Week 5 NFL Recap: The End Of Many Eras

eli manning face

Week 5 in the NFL may go down as the week that marked the end of several eras.

Consider the following:

  • If Gary Kubiak benches Matt Schaub sometime in the next couple weeks, people will point to his past two performances as the beginning of the end. There was the game-changing pick-six in Houston’s loss to Seattle in week 4, immediately followed by Texans fans lighting Schaub’s jersey on fire. And then he follows that up with a three-interception (including another pick-six) performance against San Francisco last night. That’s now nine interceptions on the year for Schaub, including an unthinkable four straight games with a pick-six. T.J. Yates may get a shot to start after the Texans’ week 8 bye if Schaub struggles in his next two starts.
  • Yesterday was the official end of a short-lived era in which we all thought the 2013 Oakland Raiders would be the worst team in football. The combination of Jacksonville losing perhaps their one winnable game by 14 points and the Raiders getting their record to 2-3 in a very good showing against San Diego means Oakland most certainly will not be picking 1st in the 2014 draft. They might not even be picking in the top 5 if Terrelle Pryor continues to look like one of the 18 best QBs in the NFL.
  • The Christian-Ponder-as-a-starter era came to an abrupt end even though the Vikings didn’t play this weekend. With the news that Minnesota has signed Josh Freeman to a one-year deal, Ponder will be relegated to backup status as soon as he’s healthy enough. There’s no way they brought in Freeman and are paying him $3 million this year just to have him sit on the bench.
  • This also spells the end of Matt Cassel’s brief starting career in Minnesota, where he  beat Pittsburgh in London in his one start. As soon as Freeman’s ready, he’s the starter.
  • With Seattle’s first loss of the season in Indianapolis yesterday, it marked the end of the “Seahawks as the NFC favorite” era. That title now belongs to the undefeated New Orleans Saints, as it should. With New Orleans and Seattle looking like the class of the NFC and both teams relying heavily on their distinct home field advantages, suddenly their looming week 13 matchup in Seattle is HUGE. When it’s all said and done, plenty of other games for each team could factor into where they end up in the playoff standings, but no game between two powerhouse teams seems more important than that one.
  • Denver’s win in Dallas marked the end of two eras. First there was the end of an era that started way back in 2006…the era in which we try to use logic and reason to figure out why Tony Romo is so unlucky (or unclutch if you want to call it that). After yesterday’s 500-yard, five-touchdown performance where he was nearly perfect gets overshadowed by another game-ending interception, I think it’s safe to say science and numbers will never be able to explain why he is the way he is. I caught two minutes of a random documentary on TV the other day where a guy being interviewed said he was struck by lightning as a kid and then happened to be in the World Trade Center both when it was bombed in the 1990s and when it was attacked again on 9/11. Some unluckiness in life just can’t be explained. And I feel like Romo is just like the guy in the documentary. He can do everything right from a football perspective for 59 minutes, but when there’s an opportunity for tragedy to happen, he’ll be there.
  • The other end in that game was the end of Denver’s perceived invincibility. It might take perfection from the other team, but they can be beat. One way to do it is to score 50 points, which Dallas came oh-so-close to doing. And maybe another team will come up with a more defense-oriented approach to beating the Broncos. Remember the 2011 Packers and their undefeated season? They had scored 30 or more points in nine of their first 13 games on their way to a 13-0 record, but in week 15, the Chiefs beat them 19-14. So maybe Denver has that type of game coming. Regardless of how it’s done, someone will beat them this year.
  • Going way back to Thursday for a minute, I think it’s safe to say we saw the end of the “Cleveland as a surprise playoff team” era…which is weird because they won that game by 13 and share the division lead with a 3-2 record. But c’mon, with Brian Hoyer out for the season and Brandon Weeden forced back into the starting QB roll, it’s just a matter of time before the wheels come off. Maybe if Baltimore and Cincinnati had lost yesterday to give the Browns a one-game cushion, but no…Cleveland’s next five games are: Detroit, at Green Bay, at Kansas City, Baltimore, at Cincinnati. I love this team like it’s my own, but they’re fucked.
  • And finally, it’s probably the end of the era where Giants fans would say stupid things like “You can’t spell elite without E-L-I.” Manning captures the rare three-interception, three-intentional grounding combo with his performance on Sunday. This football blogger’s hoping a few weeks from now Giants fans are coming up with clever ways to say “you can’t spell elite without Curtis Painter.”

