NFL Week 5 Recap: The Happiest Day

jags mascot

What a difference a week makes. Where last week’s recap was 100% misery, this week’s recap is all about happiness and the amazing day of football we just witnessed (OK, technically there was barely a recap last week, but you get the point….last Tuesday was a miserable day for a Patriots fan).

A cynic like myself could always find things to be angry about after a Sunday of football (Dallas not covering the spread, more injuries than I can count, Peyton Manning having too easy of a life), but that’s not what today’s recap is all about. Yesterday was just too good to be unhappy. I’m seriously wondering what we did to deserve such an incredible set of games on Sunday.

Here’s what I loved about week 5:

  • My picks against the spread are 8-6 for the week (with the Washington/Seattle game pending), totally respectable considering the roller coaster ride that most of the Sunday early games sent us on.
  • At 1pm Pacific Time, seven of the nine early games hung in the balance. All seven of these games were legitimately up for grabs and super entertaining. It was almost too much to keep up with. Consider the following:
    • The Lions were up 14-0 at home against Kyle frickin Orton…and gave up 17 consecutive points while losing embarrassingly to the Bills. How embarrassing? Well, you’ve probably seen some of the stats on the Lions field goal kicking to this point of the year. They are now 0-for-6 on field goals longer than 30 yards. Alex Henery (now unemployed) missed from 44 and 47 yards earlier in the game, but that didn’t stop Jim Caldwell from marching him out to attempt a 50-yarder to win the game. In the least surprising news of the day, he missed.
    • The Bears were beating the Panthers in Carolina by 14 points in the 1st half, but still managed to lose by a touchdown when Jay Cutler was stripsacked on a last minute desperate drive.
    • The Cowboys outgained the Texans by 125 yards and held onto the ball six minutes longer, yet it took overtime and a nearly-miraculous 37 yard throw and catch from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant for the Cowboys to edge out Houston…because of course the Cowboys turned the ball over every chance they got…like they were trying to teach me a lesson for picking them in my Suicide Pool.
    • The Eagles were rolling the Rams 34-7 with time winding down in the 3rd quarter…and then the Rams randomly started playing well and the Eagles were the ones who couldn’t do anything right. A game that I had stopped paying attention to was suddenly a six-point game with under two minutes to play. And just like their entire season so far…the Eagles got really lucky to escape with a win. They are easily the sketchiest one-loss team in the NFL.
    • The Saints won at home, which we expected. What we didn’t expect was that the Saints would build a 10-point lead, the Bucs would respond with 21 unanswered points to take an 11-point lead in the 3rd quarter, and then New Orleans would battle back in the 4th quarter, eventually winning by six in overtime.
    • The Colts won a close home game as many expected. But it wasn’t locked up until Joe Flacco missed a long 4th down pass with 25 seconds left. Admittedly I didn’t catch much of this game, probably because it was the most boring of all these other games. The most exciting of these early games? That belongs to…
    • The Cleveland Browns won a ridiculous road game in which they had to come back from 25 points down in Tennessee! And even when you realize Jake Locker got hurt and Charlie Whitehurst had to play most of the game for the Titans, you’d be wrong to assume one of the worst backup QBs in football was the reason for this comeback. Neither Locker nor Whitehurst threw a pick. The Titans actually didn’t turn the ball over at all. What happened was that the Browns finally started playing football in the 2nd half. They outgained the Titans 222-93 in 2nd half yards. Even more incredible is that Cleveland needed the benefit of two coaches’ challenges on back-to-back plays in the final few minutes to win. Down by six, the Browns successfully challenged a spot on a 3rd down that would have given Tennessee a huge 1st down. The Titans then went for it on 4th down, and when Whitehurst’s QB sneak failed, the Titans challenged. They lost. The Browns took care of things from there. The 2-2 Browns could easily be 6-2 or 5-3 after their next four games!
  • That seriously all took place over a 25-minute span yesterday.
  • I loved using the Cowboys in the Suicide Pool and getting away with it. I was ready to write how I fucked up by trying to be too cute with that pick, but it’s not like the “safer” picks worked out much better. The other picks in my pool besides Dallas? New Orleans, Philadelphia and Detroit.
  • I loved that Austin Davis wasn’t even aware that a play clock existed with 47 seconds left in the 4th quarter. This made for some great comedy when he was cooly making adjustments at the line of scrimmage as if he had a good 30-45 seconds only to look stunned that they were calling delay of game. I’m not sure he knew that penalty existed.
  • I loved how loudly the Detroit fans booed when Henery missed that 50-yard field goal attempt. When 60,000 people know there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that you’re making a clutch kick, you should probably get your resume updated.
  • Even funnier was that Buffalo threw it right back in Detroit’s face when their field goal kicker, Dan Carpenter, drilled a 58-yarder to complete the comeback over the Lions.
  • I loved the two prime examples this week of “football doesn’t make sense” (we get at least one example of this every week): Kyle Orton won on the road against Detroit, who had the 2nd ranked defense coming into the game, and the Patriots streamrolled what everyone thought was the best team in the AFC just six days after getting embarrassed by the Chiefs. The NFL truly makes no sense.
  • I’m glad that it only took me five weeks to figure out the NFC North is not as good as I wanted it to be. In years past, this could take me all season (and a lot of wasted money) to figure out. I actually had a mini-intervention for myself last night with a friend. We both decided we’re quitting on the Bears cold turkey. I’m not backing them in any way going forward. They’re the worst.
  • The Packers winning the NFC North won’t be quite as unexciting as the Colts winning the AFC South, but it’s not far off. The other teams in that division B-L-O-W.
  • As a Patriots fan and a fan of watching pathetic teams in general, I LOVED what went on with the Jets’ quarterbacks in San Diego. Just like a preseason game, we got to see both QBs for a half. Geno Smith’s first half resulted in a line of 4-for-12, 27 yards, 1 interception and a 7.6 passer rating. Michael Vick’s second half resulted in a line of 8-for-19, 47 yards and a 49.7 passer rating.
  • At one point in the 4th quarter, the Jets had 65 total yards of offense…only a bit less than San Diego’s 418 yards.
  • It sounds like Rex Ryan has already stated Geno is his starter next week. Even if he changes his mind and starts Vick, don’t be so quick to jump on him for fantasy purposes. The Jets’ next four games see them face teams who are all in the upper half of passing defense. It’s not that enticing of a schedule.
  • I loved Brandon Oliver doing his best Darren Sproles impression for San Diego. No doubt this guy is the waiver wire darling of the week in fantasy.
  • I LOVED that sign the Jaguars’ mascot had yesterday. If you’re going to be 0-5 and pretty much irrelevant on the football field, you might as well make headlines in different ways. Keep it going, Jaguars.
  • And finally, I loved hearing one of the play-by-play announcers say the following: “You’re always looking over your back if you’re running out the back door.”

