So it turns out week 2 of the NFL season was actually the first crazy week. You can tell just by looking at how many people are left in your Survivor/Eliminator Pool (more on that later). We’ve got a ton to cover in this column so let’s get right into things. And hey, if you can’t read this at work today, I’m guessing tonight’s game between the Giants and Redskins will be boring enough that you can read it then.
Some leftover thoughts from week 2:
- Do you remember Wilma McNabb? Donovan’s mother who dominated our lives in the early 2000s with those starring roles in Campbell’s Soup commercials? Bet you haven’t thought about her in a while. Anyway, she popped into my head last weekend so now we can all remember her together.
- There were two teams who went on record in the offseason with what seemed like outlandish comments to me. They were the type of comments where you think, “Oh man, I hope they don’t have to put their money where their mouths are,” except it was the complete opposite. I always hoped these players would have to step in and try to back up their coaches’ words. First, we have Brandon Weeden. Dallas QB coach Wade Wilson said in June that Weeden is the team’s the most improved player, and then Jerry Jones doubled down on that this week by saying “you won’t find a more gifted passer” than the former 1st round pick. And over in Chicago, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said in June that Jimmy Clausen is a perfect fit for what they’re trying to do offensively.
- Needless to say, I am very very excited about the Weeden and Clausen eras.
- For the time being, it’s officially a two-man battle for the wide receiving entertainment title. Julio Jones vs Antonio Brown. I’m sure others will reappear to challenge them, but at the moment we have injuries to Dez Bryant & Jordy Nelson and guys like A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson and Odell Beckham just haven’t gone off for huge games yet.
- The Josh McCown Helicopter Fail had been my favorite play so far this season until I saw this amazing vine the other day:
- That’s my new favorite play because #40 for New Orleans made me think for the first time ever, “I would have been a better option on that play than an actual NFL player.”
So as everyone knows, baseball great Yogi Berra died on Tuesday. I’m one of those people who really didn’t know him for his accomplishments on the field because I’m not a Yankees fan and I wasn’t alive in the 1940s, 50s or 60s. In my mind Yogi has always been that fantastic quote machine who was probably pretty good at baseball. Reading over some of his best quotes the other day, I couldn’t help but laugh a lot (obviously) and think about some of the current NFL teams. So I decided to run through all nine football teams that are 2-0 as well as the nine that are 0-2, and assign a Yogi-ism to each. Sorry to the 1-1 teams, but you’re just too boring and middle-of-the-road to make the cut for now.
(All quotes came from this article in the Detroit Free Press.)
OK, Yogi, take it away:
“I usually take a two-hour nap from one to four.”
“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
Who else at this point of the NFL season can be paired up with such amazing math-fail quotes than the New York Giants (0-2)? They really did deserve special honors by getting two Yogi-isms. You just don’t see that level of clock and scoreboard mismanagement in the NFL these days, not even from the Mike Smiths and Andy Reids of the world. Besides, with Tom Coughlin being the oldest coach in the NFL, it’s more probable than not that he has to take a mid-afternoon nap just to survive the day.
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
To the New Orleans Saints (0-2), who must have thought their future was bright just as recently as two years ago. After Roger Goodell created a fictitious reality where the Saints were involved in a bounty program, Sean Payton and others were forced to miss all or part of the 2012 season. Upon the program becoming whole again in 2013, Drew Brees and company promptly returned to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. With Rob “People Think I’m a Better Defensive Coach Than I Really Am” Ryan at the helm of the defense and Brees putting up 5,000 passing yards a year, the future should have been bright. Well, they went 7-9 in 2014 and now have a 3-7 record in their past 10 games. Drew Brees has become an unknown commodity at QB, and Sean Payton could find himself on the hot seat for the first time if things continue on this trend.
You know what? I’m also assigning this quote to the Dallas Cowboys (2-0). It’s pretty self-explanatory, right? The future looked very bright for Dallas so recently. A shitty division to compete with, a team coming off 12 wins and seemingly improved in every area except running back during the offseason, a franchise wide receiver newly signed to a long-term contract. It was all going to plan. And now the future is Brandon Weeden, the NFL’s most-gifted passer, for the next two months. (So long to my NFC Super Bowl pick.)
“We have deep depth.”