Let’s go ahead and empty out the notebook from the weekend in football:

  • Poor baseball. On Thursday night, this was the order of sports-watching priority for me: 1). Browns vs Bills, 2). The Boston Bruins season opener, 3). The LA Kings season opener, 4). Baseball playoff game. Unless it’s a Red Sox game, baseball playoffs are prioritized just above an MLS game but below almost any other sporting event I can find on TV.
  • I’d be willing to bet that by the time the 2015 season comes around, Thursday night football will either be gone entirely or will be structured in a way that only teams coming off their bye week will play in those games. It wasn’t the freak knee injuries to both QBs during the Thursday game that got me thinking that, it was THESE COMMENTS from Ed Reed and Arian Foster that did it. As more and more players complain about what the four-day turnaround potentially might do to their health, I just think the NFL won’t have a choice if they want to keep pretending they care about player safety.
  • If the Browns do somehow make the playoffs, it’ll be the second year in a row where a team has “publicly given up on the season” only to begrudgingly make the playoffs. Remember that last year Mike Shanahan said the Redskins were playing just so they could evaluate players for the 2013 season, and then they rattled off seven straight wins to get to the postseason. This year the trade of Trent Richardson and insertion of Brian Hoyer into the starting lineup seemed to signal the end of the competitive portion of the Browns season.
  • So Green Bay was playing at home, coming off a bye, against a divisional opponent they historically own, and that opponent’s best player was out with an injury…and the Packers managed only two trips into the red zone the entire day? They had to make five field goals as they couldn’t get the ball anywhere near the end zone? What’s up with this team? More specifically, what’s up with Aaron Rodgers, greatest QB in the game? His offense is healthy, has all his weapons he was expecting going into the year, not facing a lockdown defense by any stretch…I can’t figure the Packers or their quarterback out.
  • When Jacksonville took a 7-0 lead on St. Louis yesterday, I got ready to text all the people in my Suicide Pool who took the Rams and act as if I was a huge Jaguars fan. But I couldn’t type as quickly as Blaine Gabbert could throw a 30-yard pass into an area of the field where there was exactly ZERO Jaguars receivers and four Rams defenders. That interception late in the 2nd quarter made me realize there was no way the Rams were losing as long as Gabbert was in. And even though Gabbert eventually came out with an injury, Jacksonville coach Gus Bradley couldn’t get to the press conference podium quick enough after the game to let everyone know that when he’s healthy, he’s the starter. Hey, Gus, most coaches who are trying to tank the season use a little more tact and discretion when it comes to their self-sabotaging methods.
  • A few years ago me and a group of friends decided instead of organizing a game of football among all of us, we’d organize a mini skills competition. We setup a 40-yard dash and used our iPhones to time each person running. We practiced punting the ball. And we even practiced trying to down a punt on the 1-yard line (always fun to see 30-year-old men diving to save the ball from going into a fictitious end zone). I have a new component to the obscure football skills challenge: trying to catch a pass as a 200-pound man jumps on you piggyback style. In the Patriots-Bengals game yesterday, A.J. Green made a catch over the middle while Aqib Talib hopped on for a piggyback. Talib’s feet were off the ground entirely so Green was dragging around Talib’s entire weight. Green didn’t even break stride or seem to notice another full-sized human on him as he completed the catch. I want to see my friends try this.
  • Even though we all know fantasy football is a crapshoot, that doesn’t make it any less painful when our team sucks for reasons beyond our control. I thought I drafted a good team in a league I’m in with a lot of my college friends, but my RBs happened to be Ray Rice and Steven Jackson. I also had Ahmad Bradshaw as a backup RB. When they all got injured and my record fell to 0-3, I decided to shake things up and play for some keepers next year while still making somewhat of an effort this year. I made two trades before week 4 that netted me Michael Vick, Lamar Miller, Le’Veon Bell and David Wilson. It looked like I might get my first win this week right up until both Vick and Wilson left the Giants-Eagles game with injuries. Some years you can pull all the right strings and still end up on the wrong side of an 0-13 regular season record. At least that’s what I’ll be telling myself for the next eight weeks.
  • Here’s everything you need to know about the state of the New England offense: Losing 13-3 with 6:30 left in the 4th quarter and the offense in a goal-to-go situation, Tom Brady’s best option for scoring a touchdown was throwing the ball to offensive lineman (turned tight end for one play) Nate Solder? Yikes.
  • I’m pretty sure the 2013 Carolina Panthers are the bizarro 2012 Indianapolis Colts. Stat nerds hated the Colts last year because the numbers said they should have been much worse than what their record was. They made the playoffs in spite of those people warning us that they weren’t very good. This year’s Panthers team is beloved by stat heads so far, and those people will continue to tout the Panthers as a team we should be betting on because “they’re better than their record says.” But they just keep finding ways to lose. They have that losing touch. Watch them go 5-11 but have the 13th best team according to Football Outsider’s DVOA. It’s gonna happen so make sure you don’t bet on them just because a really smart person says you should.
  • How amazing is it that the Oakland Raiders are currently in better shape when it comes to their starting quarterback (both in the present and for the near future) than all these teams: Jacksonville, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Arizona, St. Louis (maybe), Minnesota and Tennessee (at least until Locker comes back). That seemed inconceivable just five weeks ago.
  • On Sunday night I read that Tennessee reached out to JaMarcus Russell earlier in the week. Do you think Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance on Sunday (51% completion rate, 1 TD, 2 INT, 57.7 passer rating) makes Tennessee ownership more likely or less likely to try Russell’s cell phone one more time?
  • Parity, parity, parity. We hear it every year. But maybe it really has arrived finally. After Monday night’s game between Atlanta and the Jets, we’ll have 24 teams whose record is 2-3 or better. At this stage in the season, 2-3 is nowhere near out of it. When it comes to the teams that truly have no hope for the playoffs this year, you can only be certain about two: Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. Believe it or not, the Giants and Steelers are each only two games out of first place in their division. This is shaping up to be very interesting and confusing at the same time.
  • As for my week 5 picks, I’m 7-6 going into the Monday night game. In a fair world I’d consider myself 7-5 against the spread with the Detroit-Green Bay game not counting since I picked the Lions on Thursday when no one was talking about Calvin Johnson missing the game. Regardless, an Atlanta cover tonight will give me a second solid week in a row. Things are starting to feel back on track.

