NFL Week 2 Recap: To Watch, or Not To Watch, Is That Even a Question?

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Here’s my ideal Sunday setup during football season: On my couch, by myself, at least two TVs going (one with the Red Zone Channel, the other with whatever game seems most interesting), my fiancee cooking me nonstop snacks, getting up only to use the bathroom, most importantly, no distractions. Complete, laser focus on football.

Sadly life doesn’t always hand me a wide open Sunday at my apartment. Sometimes I’m forced to be in San Diego for a friend’s birthday celebration, on the beach, drinking beer, setting the boogie boarding world on fire with some pretty sick moves. Of course that was also my exact schedule on Friday and Saturday, so I was pretty positive my Sunday would be devoted to finding a bar, setting up shop for seven hours and emerging around 5:00pm looking like Han Solo after he’s unfrozen from the carbonite in Return of the Jedi (trust me it’s a perfect description if only a decent video clip of it existed to prove it to you).

And then two things happened.

  1. The NFL morphed into one of the least appealing forms of entertainment faster than you can say “due process.”
  2. A buddy I was with made a very compelling case for skipping the first set of games: “We’re in San Diego. We should be on the beach, drinking beers and setting the boogie boarding world on fire.” He had a great point.

The only reason I even considered it is because for the first time in my life I thought maybe the NFL didn’t deserve my loyalty. Maybe a few million people like me all around the country would have the same thought and quietly, subtly boycott football even if just for a few hours.

Before I go feeling all honorable and shit, I should remind myself that had the choice been between watching football or going apple picking with my fiancee, I would never have considered missing the games. But a perfect beach day in San Diego?

After a while I started thinking about a book I haven’t yet written but I’ve been noodling on for years. It’s centered around doling out advice for my future kids, and one chapter was going to cover sports…Specifically my recommendations on rooting for sports in a world where every athlete’s dirty laundry is aired constantly. This thought started when all the steroid bullshit in baseball dominated the news. And my thoughts always came back to telling my kids that they should root with intense passion for whichever teams they choose to love (and it better be the Boston teams if they don’t want a good whupping…what? too soon?)…but not to get too attached to any individual players from a role model / good guy standpoint. Maybe always keep them a notch below true heroes in their minds. Root for the name on the front of the jersey (very cliche but it’s never been truer). Root for the competition, the beauty of the games, the privilege we have to watch the best athletes in the world compete at a level we can’t even comprehend.

(Side Note: It may seem weird that I’m collecting ideas for a future book, but that’s the writer’s mentality. We spend lots of time thinking of things like “advice for my yet-to-be-conceived son” and writing it down. It also means if you think I consider you a good friend, it’s very likely that I’ve already written a eulogy for you. You never can be too prepared.)

At 9:40 on Sunday morning, there I was in a bar on Mission Beach in San Diego, a tallboy in one hand and an iPad in the other (I always go full nerd during football).

I chose to keep loving the NFL for the reasons I’ve always loved the NFL. The game itself, the way it brings people together, the way it sparks endless debates among those same people, the beer and fried food.

And my decision paid off just like I expected. During those few hours of watching football and ignoring the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald noise, I met a fellow Patriots fan who commiserated with me over our fantasy teams (and our shared real team). I met a Bengals fan and we drooled together over the crazy talent of A.J. Green (though it wasn’t on display this past Sunday, sadly). I met a Dallas fan and the Patriots fan & Bengals fan joined me in laughing at him when the Titans started making a mini-comeback against his Cowboys in the 3rd quarter. I got to watch some of the Packers game with a friend who’s a huge Green Bay fan and he couldn’t have been more upset with the fact that the ultimate jinx (me) picked his team for the Suicide Pool and the single largest bet of the day (of course they missed covering by a single point). I got to laugh with some people over the upcoming quarterback controversy in Washington (though we didn’t realize it then that there might not be a controversy at all if RGIII really is done for multiple months). And I got to see some awesome outcomes in all these games. The Browns over the Saints. The perfect Geno Smith pass that was called back because the Jets’ offensive coordinator called a timeout, which he’s not allowed to do, and the ref granted it to him, which he shouldn’t have done.