The scariest thing about the New England Patriots (2-0) isn’t that Tom Brady has started this season better than his record-breaking 2007 campaign or that Bill Belichick is as creative, prepared and diabolical as ever. It’s the depth the Patriots have all over their roster. New England has an offensive line that’s performed incredibly through two games even with three rookies getting regular playing time. Their reinforcements are due back soon. Their defensive line goes six or seven deep, meaning lots of rest and lots of matchup-specific playing time. Brandon LaFell hasn’t been able to get on the field yet? No problem, Aaron Dobson is finally contributing and Danny Amendola is even showing signs of life. And on and on it goes (linebacker depth, tight end depth, basically every position but defensive back is loaded). This team is prepared for almost any injury other than a significant one to Brady or Gronk.
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
Newsflash: Chip Kelly probably has no idea where he’s going at this point. Will Chip be running a different NFL team in 2016? Leading the University of Texas or some other “used to be prominent but fallen on hard times” college football program? An analyst on TV? The truth is, no one knows where Chip was going in the offseason with all his tinkering, and there’s been no further clarity through two weeks of the Philadelphia Eagles’ (0-2) season.
“It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”
For Chuck Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts (0-2), it’s the heat and the humility. Imagine the humiliation that entire team will feel and the amount of heat from above torching Pagano if the Colts lose in Tennessee this weekend. It’s not out of the question that Indy goes into its big game against New England in week 6 with a 1-4 record. If the Patriots then drop 90 on them, Pagano’s gone the following morning, right?
“I never said most of the things I said.”
I bet Houston Texans (0-2) head coach Bill O’Brien wishes he never said the things he said on “Hard Knocks,” specifically when he chose the starting quarterback. He committed to Brian Hoyer for what seemed like at least a month or so before he’d pull the ripcord and swap in Ryan Mallett. That commitment lasted three quarters into the first game. With Mallett looking almost as bad as Hoyer in the team’s second game, what’s O’Brien to do now?
“So I’m ugly. I never saw anyone hit with his face.”
With this quote, Yogi is clearly trying to say, “So what if I’m ugly. Being good looking never helped anyone have success in baseball.” And that must be exactly how the Carolina Panthers (2-0) and New York Jets (2-0) are feeling right now. Both teams are undefeated. Both teams have won in pretty ugly ways so far. No one’s ever going to confuse the Panthers’ and Jets’ offenses with the Packers or Patriots. But who cares? If they play this well against all the bad and mediocre opponents on their schedule, they’ll find their way to 9 or 10 wins.
“It’s like deja vu all over again.”
In 2014, the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) started the season 3-0 and won those first few games by a combined 47 points. They were the toast of the AFC in September. Then they went 2-3-1 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.
In 2013, the Bengals were 6-2 at the halfway point, then went 3-3 in their next six games and nobody took them seriously (rightfully so) the rest of the year.
In 2012, the Bengals started out 3-1 before going on a four-game losing streak. You get the point…
This team begins every season looking like a serious Super Bowl contender. Do not be fooled. Cincinnati’s next five games are slotted for Sundays at 1pm Eastern. In the second half of the season, they have four Primetime games. That is when we’ll see the real Andy Dalton & Marvin Lewis. So let’s all calm down.
“It gets late early out here.”
This quote, or a variation of it, is often used to convey that a team really doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around, even if it seems like the season is still young. And that’s exactly the case for both the Baltimore Ravens (0-2) and the Detroit Lions (0-2). For the Ravens, they play three of their next five games on the road, and the only “easy” game on the upcoming schedule is a home date with Cleveland. If they don’t fix things immediately, they could be staring at a 3-5 record when they hit their bye week.
The Lions face Denver in week 3, play at Seattle in week 4, and then have to deal with Arizona in week 5. I wouldn’t bet against an 0-5 start for them. Would you?
“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”
This is essentially the best the Chicago Bears (0-2) could do right now in terms of trash talking. They’ve lost 17 of their past 24 games dating back to November 2013. That’s bad. That’s Tennessee Titans / Tampa Bay Bucs level bad. It’s entirely conceivable that this team gets the #1 pick in the 2016 draft. Regardless of whether they do or don’t, it’s probably time to move on from Jay Cutler and start fresh.
“It ain’t over til it’s over.”
Who else could this be for except Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (2-0)? Manning had a handful of neck procedures prior to the 2012 season that left many thinking his career was over. Manning had a quad injury that made him look downright terrible at the end of last season that had many people thinking, once again, that his career was over. Manning continues to have no feeling in his fingers due to those neck surgeries. He looks old and creeky. We cringe anytime he takes a hit. And for as much as the Chiefs handed that game last Thursday to the Broncos, Manning still made some plays in the 2nd half when he needed to, and there was enough goodness out of him once he went exclusively to the shotgun that you can’t quite say it’s over for him just yet.