Week 6 picks coming on Thursday. Stay tuned.

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Week 3 Picks Against the Spread

cleveland browns suck

As if the fantasy football world wasn’t already chaotic enough this week with the fallout from the absurd number of week 2 injuries, the Cleveland Browns had to go and do weird shit, turning the waiver wire period into a roller coaster of panic and depression for plenty of fantasy owners. Trent Richardson’s value plummets this week (and then skyrockets starting next week), Ahmad Bradshaw’s value takes a permanent nosedive, the entire Cleveland receiving corps’ stock also takes a hit considering defenses no longer have to worry about a running threat or a semi-legitimate starting quarterback. It’s all so confusing.

Speaking of fantasy, it’s great to see Cleveland’s management treating the real NFL season as if it’s a fantasy keeper league where their team is 0-8 and they’re looking to stockpile valuable assets for next year.

By now you’ve seen the tweets from all the NFL reporters stating that only one other top 3 draft pick in the league’s history has ever been playing for his second team as early on in his career as Trent Richardson. So even though it falls short of the insanity that would ensue if someone like Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers was traded during the season, it’s a pretty big deal.

It created quite the stir in my world immediately after news broke. Here’s the timeline of my many reactions to this confusing transaction that went down on Wednesday afternoon:

  • 3:17pm PST: I look at my Twitter timeline for roughly the 356th time today and see Adam Schefter’s tweet stating that the Browns have traded Trent Richardson to the Colts.
  • 3:18-3:22pm: I stare blankly at the wall trying to process this information. My brain can’t comprehend such an unprecedented move.
  • 3:23pm: I go back to Twitter because it’s obviously a fake Adam Schefter account that tweeted the fake Richardson news, right?
  • 3:24pm: I start to see other reputable football reporters and websites re-tweet the original Schefter tweet. This is real.
  • 3:25-3:29pm: I stare at the wall again, befuddled because this really never happens in football, and it doesn’t even make sense if these things did happen in football (I could understand the Jaguars trading a guy like MoJo, that would make sense, but not this).
  • 3:30pm: I scream and repeatedly slam my computer on my desk because I just realized that with Steven Jackson and Ray Rice banged up, Ahmad Bradshaw was going to be a much needed starter for my fantasy team for the next couple weeks.
  • 3:32pm: I realize that the screw job the Browns just pulled trickles down to all of their offensive players because the combination of “RB TBD” and Brian Hoyer at QB means this team might get held to 50 total yards of offense every week for the rest of the year. Jordan Cameron was a guy I was very high on in the preseason so of course I drafted him in many fantasy leagues.
  • 3:34pm: On the bright side, I’m now considering being the only person in my Suicide Pool to not pick Seattle. If I pick Minnesota over Cleveland, and somehow Jacksonville pulls off the miracle in Seattle, I’ll win $500. OK, maybe I’m over-thinking things now.
  • 3:35pm: Calming down now and re-thinking my initial instinct of “Cleveland is the dumbest franchise in sports all over again.” After all, I just wrote a blog nine months ago about how insignificant highly-drafted running backs are in the grand scheme of a franchise winning the Super Bowl (Basically what I’m saying is that there’s no correlation between a team having a highly-drafted RB who performs like a stud and that team going to the playoffs. I went back and looked at the past five drafts. The data backs up my claim).
  • 3:37pm: I finally relax a little. And I’m thankful that three of my four fantasy leagues use daily waiver wires for pickups because I’ve been paralyzed for the past 15 minutes and couldn’t possibly have reacted quick enough to the news that Willis McGahee is now the chic RB pickup based on this crazy NFL trade.
  • 3:38pm: Oh, now I understand why the Browns are starting their 3rd string QB and not Jason Campbell. They’re trying to out-Jacksonville Jacksonville and ensure they get the top pick in next year’s draft. Well played, Mike Lombardi. Well played.
  • 3:40pm: I realize that this crazy trade combined with me writing a detailed timeline of my reaction will distract my readers quite nicely from my 9-21-2 season record against the spread. Thank you, Cleveland.

On top of all that batshit craziness coming out of Ohio, it is now Thursday morning and the site I use for point spreads still doesn’t have a line on four of the 16 games this weekend. That’s when you know it isn’t a normal week. My head is spinning.

Let’s just get to the week 3 picks:

Kansas City @ Philadelphia (-3.5)

Man, how do the Chiefs and Eagles top that beautiful Patriots-Jets game from last Thursday night? Oh, right, they just have to complete more than 27% of their pass attempts and put up three total touchdowns. Got it.

