I was busy looking after my sick puppy on Monday, so I didn't watch any of the game that night. From the sounds of it, I didn't miss much, as San Francisco's defense dominated the listless Rams' offense.
Apparently there were a few nice plays, few-and-far-between though they may have been. One great play that I'm assuming that viewers at home missed was the one made by LA LB Bobby Wagner, who absolutely SMOKED a protestor who ran onto the field carrying some sort of smoke flare.
It's generally the policy of TV networks to cut away from this sort of behaviour, so as not to give these knuckleheads the exposure they crave. Though frowned upon, I have no issue with game officials and/or players being rough with people who perpetrate these acts. Few may remember this today, but next April will mark 30 years since Monica Seles, then the number one player in Women's Tennis, was stabbed during a match. Pro athletes can only guess as to the true intent of one of these raving loonies.
So, congratulations to Bobby Wagner for making the best tackle of Week 4. And also, thanks for reminding me of one of my favourite moments in sports, when NHL Linesman Ron Asseltine absolutely creamed an idiot who jumped on the ice to confront one of the other officials. The physically-imposing Asseltine, all 6 feet 2 inches and 220-plus pounds of him, wasted no time making the invader seriously regret his extremely poor choice.
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Indianapolis at Denver
Both of these teams entered the season highly touted, yet have been underwhelming. Indy has been particularly disappointing on offense, as Matt Ryan has morphed into a turnover machine. With star RB Johnathan Taylor Out with an ankle injury, I find it hard to imagine Indy's offense being able to score enough points to beat Denver at home.
Indianapolis 16, Denver 27
If you're good at something, get paid to do it.
NFL football players are good at football, and they get paid to do it.
NFL commentators are (mostly) good talkers, and they get paid to do it.
Richard Sherman was a very good NFL player, and he was paid very well to do that. He is also a Stanford grad, with a degree in communications. He was known throughout his NFL career for being a talker.
Sherman, no surprise, is also an excellent writer. In 2016, he wrote an article titled "Why I Hate Thursday Night Football." No surprise, it is extremely critical of the NFL forcing players to play on Thursday Nights.
Here are some quotes from the article:
"The whole idea of Thursday Night Football is terrible. It’s ludicrous. It’s hypocritical."
"The NFL preaches player safety. The league says it wants to do everything in its power to protect its players. But when it comes down to it, it’s not the players that the NFL protects."
"Thursday Night Football is just another example of the NFL’s hypocrisy: The league will continue a practice that diminishes the on-field product and endangers its players, but as long as the dollars keep rolling in, it couldn’t care less."
"I just don’t understand why the NFL says it’s taking a stand on player safety, then increases the risks its players face by making them play on Thursday, before their bodies are ready."
In the article, Sherman is also careful in explaining that he is not complaining, that he is "blessed" to be in the position he is, and that he, and all the players, know the risks.
Sherman's professed hatred for Thursday Night Football is why I found it curious to see him doing commentary on, yes, Thursday Night Football.
Not good. Not bad.
By now, I'm certain that most NFL watchers are familiar with the situation around Miami QB Tua Tagovaiola. Tagovaiola was injured last Sunday against Buffalo, appearing to most observers to be concussed, yet apparently passed "protocols" and was allowed to return to the game. Then, this past Thursday, Tua was allowed to start on short rest, and had his head slammed into the turf. Tagovaiola experienced, I'm told, outward signs of having a seizure, and he was taken off the field and went straight to the hospital.
Circling back, Sherman was doing commentary for this game.
When Richard Sherman was a (very good) player, he had no control over the league scheduling games on Thursday Nights. He played because that was what he was paid to do, and because that was what he was required to do.
Now that Sherman is a commentator, he has no control over the league scheduling games on Thursday Night.
Sherman is not responsible for the egregious way that Tua Tagovaiola has been treated. The responsibility for that lies with the league, and the Miami Dolphins.
Richard Sherman is a very good talker, and he's found a way to get paid to do that. He entitled.
You might applaud him for getting paid. You might think him a hypocrite. You're entitled.
I just find it curious. I'm entitled.
Week Four Picks
Winners in Bold
Minnesota at New Orleans (at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Tottenham, London, UK)
New Orleans’s struggling offense will be without Michael Thomas, while Jarvis Landry and Alvin Kamara are banged-up, and Jameis Winston might not play. Minnesota’s offense should be able to do enough to take this game that most US Americans will be asleep for.