There was A LOT to love about week 2 of the NFL. There’s always a lot to love about the NFL. And I’m not saying we should completely turn a blind eye towards the crimes that many of its players commit. I just happen to want football to be what it’s supposed to be…an amazing form of entertainment that helps me escape from reality, gives me a fun outlet for obsessing, and makes me feel sometimes brilliant and sometimes idiotic for how much or how little I know about the outcomes on any given Sunday.

That’s why I watch, and that’s why I’ll continue to watch.

Here’s a list in no particular order of the other things I loved about the actual football games this weekend:

  • One more time, let’s hear it for the sheer volume of exciting finishes in week 2 (Note: Exciting doesn’t necessarily mean “well-played” or that your team won). Chicago’s 17-point comeback on Sunday night. Then Philly’s 14-point comeback on Monday night! Sunday’s nail-biting wins by Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Green Bay and Denver.
  • Tuesday’s water cooler talk about how the refs handed the game to the Eagles on Monday (while conveniently forgetting to mention the ridiculous Darren Sproles performance or the awful Colts play calling).
  • San Diego, yesteryear’s “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” taking Seattle, the current “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” down a peg or two. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Seattle’s won something. They still talk too much.)
  • My Super Bowl pick from March, the Eagles, starting off 2-0 in a division that looks even worse than our lowest expectations from the preseason.
  • My Super Bowl pick from August, the Patriots, getting an absolutely necessary win in the same fashion as those early 2000s Super Bowl winning teams (great defense, big special teams plays, average offense that does just enough).
  • A ballsy Chicago performance spoiling the 49ers’ stadium opener.
  • A jaw-dropping Browns home win (their first win in a home opener in 10+ years) to put a Super Bowl favorite, New Orleans, in an 0-2 hole.
  • The Giants once again trying to fool us into pulling the plug on their playoff chances, only we’re smart enough to know they’ll only be two games back with three weeks to go later this year and come ever so close to sneaking into the postseason.
  • Amazing individual plays like C.J. Spiller’s 102-yard kickoff return, Ted Ginn Jr’s 71-yard punt return, one-handed circus catches from Brandon Marshall, Kelvin Benjamin and Rueben Randle…and many more awesome efforts from guys who don’t currently have pending criminal charges.

  • I eked out an 8-7-1 record against the spread.
  • I went 1-2 in my fantasy leagues.
  • Exactly two of my playoff picks have gotten off to a 2-0 start.
  • Injuries all over the place affected real teams and fantasy teams…Jamaal Charles, A.J. Green, Robert Griffin, DeSean Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram and Carson Palmer.

OK, fine. Those last four bullet points sucked. But I only want football to suck because of something that happened on the field or because of some awful decision I made with my gambling.

There’s plenty of craziness to “ruin” a week of football in the funny, harmless way. We don’t need our favorite sport ruined by criminal acts, the people in charge who cover up those criminal acts, and those people who cover the sport who feel the need to exploit those criminal acts for ratings and clicks.

For those of us who can truly ignore all the negatives, we’ll be treated to another incredible set of games in week 3. I’m counting a minimum of seven intriguing games with Denver at Seattle being the main event by a long shot.

Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.

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NFL Week 2 Recap: Overreaction vs Proper Reaction

When is it OK to start reacting to the results we’re seeing on the field? Because it seems like every tweet, every website column and every idiotic blog post keep telling us that reacting at all to these first couple weeks is overreacting. So when is it no longer overreacting and instead properly reacting? After week 3? After week 10? Am I going to write after week 14 that “the Browns have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs” only to have someone fire back at me that I’m overreacting to a small sample size?

There’s a delicate balance of using the information we’ve gotten from two weeks of the 2013 season to properly react while keeping things in perspective (is team X healthy? have they faced playoff-caliber teams in both games? was there one or two lucky or unlucky breaks that swung a game?). You get it.

