Before I get to this week's picks, I wanted to address a couple of incidents of idiocy from last week's slate that have gotten a lot of attention this week. Though I'm sure many of you might be sick of hearing about them, there's a few things I think bear mentioning that I haven't heard nearly enough about.
So, that Vontaze Burfict is a real darling, isn't he? He's a really good player, but he's been a menace for years, with the ankle-twisting and the cheap-shots. And, true to form, he once again saved his best buffoonery for Pittsburgh, delivering a head shot to Antonio Brown, and generally acting like a belligerent idiot.
Based on Burfict's previous record of bad behaviour and suspensions, I have to say that I was surprised that the league chose only to fine him for his most recent actions. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised when the league drops the ball on player safety. If you want to try to explain to me how a player testing positive for HGH from rehabbing an injury gets a four-game suspension, while a multiple repeat offender deliberately hits another player in the head and gets to play again the following week, I'm all ears.
So yeah, I think Burfict's actions have been way over the line. However, the one person I do not want to hear anything from on the subject is Ben Roethlisberger.
Ben Roethlisberger is a moron.
Now some of you might be thinking that he couldn't be that dumb if he plays QB in the NFL, but really, the way he plays, it's mostly physical ability and memorizing some plays. Ben Roethlisberger is basically like a border collie that has been taught to herd sheep.
(Wait. I think I went too far there. Border collies are actually really smart. I need to dial it back a bit. Let me try this again.)
Ben Roethlisberger is like a chicken that has been taught to play tic-tac-toe, only the chicken doesn't have a coach feeding it plays through a radio transmitter. (There, that's better.)
This is the guy who almost fucked up his career by crashing his unlicensed, unhelmeted head into the pavement while riding a motorcycle.
This is a guy who has had multiple, credible sexual assault allegations leveled against him, and who has been suspended by the league for his off-the-field conduct relating to one of them.
This is a guy who was recently in the news for being featured in Stormy Daniels's book, where the porn star recounts a weird, sad, and scary encounter with the football star.
And, this is the guy, the Pittsburgh QB, the team leader and spokesman, who, after a game last season in which his teammate Ryan Shazier suffered a frightening injury, and in which the aforementioned Burfict was concussed by a dirty hit from Pittsburgh WR JuJu Smith-Shuster, had this to say about what had transpired:
Lisa Salters: "Ben, how would you explain just kind of the viciousness and the brutality of this game?"
Ben Roethlisberger: "AFC North football."
Salters: "That's it?"
I've heard a lot from Roethlisberger this week regarding the actions of Burfict in last week's game. I've heard him complaining about the hit on Brown, and about how Burfict threatened to do the same to Smith-Shuster. Suddenly this is a big deal to Big Ben. Last season, when it was Burfict on the receiving end (Smith-Shuster, if you recall, stood astride the prone Burfict and celebrated his cheap shot), it was just "AFC North football." Brown called it "karma." Smith-Shuster has bragged about the compliments (and free drinks) he gets for his deed. Apparently, there are t-shirts.
Not a peep from Roethlisberger.
So yeah, Vontaze Burfict is a problem. Everyone knows this. What I don't need is the media trotting out Ben Roethlisberger as some kind of wise sage or moral authority. The league, and the sycophants that cover it, have done quite enough to gloss over Rothlisberger's checkered past.
You want to talk about dirty play, Big Ben? Take a look at your own team. Or better yet, just shut up altogether. Some of us still remember, no matter how much the league wants us to forget.
I also want to talk about the sad incident in the KC-New England game where Tyreek Hill had beer thrown on him by a spectator.
This is wrong. It is reprehensible. It is, in my opinion, assault. It should not have happened. Things like this should not happen. Hill was playing in hostile territory, had just scored a TD, and ran right up to a group of customers (note the word "f" word I'm deliberately not using), and I've heard it said that he should have expected what he got, but I categorically disagree with this opinion. Throwing anything, assaulting a player in any way is wrong. Period.
The person who threw the beer was swiftly identified, banned from Foxborough, and faces possible criminal charges, not to mention the embarrassment and other ripple effects that a public misstep such as this tends to have on a person's life.
There has been a lot of publicity surrounding this incident. One article I saw went into painstaking detail as to the myriad consequences this individual faces as a result of his actions, from legal, to financial, to personal. He could be in a lot of trouble. Whatever your feelings about this, I believe that the publicity is a good thing, as it should serve to discourage such actions in the future.
I couldn't help but wonder how Hill must have felt in that situation. He'd just scored, and was probably feeling pretty good about himself. Then, suddenly, screams, shouts, profanity, violence. I wonder if he was afraid, even briefly. I wonder if he felt powerless. I wonder if, as the beer splashed against him, he felt degraded, humiliated, violated.
Sadly, I wondered how his girlfriend felt when, in December of 2014, pregnant with Hill's child, Hill choked her, slapped her, picked her up by her hair, and struck her in the stomach.