Regarding this line, I know exactly what you’re thinking…the Chiefs cover because it’s at least a half-point too high, it’s a Thursday night game where teams tend to play sloppy and close. I get it. But here’s the deal: Kansas City may be 2-0, but they haven’t proven anything yet. They beat up on Jacksonville in week 1, and then they took advantage of a Dallas team in week 2 that repeatedly sabotaged themselves. The Chiefs didn’t win that game so much as Dallas lost it. Penalties, weird coaching decisions, an untimely fumble…The Cowboys did it all. Philadelphia covers. I’ve never been more confident. Something like 27-17.

San Diego @ Tennessee (-3)

I have no read on these teams. Both have looked good for seven of eight quarters so far this year. And if each of them could have played a decent eighth quarter, they’d both be 2-0. You know, it would be such a Philip Rivers move to get the Chargers to 2-1 and have everyone talking about them being the surprise team in the AFC. For his entire career, Rivers has been doing the exact opposite of what we expected. We figured a young QB in the anti-spotlight of San Diego would coast under the radar, but Rivers came out guns blazing with his constant bitching at teammates, referees and opposing QBs. At one point we annointed him the next Super Bowl winning QB, but he decided an AFC Championship appearance was good enough. We thought he was soft, then found out he played in that ’08 conference title game with a torn ACL. Last year we still considered him one of the top 12 QBs and he bottomed out. This year we wrote him off, and…he just became the hot waiver wire pickup in fantasy this past week. Since we still expect nothing out of this Chargers team, I think they go into Tennessee and win handily, 23-13.

Cleveland @ Minnesota (-6.5)

You don’t announce you’re tanking the season by starting your third-best quarterback only days after trading away your franchise running back and expect your players to show up motivated. How can a single Browns player feel like giving 100% effort this week? They just went from a frisky middle-of-the-road team to an organization who’s already waving the white flag. Or does it go the opposite way, and the players bond over the “those mother fuckers in the front office don’t think we’re part of the future, let’s show them what a big mistake they made” mantra? No, it doesn’t go that way. The Vikings win 24-6.

Tampa Bay @ New England (-7)

If the Bucs don’t have meltdowns at the end of each of their first two games, they’re 2-0 instead of 0-2. And the Patriots didn’t exactly confuse the two rookie QBs they’ve faced so far. In fact, you could say that the Bills and Jets gave away those games to New England. If the Patriots get one less break, they’re 1-1 instead of 2-0. If the undefeated Bucs are facing the 1-1 Patriots, this line is 4 instead of 7. And the Pats still have no Amendola and probably no Gronk. And I’m still nervous about the revelation I had last week that the Patriots typically lose an early-season game to an inferior team. What am I missing here? The Pats are going to win a lot of games by less than a touchdown until they’re full strength (if that ever happens). New England wins 26-24, meaning Tampa covers.

Houston (-2.5) @ Baltimore

Some teams have earned the benefit of the doubt at home no matter how sketchy they’ve looked in recent weeks. Sure, Houston could go into Baltimore and beat up on a beat-up team, but I don’t think they will. Baltimore’s defense will be the best that the Texans have seen so far. I still don’t trust Matt Schaub on the road. The Ravens have a significant coaching advantage if it’s close late in the game. My one concern is the Ed Reed factor. It would just be so perfect if he ices this game for Houston with a pick-six late in the 4th quarter against his old team. But I’m still taking Baltimore to cover and squeak out a one-point victory, 24-23.

St. Louis @ Dallas (-4)

If I could punt on one game each week, this would probably be it for week 3. I’m taking Dallas in this game probably for the same reason so many people take them to win the NFC East every year…because I feel like they’re better than they probably are. I also think St. Louis is one of those “count on them at home, don’t touch them on the road” teams. But four points is just enough for Jason Garrett to screw me over. The scenario I envision is this: late 4th quarter, Cowboys up four and driving. It’s 4th & 2 from the St. Louis 30 yard line. Garrett decides to kick a field goal to go up by 7. St Louis marches down the field and ties it up. The Cowboys win by thee in overtime. I hate this already, but I’ve got Dallas winning 31-26.

Arizona @ New Orleans (-7)

OK, New Orleans, I’m jumping on the bandwagon for one week. I’ll temporarily buy the bullshit you’re selling that Sean Payton’s return combined with Rob Ryan’s influence on the defense has turned this team into an NFC contender. Just know that I’m suspicious and I’ve taken a seat in the emergency exit row of this bandwagon. The Saints win a shootout, 35-27.

Detroit @ Washington (-2)

Call me crazy, but I love the Redskins in this game. Not that anyone wants to hear excuses, but the ‘Skins were dealt a pretty bad hand to start the season. Week 1 was RGIII’s timid return combined with their defense being the guinea pig for Chip Kelly’s offense. Week 2 had them on the road at Green Bay…no one, with possibly the exception of San Francisco, has had it harder to start the year. Detroit may end up being solid this year, but on the road against a team that can run and throw, I dunno. I like Washington to finally get on the board. Obviously if you think the Redskins win, you’re taking them to cover. I say Washington wins 30-27.

Green Bay (-3) at Cincinnati

I’m terrified of betting against Aaron Rodgers and his 127.2 passer rating, but I don’t trust Green Bay on the road. And let’s not forget that Colin Kaepernick and RGIII threw for a ton of yards on this Packers defense. That defense is not fixed from last year in my opinion. The Bengals suddenly have lots of offensive weapons and an aggressive defense. I’m taking Cincinnati to cover and win outright, 27-24.