You know who Peyton reminds me of at this point? The 2004 version of Pedro Martinez. That guy routinely gave up a couple runs in the 1st or 2nd inning of his starts, but then would buckle down and all of the sudden he had thrown seven innings and walked away with a decent start. Pedro at that point was the #2 behind Curt Schilling. Maybe Manning just has to be the #2 to the Broncos defense. It’s uncomfortable for a Patriots fan to write a Peyton-Pedro comparison and hypothesize that the Broncos might be in great shape for the rest of the year. Let’s move on.
“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
I have been making plans to attend the Arizona Cardinals’ (2-0) funeral for the past three years. They keep postponing it. I’m slowly coming around on the Palmer-led Cardinals because all they do is win. They’ve won exactly 75% of their games that Palmer has played in since the start of 2013 (18-6 over that time). And each of the last three years, I’ve buried them in the preseason, questioning if they’d even get to .500. Looking at their schedule, I won’t be surprised if they’re 7-1 entering their week 9 bye (and then the schedule gets interesting). This is all based around Carson Palmer, who is doing an extremely admirable job at impersonating Kurt Warner’s late career resurgence on the Cardinals. The former Bengal and Raider isn’t dead yet, it turns out.
“Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.”
Aaron Rodgers has some ridiculous streak going of not throwing an interception at home in several years. I have no idea if it’s an NFL record. I do know that no one will care much once he finally throws a pick at Lambeau. That’s one of those records (similar to Antonio Brown always having 5 catches and 50 yards in each game) that the media and broadcasters seem to shove down our throats whether we asked for it or not. The record I’m concerned most about for the Green Bay Packers (2-0) is “number of consecutive years being a Super Bowl contender without making it to the big game.” OK, it’s an unofficial record, but the Packers have now gone four straight years of having the most talented QB on the planet (not counting Brandon Weeden, of course) without playing in a Super Bowl. It’s great that they’ve started 2-0, but nothing matters for them until January. And that’s when Mike McCarthy will sabotage Rodgers and the rest of the team once again.
“You can observe a lot by just watching.”
This quote gives off a very calm vibe. Basically, if you just sit there quietly and watch, you can learn a lot. And for whatever reason, it makes me think of the Atlanta Falcons (2-0). They are quietly turning back into a quality football team, and they’re positioning themselves very well in the NFC landscape. All the noise in that conference is being made by the chaotic NFC East, the stunning 0-2 Seahawks and everyone’s darlings, the Packers. But the Falcons are just quietly going about their business, unleashing the best wide receiver in football on teams every week, looking halfway decent on defense. There’s not a lot of media attention to give to them because nothing outrageous is happening. But if you just watch them a little bit, you’ll observe a team that just might contend for the #1 seed in the NFC.
“It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.”
This is for the team that still holds the title for talking way too much, the Seattle Seahawks (0-2). If it’s not Richard Sherman yapping about being the best cornerback, it’s Russell Wilson speaking directly to God and then speaking for him to all of us unworthy peasants. Or it’s Kam Chancellor ending his holdout this week by stating it’s time for him to help his teammates and if God forgives all, why can’t he? I just don’t understand that line from him. Who needed to be forgiven by His Holiness, Kam Chancellor? The team that wanted him to live up to his end of the bargain? His teammates who never once threw him under the bus even though he ditched them for no good reason? This team has gone from obnoxious trash talkers who back it up on the field to entitled Chosen Ones who may end up at 8-8 by the end of the year. The Seattle fans should really be praying to god for their team to shut up and just play football.
Oh, and here’s a bonus quote for the Cleveland Browns. Yes, they’re 1-1 and I’m supposed to ignore them, but c’mon, it’s the Browns.
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Josh McCown vs Johnny Manziel. What the coaching staff wants vs what the fans want. No hope vs hope. Calm incompetence vs flashy incompetence.
Mike Pettine came to a fork in the road this week, and he definitely took it.
I have no idea what the right answer is for the Browns at quarterback because I think both options are terrible. I guess since there’s so much buzz (still!) about Manziel, I’d prefer they start him just because it’ll get so many more people riled up on a weekly basis. When I predicted before the season that Cleveland would finish 3-13, I had their next 10 games all as losses. Obviously if they get even halfway to that point, Manziel will be playing. So do not worry, Johnny Football fans. He will get another chance. Either by injury or by complete failure, McCown will hand over the reigns sometime soon.
