LeSean McCoy: Weather was a theme all over the league yesterday, but what happened in Philadelphia was something entirely different. I can’t remember a game in which diving for the ball meant players temporarily disappearing.
When McCoy did this to Glover Quin in his (ridiculous) second half, part of me was worried it would end with Quin buried deep enough that he’d never be found.
This was the McCoy game that has seemed so close all year but has never quite happened. His 184-yard debut came on 31 carries, but since Nick Foles took over, there have been plenty of underwhelming outings. Apparently it took a blizzard to finally bring McCoy’s open-field advantage to an unfair place. McCoy has led the league the past two seasons in broken tackles, according to Football Outsiders, and I’m guessing he will again this year. His 1,305 rushing yards now lead the league, and if he somehow managed to string together a couple more big games and got to 1,600 for the year, I don’t know who would be surprised.
Robert Mathis, OLB, Colts v. Andrew Whitworth/Anthony Collins, Bengals Evan Mathis, G, Eagles v. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions
Two of the better line-play matchups of the week happen to come in games that mirror each other across conferences. Each pair of these teams shares the same record, and as everything currently stands, these are probably matchups between the 3- and 4-seeds in both the NFC and AFC.
The Bengals and Colts are almost assured of winning their respective divisions, thanks to the Colts’ win over the Titans last week and the general mediocrity that defines three quarters of the NFC North. What this game really means for each team is a tiebreaker advantage for seeding purposes. The 3-seed would get the benefit of playing the “winner” of the Dolphins-Ravens-whomever jumble, while the 4-seed hosted Kansas City.
I watched almost no football this week, except for the last three quarters of the Seahawks/Vikings game, because a tense match between the Lords Disick and Richard Feynman's team potentially hinged for me on Marshawn Lynch's performance in that game. The Seahawks are a really fun team to watch; they're good at football and they dress like '90s superheroes who've temporarily lost their jackets. I didn't see a minute of the Bengals/Browns game, but as a fantasy owner who acquired the Bengals D-line as an inside joke, I continue to find it hilarious that they're consistently my top-scoring "player" from week to week. I also have very little to report about my actual life, except that earlier this morning I elbowed an external hard drive off my desk onto a hardwood floor and now it's making All the Bad Noises. About an hour before that happened, I asked people on Twitter to ask me football questions "&/or the tough questions I'm afraid to ask myself." Below, I've answered all the questions I received in response to that tweet, thereby allowing me to save "Dane Sanzenbacher Fan Fiction Week" until after the bye week. You're welcome.
I fly to New York with Lonely Bunny in my pocket. Lonely Bunny is one of my daughter's finger puppets. He makes the tip of your finger look like a white rabbit popping out of a gray top hat. I document Lonely Bunny's trip and send the pictures to my wife's phone for my daughter to look at. It's a thing we do. I mean, originally it was a thing my wife did when she'd travel and now I'm doing it too. Successful co-parenting is all about stealing bits from your partner. My Lonely Bunny pictures are derivative of my wife's work, albeit more accomplished photographically. Here's Lonely Bunny looking out the window of an airplane. Here's Lonely Bunny having a cup of coffee. Look at that depth of field.
My first breath of New York air outside the terminal. Cold wind, cigarette smoke. This is how my vacation tastes.
This year Halloween fell on a Thursday. That morning brings the first real roster controversy of the Ryan Kuhlman era. I bench Denarius Moore from the Raiders to start Marvin Jones from the Bengals. When I tell Ryan I've done this over email, he advises me against "chasing Marvin's points from last week." Which stings, although it's exactly what I'm doing. Jones caught a career-high four touchdowns in the game against the Jets, the one I didn't watch that everyone keeps talking about like it was Andy Dalton's "Kendrick drops 'Control'" moment. On some level, by starting Jones against the Dolphins on Halloween night I'm trying to re-create whatever magic led to that 49-9 score, which is the act of a truly delusional Bengals stan. My desire to make the Marvin Jones era into a thing that happens is preventing me from fully embracing the Mission: Impossible–like team-management philosophy of the Ryan Kuhlman era, which involves handpicking a team for every job. No sentimentality. We're not a fantasy team, we're a fantasy strike force.