What does that even mean and how can I use it in normal everyday conversation?

After week 6 it might be a good time to take a step back and see how things are shaping up with division races, playoff contenders, AFC vs NFC quality and a bunch of other things. Expect that next week.

And of course, week 6 picks coming on Thursday.

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Touring the NFL: Finishing Up the AFC In the South & West

If you missed part one of the “Touring the NFL” series where we covered the AFC North and East, you can find it HERE.

Today we get to put the AFC behind us for a while, which is nice because it’s really difficult to get excited about more than three teams in this conference.

 

AFC South

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Best known for…

  • The Colts’ deal with the devil that allowed them to transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck without skipping a beat while the other three teams continue to march out guys with names like Fitzpatrick, Henne and Locker

Most likely to…

  • Mimic the AFC East right down to Indy winning 12+ games and no other team cracking the .500 mark

Quick Hits

  • By my rough math, those other three teams have used more than 30 different starting quarterbacks since Peyton Manning came into the league with little or no success.  And the Colts’ fortunes went like this: Best regular season QB in history for 13 years, one fortuitous neck injury, one year of abysmal football, luck into drafting the best quarterback prospect anyone’s ever seen. Whatever the opposite of an ancient Indian burial ground is, that’s what the Colts obviously built their stadium on.
  • The reason I voted the AFC North most likely to be the most boring division in football and not this joke division from the south is because we have actual intrigue here. Will the Colts vault into the Denver/New England stratosphere? Will a new coach and a ferocious rookie pass rusher immediately get Houston back into the playoff mix? Will Jake Locker sustain a significant injury in week 1, week 2 or week 3? Will the Jaguars even once be shown on the Red Zone Channel during the regular season? And will the Colts mathematically clinch the division title by week 4?
  • Even with this division getting the gifts of facing the AFC North and the NFC East as their out-of-division opponents, I’ve got the following win totals for these non-Colts teams: Tennessee 3, Jacksonville 4, Houston 5. So yeah, I’m predicting even less than the 13 combined wins those three teams had last season.
  • Speaking of easy schedules, here’s why I love Indy this year: The least amount of games any team can play against playoff teams from the previous year is three. The Colts have only four such games, plus the near-guarantee of 6-0 against their division.

Fun with gambling

  • The only division winner bet worthwhile in the South, and you’d have to feel really awesome about their bounce back potential, is Houston +300. The others are: Indy -200, Tennessee +700 and Jacksonville +1400.
  • One bet I love–though not necessarily my favorite for this division—is Andrew Luck to win the MVP (12/1). He’s on a team that lacks other stars and doesn’t have much of a defense. Their record gets inflated by their cakewalk division. And the other AFC contenders (Manning & Brady) are old, have much more challenging schedules, and have won it before. The voters might be ready for a new king of QBs.
  • My favorite bet is a tie: Tennessee under 7 wins (-125) and Houston under 7.5 wins (+120).

