just showed up, for once, last week. Arian Foster could come out and run the Chargers over, but I just like the Chargers here. And that is saying something.

Yes, even without Antonio Gates.

Chargers 34, Texans 27

Indianapolis Colts @ Philadelphia Eagles

I am not sure if I could be more ambivalent about this game. The best way to beat the Colts is to run the ball and keep it away from Peyton Manning, and if there was ever something that Andy Reid could not do (other than restrain himself at the buffet), it is run the ball. I mean if the Eagles were genuinely better than the Colts, that would not be a huge deal, but they aren’t. That lack of a running game is a serious problem. However, Andy Reid is 11-0 all-time off a bye and he gets Michael Vick and Desean Jackson back.

I guess the question to ask going into the game is whether you trust the Colts system more, even without so many players, or if you like every other rule of football. The Colts are coming off a must-win on a short week against a team coming off a bye week that does not lose off bye weeks. Basically picking the Colts means you reject logic in the case of the Colts, but that is somehow ok, because the Colts have defied logic before by being one of the best teams ever without a running game. Logic may need not apply in the case of the Colts, but should it apply for this game?

I think the loss of Joseph Addai and Mike Hart is a huge deal in picking up the Eagles’ double A gap blitzes, and they will get to Manning a little more than usual. COnsider this pick one of zero confidence. That and you KNOW I wouldn’t jinx my team.

Colts 24, Eagles 27

Chicago Bears @ Buffalo Bills in Toronto

Give me the Bills! They have got to win at some point, right? They are playing well, are playing a very mediocre Bears team, and have got to smell blood. However, there are a few serious problems. The Bills have 11 sacks this season. Yeah, 11. For a team that is going to need to get after Jay Cutler to succeed, that is not too promising. THe other problem is that the game is being played in Toronto, where the Bills, possibly in an act of Buffalo self-defense, never play well. If this game was being played in Buffalo, I would not even hesitate to pick the Bills, but all clarity about this Bills pick is ruined by the Toronto effect. I am going with my heart over my head here, but I do not think I am alone in picking the Bills and hoping they pull it out.

Bears 19, Bills 23

Do we have an upset special this week? Nope. If I had gotten the column in in time I could have dipped into the college games to find the upset, but given the reality of the situation and utter lack of upset candidates I can believe in, I cannot do it. I have one in mind that comes close, but I cannot bring myself to pick it. Some would say it is because I do not have the balls. I think it is much closer that I do not lack a brain.

New England Patriots @ Cleveland Browns (+4.5)

Psssst. Yeah, you. Don’t tell anyone, but the Browns are pretty good. Now, Bill Belichick does always go out of this way to kick the crap out of Eric Mangini, but once upon a time Mangini beat up Belichick in New York, and I think he can replicate some of that in Cleveland. A little known fact amongst the younger generations is that Bill Belichick was once the coach of the Browns, and he sucked at it. Yeah, Mr. Genius Belichick couldn’t do a damn thing with the team. Woe, is Cleveland, right? Yeah, but the point is that the city still hates him more than you would think. The bottom line here, however, is that the Browns are much better than you think, and the Patriots are not as good as everyone thinks. Throw in that it is a road game in a city that is going to smell a fight and things could get tricky for the Patriots. It isn’t like Tom Brady has been racking up lots of points lately anyway. He got shut down by the Chargers, and only managed 21 points against the Vikings in Foxborough. This is the Browns time!!!

To cover at least.

Patriots 21, Browns 20

Admittedly, that was not the most aesthetically pleasing column, but the constraints of time are very real. We will be back next week with a much more detailed, fun, pick’em column.

NFL Week 3

There are 3 teams that are still 3-0, and few would have guessed them coming into the season. Hell, I had them on a combined 16 or 17 wins for the season with the Chiefs taking 7 of those. Shows you what I know, right? Well we have plenty to cover entering week 4, and not all of it concerns the undefeated, so strap in and get ready for some NFL action coming your way right…………………….NOW.

The Undefeated

Let me start by saying that two of these teams are fortunate to be undefeated. The Bears got away with one against the Lions and were the benefactors of 6,000 Green Bay penalties, and the Chiefs deliberately start Matt Cassel at quarterback every week. I know, they must not have seen him play. All kidding aside, all three teams have impressed so far and none more so than the Steelers. Apart from the Falcons, they have not really been tested, but behind a fantastic defense and Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers are probably the best team in football right now. Please read those last two words (right now) because they are a HUGE qualifier. They will not be the best team heading into the playoffs, but right now no one is better.

Next on my list of most impressive at the Kansas City Chiefs. Their new stadium is one of a very small number of brand new home fields that still gives the home team an advantage. We are quickly learning that one thing you cannot do is bet against this team at home, though I might have to make an exception when they host the Colts in two weeks. The running game has been good, and the defense has been outstanding under new coordinator Romeo Crennel (yes, that Romeo Crennel) who was always better suited for coordinating than coaching. I think the Chiefs have a legitimate shot at winning the AFC West, but they are going to need some help and they are going to have to fend off the Chargers who always charge (pun not intended, but inevitable) in November and December. They have a shot, but I would definitely not bet on them to win it despite the fact that I did expect a breakout season from them.

The least impressive of the undefeateds (not a bad thing at all), is the Chicago Bears. Jay Culter has looked magnificent in Mike Martz’s offense thus far, and the defense has been great (notice a theme?). The Calvin Johnson catch and Packers penalties aside, the Bears have really impressed me in all phases of the game. I still think they are a few injuries from completely unraveling, but until those injuries come, there is no reason that defense cannot keep them in every game and no reason the offense and special teams can’t find a way to win. I am still picking the Packers in the division, but with the Vikings in near free-fall, I think this could easily be a playoff team.

Ranking time! Note that teams are not listed in order within their groups.

The Outhouse (Ranked 32-26)

Occupied by these teams

And we turn from the penthouse to The Outhouse. And I’m not talking about the structure, I am talking about the contents. Its inhabitants? Buffalo, Cleveland, Carolina, and the entire NFC West. Buffalo started Trent Edwards in week 1. He is no longer on their roster. Cleveland actually showed signs of life against Baltimore, but then again, so would I if the previous owner of your team who sold the entire city out and moved the team to Baltimore still owns the Ravens. Hey God, what did Cleveland do to you? The Panthers are way worse on defense than any of us would have believed and the Jimmy Clausen era got off to an early start. At least Carolina fans know he can take a pounding. He practiced it for three years at Notre Dame. I am going to get sick of talking about the NFC West. Correction: I AM sick of talking about the NFC West, and we are only 3 weeks in. San Francisco should win the division, but the problem is that they are a crappy team away from home and just in general sometimes. And that they are 0-3. The Seahawks are mid-rebuild and might still win the division with table scraps at 7-9 or 6-10. The Rams are incredibly bad and STILL have a shot at the playoffs this year in some sort of planetary alignment with a Rookie QB, wide receivers most teams would cut, and a running back who is due to miss the rest of the season starting around week 8. Then we have the Cardinals, who are supposed to be relying on their defense and the running game, but whom almost lost to Oakland at home and might drive Larry Fitzgerald to suicide, or at least Dancing with the Stars. Yes, ladies and gents, one of these teams is going to make the playoffs. Here’s the twist. None of these teams should want to make the playoffs. If they are making it at 6-10, that would be good for a top 10 draft pick probably, which could pay dividends down the road. The team that makes the playoffs gets bumped to the 20s and will likely not get the playmaker it needs. We might have a race for the bottom and draft pick in the NFC West, however, in this race for the bottom and draft pick, the producers do not win for getting lower prices, everyone loses because we have to watch one of these teams play a playoff game.