Cleveland at Atlanta
Cleveland’s disappointing defense will be without Myles Garrett, who apparently is another one of these NFL morons who think it’s ok to drive their high-end sports cars as fast as they want. Garrett was injured in a single-vehicle rollover earlier this week; he’ll miss this game, could be suspended, and should be in jail.
Buffalo at Baltimore
Buffalo has some serious problems on defense that they need to figure out. Also, if they don’t figure out how to run the ball without Josh Allen being their leading rusher, they can forget about sniffing any championships this year. Meanwhile, Baltimore, once again, is relying on Lamar Jackson to do everything on offense, and we’ve seen how that usually works out.
Washington at Dallas
So, Cooper Rush can play a little, and with Dallas’s defense going up against Carson Wentz, Rush’s little should be more than enough.
Seattle at Detroit
Detroit will be without RB D’Andre Swift and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, which is concerning, but I’m picking them anyway because I want to and it’s fun.
Los Angeles (Bolts) at Houston
The Bolts just can’t have nice things. They’ve already broken Joey Bosa and LT Rashawn Slater, Justin Herbert’s blind side will be protected by a rookie (which probably makes Herbert’s ribs hurt just thinking about it), and Keenan Allen will miss another game. They still should be able to beat Houston, but that means nothing.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Couple of sad-looking offenses here. Tennessee’s lack of a passing game that scares anyone has Derrick Henry looking like he’s stuck in the mud. Matt Ryan hasn’t clicked with his Indy teammates yet, which has Johnathan Taylor and the entire Indy offense looking lost. This pick could be made with a coin flip.
Chicago at New York (Big Blue)
New York should absolutely be 3-1 after this game, which should, at least for a moment, quiet those Saquon Barkley trade rumours I keep hearing.
Jacksonville at Philadelphia
So, who had Jags-Iggles circled on their calendar as potentially the best game in Week 4? Philly will need to clean things up a bit on defense, or they could very easily fall to a Jacksonville team that is playing well and is growing in confidence.
New York (Gangrene) at Pittsburgh
Hard to imagine Mike Tomlin letting his team lose at home to an opponent this bad.
Arizona at Carolina
Carolina is playing way over their heads, mostly due to their defense. This is a bad matchup for Arizona, which can’t seem to find any consistency on offense, which is putting extra strain on their subpar defense.
New England at Green Bay
I am highly sceptical of Brian Hoyer’s ability to get enough out of New England’s offense to do much against a quality Green Bay defense.
Denver at Las Vegas
I fully expected Las Vegas to be no worse than 2-1 at this point. Instead, they’re 0-3 and look lost of offense. Whether it’s Josh McDaniels, Derek Carr, or whatever, Vegas is arguably the league’s biggest disappointment at this point, and 0-4 would be catastrophic.
KC at Tampa
Tampa’s offense, without Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones, could not get going last week against Green Bay. That they came so close to winning anyway is a testament to how good their defense is. I expect KC’s offense to struggle in Tampa, and Tom Brady should have all three of the aforementioned wideouts at his disposal.
Los Angeles (Horns) at San Francisco
San Francisco hasn’t shown much of anything on offense thus far this season, and that’s the one thing I can’t get past when I try to imagine which team has the upper hand in this one.
Miami at Cincinnati
One of these teams is 3-0, the other is 1-2. That much I expected, but I apparently got the teams wrong. Miami has been good, lucky, and opportunistic in compiling their undefeated record. Cincinnati looked like absolute crap the first two weeks, but looked much better in Week 3 against the Jets -- take that however you want it.
Picking games thus far has been an absolute minefield. I do believe that Miami is probably not as good as their record, and that Cincy is better than theirs. I also know that Miami is banged-up a bit on both sides of the ball, and that they are playing a Thursday Night game after their defense just played around 40 MINUTES in that stifling Miami heat against Buffalo. Cincy, meanwhile, had a much easier time in their game this past Sunday.
With home field, and a potent offense that is just waiting to break out, I expect Cincy to score a lot against what must be a tired Miami defense. To this end, I would like to see the team use RB Joe Mixon more.
Miami 23, Cincinnati 33
So, we survived our encounter with Hurricane Fiona. As I write this, we have been without power for over 24 hours, and it might be days before we have it restored. We have a generator powering our fridge and chest freezers, as well as our internet. The main thing is that we’re all safe and healthy.
I only have one thing to talk about in this week’s intro, and that is the suspension of KC LB Willie Gay for “four games without pay for violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy.”