NY Giants @ Carolina (Pick)

Guess what, Giants? You’re not roping me into this again. It was during week 3 last year when the Giants traveled to Carolina to play on short rest in the Thursday night game. EVERYONE thought the Panthers were a lock, mostly because the Giants had lost several key players to injury (Hakeem Nicks comes to mind) during an exhausting comeback win against Tampa the previous Sunday. This is still fresh in my mind. I’m going with a Breaking Bad quote here, so consider this your SPOILER ALERT.

“…he’s the devil…Whatever you think is supposed to happen, I’m telling you, the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen.” -Jesse Pinkman talking about Walter White

That’s my exact feeling on the Giants. They are the devil (or at the very least they have a deal with the devil), and the opposite of expectations will happen.

The Giants win going away, 37-23. And the Ron Rivera hot seat gets turned up to “scolding”.

Atlanta @ Miami (-3)

At the start of the season, nobody would have expected to see the Dolphins favored against a team like Atlanta. But Miami’s 2-0 start combined with key injuries for Atlanta on both sides of the ball means the Dolphins are actually favored against last year’s NFC runner-up. I’m on record as saying Ryan Tannehill is a bad QB, but the Falcons injuries…that’s the proverbial coin flip right there. Tannehill vs a banged up team…A banged up team vs Tannehill…Finkle and Einhorn…Einhorn and Finkle. Whoops, sorry about that. You know what? The Falcons aren’t going to be able to protect a lead late in games until Steven Jackson’s back. But in this game, I think they’re down by six with two minutes left and Matt Ryan drives them down the field for the game-winning touchdown. He’s a really good quarterback, by the way. Atlanta wins and covers, 24-23.

Indianapolis @ San Francisco (-10)

Let’s assume Trent Richardson isn’t going to have a huge impact on this game. I think that’s fair. You’d want to take the 49ers here for two reasons: 1). They’ve gotta be extremely pissed off after the egg they laid in Seattle, and 2). The Colts just lost at home to Miami. You could even add in a #3…the Colts barely survived a home game in week 1 against Oakland. This has all the makings of a blowout, except the 49ers are more injured than you might think and Andrew Luck in garbage time could easily orchestrate the backdoor cover. That’s what I’m banking on when I say 49ers win, 30-23.

Jacksonville @ Seattle (-19)

I haven’t stopped thinking about this line since I first saw it on Monday. It’s almost unheard of for two teams to be this far apart (at least in the modern NFL). And all week long the thought has been the same from anyone I talked to: “Yeah, Seattle’s gonna kill ‘em, but that line is just too high to bet on.”

I thought I agreed with that until this morning. You see, the only way you can back Jacksonville is if you think Seattle takes its foot off the pedal after they go up by 28 or so. Then the Jaguars get a couple garbage time scores, and boom, you’ve got yourself a Jacksonville cover.

But you only need to look back to last year to know the Seahawks won’t play it like that. In a week 14 home game against Arizona, the ‘Hawks were up 38-0 in the 3rd quarter and 51-0 late in the 4th quarter, and both times they still aggressively went for and converted touchdown drives. Their final touchdown in a 58-0 blowout came with 2:32 left in the game. So yeah, they have no problem running up the score. And does anyone reading this think the Jaguars are as good as last year’s Cardinals team?

During the 2012 season, Seattle also won games by 29, 33 and 21 points. Covering this 19 point spread would not be unprecedented for them. So for those reasons, I’ve gotta take Seattle to cover with a final score of 52-13.

I desperately wanted to get cute with my Suicide Pool pick this week, but after much thought, Seattle is clearly the pick.

Buffalo @ NY Jets (-3)

Hmm, two rookie QBs, two AFC East afterthoughts…two, ah fuck it. I’m taking the Bills, 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Pittsburgh

As a rule, I don’t have many gambling rules. But I’ve got one that applies to this game: “Beware of the undefeated team that’s playing a road game against a seemingly inferior team early in the season.”

Sure, the Bears don’t look dominant by the traditional definition, but they are 2-0 and they’re facing what could be a terrible Pittsburgh squad. No doubt you can find plenty of reasons to take Chicago here, but I’m going with Pittsburgh to win outright, 23-20. The Bears are 2-0, but both games have been at home and they haven’t looked spectacular in either. The Steelers are 0-2, but they showed some signs of life in week 2 and I think Roethlisberger knows he has to take over on offense. A primetime game at Heinz Field is still plenty motivating for the Steelers regardless of how the rest of the year works out. I may be backing an eventual 0-16 team here, but it just feels right.

Oakland @ Denver (-15.5)

This is the game that’s going to play out exactly how you all think the Seattle-Jacksonville game’s going to go. I know, it’s Peyton on national TV, in a division game, against a really bad team, blah blah blah.

I just can’t pick two teams to cover this large of a point spread in the same week. I’m going with Denver to win, 34-20.