Realistically, a few of these teams could be ranked higher, but I did not feel the need to make them feel better about themselves. Go to the corner, NFC West.

The Toilet Seat (25-23)

If the group directly below this in terms of quality is The Outhouse, then this group is the toilet seat. In other words, it is in the neighborhood, just not down with the muck yet. Don’t worry, it will get there. To be fair, a few of the NFC West teams might be more suited for a spot here, but I am not going to ease up on them when they are consistently a weak division. The teams perched majestically on this porcelain throne are the Lions, Jaguars, and Raiders.

If they drop any lower, they'll be sunk and will get flushed.

The Jaguars are probably the worst among these, as after their respectable performance against Denver, they got blown out two weeks in a row. David Garrard has resembled something between Jabba Hutt, except without the Rancor. He is dangerous, but when you think about it he is pretty laughable and could not really hurt you if you do not help him out. He has been that laughable fat fool the last two weeks and the Jaguars are really just not good enough to overcome any serious mistakes he makes. They are probably closest to the bottom of these teams.

The Lions cannot really be blamed for their Toilet Seat status. With Matthew Stafford, I think they win that Bears game, and they would have a much better shot at the other teams without Shaun Hill giving the lions an uphill battle. However, the defense has been bad enough to earn them this label and it does not get much easier. That schedule is brutal and they could easily find themselves sitting on the 4-12 we had them projected at even though we felt they were better than their record.

The Raiders are just a case all their own. They already dropped Jason Campbell at QB, but still should have beat Arizona last week on the road. The defense has seemed alright and Bruce Gradkowski has been pretty good in most of his fill-in stints. However, the Raiders have come to define unclutch, and Sebastian Janikowski is no exception. You know it is bad when you see the Raiders tied in the red zone with 20 seconds left and you remain unconvinced they will win the game, and they usually make you feel smart for not being sure. Not a very good team, but they have a shot at surprising the Texans this week. Things are not nearly as bleak as they seem in Oakland. Though things are pretty bleak for Al Davis. Maybe there is a connection between the two.

The Upset Stomach (22-20)

Is it about to be a trip straight to the Outhouse, or is it just hunger for that next win? Yes, in this bathroom-oriented NFL Recap, the Upset Stomachs are not a positive, but they are not necessarily a bad thing. The bottom line about these teams is that the jury is still out. They could easily end up on in the Toilet Seat group, or the next group up.

Washington Redskins- Are they as good as they looked against the Cowboys and Texans in the 1st half? Are they as bad as they looked int he 2nd half against Houston or against St. Louis? I would lean toward the latter as Clinton Portis has had a hard time finding running room and the Redskins aerial targets are about as talented as Keenan from SNL (not very good, in case you didn’t get that one). Joey Galloway is the 2nd WR. Yes, that Joey Galloway. I have a feeling they are going to get ripped apart against Philly and it will start a nice spiral out of control in Mike Shanahan’s 1st season.

He needs to right the ship before he is thrown overboard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- I am almost a semi-believer in this team, but at the same time I know that they secretly suck. Josh Freeman has looked pretty good so far except for the Steelers game, and no one is looking good against them so far. The defense has proven pretty respectable, but let’s not forget that the two wins they have are against two teams (Browns and Panthers) with a combined 0 wins. They have a bye this week so the jury will remain out for another week.

New York Giants- Is this the Super Bowl winning team that had discipline issues that then turned it around, or is this just a team in disarray. I personally do not think Tom Coughlin can pull that off again and I think the Giants’ season could very easily start to spiral downward. I still like all their skill position guys and I think the defense is alright, but they are just doing so many stupid things right now that it is hard to pick them to succeed. I thought they had the look for an NFC East favorite after week 1, but it also turns out that Carolina is not good. The jury is out, but I think this team is going to struggle.

The Change-Up

No, this is not a division, this is where I can’t make bathroom references any more because they are fairly decent teams. However, since we have only covered 13 teams, and I like the idea of splitting the league in half, so we have one more group dedicated to two teams I love to hate on.

The Carlos Zambranos (19-17)

This one goes out to Big Z for one big reason. He was never really that good (one year with a sub-3 ERA, but he always got credit for being one of the best pitchers in baseball, at least around Chicago. Accordinly, these teams are not that good, but people like to get on these bandwagons for no real reason.

San Diego Chargers- When will we learn? They are a genuinely bad team in the first month of the team. Not an underachieving team. A BAD team. They still are without holdouts Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson, they are missing Ryan Mathews, seem incapable of putting up a fight on the road, and ar entirely too dependent on Antonio Gates to really be successful. They will probably end up winning the division because their division is pretty weak, but they are really not that good. They will get better as they always do, but let’s not get carried away and call them a really good team.

Dallas Cowboys- Oh, my favorite punching bag, I am glad to have you back. They came out and beat the Texans because they had to, but they will almost certainly disappoint when they are needed. Felix Jones is suddenly incompetent along with the offensive line and the stupid penalties continue to kill them. They too may end up winning the division because it lacks an elite team, but there is not really any way of knowing for sure yet. A big part of me hopes they fall flat on their face so I can point out how bad a coach Wade Phillips is, how bad a coordinator Jason Garrett is, and how every ounce of hype they get is undeserved, but that will probably not happen. Notice how both these teams so far have had truly laughable head coaches?

Minnesota Vikings- Once again, mix a laughable head coach with chemistry issues and age and you get a Zambrano team. Brett Favre is still not really on the same page as his receivers and while the defense has been fairly good, they are probably not elite. If Favre gets things straight and Sidney Rice comes back in the right state of mind in week 8, then they can fight with the Bears for the Wild Card, but otherwise, they could have some issues. The hype on this team, which has a grandfather (literally) for a QB was unreasonable and they have the stench of a crash-and-burn candidate.

These teams are not necessarily worse than those ranked ahead of them, but I have a hard time putting wildly inconsistent teams up with the consistently above average teams.


These 3 are like the Mount Rushmore of Sucking

The Bengals Group (16)

Cincinnati Bengals- I had to really fight the urge to not put them much lower in these rankings. Carson Palmer is playing some of the worst football of his career, the running game is not clicking like it needs to, and the defense is not quite as good as it used to be. They still clearly have the quality, and more time together as a team should cure much of what ails them, but they are just not that good right now. They are just good enough to escape the Zambrano teams, but not really good enough right nwo to go much higher.

Yup, they got their own division for that. Not a good distinction, but it is something, no?

The Anthony Morrows (15-12)

In the right situation (like NJ) he coudl be good. Same for these teams.

These are the teams that could actually be pretty solid in the right situation and could pull off a playoff run with a few breaks.

Chicago Bears- Much has been made of the fact that the Bears could easily be 1-2, but the bottom line is that they are 3-0. The defense is legitimately good and the offense has been fairly efficient so far even though it has hit some definite rough patches at times. I am not sure if this team is genuinely good or just genuinely lucky, but when it comes to looking at the team on the field and wondering if it will win, who cares. They should be able to continue to get wins moving forward even though they are not necessarily that great.

Kansas City Chiefs- We already talked about them, so we will keep this brief. They are not a good team, but they are a great home team, and that is worth something in a somewhat easy AFC West. The defense is solid, the special teams are explosive, and the offense, Matt Cassel aside, is somewhat workable. This team can win the West, but they will need some help.

Denver Broncos- Call it my Colts Kool Aid, but I liked what I saw out of the Broncos last week. Part of the reason I liked it was because they functioned exactly like I said they would in my preview. I thought they could move the ball just fine on offense even without Brandon Marshall (how does 476 passing yards for Kyle Orton sound?), but when it came down to crunch time, they did not have anyone they could go to and be sure they would succeed. It showed as 4 trips to the red zone ended in 6 points and a 14 point loss. They are a pretty solid team, but they do not have anyone to take the last shot, to use a basketball term. If they can keep the game from getting to a point like that, they will be fine. Otherwise, they will find themselves on the unlucky side of the score line too often.