I wrote extensively about Gay in January of this year. Despite numerous media reports, both then and now, that gloss over Gay’s offence as everything from “misdemeanor property damage,” to “breaking a vacuum during an argument with his child’s mother,” the incident in question is much more serious than that.
Here is an excerpt from one of my January columns which describes the incident at hand:
KC linebacker Willie Gay was arrested this past Wednesday. Much of the media coverage of this has been misleading, with many headlines emphasizing the charge, which officially is “Criminal Damage of less than $1000.” I’ve even seen some headlines that said something along the lines of, “Willie Gay arrested for breaking a vacuum cleaner.”
If you’re willing to read the articles, or watch the news reports, you might eventually discover that this incident is considered “domestic violence-related,” that the incident took place at the home of his child’s mother, and that Gay damaged a vacuum, a wall, and a door frame.
I did find one report that detailed the victim’s report of the incident. According to the victim, Gay came over to her home after being asked not to, refused to leave, verbally abused her, shoved her, took her phone and hung up on the 911 dispatcher after she had called for help, threw her phone against the wall, and smashed her vacuum, then left before police arrived.
The victim has applied for a protective order, citing this incident, as well as alleging past incidences of physical and verbal abuse and threats.
Gay has a history of violence. In college, he was kicked out of games for it and suspended. He assaulted a teammate, causing serious injury.
Willie Gay should not be playing today. Is he going to have to put her in the hospital before he’s held accountable? Does he have to kill her?
Despite the team and the league being fully aware of this, Gay was allowed to play in KC’s divisional playoff game against Buffalo.
The column in which that excerpt appeared was one of my most read columns of the season, and it provoked a lot of feedback. While most were appalled, some said it was no big deal, made excuses, or even praised Gay.
In the following week’s column, I wrote this:
So, last week’s column got around a bit, thanks in large part to my dear friend Chad. Reaction to the article was generally positive, judging by the comments I saw. A lot of people are fed up with the attitude that the league and teams have with regards to good players who behave badly. Many people simply aren’t aware of the extent that KC has gone to in order to have the players they want on the field.
The reaction wasn’t all positive, however. Whenever I write something like this, I’m fascinated by how fans of the team I’m criticizing will twist themselves into logical knots trying to justify the team’s actions, and/or their personal fandom.
More disturbing were some of the responses to Gay’s arrest. One commenter opined that he (Gay) “… broke a vacuum and hit a wall.. gimme a break.” When challenged by another commenter, the guy fell back on weak, tired arguments around the ideas of innocent until proven guilty, and how much good the team does for the community. This person is an idiot.
Worse, another commenter was appalled by my criticism of Gay’s actions, saying that Gay had, in fact, done “the right thing” by merely damaging property instead of hitting his child’s mother. Anyone who thinks this way should be put on an island somewhere with other men of his ilk.
This should go without saying, but here I go anyway…
Any man (particularly if they are 6’1” and 240+ pounds) who goes to a woman’s home uninvited, verbally abuses her, and smashes her property, has not done “the right thing.” Any of these actions is abusive, violent, and threatening. Just because he hasn’t hit her doesn’t mean he hasn’t harmed her. And as for predicting the future, far too many women know this story by heart, and they know how it usually ends.
When Gay’s suspension was announced, many on social media questioned the unfairness of the suspension for so minor an offense, or expressed confusion or outrage as to the timing of the suspension; Gay’s court appearance to answer for the charges was in June, well before the beginning of the season, yet he played in KC’s first two games.
As much as I tend to call out bad fan behaviour, in a way, I find it hard to blame some of these fans. Most do not know the seriousness of the actual incident. For this, I blame the mainstream sports media, which long ago abdicated its responsibility to do sports journalism, and instead became cheerleaders for the league. Most of the stuff I find out about players like Gay I have to look really hard for, and it is local journalists who are doing the real work. In a time when fans want and expect their information quickly, they read a headline or a pull quote and move on. Big-time sports media is not journalism; it’s fluff.
That’s why tweets like this one are so incredibly irresponsible:
It’s awfully curious how the league goes to such pains to downplay an incident of misconduct by a player off the field, while at the same time punishing the player severely (four game cheques is no small sum). It’s almost as if the league knows how serious and awful the offense actually was.
Believe me, the league knows.
The league could use incidents of player violence against women as an opportunity to make a statement that could have a real, positive effect on society. Instead, the NFL tries to sweep it under the rug, while punishing the player severely enough so that he learns his lesson.