One preseason truth that seems close to being debunked (but we need more time to truly find out) is that the NFC is significantly better than the AFC. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the top tier of the NFC (Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay) has more teams than its AFC counterpart (Denver), but that middle tier of average-to-above-average teams might be closer than we think. The way I see it with the AFC, we could be talking about 14 of the 16 teams falling into that area. Denver is elite, Jacksonville is an 0-16 candidate and everyone else is somewhere in between. Teams that we thought wouldn’t have a pulse all year (Oakland, Tennessee, San Diego, NY Jets, Buffalo) are showing signs of life.

This isn’t all subjective analysis by me. The AFC is actually 5-1 against the NFC so far this year. But again, we’re not yet ready to claim the two conferences are evenly matched.

For those of you wondering if I’m going to avoid talking about another losing week with my picks against the spread, the answer is no. I’m actually ecstatic to be 6-8-1 (with the Monday night game pending). These first two weeks have been insanely unpredictable and I was able to improve from the two-win disaster last week to possibly seven wins this week. And I’ve looked around at some Pick ‘Em leagues and other experts’ columns from last Friday…no one is knocking it out of the park with the picks right now. The bottom line is I’m encouraged. Cannot wait for week 3.

But first let’s get through the rest of the week 2 recap.

(Side Note: The plan is to post the weekly recap on Mondays because that’s when people still give a crap about the weekend results. I suppose if crazy shit happens on Monday Night Football, I’ll add to the recap or do a shorter separate one on Tuesday. Otherwise I’ll be ignoring the Monday night game for the most part. This recap is coming to you late on Monday because I flew back from San Francisco this morning after a long weekend of putting harmful substances into my body. Hopefully you’ll be getting these by noon on Monday going forward.)