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 3 I’m taking:

  • 6 Favorites & 9 Underdogs (the Giants/Panthers doesn’t count as neither a favorite nor an underdog)
  • Of those 9 Underdogs, 3 of them are Home Dogs and 6 of them are Road Dogs

Season record: 9-21-2 (frowny face)

Enjoy week 3 (unless you’re a Browns or Jaguars fan).

NFL WildCard Weekend In Review: About As Much Fun As Week 4 of the Preseason

I had such high hopes for this weekend, and it really couldn’t have started off much better for me. On Friday afternoon, the only friend I’ve made in LA (who promptly moved to San Antonio three weeks after we met) was back in town and took me flying in this plane:

photo (2)

I was expecting a leisurely tour of the Malibu coast and the Hollywood hills, but I forgot this guy was in the Air Force and he totally pulled out some Blue Angels shit on me. I’m talking flipping the plane and flying upside down, doing full vertical loops, stalling the engine and free-falling for a few seconds. And according to him, we hit 5g’s at one point. I’m not sure what that means except that 5g’s is apparently when your chest starts to feel like it’s caving in on itself. I guess I should have suspected something more intense than “leisurely siteseeing” when he made me put a parachute on before we got in the plane.

So yeah, coolest thing I’ve done so far in LA. Great way to start the weekend. Thought it would continue to go up from there.

Fast forward 54 hours later and I’m sitting here trying to make sense of a shitty weekend of football. After a regular season where it seemed like underdogs were always covering and even winning outright more than they ever have, we had a Wildcard Round that saw exactly 0 underdogs cover the spread. The “closest” game of the weekend was Houston’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, a game in which neither team looked like they belonged in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, out of the eight teams that played this weekend, I’d say three-and-a-half of them actually looked like playoff-caliber teams: Green Bay, Baltimore, Seattle and kind of Washington (they get half credit because with a hobbled or non-existent RGIII, they would never look like a playoff team). That’s what made this first round so bad…it wasn’t just that three of four games were decided by double digits. It’s that the majority of the teams didn’t bother showing up.

In my playoff preview blog, I noted that usually two or three games in the first round were blowouts…I shoulda known to stick with the formula. But this year was different! This was the year of the underdog! Ugh.

I also wrote that all of this weekend’s favorites had “flaws and warning signs that make picking the underdogs attractive.” What I didn’t take into account, apparently, is that the underdogs had even more flaws than their counterparts. You can accuse me of being bitter all you want, but I’m telling you I’m still not impressed with any of the teams that won this weekend.

In terms of how I viewed the games, I decided to camp out at a local bar for both games on Saturday, and then I spent Sunday at home. I thought it would be interesting to watch one set of games around dozens of drunk football fans and the other two games at home staying sober and responsible. I’ll let you decide which venue fostered more insightful and hilarious analysis. Let’s recap the weekend in chronological order:

Houston 19, Cincinnati 13: “Ross Regrets His New Theory Only 15 Minutes After Forming It”

-Julie and I got to the bar at 1:10 PT, and we were seated next to three guys who were debating which player on Minnesota was the best….Jared Allen, Adrian Peterson or Christian Ponder. Unfortunately we were not able to get our seats moved.

-Stealing the spotlight from this first game was a text I got from Nkilla saying “Whoa! Supposedly Joe Webb starting for Minny tonight.” You should know that Julie doesn’t give a shit about football. She only agreed to come with me to this bar because she has an iPad and can Pinterest the shit out of things while I watch the games. But every week, I let her make one crazy bet for me. It’s always a 10-12 team parlay where she bets $1 to win something like $2,500. Of course she’s never hit one of these bets and she knows it’s a super-longshot, but that doesn’t stop her from going into every Sunday morning thinkin she’s gonna finally win. Anyway, when I told her there was a chance Minnesota’s backup QB was playing, she decided it was unfair if my gambling website doesn’t give us our money back on the bet she made. If they won’t give it back, they should at least let her take the updated odds because it’s totally unfair she took Minnesota and didn’t know this Joe Webb guy was playing. I felt like I was giving my child a “sometimes life’s not fair” talking-to when I explained that her bet couldn’t be changed.

-Right on cue at kickoff, Julie forgot all about the screw job on her bet because she was deep into an article she found on google titled “Jennier Hundson’s Lasagna Recipe.” Thank god for that iPad + WiFi.

-Seven minutes into the game and my first bet pays off…A $4 win for predicting the first score of the game would be a field goal, not a touchdown. Things were really looking up for me at this point.

-Here’s the brilliant theory I came up with during the first quarter when they showed Andy Dalton’s regular season stats: Dalton had a 62% completion rate and 27 touchdowns, good for third most in the AFC. People must be criticizing him unnecessarily. I bet he’s a much better QB than people give him credit for.”

-The very next note in my notebook says, “1:30 left in 2nd quarter…We may be seeing the two worst QBs in the playoffs right now—both missing throw after throw to wide open guys.”

-You gotta hand it to Dalton. He knows how to disprove a misguided football theory like he’s been doing it for years.

-It’s always frustrating to have bet on a team that has negative total passing yards at the end of the first half. It really felt like Cincy was doing its best Jets impersonation on Saturday.