And make no mistake, that lesson is this: Don’t embarrass the league.
Week Three Picks
Winners in Bold
New Orleans at Carolina
New Orleans’s offense is banged-up, but Carolina’s is rounding into form. Watch for a big day from Christian McCaffrey.
Houston at Chicago
This Houston team has heart.
KC at Indianapolis
Indy’s offense, based on what we’ve seen this season, can’t keep up with KC.
Buffalo at Miami
The loss of S Micah Hyde is an incredibly huge deal for Buffalo’s defense, for the season, and specifically for this matchup against Miami’s built-for-speed offense. There’s definitely upset potential here.
Detroit at Minnesota
Detroit’s offense is humming, and Minnesota’s defense is not.
Baltimore at New England
Eventually, the Pats are going to have to take the training wheels off Mac Jones. This isn’t the week, though. Lots of power running, plus the occasional seam route or cross to a TE will eat clock and keep Lamar Jackson off the field.
Cincinnati at New York (Green)
Cincy has been a disappointment. If they lose this one, I’ll downgrade them to “disaster.”
Las Vegas at Tennessee
Two teams with high hopes, both sitting a 0-2. If I had any say in Tennessee’s offense, I’d use WR Josh Gordon to try and resurrect their play-action passing attack.
Philadelphia at Washington
Philly’s offense looks like the real deal thus far.
Jacksonville at Los Angeles (Bolts)
Jacksonville has shown some promise, but this is a game that the Bolts have to win, even if Justin Herbert’s ribs are sore.
Los Angeles (Horn) at Arizona
Arizona’s best chance in this one is if LA’s defense wears itself out in the first half chasing Kyler Murray.
Atlanta at Seattle
I like Atlanta’s offense here much better than Seattle’s.
Green Bay at Tampa
A game featuring two legendary QBs, that will appropriately be decided by which QB successfully handles the other team’s exceptional defense.
San Francisco at Denver
San Fran is probably better off with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Dallas at New York (Blue)
The key to a game like this one is not to look at Dallas without Dak and chalk it up as an automatic W. New York has seen enough adversity lately to make them less susceptible to overconfidence.
Happy Thursday to all you fine folks.
Perhaps you've heard of Hurricane Fiona. She's the storm that is responsible for the devastation in Puerto Rico. What with all the exhaustive and inexplicable coverage of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II (of ENGLAND!) by US American news media, you might have forgotten about Puerto Rico, which is part of the US of A (as opposed to ENGLAND!).
Anyway, Fiona is headed north, and where I live is right in her crosshairs. She's due to hit sometime on Friday, and some meteorological models suggest that she could still be as strong as a category 2 or 3 when she hits. So, I've just spent most of the day getting our yard "storm ready." We have an extensive garden and a portable greenhouse, so there was a fair bit to do.
I just came in, and I'm tired.
As luck would have it, tonight's game is between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I can't stand Pittsburgh. And as for Cleveland, I used to feel sorry for them, but since they signed Deshaun Watson, I have no choice but to loathe them and hope they lose every game. However, since the thought of cheering for Pittsburgh is ICK, I had no intention of watching the game anyway.
So, enjoy the game, if that's what you're into.
Wish me luck with the storm.
And don't forget about Puerto Rico.
So, was that a fun Week 1 or what?
Upsets seem to hit differently in Week 1. The NFL is such a hype-driven operation. It saturates sports media by virtue of having its own network, as well as through the mega-deals that it makes with TV networks and streaming platforms to broadcast or stream games. Also, everything that happens in the league is breathlessly reported on ad nauseum by sports media networks, publications, and personalities, who put a positive spin on everything.
Certain teams enter the season with a lot of league and media-created expectations, which may or may not be warranted. As a result, when one of these paper contenders gets a dose of reality on the field of play, it has the illusion of being more than it is.
Personally, I love the upsets. It’s boring when things go as expected too often.
I picked four upset specials in Week 1. I hit on two, with Minnesota beating Green Bay, and Big Blue New York outlasting Tennessee. In the other two, I picked Carolina, who lost to Cleveland on a 58-yard FG with 13 seconds left, and I picked Jacksonville, who led Washington by 8 in the 4th quarter before surrendering two late TDs.
As I say every year, don’t overreact to the results of Week 1. Many star players don’t play at all in the preseason, so Week 1 is their first meaningful action in several months. Players change teams, teams change coaches. It takes time for some players and teams to settle in. It’s a long season; nobody gets crowned in September.