AFC  West

AFCWest

Best known for…

  • Being the only AFC division in 2013 that could actually make the claim it was competitive and interesting

Most likely to…

  • Produce the biggest shocker of the year (see below)

Quick Hits

  • Here’s how it works, Denver fans. Your team steamrolls the competition on its way to a record-setting season only to fall just short in the Super Bowl (OK, in your case it was like 35 points short). You’re ready to run it back the next year, even conceding that record-setting regular season pace in exchange for finishing the job in the playoffs. Only your Hall of Fame quarterback suffers a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the first game. You miss the playoffs that year, it takes you a full three seasons to recover from all this chaos and you still wake up in cold sweats every night seven years later thinking about what should have been.
  • Hey, can’t a bitter Patriots fan hope?
  • This division has the unfortunate scheduling quirk of having to play itself and the NFC West. In those eight teams, there are five playoff teams from 2013, a 10-win team that missed the playoffs (Arizona) a consensus awesome defense going into 2014 (St. Louis) and…the Raiders.
  • That Raiders team plays nine games against playoff teams from last year. They’re clearly fucked, as if that wasn’t a given. You know who else faces 2013 playoff teams nine different times?
  • The Broncos. Is it crazy for me to predict only a 10-win season out of them? Denver’s first half schedule reads like this: Indianapolis, Kansas City, @Seattle, Arizona, @Jets, San Francisco, San Diego @New England. Seven out of eight games against 10-win teams from last year.
  • Sorry to belabor the point, but I’m in awe of that schedule. Lower your expectations for any record setting this year.

Fun with gambling

  • Well, well, well. Did we finally find our value bets for a division winner? If we believe that gauntlet of a schedule is going to slow Denver down, then indeed we have. The Broncos are the expected -300 while San Diego is +500 and Kansas City is +600. I’ll be backing the Chargers, in case anyone cares. Oh, and if you’re absolutely nuts, the Raiders are +1800 to win the West.
  • A word about the Super Bowl…You know how ever year that random team limps into the playoffs and gets hot & lucky while going on the unexpected Championship run (last year was a fluke)? If you’re looking for an AFC team to nominate, why not go with San Diego (40/1) or Kansas City (50/1)? Just a thought.
  • My favorite bet in this division is: Denver under 11.5 wins (-125).

Phew. We made it through the crummy AFC. Good work, everyone! I’m going to take a three-day shower to cleanse myself from that filth, and then I’ll be back early next week with the NFC.

Enjoy preseason week 2.

In On Meaningless Preseason Football, Out on the Red Sox…Was I the Last One Still In On Them?

For you Red Sox fans out there, when was your “I’m out on this team” moment? Mine was this past Saturday. It was about two in the afternoon when I was casually flipping through channels and paused on their game against the Yankees. Julie saw the game on and asked why I hadn’t been watching it from the start. Uhh, isn’t it obvious, Julie? Because I’m busy watching a Jaguars vs Saints preseason football game, durr.

So on a day when the Sox were putting up a convincing win against the Yankees of all teams, I was not only choosing to watch a meaningless football game between two teams I don’t care about, but I was finally ready to proclaim the baseball season over. I have a feeling many of you were probably out on them long before I was. And if that’s true, good for you. If you were lucky enough to somehow ditch the Red Sox way back in April or May, congratulations, you wasted a lot less time this summer than I did.

Now before you all start screaming at me for being a fairweather fan, you should realize I’ve hung around for plenty of playoff-less Red Sox seasons. But isn’t it OK to give up early on a Red Sox team that is easily the least likable of my lifetime? I can deal with watching meaningless games in September, but I can’t deal with watching meaningless games in September while the actual baseball takes a backseat to ridiculous drama between the players, manager, ownership and local media. If I want a dose of daily drama, I’ll start DVR’ing Days of Our Lives again.

And for the few people reading this who are excited for that moment in six weeks when the Sox miraculously clinch a playoff spot just so you can rub it in my face, here’s a dose of reality:

The Sox would probably have to go 33-8 over their final 41 games (would get them to 92 wins) just to have a shot at a wild card spot. Does it seem like they have that type of run in them? What if I told you 29 of those 41 games are against playoff-caliber teams? Would that help you detach yourself from this team and move on with life?

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I have another dilemma. Just like I wrote about back on April 12th (“Should I Pay to See the Red Sox or Not?”), I now have the option to go see the Sox play in Anaheim in 10 days, but I’m on the fence. Do I go because it’s the Sox and it’s a stadium I’ve never been to? Or do I skip it because it means paying for a ticket, enduring 90 miles of driving (half of which would be during rush hour trying to leave LA), and trying to root for a team that doesn’t seem to give a shit about winning?

I think a quick look at the NFL preseason schedule just made my decision easy…the Patriots play the Giants on the same night as the Red Sox game. Yes, it’s a preseason game, and yes, the NFL Network is bound to show 355 replays of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants from six months ago, but that still might be less painful than watching the most pathetic team in baseball.