-I really didn’t have too many other insightful notes from the rest of this game. For some reason I called J.J. Watt “J.J. Twat” at one point and either Julie really loved it or was just extremely bored because she picked up that nickname and ran with it.

-So Houston won 19-13. The best description for how it went down is to say that Houston escaped with a win. They escaped with a victory at home against a quarterback who threw 30 times for 127 yards. Just try to remember how ugly of a win it was when you’re talking yourself into Houston +9.5 over New England this week.

Green Bay 24, Minnesota 10: “Happy Hour Makes Joe Webb’s Passes Even Funnier Than They Already Are”

-I won’t quote her word for word, but let’s just say when Julie found out Joe Webb wasn’t white she was a lot more confident in her original “Minnesota to win” bet.

-Now because this game didn’t start until 5pm and Rocco’s Tavern starts their happy hour at 3pm, there are some notes I wrote down that either don’t make sense or can’t really be defended as necessary, but I’ll share some anyway. Whenever you see a quote with no other comment alongside it, you’ll know I’m just quoting what I wrote in my notebook.

-“Julie doesn’t like farts.”

-Before Minnesota’s first drive was even over, Julie was referring to Webb as “Junior” in the most condescending way possible. As in, “If fuckin’ Junior knew how to complete a four-yard pass, we’d have a chance to score at some point.”

-Not quite as funny or replay-worthy as Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble against New England but equally pathetic was when Joe Webb stepped back onto a lying-on-the-ground Clay Matthews and essentially sacked himself. Self-safeties were patented in 2006 by Dan Orlovsky (Detroit QB who more than once stepped out of the back of the endzone while trying to complete a pass). I think Sanchez and Webb will have to battle it out over the next couple years to see who ultimately gets credit for creating the self-sack.

-Speaking of the soon-to-be highest-paid backup QB in the NFL, I actually wrote in the second quarter, “If only the Vikings had Mark Sanchez tonight…”

-Last March in Vegas, my friend Ted started rooting hard against VCU during their first round game against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament and initially I had no idea why. He had no affiliation with either school, he hadn’t placed a bet on either team, and it was a meaningless game lost in the shuffle of the more than 40 games we’d be seeing in a three-day span. But then I realized he was rooting against them because there were a few douchebags standing near us who were going a little too crazy with every VCU basket. And one of the guys was wearing a VCU cape. If people annoy you enough, you’re bound to start hoping the worst for them. And that’s what happened when the Packer fans got a little too obnoxious at Rocco’s on Saturday night. I had picked and bet on Green Bay, I knew they were a 100% lock to win, but I started cheering for Minnesota like I was Adrian Peterson’s nephew.

-Not sure if I was drunk or just lonely and bored (Julie had left the bar at this point), but I must have watched this clip on my phone about 37 times during the commercials: http://fauxjohnmadden.lockerdome.com/media/104485898

-I know Green Bay took care of business and won by 14, but with one minute remaining in the 2nd quarter, they were only up 10-3. Isn’t that embarrassing when you’re going up against a team being led by Joe “Junior” Webb?

-And by the way, there were so many whispers throughout the season as Christian Ponder struggled that Webb should get a chance to start. Would the people who were planting that seed please own up to it and explain yourself? Ponder seems to be about 30 times better than Webb, right?

-At halftime I started to think about the Bears, Cowboys and Giants, and I got sad for them. Any one of those teams could have done better against Green Bay. Considering the Vikings had six total passing yards in the first half, I’m pretty sure Oakland, Jacksonville and Kansas City all could have done better than Minnesota too.

-At this point in the night, I’m drunk, bored and easily distracted. So I start writing my website name “will-blog-for-food.com” on every coaster at the bar. I seriously grabbed a stack of at least 90 coasters and started giving myself free advertising. One guy called me out on it and asked what my blog was all about. Here was my big chance to sell a stranger on the concept of my blog. And I responded, “Oh, it’s about sports and other stuff.” Boom! Concept sold! I will say that I had a ton of page views today (Sunday), a weekend day where I didn’t post a blog…maybe the bartender didn’t throw all those coasters out. Maybe, just maybe, my blog is the buzz all over town.

-“24-3 wth 9:25 left in 3rd quarter…I farted, and everyone is looking at me suspiciously.” (I wonder if that’s because people could see over my shoulder as I wrote “I farted” in my notebook.)

-“Joe Webb is like me throwing a football right now, minus 40 yards.” (What does that mean? That he’s so bad a drunk-Ross could throw the ball as good as him but 40 yards farther down field? Or that I could throw the ball like him in my drunken state, but my passes would be 40 yards shorter? Don’t know, but it must have been the basis for a good joke in my head at the time.)

-I decided to leave the bar with 10:55 to go in the 4th quarter…a completely unprecedented move, but I was motivated by the fact that Julie was at home making lasagna for dinner.

-So I got home, bugged her to bring me a beer as I sat on the couch watching the end of the game, and the next thing I know I wake up three hours later with an unopened beer in my hand and no lasagna in my stomach. I bet I was as confused at that moment as Joe Webb was when they told him he’d be starting a playoff game in Green Bay.