I don't like to think about such things, but I know this, and I can't unknow it. No matter what Hill does, I will always remember this. It will forever be a part of who he is, and no matter how much the league wants us to forget it, I can't, and never will. And I don't think that's wrong.
I don't know what will happen to the guy who threw beer on Tyreek Hill. That's up to the authorities now. I do know that Tyreek Hill, despite some pretty compelling physical evidence, initially pleaded not guilty, eventually pleaded guilty, and never went to jail for what he did. He was dismissed from his college team, caught on with another team, was drafted, is a big star now, has completed his probation, and has had his record expunged.
Nothing Tyreek Hill has done in his past has anything to do with his having had beer thrown on him last Sunday. I just think that some things should never be forgotten.
Winners in Bold:
Tennessee at The Boltes of Los Angelese
I'm not sure what to make of Tennessee any more, but I do know that I've been pretty high on Philip Rivers and Co. since the beginning of the season.
Houston at Jacksonville
Last week, I talked about the rare occurrence of Houston winning back-to-back games because the opposing coach out-stupided Bill O'Brien. Then, the whole Buffalo franchise topped that by having Nathan "how-is-he-still-on-this-team" Peterman hand the game to Houston. Meanwhile, are there any coaches in Jacksonville who would like to try to, I don't know, COACH?!? I've said it before: it doesn't matter how good your players are, you can't just show up and expect to win. Dallas flat out embarrassed Jacksonville's defence last week simply through coaching and execution. I'd like to think that Houston could duplicate that, but Bill O'Brien is a terrible coach. This game baffles me. Houston's defence is good enough to give Blake Bortles fits, but I wonder if Houston's offence will be able to generate much offence without getting Deshaun Watson killed (which seems to be O'Brien's mission). If Jacksonville's coaches can't figure out a way to get a decent effort out of their charges this week, I say fire them all.
Carolina at Philadelphia
Philly's well-rested, so there's that. Carolina's defence has been uncharacteristically generous, and Philly's offence is starting to get its act together. Should be a good game.
Minnesota at NYJ
New York has been surprisingly frisky of late, but I think Minnesota is beginning to hit their stride, and will be a tough out for anyone from this point on.
New England at Chicago
Bill Belichick would like us all to know that Khalil Mack is not Lawrence Taylor. OK; got it. Belichick's assessment must have really hurt, because Mack is listed as "Questionable" on the injury report. Words hurt, Bill. Seriously, though, this should be a good game, as the Pats will be facing a defence that's a bit more stout than the one they faced last week. In order for Chicago to pull this one out, their offence will have to find a way to keep pace. I can't quite see it happening.
Buffalo at Indianapolis
So, will it be Nathan Peterman, or will it be Derek Anderson under Center for Buffalo? It'll be Andrew Luck for Indy, and that's good enough for me.
Cleveland at Tampa
Tampa got good production from their offence last week, but that was against Atlanta, so it doesn't count as anything special. Cleveland's defence has a bit more on the ball, and I'm counting on them to get the job done this week. Warning: Hate pick; if you don't know why, you haven't been paying attention.
Detroit at Miami
Looks like Brock Osweiler will be getting the start for Miami again this week. So, no surprises, Detroit. You know exactly what you're up against, and you should be able to take care of business. You can't just show up and expect to win, like Chicago did.
New Orleans at Baltimore
This will be a real test for the Baltimore defence that everyone is so high on right now, a test I think Baltimore will fail.
Dallas at Washington
Well, well, well. It appears that Dallas has finally remembered what Dak Prescott is capable of. In this mediocre division, that counts as monumental news, especially if they can get more efforts out of their offence like the one they produced last week against Jacksonville. Note: Sean Lee should return to action this week; enjoy it while it lasts, Dallas fans.
LAR at San Francisco
LA will be nicer to San Fran than Green Bay was last week; instead of breaking San Fran's hearts with a last-second win, LA will put them away early.
Cincinnati at Kansas City
This could be a another shootout, as KC doesn't play too much defence, and Cincy can really get it going. I'd like to think that Cincy can find a way on defence to limit KC, but it all comes down to coaching, and I still see too many mistakes in fundamentals to trust Cincy to get the job done. Should be a really entertaining game. Bet the over.
NYG at Atlanta
Happened upon an old column of mine from five years ago, and this is what I wrote about these two teams:
- Do they just let Eli air it out and go for the shootout win? That’s fine in theory, but they can’t seem to protect Eli and he looks lost this year.
- The Falcons began the season as contenders for one of the top seeds in the NFC, but now they sit at 1-4, ravaged by injuries...
If ever there was a time for New York to get the offence cranking, this is it. I can almost hear it now: "Hey Eli, you could go for 400 against this defence." "So, how many checkdowns is that?"
Throw the ball, Eli. Matt Ryan will. And well.