Miami Dolphins- They seem to be perennially disappointing but I have liked what I have seen out of them so far. They had that game against the Jets, but they just managed to throw it away, courtesy of Will Allen’s lack of concentration on 3rd down and his inability to look for the ball on that final pass interference call. They are actually moving it pretty well through the air, which will serve them well against New England, and the defense has been improved, although not that great so far. They could end up being pretty good, or they could end up being just alright like usual.

The Samson and Delilah Teams (11-10)

The problem jsut sticks out like a sore thumb

These teams are Samson, but while wearing a hat that reads “Cut my hair”. In other words, these teams are pretty good, but seem to just have an obvious flaw they will fight all year.

Baltimore Ravens- I am not sure if their clear flaw is the offense or defense, but seems that on any given day, it is bound to be one of them. They just gave up 140 yards rushing to Peyton Hillis. Yes, the 3rd best Arkansas RB in his draft class. Other times, like against Cincinnati, Joe Flacco turns into Joe Ballast and succeeds in sinking the team. Perhaps the Samson does not work so perfectly for them, but they are clearly a team that has not put it all together on any one day so far. i still think they are really good, just not as good as they should be.

New England Patriots- Defensive mastermind Bill Belichick is not looking very happy right now. That is technically a fact since he never looks happy, but even more so now that the defense is so bad. They let Mark Sanchez beat them in week 2, and nearly let Ryan Fitzpatrick bring Buffalo back against the Pats. Ron Jaworski continues to point out how teams are shredding their zone defenses, but I am not sure if they have the chops to go man-t-man either. This is a potentially fatal flaw for the Pats.

Houston Texans- This label was almost entirely named for them. They are a pretty damn good offensive team with balance and toughness. They are perhaps the worst pass defense in the league. They just get absolutely gashed with a fairly scary regularity, and it got so bad on Sunday that they could not even stop Mr. Washed-Up, Roy Williams. They are really really good, except for that one glaring flaw that could cost them a shot at winning the division and will cost them at least a couple games down the line. Ironically, they are not in this next group, which is also named for them.

The Matt Schaubs (8-5)

Once upon a time, Matt Schaub was a backup in Atlanta to Michael Vick. Everyone would say “Oh yeah, Matt Schaub could lead an NFL team and be a good QB”. The amazing part was that they were right. It NEVER works like that. The backup is always a backup for a reason and when you try to turn him into your franchise guy, it just does not work. Except in cases like that. These teams are right up there and part of us knows that they are that backup that really can’t get it done, but they keep showing otherwise on the field.

Sanchez has looked THIS good the last few weeks.

Tennessee Titans- Can I believe in Vince Young? Probably not. But they win and do it regularly, so until I see otherwise, I am going to keep picking the Titans to succeed. Yes, the blurbs are getting shorter because we are above 3200 words.

Atlanta Falcons- The defense remains a concern, but it still looks like a definite playoff team to me. Especially in an NFC where very few teams are asserting themselves. Let’s see if Matty Ice can put a few starts like his last one together or if he goes back to throwing picks too often.

New York Jets- Frankly, I am still getting used to the idea of Mark Sanchez being a potentially good QB. It very well may pass and open the door for the Pats or Dolphins to take the division, but right now the Jets are clearly the best team. I do not especially think the Jets will win this division, but I have to give them credit for beating their two rivals in the division and doing it with offense in addition to the defense.

Philadelphia Eagles- Michael Vick is the MVP right now. He has given their running game life (both through his legs and distracting the defense while LeSean McCoy runs wild), is making DeSean’s Jackson’s haters look foolish (like me this year, though I loved his chances before the season last year), and most importantly winning games. I am not entirely sold on their defense yet, but the Eagles might even be the favorites in the NFC East if a few things happen, and they are big ifs. IF Michael Vick stays healthy and consistent, they will be good, and IF the defense shores up, they could be very good.

The Early September Yankees (4-2)

These are the teams that we know are really good and are just getting settled in sort of with solid 2-1 starts. They are not in full out juggernaut mode, but they will get there.

Indianapolis Colts- Peyton Manning is off to his best statistical start of all time, Austin Collie looks like a Pro Bowler, the defense is suddenly stopping the run (and not the pass, but don’t get me started on that right now), and everything seems alright with no undefeated teams in the AFC South. They will be contenders once again, and that should surprise no one. Expect a close one against the Jaguars this weekend, but that is only because they always play the Colts tough.

New Orleans Saints- They have hit a few speed bumps, but they should be just fine going forward, Greg Williams is continuing to prove people like me wrong that say the defense cannot consistently create turnovers, and as long as they are getting turnovers, they should be just fine defensively. If not for Garrett Hartley’s chunked chip shot, the defending champs are 3-0. Yes, the same kicker who hit all his long field goals in the Super Bowl. God won that Super Bowl for the Saints, not the players. No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?

Green Bay Packers- They embarrassed themselves on Monday night doing their best Cowboys impression and throwing the game away with stupid penalties, but are still the favorites up north. They could really use Al Harris, but they can make due in the mean time. They will be there down the stretch without a doubt.

THE BEST TEAM RIGHT NOW (#1)

The Pittsburgh Steelers

Again, please read the “Right Now” part of the title. They will be getting Big Ben back after this week and as long as Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith stay healthy, they should be considered the favorites in the AFC North. They have to prove themselves this weekend against Baltimore, but I think they will pull it out and solidify themselves as the team to beat in that division. Again, we already talked about them, so we are going to cut it short here and let you get to your College Football watching this Saturday morning.

Enjoy!

College Football Wrap Week 4: Boise, Busts, and QBs

New format for this week since it is getting really boring just recapping games you doubtless already saw highlights for. Get excited.

The New Boise State

America's honeymoon with Boise State should be coming to a close.

I do not get around to saying too many controversial things, so I would like to take this chance to do that. You, as a college football fan, should not root for Boise State. Wait, before you hang me, have my lifeless corpse fed to pigs, and then kill those pigs for having any remnant of me inside them, allow me explain.

Once upon a time, Boise State was the little guy. They did not have the athletes of the bigger teams, but it did not matter because they were a disciplined team that did the little things right and had moxy like few other teams in the country. We rooted for them because they were spunky without being jerks, had an awesome field, and executed to perfection. What is not to love about that?

Nothing. If Boise was still all those things above, I would still be in their corner, but they are not. This weekend against Oregon State gave us a real look at what Boise State is now and what it is not. Let’s go through the things above one by one just so you know I am not leaving anything out or denying them credit somewhere they deserve it.

  1. The Athletes- There is no reason to blame a team for having better athletes, and I am not doing so. It is great that better athletes and football players are going to Boise to play football. Not docking them any points here.
  2. Discipline- This is a huge sticking point with me about Boise. The Boise teams we fell in love with played the game clean and were almost always the less-penalized team. The new version of the Broncos commits dumb fouls far more often and a good deal of this up-tick in penalties comes with personal fouls. Boise was always teh team that played it straight up more and would beat you with its discipline. It seems that somewhere along the line they have started to lose that.
  3. Doing the Little Things Right- I feel, rightly or wrongly, that the college teams that do the little things right seem to excel in special teams. My logic follows that if a team pays attentions to the details in practice, this is an area where that attention to detail and the little things would show up. In both the Virginia Tech and Oregon State games, Boise gave up big returns and seemed to commit costly penalties at a rate unheard of for them. They still get it done because they have superior athletes, but their ability to do the little things right is waning.
  4. Moxy- In tact, but predictably lower with their higher ranking.
  5. Spunk- Lately I have been watching the Boise State games and seeing more and more of what would cross the jerk-line. The jerk-line is an imaginary line that is of no football significance that determines if a play was just made with outstanding energy, or if it crossed into being an act of self-promotion in addition. Boise State’s players have been crossing that line with more and more frequency and it is unsettling for a fan expecting to see a team come out there and do things “the right way”. It does not meant they are not making plays, just makes it harder to root for some of their players.
  6. Blue Field- Still there. Still cool.