The season has only just begun. We know nothing.
Week Two Picks
Winners in Bold
Miami at Baltimore
Both of these teams won in Week 1, but neither looked particularly impressive in doing so. They’re both overhyped and overrated. This is the type of game that Miami usually loses, but I still think they’re the better team, so…
New York (Green) at Cleveland
A lot of people predicting an upset here, mostly based on Jacoby Brissett’s tepid performance in Week 1. Cleveland still has the run game and the defense, and New York is still “Gangrene.”
Washington at Detroit
Apparently, Detroit is favoured in a game for the first time in forever (if you’re into that sort of thing). I was planning on picking them this week, until I saw C Frank Ragnow is listed as “Out” for this game. Ragnow’s top-notch, so Detroit being without his services against a quality Washington DL is a serious concern.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
Indy showed heart in avoiding a loss to a plucky Houston squad in Matt Ryan’s debut. We’ll know more about the offense after this week, and their defense needs to get healthy.
Tampa at New Orleans
New Orleans has absolutely plagued Tampa in the regular season since Touchdown Tommy’s arrival. Tampa’s defense looked really good in their opener, which spells trouble for a New Orleans offense that might be without Alvin Kamara this week.
Carolina at New York (Blue)
Don’t be surprised if this is a high-scoring game. Both teams feature talented offenses, with New York’s looking particularly feisty under the new coaching regime. Neither team looks particularly good on defense either, so this could turn out to be a fun duel between two QBs with a lot to prove, and two RBs with room to run.
New England at Pittsburgh
New England looked rather unimpressive on offense in Week 1. Despite what everyone seems to believe about this game, a few facts remain: TJ Watt is not absent, New England’s failure to take care of the ball in Week 1 is atypical, and Pittsburgh won last week because Cincinnati played abysmally.
Atlanta at Los Angeles (Horn)
Tampa’s defense made LA look bad in Week 1. Atlanta’s new-look offense gave New Orleans a scare. This might not be the walkover for LA that many think it will be.
Seattle at San Francisco
It’s hard to tell anything about San Fran’s offense under Trey Lance after they played their Week 1 game in a lake. One thing we did see in Week 1 was Geno Smith playing well and beating Denver. This game will tell us a lot about both teams.
Cincinnati at Dallas
A lot has been said about Joe Burrow being a cool, calm, and relaxed QB. That’s great and all, but you can’t be so cool that you don’t care. Largely due to Burrow’s wretched play, Cincy went into a Week 1 game they had no business losing, and turned it into a game they had no business winning. Cincinnati is better than Dallas, and without Dak Prescott, Cincy absolutely has no business losing this game.
Houston at Denver
Loved the Week 1 performance by Houston. This motley mix of cast-offs and kids has talent, and showed through their effort that they won’t lie down for anyone. That’s why it was aggravating to see Lovie Smith decide to play for a tie in OT rather than trying to win. The players deserved better. Denver decidedly did not live up to the hype that came with their acquisition of Russell Wilson. Though I expect Denver to get better, their coaching seems a bit suspect. Although most people were talking about Denver’s failure to use a timeout before attempting a 64-yard field goal, I was much more curious about their coach’s decision to use his remaining two timeouts on Seattle kneeldowns when the game was unwinnable. That’s some bush-league shit right there, folks.
Arizona at Las Vegas
Las Vegas lost to a superior Bolts team in Week 1; no shame there. If I had one quibble, it would be the offense being overly focused on Davante Adams, when there’s top-notch talent to share the workload. That said, I will be legitimately surprised by anything less than a comfortable Vegas victory over Arizona.
Chicago at Green Bay
Green Bay’s offense couldn’t get it going in Week 1, but I believe they’ll improve. Chicago beat San Fran with a major assist from Mother Nature, but they’ll come crashing back to earth this week against Green Bay’s defense.
Tennessee at Buffalo
Tennessee has given Buffalo all they can handle in these teams’ most recent meetings. Buffalo is on a mission, though, and Tennessee isn’t nearly as good as they’ve been the past couple of seasons.
Minnesota at Philadelphia
Philly’s much-hyped offense showed up in Week 1. Their defense decidedly did not, however, and if they don’t play better this week, Minnesota will absolutely give them the shootout they’re looking for.