And now, let’s very quickly go through the week 3 games.
Washington at NY Giants (-4)
The Pick: Washington
The Score: Washington 28, NY Giants 23
After a one-year hiatus, we’re back to where we always seem to be with the NFC East: Four very flawed teams who won’t establish a pecking order until the last month of the season. There’s no point looking at the standings in this division until December 1st.
I lack certainty and conviction for both of these teams. All I can think is that Washington’s defense has the best chance of any personnel grouping to take this game over.
Besides, aren’t there certain teams who are more fun when they just can’t seem to win a game or do anything right? The Eagles are one of those teams. The Browns, of course, are too. And the Giants definitely are.
Atlanta (-2) at Dallas
The Pick: Atlanta
The Score: Atlanta 34, Dallas 14
As you saw in the Yogi Berra part of this column, I’m pretty high on the Falcons. And while I know Jerry Jones is certain that Brandon Weeden is the world’s most gifted-passer, I’m just going out on a limb and saying he won’t be showing off those “gifts” very much in this game.
Indianapolis (-3.5) at Tennessee
The Pick: Tennessee
The Score: Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 21
This was a last-minute switch for me. I had the Colts winning by 10 points or so, but then I thought about how decent the Titans have been in two road games to start the season. In their loss to Cleveland last week, Tennessee dominated in time of possession, total yards, and lots of other stats that typically correspond with winning the game. But they turned the ball over three times, the Browns recovered five of the six fumbles in the game (3 of Tennessee’s and 2 of their own), the Titans took seven sacks and they were penalized nine times. If they can clean up those self-inflicted wounds and the home crowd in Tennessee makes as much noise as they should for the first time in years, there’s plenty of reason to think this is a close game.
Oakland at Cleveland (-3.5)
The Pick: Oakland
The Score: Oakland 18, Cleveland 6
Did you know the Raiders have won only two road games since the start of 2012? And even in all their road losses, I only saw one in the past three years where they lost by less than four points. So this doesn’t feel great, but…Can you imagine the fun we’ll all have if Josh McCown looks bad in a home loss to Oakland and then Mike Pettine has to answer questions for the next six days about why he keeps picking McCown over Johnny Manziel? The vitriol that’ll come from Northeast Ohio will be worth it, trust me. Go Raiders!
Cincinnati at Baltimore (-3)
The Pick: Cincinnati
The Score: Cincinnati 24, Baltimore 20
At this moment, the Bengals are better than the Ravens on both offense and defense. That may not be the case later in the season, but right now Baltimore lacks any real offensive threats and their defense just gave up 37 points to Oakland. And like I said above, we’re still very much in that zone where people think the Bengals might be the best team in the AFC.
Jacksonville at New England (-14)
The Pick: New England
The Score: New England 40, Jacksonville 20
Here’s a first for the 2015 season: The Patriots’ upcoming opponent didn’t spend the week talking to the media about how much they hate New England, or how they finally figured out a way to cover Gronk, or how they feel like the Patriots cheated them out of playoff wins in the early part of the century. This is concerning because I almost feel like Tom Brady and the offense will take their foot off the pedal during the rare games when they don’t have an axe to grind.
Screw it. Let’s hope we’re hearing the first whisperings of “they’re running up the score, that’s poor sportsmanship” from the media on Monday morning.
New Orleans at Carolina (-3)
The Pick: Carolina
The Score: Carolina 28, New Orleans 13
I’m done picking against the Panthers unless they’re facing a good team. For instance, later in the season, they play Seattle, Green Bay and Dallas (probably with a healthy Romo). I might go against them in some of those games. But at home against the Saints? A Saints team that’s pretending Drew Brees might play, but we all know they’re just trying to make Carolina prepare for multiple QBs? Please. Cam Newton could beat this team on his own…wait, what’s that? He has to beat every team on his own? OK, then. I’m even more confident. Cam Newton will beat the entire New Orleans team on Sunday.
Philadelphia at NY Jets (-2.5)
The Pick: NY Jets
The Score: NY Jets 23, Philadelphia 13
This line opened with the Eagles being 2.5 point favorites on Monday. Why the 5 point swing? I’m guessing a combination of the Jets’ impressive win over Indy on Monday night and the uncertainty of DeMarco Murray’s health.