So why shouldn’t you root for them? You are still welcome to, but if you are doing so because they are a little guy doing it right, you need to change your reasoning. They are not now the evil empire or anything, but they are not what they used to be as far as a small market team doing it right. Same goes for the Minnesota Twins in baseball and Gonzaga in college basketball. Nothing wrong with rooting for them as long as you are not disillusioned about the team you are rooting for.

Luck, Locker and Mallett

Coming from a Notre Dame fan, this will probably sound like sour grapes, but I promise it is not. I walked away from that game sure of a few things, but one which is pertinent to the NFL. Andrew Luck is not that good. Notre Dame played in a soft shell defense or much of the game allowing receivers to run free for 10 yars underneath before being touched by a defender (sweet strategy, Irish). However, Luck was only 19-32 for 238 yards, 1 TD and 2 picks. His arm strength was nothing to write home about, his decision making against a pretty mediocre defense was sub-par, and, most of all, he only completed 19 of 32 on routes that were mostly underneath with very little close coverage. You are telling me this it the #1 pick in the draft? Not a chance. He might get picked there, but he is nowhere good enough to live up to it. In fact, this current group of quarterbacks reminds me of a QB draft class a few years ago.

Coming out of that year, we had two highly touted QBs (one from the Pac-10). One was noted for his accuracy and leadership but lacked arm strength and the other had supreme athleticism but there were questions about his mechanics. The third guy in that race was a big armed QB from the SEC who had some decision-making issues but was athletically gifted. Those players? Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Jay Cutler.

The next Cutler?

This is not the purest comparison, but as far as an NFL draft class, I think it holds true. Luck plays the role of Leinart; a savvy QB who would not kill you on his own, but surrounded by an excellent running game and a good line, he thrives. The most flawed among these comparisons is Jake Locker and Vince Young because Terrelle Pryor is clearly more related to Vince Young than Locker is, but bear with me. Locker is still learning the QB position and is probably an even better athlete than Young. Locker has been shooting himself in the foot lately with some shaky play, but he will still go pretty high because of his athleticism and the team will vow to “turn him into a top QB” somewhat like the Titans did with young. Perhaps the example I like best is the Jay Cutler-Ryan Mallett comparison. Both are from the SEC, blessed with outstanding arms, height, all the measurables, and none of the decision making abilities. Like Cutler, however, I think Mallett will be the best NFL QB of these three and will likely get drafted a bit after them, assuming they all come out this year.

If there is a pool taking bets on which of the three will have the best NFL career, give me Mallett and everyone who wants to bet on Luck and Locker.

Alabama over Arkansas

I am not going to waste too much time here. I just have to say “that is why they are the champs”. The composure down the stretch was absolutely frightening and Mark Ingram looks as good as ever. We were spot on about Arkansas not being for real, too. Watch out for the Tide.

Execution Issues

At least Notre Dame didn't steal a pea puree.

I would like to start this little section where all sports columns start: with a quote from Top Chef. In the most recent season, there was a quote, which I could not find online, in while Amanda says of Alex, “Alex is a really good chef, he just has execution issues”. Why is this relevant? Because there are many college teams this applies to. Since I am most aware of my own team, I will use the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It seems like they have good players on offense, but they just cannot move the ball. Whether it is a dropped pass or just a bad route or throw, the offense just seems to find a way to punt. Same is true of the defense. There are flashes of brilliance (all of them from Manti Te’o), but they just cannot stop anyone when it matters. They are a good team if things go right, they just have execution issues. This is true of teams all over the country who seem like they should be able to put it together, but just do not.

The moral of the story? Well, anyone who watched Top Chef knows that Alex was an awful chef, and that if your team fits the description above, you are a pretty bad football team. Execution is like 90% of the battle, so if you do not have that, you do not have much of anything.

The Pretender List

We started this last week and I figured we would check in with these highly touted soon-to-be busts. I reserve the right to add teams to this list as they reveal themselves.

Oklahoma- Snuck past Cincinnati in a game that the Bearcats absolutely threw away at home. Meeting with the Longhorns next week. Speaking of which…

Texas- Thrashed by UCLA at home. Thrashed. Redemption vs Oklahoma, but both are pretenders

Wisconsin- beat Austin Peay by 67 points. Might have over-exaggerated the Badgers’ issues, but I do not like them long term.

Auburn- Snuck past South Carolina at Jordan-Hare Stadium. If South Carolina holds onto the ball they come out of a big conference road game with a W.

Oregon- Offense is prolific, but if not for 7 Arizona State turnovers, the Sun Devils have a legitimate shot at the upset. Not impressed by the Ducks this year.

Florida- Looked better against Kentucky, but lots of teams look good against Kentucky. Alabama should blow them out next week.

Michigan- Denard Robinson is a one-man wrecking crew, but that is the problem. one injury or one bad game and they are done. There is NO way they are the 20th best team in college football.

USC- I do not think most people think the Trojans are contenders at this point, but they are on the list just to be safe. Notre Dame might actually beat them this year, though I wouldn’t bet on it.

Alright, that is all for this week, the Picks column should tie up any loose ends about next weeks matchups.

Pigskin Pick’em: September 18th

Not to toot our clownish horn too much, but last week was a smashing success for our Pigskin Pick’em as we nailed all 5 games we picked, including the KC over SD upset (ARTICLE HERE). 5-0 is a nice place to be. However, that really just means you can expect me to go around 1-4 this week. Maybe 2-3 if I’m lucky. But that’s half the fun, because if I was right every time, I wouldn’t really bother watching the games because I wouldn’t have to prove my omniscience (please put some clothes on). So let’s get to the somewhat weaker slate of games for the week so we can put fears of my omniscience to rest.

(9) Iowa Hawkeyes vs. (24) Arizona Wildcats

After running the option in Remember the Titans, Sunshine went on to play QB for Arizona.

How do I put this lightly… The college football games this week are going to be worse than American Idol without Simon. There are almost no good games to even pick from to watch, let alone pick, so we are just going to do the one college game this week and cut our losses. It will get better, but we are stuck with a Saturday full of disappointment for now. However, we appear to have a dandy in the desert as the Hawkeyes head to Tucson to take on 24th ranked Arizona. The result? The Big Ten proving it really does not suck like people out west and down south like to think. The Hawkeyes are a well-drilled team with a QB who almost never loses in Ricky Stanzi, a running back who produce (regardless of who it is, they ALWAYS have a good RB), and a defense that hits harder than Ivan Drago. Arizona will obviously try to spread it out and like Nick Foles jab at the defense, but I do not think the Cats have the speed or route-running to get open for Foles to get it to them. I think the result is a lot of forced throws, and thus, a lot of turnovers for Arizona, and nothing kills an upset bid faster than turnovers.

Iowa 26, Arizona 14

With our shortage of college games, that means we are picking 3 NFL games before our Upset Special. Unfortunately, it seems the teams that played intriguing games week 1 are back at it again. Once again, we will be covering the Pats, Jets, Bengals and Ravens, and while that is less than ideal, I want to pick the games that people are most likely to disagree on instead of gracing you with the knowledge that Green Bay will beat Buffalo, or boring you to death talking about the KC vs Cleveland game.