Khalil Mack has been a top-level talent since he was drafted by Oakland in 2014. In 2016, only his third pro season, he was named Defensive Player of the Year. Naturally, Oakland picked up his contract’s fifth-year option. When he couldn’t get a long-term deal done prior to his fifth season, Mack held out. The sycophantic media that follows the league was quick to remind fans that Mack was under contract, and that once the season started, he would start missing game cheques. Of course, what they wouldn’t tell you is that if Mack had reported and played in his then current deal, there was nothing to stop the team from stringing him along for a couple of years on the franchise tag.
Amazingly (stupidly), Oakland traded Mack to Chicago, where he got his big deal, and flourished, while Oakland, under $100 million-dollar coach Jon Gruden (remember him?) floundered.
However, while Mack excelled, Chicago did not, owing to dreadful coaching and front-office decisions. Last season, Mack injured his foot in Week 3. He gutted out the injury for a while, but finally had to stop playing after Week 7. Despite his injury, he was enjoying another standout season statistically, with 6 sacks and 6 tackles-for-loss.
In the offseason, Mack was traded from a terrible Chicago team to the Los Angeles Bolts.
All Khalil Mack has ever done is play the game as well as he could, and he has been excellent. He was disrespected by Oakland, wasted in Chicago. He underwent surgery on his foot for his 2021 injury. This past Sunday, his first with LA, Mack played great, sacking Las Vegas QB Derek Carr three times to lead his team to victory.
After all of this adversity, and the triumph of his Bolts’ debut, what is Khalil Mack’s reward?
He gets to play KC on a Thursday Night, on three days’ rest.
That’s what the league thinks of Khalil Mack. For all he’s given the fans and the game, he’s just a replaceable part.
Los Angeles (Bolts) at KC
There’s a lot about the game tonight that explains why my column is called “Hate-Watching the NFL.” Khalil Mack’s situation is only one example.
Take Keenan Allen. Allen got hurt in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over Las Vegas. The Bolts are wisely keeping their top wideout out of this game, owing to the “short week.” Also, LA’s other big defensive acquisition, JC Jackson, who has not played yet because he is recovering from ankle surgery, will be a game-time decision, again due to the “short week.”
I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating: Thursday football is wrong. It exposes players to unnecessary risk due to insufficient rest. It also cheats the fans by providing a subpar product. The NFL is supposed to be the best players playing at the highest level, but Thursday football is not that. It might be entertaining, but it’s a lie. Star players playing tired and hurt, or not at all, is not “Prime” time football.
(Yes, that was a shot at Amazon Prime, which is streaming the game.)
One player that SHOULD be missing this game is KC defender Frank Clark. Clark finally had his day in court last week, to enter a “nolo contendre” plea stemming from his multiple gun arrests from last year. Despite the fact that Clark has now been sentenced (no jail time, quelle surprise…), neither the league nor the team has seen fit to suspend him. Clark suited up for the season opener, and is expected to play again tonight.
Anyway, as for the football…
Both of these teams looked good in their openers on Sunday, particularly the QBs. Neither Patrick Mahomes nor Justin Herbert was sacked or intercepted. Mahomes put up gaudier yardage and TD numbers, but they came against an inferior opponent. LA’s defense, playing against a talented Vegas squad, looked much better than last season’s iteration. Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa combined for 4.5 Sacks on Sunday, and I’d sure like to see them chasing Mahomes around on a full week’s rest. Alas…
One more note: KC Kicker Harrison Butker, who I recently discovered is an anti-choice asshole (File his views under “It’s none of your business, shut the fuck up.”), got hurt on Sunday, and will not play tonight. Would it be a shame if he was denied access to necessary health care, or nah?
Los Angeles 33, KC 26
Once again, I'm going to skip the wordy intro and just get to the meat and potatoes.
New York (Green)
Based on talent, Buffalo should easily win their division, and are rightfully considered as top contenders to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. My biggest concern about Buffalo is the health of their most valuable player, QB Josh Allen. Allen’s performance in the playoffs last season was otherworldly. When the defense faltered, when the offense needed a play, Allen delivered. He put the team on his shoulders, standing in the pocket, scrambling, running, and, critically, taking a lot of hits. He’s been praised to the moon for this, but it’s not a sustainable model for success. Allen may be big, strong, and fast, but he’s not invulnerable. And if he gets hurt, Buffalo, for all their talent, are going nowhere.