I know it doesn’t always work like this, but I can’t expect this Eagles team to put up any points on the road against one of the best defenses in the league if they couldn’t put up more than 10 at home last week against a mediocre defense. And the Jets will probably want to keep the offense simple and throw the ball 30 times to whoever is being covered by Byron Maxwell. The overpaid cornerback appears to be the second coming of Nnamdi Asomugha for the Eagles.
Tampa Bay at Houston (-6.5)
The Pick: Tampa Bay
The Score: Houston 10, Tampa Bay 7
Nope. Not happening. I am not laying nearly a touchdown to back the 0-2 Texans. They’ve shown nothing to make me think they’re capable of beating anyone by that much. For all we know, Bill O’Brien might wake up Sunday morning and decide Tom Savage needs to be starting at QB.
San Diego at Minnesota (-2.5)
The Pick: San Diego
The Score: San Diego 24, Minnesota 23
I bet the Vikings will be a super popular pick this week. I happen to see an extremely close game taking place. That’s all the analysis I can muster up for two teams that I don’t know very well just yet.
Pittsburgh (-2) at St. Louis
The Pick: Pittsburgh
The Score: Pittsburgh 31, St. Louis 21
On the surface this doesn’t seem like a particularly exciting game, but it features the 2015 season debut of Le’Veon Bell and most likely the NFL debut of Rams running back Todd Gurley. I’m intrigued. I think the Steelers offense is going to be too much to handle, especially on the turf. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t sacked a single time in last week’s win over the 49ers, so the offensive line for Pittsburgh must be doing something right. We’ll know for sure after this game.
San Francisco at Arizona (-6.5)
The Pick: Arizona
The Score: Arizona 33, San Francisco 17
The worst thing you could have done is abandon all your preseason notions after week 1. If you did, you might have stupidly picked San Francisco to cover as six-point underdogs in Pittsburgh last week. But what you thought before the season started is still probably closer to the truth than what one week of football told you. And we all thought the 9ers would be terrible, right? And Carson Palmer hasn’t re-torn his ACL at practice this week, right? OK, then. We’re set here.
Buffalo at Miami (-3)
The Pick: Miami
The Score: Miami 26, Buffalo 20
I could see a very close game here. Just like I thought before the season, I still see the three non-Patriot AFC East teams all being lumped into that 6-10 to 9-7 final record range. Buffalo hasn’t played on the road yet, and they may not be able to run it as effectively as they did the first two weeks against generous Indy and New England defenses. I like Miami in this, but I don’t love them.
Chicago at Seattle (-14.5)
The Pick: Chicago
The Score: Seattle 23, Chicago 17
I participate in a pretty small Survivor/Eliminator Pool. This year we have 18 entries. Last week, all 18 of us were knocked out, which of course means that all 18 of us are automatically back in! That’s great news. Many of you partake in much larger pools where a small percentage of people didn’t lose. And that sucks for you. I think the guy who runs the pool put it best when he said, “What are the odds that the same group of people goes 18-0 picking a winner in week 1 and then 0-18 picking a winner in week 2?” It’s seriously one of the most amazing sports betting outcomes I’ve ever been a part of.
And of course the Seahawks or Patriots will be the pick for an overwhelming majority still left in those pools. If history tells us anything, they’ll both probably win, but one of them will make you sweat it out until the very end.
My guess is that the 0-2 team with a bunch of offensive line problems is more likely to make this close than the 2-0 team that looks impossible to beat.
Denver (-3) at Detroit
The Pick: Denver
The Score: Denver 20, Detroit 10
It’s dangerous to draw conclusions about a team like the Lions when they’ve started the season with two road games. Maybe they’ll look awesome in their first home game on Sunday night. But I don’t think they’re nearly as good as the two teams the Broncos have beaten already this year. Until Denver either loses some defensive guys to injury or a team shows us the blueprint for putting up a bunch of points on them, I’m going to assume that unit will wreak havoc in every game. Matthew Stafford is probably going to get beat up for the second straight week in this one.
Kansas City at Green Bay (-6.5)
The Pick: Kansas City
The Score: Green Bay 29, Kansas City 24
This is very simple for me. I think the Chiefs are going to play in a TON of close games this year. They won’t win in Green Bay, but I don’t see them getting blown out anytime soon.
The weekly tally looks like this:
- 8 Favorites, 8 Underdogs
- 7 Road Dogs, 1 Home Dog
- 6 Home Teams, 10 Road Teams
Enjoy week 3.