New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

The Jets need this game like Tyrone Biggums needs crack. Maybe worse. Their offense was horrendous against the weakened Ravens, their defense was penalty-prone, and they just seemed to make dumb plays over and over (I’m looking at you Dustin Keller). The Pats on the other hand, dismantled the Ravens in winning 38-24, and it wasn’t that close. Has all the makings of a classic “We Need It More Than You Do” game for the Jets and a “Rest On Your Laurels” game for the Pats. BUT. Do you really think a Bill Belichick coached team can rest on its laurels? I don’t think so. I do not think the Jets running game will be as incompetent as it was against Baltimore, but I also know that Bill Belichick is going to make Mark Sanchez beat him if the Jets are going to win. There is no way that happens. None. Do not expect the Pats to go out and score 30 points, because the Jets defense is still really good, but the Jets offense is going to need to score a TD or 2 to keep up and I think they will fall behind and be forced to the air. The Pats are the pick.

Patriots 21, Jets 10

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Whenever you think he is done, he isn't. He was great in the Jets game.

Many have been saying that you do not pick a team that played in an emotional Monday Night game the following week. My rule is that you do not pick a defense that just got exposed and an offensive line that couldn’t block anyone to beat a team that is more talented than they are. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I am picking the Ravens here. The Ravens faced the best defense in the league last week, and going into the season it looked like they would face another good one in Cincinnati, but I am not so sure that is the case. The Patriots absolutely shredded that secondary, and the Ravens have enough weapons to do the same. Add in the fact that the Ravens are way more physical up front than the Pats and I could see the Bengals just getting mauled by the running game and the passing game not needing to thrive. The Bengals showed an inability to run the ball against the Patriots and they will not run the ball against Baltimore either. They will once again get forced to the air, where they put up good stats, but did not do any of it until garbage time. The Ravens will win this game. I would say they would win by a lot, but I do think they will be a little tired and Cincy will bounce back enough to make it seem respectable.

Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 17

Alright, we are fairly short on interesting teams playing interesting games this week, and the two NFL games we picked this week are the exact same teams as we talked about last week, so let’s throw a pick against the spread in there to keep it interesting.

Chicago Bears (+7.5) vs. Dallas Cowboys

Oh, the Cowboys. Eternally talented. Eternally inept. The Bears defense looked just good enough to force Tony Romo to throw it 35 times (we went over this HERE). The Bears offense, on the other hand, while still completely useless when it matters (like 1st and Goal on the 2), looked almost respectable. The Bears are not winning this game because Dallas will pressure the QB relentlessly, but I think that Dallas -7.5 line is way too high. Gimme da Bears over da underachievers.

Chicago 16, Dallas 21


Upset Special (Underdog by around 5 points picked to win)

Yup, I used this picture again. Why? Because it is a clown. What do clowns have to do with upsets? Stop asking questions.

I am not looking forward to writing this section this week. There were plenty of options, but the one that really stuck out to me kind of felt like a smack across the face. It was such an inviting game to pick as an upset, and yet it goes against every rule about overreacting to week 1. Part of me is picking it as the upset in hopes that it will jinx the team I am picking to win, but part of me really thinks that it is going to happen. The underdogs clearly have what it takes to pull it off. A brutal rushing attack, a defense with a pass rush, and a QB good enough to beat a mediocre defense when he has to.

Drumroll please, though you probably already know where it is headed…

New York Giants vs. Indianapolis Colts

Will Eli be Cain or Abel?

Ugh. The Giants have a big, strong offensive line, and I am really just sort of at a loss for what to say about the Colts run defense. I really hope it is just the zone blocking like some of the analysts said, but what if it wasn’t. What if the D-line was just getting manhandled? What if the LBs are good, but can’t handle offensive linemen getting to the second level immediately because they are using TEs to block Robert Mathis? The Colts will be screwed. Of course, Colts-screwed is different than most-teams-screwed because they have Peyton Manning. Last week, the Colts gave up around 250 yards rushing. 250. And they had very few offensive possessions (they routinely have the fewest in the NFL due to teams trying to play keep-away with Manning). And up until Austin Collie caught a pass down the middle, got popped, and lost the football, the Colts were right in that game. They were getting annihilated on defense, and the offense was getting on the field twice a quarter, and they were right in it. Amazing in one sense, but awful news on the other.

The Giants clearly have what it takes to beat the Colts. Eli can pick Cover 2 apart all day, and the running game can take care of the rest. The defensive line will indubitably be able to get pressure on a rusty and sieve-like Colts O-line. The only concern I have as far as the upset pick (or to phrase it differently, “the big hope I have as a Colts fan”), is that the Colts have a way of bouncing back, and as I said, the Colts were right in that Texans game despite getting mauled, until that fumble. But if Garcon keeps dropping the ball, the offensive line keeps playing matador, and the defense can’t stop anyone, then the Colts are going to be on the train to 0-2ville.

However, I should make it perfectly clear I like the Giants a lot this year, and would go as far as to pick them to win the NFC East if Dallas does not figure it out soon. They have the pieces to beat the Colts, and if they execute well enough, they can do it. It hurts me to do it, but…

Giants 31, Colts 27

Season Record: 5-0
Last Week: 5-0
Upset Special: 1-0

NFL Week 1

Once upon a time there was a boy who was very talented. He and his friends would hang out and enjoy their talents and try to get better at them so that they could do well in school. Billy was good at English, Johnny was good at math, and Esteban was good at economics. So come the first day of school, Billy, who was good at English, enrolled in all math classes and did not attend his English class, Billy enrolled in all economics classes and did not attend his math classes, and Esteban enrolled in all English classes and skipped his economics classes.

All three boys failed their first assignment.

Now this thinly veiled analogy is far from interesting or complex. In fact, it is just a story about three kids who were stupid and it cost them. It is simplistic in every sense, but just makes you wonder, why were those three teams so stupid? They knew what they were good at, and they just ignored it and paid the price for it.

So how on earth can a team of highly paid professionals do the same thing seemingly every Sunday in the NFL? I know the Monday games have not been played yet, but we have pushed up the date of the article for a couple reasons you will find out about soon. Let’s discuss the carnage of week 1.

The Dumb Kids

I was originally going to lump them all together as dumb, but I think a few deserve so much criticism that I wanted to discuss them individually. Buckle up if you are a fan of one of these teams.

Dallas Cowboys

I actually loved watching the Cowboys shoot themselves in the foot on Sunday night. This little section about them will not get into the extreme number of penalties they get, nor will it go into how teams reflect their coach and the Cowboys reflect Wade Phillips lack of discipline. Hell, I am not even going to harp on how flabbergasting it was to actually call a play at the end of the first half (which lead to Washington’s only TD). I am here to talk about why Dallas is one of those dumb kids.

Dallas has 3 outstanding backs in Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, and Felix Jones. Dallas has a mammoth offensive line capable of mauling Silverback gorillas in their sleep. Dallas has a pretty good QB who would be a great QB if he was just asked to be a game manager instead of being asked to go out there and win games for them. So naturally, the Cowboys are a great run team. Wrong. Dallas is so infatuated with the pass that they ignore their ground game, which could probably be the best in football. When you decide to throw the ball 40 times a game, you open yourself up to inconsistency. The really good teams that throw it a bunch have elite QBs, and Tony Romo is not an elite QB. Why do you think the Cowboys lose random games that they have no business losing? That inconsistency manifests itself in extreme forms every once in a while, and it is the LAST way you want to structure your team for a playoff run.  He is very solid, and can make plays in multiple ways, but he is not an elite QB. I don’t care what his stats are, lots of QBs could have his stats with that cast. For some reason, Wade Phillips, Jerry Jones, and the Ego Empire have decided that the Cowboys should be a passing team. Maybe the worst part for the real Cowboys fans is that the stats look good so the blame gets put elsewhere. It belongs squarely on the shoulders of Jason Garrett.