There are many who are predicting the demise of New England, but I wouldn’t be too quick to write them off. Last season, despite starting a rookie QB, and featuring a conservative, run-heavy offense, in the AFC, only Buffalo, KC, and Los Angeles managed to score more points than the Pats. Second year starter Mac Jones will benefit from the return of bruising RB Damien Harris and talented TE tandem Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, as well as the addition of wideout DeVante Parker. Also, only Buffalo gave up fewer points than New England last season, and that’s in the entire NFL. New England’s secondary will be without standout CB JC Jackson, but will be boosted by a deep and talented corps of Safeties, including Devin McCourty, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for having been such a great leader and stabilizing influence on the Pats’ perennially exceptional secondary.
Speed is the word on everyone’s lips when talking about Miami heading into this season. To an already fast offense, Miami added RB Raheem Mostert and a really fast WR (who shall not be named). Offensively, there are no more excuses for embattled QB Tua Tagovailoa. Defensively, the secondary is mostly solid, and the team added Melvin Ingram to hopefully improve the pass rush.
To be honest, I try not to pay too much attention to New York, the team that its fans have nicknamed “Gang Green,” but that I always refer to as “Gangrene,” because they’re rotten and they stink.
Last season, I wrote multiple times that I hoped that Matt Ryan would leave Atlanta and find a new team, including this from Week 11:
Matt Ryan still has plenty of good football left in him. Atlanta is a mess. I'd love to see him on another team, a team with a good supporting cast on offense, a good defense, and good coaching. I'd love to see Matt Ryan get another shot at glory.
Well, it looks like I got my wish. In Indianapolis, Ryan will play alongside star RB Jonathan Taylor, on a team with a good offense, and with Frank Reich as Head Coach. Granted, the team looks a bit thin at WR, but I still think that this is Indy’s division to lose.
Tennessee, through some kind of sorcery, managed to secure the top seed in the AFC last season. This team is not that team. The defense consists of two standout Safeties, and a lot of question marks. RB Derrick Henry is an absolute monster, but he proved to be mortal last season when he succumbed to injury. The passing game underperformed, and QB Ryan Tannehill will have to make do without star WR AJ Brown, who Tennessee inexplicably allowed to go to Philly.
Lancing the boil known as Urban Mayer should go a long way towards allowing Jacksonville to finally reap the benefits of having drafted a very talented QB last year. Call this Trevor Lawrence, Season 1, 2.0. Under new Head Coach Doug Pederson, it will be interesting to see what Lawrence can do.
Houston heads into this season with a mixed cast of youth and talented cast-offs. QB Davis Mills proved to be surprisingly competent as a starter last season. Area massage therapists breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Cincinnati was robbed! OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I will not be the least bit surprised when Cincy repeats at North champs. QB Joe Burrow is a special talent, cool under pressure. His main supporting cast, RB Joe Mixon, and wideouts Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd are about as good as it gets. The team took steps toward improving the OL, their main weakness. The defense is solid. They’ll be in the playoff mix again.
It's true that Baltimore suffered tremendously due to injuries last season. This season, questions abound regarding QB Lamar Jackson’s contract status and health. With a thin receiving corps (excepting TE Mark Andrews), Jackson will once again be called upon to do it all, thus exposing himself to more injuries.
It’s not every day that you see a professional sports franchise pay a guaranteed quarter-of-a-billion dollars to a serial sexual predator, but you did it, Cleveland. So, fuck Cleveland, the Browns, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Kevin Stefanski, misogynist Browns’ fans, and also fuck your racist baseball fans, LeBron James, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
About QB Mitch Trubisky I will say this: after years of shitty coaching in Chicago, and being constantly reminded that he was drafted ahead of Patrick Mahomes, playing in Pittsburgh should answer the question as to whether he can be a consistently capable starter. Though the OL might be a bit suspect, Trubisky will enjoy the benefits of playing with a quality RB in Najee Harris, and a talented receiving corps, led by Diontae Johnson. Besides, if Mike Tomlin can’t get something out of him, I doubt any other team can. If the offense improves, and the defense plays as well as it usually does, Pittsburgh could surprise people. Note: Although it’s still Pittsburgh, their hate-ability goes down a bit with the retirement of you-know-who.
Los Angeles Bolts
Before I break down the most interesting division in the league, this would be a good time to remind my regular readers, and to inform any new ones, that the picks, predictions, opinions, observations, analyses, etc., that you read here are my very own. I work for no one. I am beholding to no one. I have no team loyalties. I AM NOT I cheerleader for the league, and I abhor those who are. Also, I am honest about my biases, against the league, as well as certain teams, coaches, players, media personalities, fans, and so forth.
Got it? Good.