  1. I spent the weekend up in San Francisco mostly hanging out with my core group of football-watching, fellow degenerate friends. On Saturday afternoon one of the friends told us he had a dream the previous night that he shit his pants and got it all over him. He went into enough detail to tell us that in the dream he tried to use a towel to clean himself, but the towel was already a shit-stained brown. A totally random, disgusting story of course, but one of the other group members took this to mean he should bet BIG on the Cleveland Browns to cover against Baltimore on Sunday. It probably goes without saying (even if Cleveland had been able to pull off the road cover) that basing your sports bets on someone’s dream, especially when you’re making those kinds of interpretive leaps, is not the best way to win money.
  2. This same pants-shitting dreamer also told us while we were in Vegas one time that he had a dream he was playing roulette and the outcome of three consecutive rolls was Red Red Even. You can probably guess that a group of us immediately ran over to a roulette table and threw an insane amount of money on that combination. It did not work. You know what? I’m starting to think this guy is just fucking with us because he knows degenerate, superstitious gamblers will look for any sign to place a bet.
  3. As someone who predicted in August that Josh Freeman would be the first QB benched due to ineffectiveness, I loved seeing a story on cbssports.com on Sunday morning that Freeman might seek a trade because of the growing rift between him and head coach Greg Schiano.
  4. And that was before the Bucs choked away another game they had in the bag to fall to 0-2. Freeman, by the way, completed less than 50% of his passes for only 125 yards with two turnovers on Sunday.
  5. The real question now is who goes first Freeman or Schiano? Could both of their careers in Tampa be over before they emerge from their week 5 bye? Remember that Schiano pissed a lot of people off with his over aggressive playcalling when the Giants were in the victory formation last year. Now he’s alienated his starting QB repeatedly, and the team in general continues to be undisciplined and all too willing to make mental mistakes. I can’t remember seeing a coach recover from this. Can you?
  6. Of all the different picks in my Suicide Pool this week, the only person who didn’t have to sweat it out was the guy who took Oakland. How is that possible? The other picks (New England, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Baltimore) either snuck by in a one-score game or lost outright. I had Chicago.
  7. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of unintentional comedic timing. So my football-watching group got a good laugh on Sunday when I proudly proclaimed, “My Chicago bet is my biggest one of the day because I just can’t envision a scenario where the Vikings keep it close”….exactly 11 seconds before Minnesota returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
  8. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words so I’ll spare you from my list of “top 60 reasons I might never go to a live football game again” and just show you how I watched Sunday’s games instead: IMG_3261
  9. I was listening to a podcast this weekend where the hosts were recapping the Patriots-Jets game, and they were criticizing the New England fans for booing a Jets player who was injured in the 4th quarter. But here’s the new reality: Since faking an injury to slow down an offense has become the most overly talked about topic, we’re now at a point where every injury on the visiting team that is not the result of a vicious hit is going to get booed, loudly. It’s just the reality of the situation. No need for any fan base to get called out over the others. It’s going to happen in every stadium. It’s football’s version of baseball fans assuming every player is on PEDs. Oh, you got hurt while our offense was marching down the field? You’re a pathetic faker. Get your pansy ass up.
  10. When Eddie Lacy got drilled by Brandon Meriweather on Sunday morning, I was feeling real bad for myself because Lacy was one of my fantasy starters this week. Then Steven Jackson went down. Then Ray Rice went down. I have all three of those guys between a couple different fantasy teams. But it’s hard to have too much self pity when it seems like this happened to everyone. Look at this list of players that left their games due to injury on Sunday, definitely swinging real football matchups along with fantasy matchups: Rice, S Jax, Lacy, Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Vernon Davis, Malcom Floyd, Brandon Weeden.
  11. So the Redskins are 0-2, meaning they only have to go 11-3 the rest of the way for my preseason prediction to be right. Here’s where I think I went wrong with my super optimism for them. The doctors cleared RGIII’s knee, the team said he was good to go and I kept thinking about Adrian Peterson’s brilliant return from knee surgery. What I never thought about was the knee injury that haunted my entire 2008 football-watching season: Tom Brady’s. After suffering torn knee ligaments in week 1 of 2008, Brady came back and led the 2009 Patriots to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. But anyone who watched the team closely knew Brady wasn’t 100% for most of that year. There was rust and probably a little bit of fear. Carson Palmer’s another guy who never seemed quite the same after his major knee injury in 2006. It makes perfect sense that RGIII is going to have trouble replicating the way he played in 2012. Maybe not all season, but at least for a while. I wish I hadn’t been so blind to this.
  12. In the “told ya so” department, I’d like to point out that I knew Baltimore would struggle offensively this year, especially after losing Jacoby Jones for a few weeks. They scored exactly 0 points in the 1st half of a home game against the Browns on Sunday.
  13. In the “I’m now terrified” department, as soon as I wrote that note about the Ravens’ offense, I realized the Patriots might be exactly the same at least for the next handful of games. Are the Pats and Ravens basically in the same situation? Closer to average than elite but a soft schedule tricks us into giving them a chance for now? Gross.
  14. Last week my wide receiver erection was all over A.J. Green’s constantly amazing play. This week it’s pointing in the direction of Dez Bryant. He didn’t have the best day out of all WRs, but I think he might be the most uncoverable receiver in the NFL. It just seems like a mismatch every play, no matter who’s covering him. At least five times on Sunday it looked like Tony Romo decided before the play that he was throwing to Bryant no matter what the defense showed. And this is where I’d like to thank my former college roommate for trading Bryant to me in our fantasy league after week 1 of the 2012 season for Pierre Garcon (this guy being a huge Redskins homer probably had something to do with it). That trade allowed me to win the league in 2012 and I was able to keep Bryant on my roster for this year.
  15. This description on espn.com of Philadelphia’s final play in their 33-30 loss to San Diego caught my eye: (Shotgun) M.Vick pass short right to J.Avant to PHI 37 for 8 yards. Lateral to R.Cooper to PHI 35 for -2 yards. Lateral to M.Vick to PHI 35 for no gain. M.Vick pass to J.Peters to PHI 35 for no gain. Lateral to J.Avant to PHI 35 for no gain. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by SD-J.Addae at PHI 40. J.Addae to PHI 40 for no gain (B.Celek). PENALTY on PHI-M.Vick, Illegal Forward Pass, 5 yards, enforced at PHI 39.
  16. What a sequence that was. There was one other amazing sequence that I saw with my own eyes on Sunday. It was at the end of regulation in the Titans-Texans game. This tweet from Grantland.com’s Bill Barnwell summed it up best: “Munchak burns clock, ices a made kick, offsides on a blocked kick, ices a missed kick, kick off the goalpost.”
  17. Even though having an infant present during a long day of football watching means he’s going to learn some new words that Mom & Dad probably didn’t want him learning for another 15 years, I say it’s a good idea to get one if you can. When the dust settles on a 2-6-1 record for your morning picks, the only thing that can possibly cheer you up is a baby doing ridiculous shit…falling off furniture, getting more food on his face than in his mouth, visibly squeezing out a dump while he sits directly beside you. I recommend you find a baby to join your group each Sunday. Thanks to my 14-month-old nephew for making me temporarily forget about my Chicago-Philadelphia parlay.
  18. I’ll admit last year my hatred for Richard Sherman might have stemmed from the Seahawks’ win over the Patriots and his postgame trash-talking of Tom Brady. But he sent me into another rage last night and it had nothing to do with my hometown team. After Seattle’s 29-3 win over San Francisco on Sunday night, NBC reporter Michele Tafoya interviewed Sherman on the field. She asked him how he was able to hold Anquan Boldin to just one catch after he had 13 the previous week. Rather than answer the question that she was obviously trying to get him to answer (“how did you do such a good job”), he corrected her by saying, “that one catch wasn’t even on me.” What. A. Prick. Couldn’t possibly let the TV audience think he let up one catch to the guy. God forbid. Great team player, right?
  19. For the record, I’d rather see the Jets win three consecutive Super Bowls than have to live through the Seahawks winning one.
  20. With the end of Breaking Bad running at the same time as Sunday Night Football, I think for the next two Sunday nights we should get used to this: Screen shot 2013-09-15 at 9.25.00 PM
  21. Are you pissed off at your underachieving team so far in this young NFL season? Cheer up, buddy. It could be worse. You could be a fan of the Jaguars, whose first touchdown of the season came after 117 minutes of game time. Oh, and here’s what their fans were getting up to on Monday:

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/9680957/fans-urge-jacksonville-jaguars-sign-tebow-rally

Let’s run through the weekly awards real quick:

The “Vitriol of the Week” Award presented by Gamblers Against High Blood Pressure (GAHBP)

Chicago Bears

Christian Ponder might be the worst quarterback in the NFL. You have one challenge on defense: shutdown Adrian Peterson. You have an explosive offense. You should have won this game by 20. You won on a semi-miraculous last minute drive, but of course you didn’t cover the spread, losing me plenty of money and valuable Pick ‘Em league points. You’re the worst.

The “Most Likely To Be Added To Fantasy Rosters Even Though He’ll Never Match This Week’s Performance Ever Again” Award

A tie between Eddie Royal and James Starks

If you’re in an auction league like I am, you’re going to have to pay out the ass for these guys even though they probably won’t equal this week’s output over their next five games combined. Good luck with that.

And finally, if you don’t feel like reading my plea to New England fans to relax, go ahead and close this page now.

Patriots fans, relax. Your team is 2-0 while playing both games without its best receiver (Gronk) and one of the games without its second best receiver (Amendola) and its most likely candidate to take over the 2012 production from Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez (Vereen). All three of them will be back when the important games start.

Let’s just put the NFL season into context right now: The 2012 Baltimore Ravens lost in week 2 to Philadelphia (who finished the season 4-12). They struggled to put away the Browns in week 4, they beat the Chiefs (2-14 record) 9-6 in week 5, and beat San Diego (another pathetic team in 2012) in overtime in week 12, only after the miracle of a 4th & 29 conversion. And during those games, they had almost all of their offensive weapons intact. No one gave them a chance as they limped into the playoffs as the #4 seed in the AFC. They got hot, got a little lucky and won the Super Bowl.

Panicking, complaining, attempting suicide…none of those things make sense yet because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THIS STRANGE SPORT.

Oh, and your baseball team is putting up one of the most unexpected and memorable regular seasons in the history of the sport. And your hockey team is one of the Stanley Cup favorites as the season gets going in a few weeks.

Relax.

And that’s it from me. Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.