The Cowboys are that kid who is a math genius who chooses to be a therapist, but not because of any human element like enjoying therapy more. They just are disillusioned and will not win a Super Bowl until they get over themselves.

P.S. The Redskins are not very good either, but at least they do not have an obvious strength to ignore.

San Francisco 49ers

No, the pumpkin isn't Alex Smith. The pumpkin's guts are.

Frank Gore is a beast. Vernon Davis is a beast. The offensive line should be pretty good in a few weeks. Alex Smith is the lukewarm dish at the end of the buffet that will almost definitely get you sick, but that you have to eat because the other entrée option looks like it has already been digested, vomited, and mixed with chicken. So naturally, the 49ers decided to throw the ball. The stats are a little out of wack because they were so far behind, but the very fact that Alex Smith’s first pick lead directly to the rout should tell you plenty. They do not need to throw the ball in any exotic way. Throw a short out to Vernon Davis. Hit Crabtree on a slant. Throw Ted Ginn a bubble screen. Be careful when you are trying to eat that disgusting lukewarm buffet entrée. You have to eat some, but you should really be enjoying the delicious bowl of running game that Chef Frank Gore offers. The offensive line definitely shoulders some blame here, but why on earth are you putting the game in the hands of one of your worst players on offense. I really mean that. Alex Smith is one of the worst players the 49ers have on offense. And they gave him the ball to try and win them the game. I wonder why that didn’t work…

Remember, kids: Don’t drink and drive or give the ball to Alex Smith a whole bunch of times and expect him to do anything other than mess up. Just foolish.

Cincinnati Bengals

This team gets a little bit of a pass from me because the Patriots looked really, really good. However, they also did exactly what I thought they would and abandoned the running game in favor of the more glamorous, but not more effective (see Cowboys) passing game. Again, the offensive line deserve a lot of criticism over the lack of running since it seemed that every play was getting blown up in the backfield and the Bengals were forced to pass from being down, but I honestly think the Bengals would have thrown it anyway. They are getting Cowboys Syndrome. Lots of egos on the roster, lots of misconceptions about how to win football games, and a coach who, while more respectable than Wade Phillips, is not necessarily strong on keeping his players disciplined. Again, they Bengals get a somewhat free pass, but get a slap on the wrist for my suspicions of their intentions. Unfair? It is my column, so go to your room, Bengals.

The Opposite of the Above Teams

Houston Texans

So underrated and unheralded outside of Fantasy communities that all his pictures still have him in Volunteer orange.

I am a Colts fan so it hurts me to write this. The Texans figured out the obvious and stuck to it. They didn’t outsmart themselves, they didn’t try to throw the ball into what was a very solid Indy secondary even though they were the top passing team in the league last year, they just pushed the smaller Colts defense off the ball and carved the Colts up like it was Thanksgiving Day. I mean it is hardly a new tactic as the rest of the AFC South has been doing it for ages, but the Texans were finally able to take advantage of it and overcome a team that has been seen as the boogieman around Houston. The defense had some issues as Peyton Manning did kill them for 433 yards, but the running game was so effective that it did not even matter. Hats off to the Texans and Arian Foster. I think almost any running back could have run through those holes, but hats off to him for actually doing it.

See, in the above examples, it wasn’t like the teams they were playing had a specific weakness that the offenses were trying to exploit, the offenses just ignored their strength. The Texans are a good running team, they just usually can do both well. They saw what they needed to do and did it. And most importantly, it worked.

I could talk for hours about this game, but for your sake, I will not. I will bring up that a few bad breaks like the bad review of the Anthony Gonzalez catch on 3rd and 13 and the unfortunate, but well-caused, Austin Collie fumble could have easily changed the course of the game. However, when you get so severely manhandled up front and your defense is so completely helpless to get themselves off the field, you do not deserve to win. I take my hat off to the Texans, and say a prayer to the football gods that the Colts offensive and defensive lines improve. The only other time the Texans beat the Colts was the year the Colts won the Super Bowl, so it is really not a big deal loss, but if the lines do not improve, it could be a sign of things to come.

Lions vs. Bears

Before we get to the Calvin Johnson situation, let’s talk about how bad this game was. Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards and the Bears only put up 19 points? Is that a joke? They get the ball at the one foot line and can’t punch it in? Even worse, they choose not to take the lead on that possession. Shaun Hill did his best to keep the Lions in check, showing a repeated commitment to sucking and leaving the Lions, who looked pretty good until Tommie Harris planted Matthew Stafford’s shoulder in the ground, just over 100 yards for the game. I though the Lions were the better team until Stafford went out. Forte impressed, and the Bears defense was pretty good, but most of this game was just miserable.

Shaun Hill was evidently channeling his inner torpedo and sinking the Lions hopes, at least until that last possession. I liked Jahvid Best’s performance, but again, when Stafford went out, so did Best’s running lanes as the Bears knew how much respect they had to pay the Shaun Hill passing game (none at all). Neither team really impressed me, though the Bears clearly had better stats, which mean little to nothing.

I think Calvin Johnson caught the ball, went to the ground when his butt hit the ground, and was using his arm to stop his face from hitting the ground. If I was the referee it is a touchdown. I can see why they ruled the way they did, but I think Megatron scored. I do not think I am alone on that. However, it should not have mattered because Calvin Johnson should have been a focal point of the offense all along and they should have tried that type of route with him far sooner. Bears probably deserved to win after the Stafford injury, but consider me unimpressed.

You can be the judge, but it really does not matter either way at this point:

The Rest in a Sentence or Less

Arizona looked pretty bad for much of the game, but a lot of that had to do with the fact that St. Louis played pretty well.

Picking up where he left off.

Miami almost joined the Dumb Kids, but they pulled out the win and were going up against an underrated defense. The Bills still have Trent Edwards and he still is not good.

The Packers tried to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and almost succeeded. The Eagles snatched a moral Vick-tory in seeing that their troubled playmaker still has some juice left, even though they only found out because the Packers were bouncing Kolb’s head off the ground so frequently that they were called for a double-dribble.

Jacksonville played a team I think it is pretty equal to and came out the better team (boring appraisal, I know). The Broncos are pretty mediocre too (even more boring).

The Titans put a cap on what was a very impressive day for the AFC South in dismantling the Raiders. The Raiders started off what is sure to be a disappointing week for the AFC West  by being themselves.

The Panthers were a little underrated as expected and played well on the road. The Giants looked pretty good and if they can get the running game going, might be the NFC East winners.

Atlanta did its best to not score TDs in the Red Zone and succeeded in doing so. The Steelers proved that their defense is still really good and that their offense still really needs Big Ben and a Vincent Jackson (maybe).

Cleveland proved that bad football teams can still play decent football games. Tampa Bay seconds that motion.

The Vikings proved that they are ready to disappoint their loyal fans again. The Saints showed that a little rust can be fixed by facing a QB with more rust on him than the Tin Man.

Monday Night

Well, that is all for now. It just so happened that two of the games we picked for this weekend were Monday Night games and we were just about spot on with our New England pick (including how it would happen) so check it out and enjoy our double-dip on Monday Night.

NFC North Preview

Just a brief word about this division before I get started. I like most of these teams this year, but they have a less-than-kind schedule and their improvements may not show up in the standings. Naturally, some improvements will, but just because I have your team at 4-12 does not mean I think they are only one game better than the Bills or Browns. Yes, that was directed at you, Chicago.

P.S. This article will not use the F Word. You will see what I mean.