Man, did Los Angeles hit the jackpot when they drafted QB Justin Herbert. Every time I watched a Bolts’ game last season, I found myself saying multiple times that in 3 to 5 years, Herbert will be the best QB in football. He has all the tools, and he’s surrounded by talent. I had the team pegged as a playoff team last season, but a poor defensive performance and some very questionable (to put it mildly) coaching decisions doomed them. To a defense that already fields elite pass rusher Joey Bosa and S Derwin James, LA has added another top QB chaser in Khalil Mack, and standout CB JC Jackson. From a talent standpoint, the Bolts might have the best roster in football. It’s time for them to make the leap.
Las Vegas is a gut pick for me. I like QB Derek Carr, his attitude, ability, and leadership. He’s proven himself to be a top QB under some insanely difficult circumstances. Vegas already had some standout talent on offense, in WR Hunter Renfrow, RB Josh Jacobs, and especially TE Darren Waller. To this mix, they have added WR Davante Adams, one of the top wideouts in the league. With new Head Coach Josh McDaniels running the show, this offense is poised to make a huge jump in production. Vegas also went out and got pass rusher Chandler Jones to play opposite standout Maxx Crosby. If the defense, which also features some young talent with potential in the secondary, can improve, then Vegas will surprise people.
Denver has done an excellent job over the past few seasons in amassing a stockpile of bright, young talent. The only thing that has been missing has been a QB to bring it all together. Enter Russell Wilson. This team has top talent at all the skill positions, and now has a proven winner at QB. There’s every reason to believe that they are a playoff calibre team.
The majority of my voluminous criticism of the KC team over the years centres around a general amorality with which they conduct business. The team collects and rewards violent, misogynist assholes, and refuses to discipline them if they can help the team win. The result of this is that the players in question continue to be unrepentant shitbags. Head Coach Andy Reid is largely responsible for the lack of accountability that plagues this organization. Reid has a huge say in personnel decisions, including what players stay, go, and play. Such is Reid’s influence that he was able to hire his son, Britt, as an assistant coach, despite his son having an extensive criminal background for drug, driving, and firearms offences. Britt Reid is no longer with the team, having been dismissed after crashing his speeding truck into two stopped vehicles while drunk. This asocial ethos even includes the fans, who insist on performing a racist chant during games, which the organization encourages. At any rate, the team also has Patrick Mahomes at QB, and is good enough to make the playoffs or even win the division. I just hope that they accomplish neither.
AFC Wild Cards: Las Vegas, Denver, New England
Now for the rest of this week’s picks. I’ve already said a lot about all of these teams, so I’m just going to run through these games quick like a bunny.
(For those of you who missed my NFC Preview, I’m once again beginning the season 1-0, after correctly picking Buffalo in the Thursday Night kickoff game.)
Week One Picks
Winners in Bold:
New Orleans at Atlanta
New Orleans’s defense will be a tough test for the new-look Atlanta offense.
Cleveland at Carolina
Upset special #1: Jacoby Brissett’s lacklustre effort opens the door for a close Carolina victory.
San Francisco at Chicago
George Kittle is expected to miss this one. It shouldn’t matter this week, but San Fran needs him.
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Opening the season with a win against hated Pittsburgh will be a great way to start the season for Cincy.
Philadelphia at Detroit
I’ll be interested in this game to see how much both teams have improved.
Indianapolis at Houston
Indy has to show that they’re all business as they open against a division rival that they’re expected to beat.
New England at Miami
The Pats have faltered many times in Miami, but there are outsize expectations for the home team, and I don’t think they’re up to it.
Baltimore at New York (Green)
Until I see otherwise, I’m just going to assume that Gangrene stinks.
Jacksonville at Washington
Upset special #2: Trevor Lawrence, finally free of Urban Mayer, propels Jax to an opening day victory.
New York (Blue) at Tennessee
Upset special #3: Big Blue gets off to a fast start, and holds on for a close win.
KC at Arizona
Fun fact: With all the faults I’ve found with KC over the years, I can’t believe I only recently discovered that their Kicker is an anti-choice asshole.
Las Vegas at Los Angeles (Bolts)
This is the game I’m most looking forward to. Vegas’s stacked offense will be a good test for LA’s revamped defense.
Green Bay at Minnesota
Upset special #4: Green Bay’s offense sputters just enough for Kirk Cousins and Co. to pull out a late victory.
Tampa at Dallas
Both defenses are very good. Tampa’s offense should be better.
Denver at Seattle
Big first game for Russell Wilson as he leads his new team against his former team.