Baltimore 24, Indianapolis 9: “Where Sober Football Turned Out To Be Just As Boring As Drunk Football”

-So because of Saturday’s lackluster performances from three of the four quarterbacks, and since Aaron Rodgers really didn’t have to throw much in the 2nd half of Green Bay’s win, I went into Sunday with a great chance of winning my “Andrew Luck to throw for the most yards out of every QB this weekend” bet. Maybe Sunday would be all about redemption after a rough Saturday.

-I turn on the TV and the first thing I hear is that Bruce Arians, the Colts’ offensive coordinator and interim Head Coach for most of the season, was rushed to the hospital only a couple hours before kickoff. So Christian Ponder’s injury ruins the Vikings’ chances for an upset (or at least a cover) and now this Arians thing is gonna do the same to Indy?

-I really wish there was a way to hold announcers like Phil Simms accountable for the bullshit they actually say during games. In the first quarter, Simms said, “Joe Flacco is as dangerous of a passer as there is in the NFL.” But hasn’t it been proven over his five-year career that Flacco is actually not one of the more dangerous passers in the league? Unless I’m just being negative and we really should consider a guy who finished the year 12th in passer rating, 15th in touchdowns and 19th in completion percentage one of the more dangerous quarterbacks. I just hate how he can throw that vague comment out there and not have to provide any stats to support it.

-But I should just accept the fact that announcers are human too, and like the rest of us, they have biases and favorite teams. It should have been obvious Simms was on the Baltimore bandwagon when he was looking at a replay of a clear facemasking penalty that a Baltimore player committed on Vick Ballard and said, “I didn’t see a facemask there.” Really? Ballard’s head just did a complete 360 because he taught himself that trick and thought it was a good time to try it out?

-That replay of Roger Goodell embracing Ray Lewis with a big teary hug before the game just made me angry. Of course Goodell would go out of his way to sabotage a very likeable Saints team and then go and fondle one of the biggest douchebags in all of football. I love that he doesn’t even try to associate himself with likeable people.

-So Baltimore wins a very unexciting game (theme of the weekend!). But do Ravens fans feel good about it? Indy controlled the ball for 15 more minutes and had only 22 less total yards of offense than Baltimore. What really hurt the Colts the most today was the 27 times their wide receivers either slipped on the grass or dropped a pass that hit them in the hands. That was the #1 reason for their loss in my opinion.

-On the bright side, I would indeed end up winning my “Luck for most passing yards” bet. After three games, I was still treading water with my bets.

-Am I rooting for Baltimore next week against Denver? Of course I am…if they somehow pull it off and the Patriots beat Houston, then New England would host the Championship game. Do the Ravens have a remote shot of doing it? Nope.

Seattle 24, Washington 14: “This Time I Think Julie Has A Point, We Should Get Our Money Back”

-More specifically, I think Mike Shanahan should have to pay reparations to anyone who bet on Washington Sunday night. Sure, there’s no guarantee that three quarters of Kirk Cousins would have been enough to beat Seattle, but in hindsight wouldn’t you love to have seen Cousins get a chance?

-RGIII couldn’t have been operating at more than 50% for most of the game…every single person watching the game knew it, so why didn’t Shanahan? And it’s not like he would have had to go with Joe Webb if he pulled Griffin from the game. He has Cousins, who’s shown he’s more than capable of keeping a team in the game.

-At least this game caused me to write “2:08pm on Sunday, the first time I’ve been happy with football all weekend.” It was right after the ‘Skins took a 14-0 lead.

-Is it weird to gush about how much I love watching the Redskins offense considering they almost exclusively run the ball?

-Washington’s offensive line possibly sneaky-best line among all the playoff teams?

-It wasn’t even into the second quarter before I wrote “the refs have lost control of the game.” Good to see Seattle embracing the reputation I gave them earlier this year as a bunch of arrogant bastards.

-In my previous blog post, I said there were two factors causing me to pick Washington in this game: 1). RGIII’s specialness and 2). The Washington crowd. Well the knee injury was so bad so early in the game that RG didn’t have a chance to be special, and the crowd could never get fully into it even when the Redskins were up 14-0 because they were too busy holding their collective breath every time Griffin planted on his bad leg.

-I honestly think a healthy RGIII buries the Seahawks in that second quarter.

-Not that it takes the sting off this loss too much, but it was great to see Trent Williams shove Richard Sherman in the face after the game. I like seeing that Sherman’s peers think he’s as big of a piece of shit as I think he is. That’s some nice vindication.

-By the way, as unimpressed as I was with Seattle in this game, my initial thought is that they can handle Atlanta pretty easily next week. The things that Washington did in the first quarter to build that 14-0 lead—run the option with a mobile QB, run the ball for big chunks of yards, get great offensive line play across the board—Atlanta does almost none of that well. Looks like Seattle will luck their way through the first two rounds and into the NFC Championship game.

So there you have it…No upsets, a 1-3 record for my picks this week, and all because of injuries to Christian Ponder, Bruce Arians and RGIII. I’m convinced we would have seen three underdogs cover if those three guys had been able to fulfill their normal roles this weekend.

Feel free to comment on whether you enjoyed my Saturday analyis more (at the bar, drunk by 7pm) or my Sunday analysis (sober, at home, no pants on). You can help me determine how to “enjoy” next week’s games.