1. Green Bay Packers     OTC Projected Record: 13-3

Ever since #4 left, things have been going Green Bay's way.

Calling Card: Passing Game
Weakness: Offensive Line
Franchise Player: Aaron Rodgers

Last year, the Green Bay Packers were everyone’s sleeper. With their new 3-4 defense and a rising star at quarterback, they made a lot of sense as a team to sneak up on people and make a run beyond the first round of the playoffs. However, things did not get off to a good start for the Pack. The offensive line was a sieve, the defense did not learn the 3-4 especially quickly, and, to add insult to injury, that old QB was in Minnesota tearing it up. However, as the year went on, the 3-4 started to stick, and the Packers were suddenly a team that no one wanted to play. That is about where we stand this year with the Packers. They have a fast, mean defense, an offense to rival any offense in the league, and no more sleeper label. The Packers are favorites in the NFC North.

Offense

Aaron Rodgers is headed for elite quarterback status beyond fantasy ranks, but there is more to this offense than Rodgers. The Packers quietly seem to construct a respectable running game every year, and they got a steal in the draft in Brian Bulaga to give the offensive line some much needed help. Greg Jennings is still the most popular Jennings in Wisconsin (over Brandon) and Donald Driver is still solid enough to hold down his deal with Time Warner Cable and haul in Rodgers’ passes. Add Jermichael Finley to the mix at tight end, and the Packers really do not have a weakness on offense. I went ahead and listed the offensive line as a weakness as Bulaga has yet to prove anything, but I think you can tell by my projected record that I think the offensive line will hold this year.

Defense

A new anchor at the center of the Green Bay defense.

Last year gave a glimpse of what Dom Capers wanted to turn this defense into. Going into year 2, I expect the metamorphosis to be complete. They lost Aaron Kampman, but lately it seems like the easiest thing to find is a fast linebacker who can rush the quarterback off the edge. They also have B.J. Raji (remember him? Highly touted DT out of Boston College?) healthy now to help clog the middle and push the offensive line back into the quarterback’s face. They finished in the top 5 in defense last year, but they lacked consistency at times, like the 503 yards passing they gave up to Big Ben in Pittsburgh. Year 2 means fewer wrinkles to fix and more consistency. This is a championship caliber defense.

Special Teams

Mason Crosby is as solid as anyone can be kicking in conditions bordering on arctic for half the year, and the return game is solid, though not explosive, with Will Blackmon. Don’t expect anything wild out of them, just solid.

Overview

The Green Bay Bandwagon is filling up fast, and while I am hardly the only one to like the Packers this year, I feel I am not without reason in picking them to finish with such a good record. I am not sure if they are ready for a Super Bowl run, but there is little doubt in my mind that they will have a chance to prove their worth in the playoffs. Hopefully for the Cheeseheads, someone can block a rusher in overtime.

2. Minnesota Vikings     OTC Projected Record: 11-5

-Insert Child Molester Reference Here-

Calling Card: Offense
Weakness: Head Coach
Franchise Player: Adrian Peterson

The Vikings had yet another offseason filled with news about a 40 year old QB who decided to return. However, there is way more to talk about with this team than him right now. Sidney Rice will miss about half the season after hip surgery, the QB has to try and replicate the best statistical season of his career, and a relative shortage of young guys to step in and fill voids. It will be hard for the Vikings to repeat their performance from last year.

Offense

This team is still incredibly talented on offense, but they seem to be guys on their down side rather than upside. Their QB is from the Mesozoic Era, their RB, while an elite talent, has fumble issues, their leading WR (Rice) is out for 8 weeks, their rookie stud from last year has had more migraine scares (Harvin), and no one on that offensive line is getting younger. Now all these guys are very good players, and should have good seasons, but last year, they all had great seasons. Even Visthante Shiancoe had a great year, cashing They were a juggernaut last year with those great years, and it is very much up in the air if they can repeat any of those performances. Now 11-5 is still very good, but it is a clear sign that they are no longer a lock to blow division opponents out and run roughshod over everyone. Definitely an offense on its down side.

Late breaking as I write this, the Vikings have acquired Greg Camarillo from the Dolphins. I like it a lot for him, but he doesn’t offer the same things as Rice. Javon Walker is a joke.

Defense

One of the funniest men in the NFL. Remember his joke about a "Schism" being an STD? Good stuff. Long live the mullet.

The defense is a little bit different. They are full of veterans who are still very solid, especially up front with the Williams Wall, Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards. The Williams Wall is getting a bit old, but it still is good enough to clamp down and clog up the line like one of their arteries. Edwards plays Robin to Jared Allen’s Mullet Batman, but everything up front is solid for the Vikings. They did lose a bit of their luster last year as teams started to run the ball on them, but they should still be able to be a very good run defense even if they are no longer the best. The secondary is not great on its own, but with the pressure of the front 4, they are more than fine. The linebackercorps is solid too with standouts Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson being the main attractions. They are not as good as they once were, but they are still plenty good to shut down the mediocre teams and limit most of the good teams. They will have problems with the really good offenses, but who doesn’t? I like the defense more than the offense, but it is clearly not what it used to be.

Special Teams

As long as Harvin can avoid looking into the sun and it triggering a migraine, he should be a gamebreaker in the return game, and the Vikings kicking and punting seems to be solid every year.

Overview

Brad Childress will kill this team. I haven’t seen a main piece of a group so spineless since calamari. He plays second fiddle to his quarterback, has little to no respect in the locker room, and still looks like a child molester. Low blow? Maybe, but I am not backing off the statement. He will cost this team, though the offense’s upcoming struggles will certainly not help.

3. Detroit Lions     OTC Projected Record: 4-12

Calling Card: None
Weakness: Defense
Franchise Player: Matthew Stafford

I really like the Lions this year. Their schedule does not. Their division is very tough, they have to play the NFC and AFC East (both of which are very good), and some of their more winnable games come on the road. This is a team for the future, but with this schedule, they are not a team for the present just yet. They will be watchable; they might even be a C+ team, but it will not show up in the win column.

They do not have a calling card yet, but they are going to be a quality passing team this year and Jahvid Best should be a nice shot of life to the offense. No calling card yet.

Offense

The offense should be good this year, but not quite enough to make up for the defense. Matthew Stafford’s rookie year looked a lot like Peyton Manning’s and Calvin Johnson is still a freak so it follows that they should be pretty decent through the air. I even like Nate Burleson’s chances of being a very solid #2 in the offense. However, they have more than that with Jahvid Best, the Barry Sanders-esque RB out of Cal. They even have Brandon Pettigrew, the 2nd year athletic TE out of Oklahoma State, to hold the safety in the middle of the field. I can’t believe I’m saying this many good things about the Lions, but I think their offensive line can even be on the verge of respectable this year with a few guys getting some key experience last year.

Consider me firmly on the Lions’ offensive bandwagon.

Defense

The House of Spears takes Detroit.

Different story here. Ndamukong Suh is a beast and should help immediately, but there are just problems here that he cannot fix. Like coverage. The secondary, even with veteran Dre Bly, gets torched every year but little seems to change back there. They did add some young pieces to the secondary, but they still might get torched more often than they do the torching. Consider it, like the entire defense, a work in progress.

Special Teams

Not much to say. Not the best special teams.

Overview

I like the growth of this team, but it will not show up in the win-loss column. Jim Schwartz has the team heading in the right direction, but between their opponents and a defense still progressing, the Lions may be in line to get another high draft pick while still being solid on the field.

4. Chicago Bears     OTC Projected Record: 4-12

Calling Card: Defense
Weakness: Consistency
Franchise Player: Right now, none

This joke makes itself

Before Chicago collectively shouts me down about this, allow me to explain. Just like Detroit, the Bears have a very difficult schedule this year. They also had serious offensive line issues last year and decided a good way to fix this would be to bring in an offensive coordinator who has the QB sitting in the pocket until he grows a beard. This offensive coordinator also prizes QBs who make good decisions, and dislikes using tight ends. Could you pick a less perfect team for Mike Martz than the Chicago Bears? We have a lot to talk about with the Bears, but you might not like it, Chicago.

Offense

Cutler is still talented. He also still makes bad decisions, and still has no protection. Bad news. Matt Forte had a bad year last too, and while some of that can be pinned on the offensive line, not all of the blame can be placed there. Cutler didn’t throw to him, he couldn’t run effectively, and he drove many fantasy owners to suicide. I do like Devin Aromashodu as a breakout guy, but that is largely as the main target in Martz’s offense, not necessarily because he is the best WR on their roster. Devin Hester is still a playmaker, but I just can’t get excited about anything in this offense.

One example of fantasy football helping us understand regular football right here. Many feel that Martz will ignite the Bears offense and get them throwing down the field productively. However, as Matthew Berry has taken to pointing out, the Bears already threw the ball 4th most in the NFL last year. How much more can they really throw, and how much more effective can they really be with the same bad offensive line another year toward the retirement home.

Oh, and the Over/Under on Mike Martz undermining Lovie Smith is Week 10.

Defense

On paper, this defense is solid. However, the stalwarts on the defense like Urlacher might spend more time on the training table than on the table. Hell, he is already hurt, imagine what happens when he starts playing real games. The addition of Julius Peppers is very nice on paper, but I sense that once the Bears make their race to the bottom like a cheap-labor dependent economy (high-brow there, apologies if it didn’t make sense). He is still a fantastic defensive end, but there is a reason he has not had an elite season in a while. I like it on paper, but the papers change with injuries, and the Bears do not have answers.

Special Teams

A good point for the Bears. Hester may not have run one back in a while, but the field position he gets them purely by being on the field is huge. I think the Bears should stick him back in the kickoff return game. Danieal Manning is good, but I doubt teams kick to Hester if he is out there so he should not be too tired. Play some mind games, Chicago. Good unit.

Overview

Again, much better than their record, but not a good team. Lovie Smith might get fired in season (though we think this every year), and Mike Martz/Mrs. Doubtfire is not a good thing for Chicago. Bear down, Chicago Bears fans. Things are going to get worse before they get better. If they get better…

NFL Week 7

The early games today were truly horrible. The Colts won by 36, the Pats won by 28, the Chargers won by 30, and the Packers won by 28. Apart from a superb Vikings-Steelers game, I have never seen a worse slate of games. Here’s a quick rundown.

San Francisco 21, Houston 24- This one was most intriguing part of this game was Mike Singletary’s choice to pull Shaun Hill in favor of Alex Smith who lead San Francisco back into the game with a little help from Vernon Davis (3 TDs). I was pretty much on with the prediction of Houston being better on the day and San Francisco struggling out of the gate. I am not entirely sure what to think about either of these teams. Houston looks good at times and then is a letdown and San Francisco just comes out flat sometimes. Both teams are somewhere in the middle of the league; they are capable of beating just about anyone but cannot do it consistently enough to really be considered a serious contender.

Indianapolis 42, St. Louis 6– Manning didn’t go over 300 yards, but a lot of that had to do with his defense forcing turnovers and giving him short fields. About what everyone expected as far as score except maybe a little low even?

New England 35, Tampa Bay 7 in London– See above as far as score. The odds makers could not have set this line high enough.

San Diego 37, Kansas City 7– Underachieving only applies when playing a team resembling an NFL team. The Chargers are undeniably underachievers, but calling Kansas City an NFL team of substance is a stretch.

Green Bay 31, Cleveland 3– Ever notice how Cleveland has disease problems? Last year they struggled with staph infections, this year they struggled with Swine Flu, and the entire team just looked sick on Sunday. Here is a good toss up for a typical Browns game: Which will be the larger total Derek Anderson incompletions or Browns points? I think that is a pretty fair line and ESPN should use that on Streak for the Cash.

Minnesota 17, Pittsburgh 27- In a complete reversal of last week’s game, the Vikings managed to play themselves out of this game despite outplaying Pittsburgh for much of the second half. The Woodley fumble recovery was easily the big momentum swing in this game. Leading up to that play, Minnesota had driven 73 yards and was on Pittsburgh’s doorstep, including a 3rd and forever conversion. It was the kind of conversion that can break a team and it looked like that drive was going to break Pittsburgh. However, it went from Minnesota pounding the ball down the field and bearing down on a 17-13 lead. Next thing you know it is 20-10 Pittsburgh. Even Percy Harvin’s kick return could not restore the momentum of that drive. I say that without the Woodley fumble, the Fox pick never happens and Minnesota goes on to win that game, but a big play swung the game and got a W for the Steelers.

New York Jets 38, Oakland 0– JaMarcus got pulled and by some miraculous occurrence, this was a surprise. We all knew he was bad, but no one thought he would really get pulled. He was the little (or enormous overpaid bust) engine that could. We all thought that somehow he would hold onto that job until his arms fell off, but maybe it just wasn’t so.

Buffalo 20, Carolina 9– Not much to say here except Carolina muffed a punt with the score 17-9 and it completely killed their chances. Really nothing to say about this game, I was happier when it was over.

Atlanta 21, Dallas 37– Dallas came off its bye and actually looked impressive against Atlanta. Tony Romo played very well, but I, and many others, maintain that if they built their team around a real trademark running game, not only the team, but Tony Romo would be better. Atlanta just got pushed around, exactly like they did against New England. Do not pick Atlanta against talented teams who are bigger and stronger than they are.

New Orleans 46, Miami 34- Easily the thriller of the weekend, Miami went up 24-3 and could not have played better in doing so. They were possessing the ball, pressuring Brees and keeping the explosive Saints under wraps. Then with a goal-line punch right before halftime, it was like someone used the defibrillator and brought life back to the Saints. The second half was all Saints and the score showed as they outscored the Fins 36-10 in the second half. The Saints are scary and I officially have no problems listing them above the Colts. Not a fantastic defense, but just scary enough to be decent and an offense to match any in the league. The Saints are for real.

Chicago 10, Cincinnati 45– Do not anger Cedric Benson, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Benson gashed a really pathetic looking Bears team for 190 yards on the ground as Carson Palmer put up a svelte 233 on 20-24 passing. This game was frankly unwatchable if you were not a Cincinnati fan. It was 31-0 at the half and over well before that.  Bears fans everywhere shielded their eyes as Cutler threw 3 picks and only managed to get the ball to Matt Forte 10 times. Cincinnati was just clearly the better team, but I do not think anyone expected them to be this much better. A truly embarrassing defeat for the Bears.

Arizona 24, New York Giants 17– I did not watch this game since the ALCS was on (more on that later this week), but in the bit I did catch, all I saw was Kurt Warner slicing the Giants secondary up, especially in the middle with Larry Fitzgerald. It appears the Giants are a bit overrated so far this year after getting blown out in New Orleans and beaten in primetime at home by what was thought to be a fairly mediocre Arizona team. The Giants have not been getting pressure on the better teams so far this year and until they start to do so, they cannot be considered among the league’s elite. Arizona is still enigmatic but not really in the same way as they were last year,

Washington v Philadelphia on Monday Night Football

This is going to be a blowout. The Redskins will not muster 14 points and the Eagles will be on a mission to prove that the Oakland loss was a fluke. Watch out Redskins fans, this one could get ugly fast. Expect a Todd Collins sighting even though none of this has really been Jason Campbell’s fault. What a sad state the formerly proud Redskins are in.