In case you were busy shooing weird-looking kids begging for candy off your doorstep, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Cameron Wake's game-ending sack of Andy Dalton was the difference as the Miami Dolphins snapped the Cincinnati Bengals' four-game winning streak via a rare overtime safety in a 22-20 win. When asked if Wake's pressure had gotten in his head, a confident Dalton replied, "Not at all. That game was just a real wake-up call for our team — no, no. I'm not going to do that, he's not in my head." Dalton took a deep breath and continued, saying, "I mean, fortunately this isn't some sort of wake for our chance to win the divis— no! Shit. There's another way to say that." Dalton then shook his head for a second before changing the subject, saying, "Let's talk about our defense, which did a great job even without Brandon Ghee, who went to Wake Forest — what is happening to me? Come on, I'm not brain-dead like those guys in Awakenings — gah!" A visibly desperate Dalton then said, "OK, OK. I'm gonna talk about something else entirely. Have you guys heard that new Arcade Fire album? Not as good as 'Wake Up' but — goddamnit! Wakeboarding is a great way to enjoy the summer — what? I don't even believe that! 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' was a hit by Wham — this has to stop!" Dalton then stood very still for a moment, before saying very slowly, "Credit to the Dolphins. They've come a long way since the Cam Cameron era." Dalton then paused and looked around the room, before suddenly blurting out, "Cameron Wake era. Dolphins can ride the wake. Wake up, Andy! Wake up!"
Let me introduce the Cincinnati Bengals defense to you this way: If you go back and calculate what each NFL team has allowed in points per game over their last 16 regular-season games, the best defense in the league has been that of the Seattle Seahawks, allowing a minuscule 14.8 points per game. They are often referred to as "one of the league's best defenses," if not "the best," full stop. Just behind them, at 15.4 points per game, are the Bengals. It's fair to say that the Cincinnati defense doesn't get that sort of attention. I suspect that most people have some vague inkling in the back of their head that the Bengals defense is pretty good, but it deserves to be considered as one of the league's two or three best units, alongside the Seahawks and Chiefs (third at 17.7 points per game).
My Wi-Fi has been down all day. One Chrome window hangs open and useless, a monument to the last thing I looked at before bed last night — Gmail, a message from my dad, with ads in the margins for Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes and fracking equipment, because apparently Gmail thinks I'm a wealthy supervillain. These bleeding-heart environmentalists think they can stop me from using my MTU Series 400 drill-engine to puncture Earth's precious gas pockets? Not if my fists and feet have anything to say about it!
Among other things, this interruption of service means I've missed all the what–Lou Reed–meant-to-me essays, which is probably a good thing, even though I'm sure yours was great and your story about where you were the first time you heard "Lisa Says" was better than everybody else's. It's nobody's fault, but once the think-piece stage of the mourning process passes the 24-hour mark, I get cranky, trollish, like I want to write DOUG/YULE on the proximal phalanges of all my fingers and go around punching people. But since I was watching the Cowboys-Lions game at Ye Rustic on Sunday when I found out Lou Reed died, that makes Lou technically part of this week's football action, so here's my Lou story.
Your wife is too good at recognizing actors' faces. Since moving to L.A. she keeps experiencing false-positive IDs. Sometimes she'll see someone in a store or across a crowded restaurant and become convinced it's someone she knows, maybe an old coworker, a friend of a friend, and then she realizes it's a third-season Top Chef loser, or the suspiciously grief-stricken father from an old CSI. Never mind. Forget it, it's Silver Lake. You tell people it doesn't feel like the rest of L.A. because it's not an industry crowd, but a third of the moms at your kid's school probably have at least a pilot on their résumés.
The cousin of that phenomenon: You keep seeing West Coast versions of East Coast people. You know this is because you moved from the actual Park Slope to Los Angeles's Park Slope. Or from Brooklyn's Park Slope to Los Angeles's Carroll Gardens. Same kind of milieu ergo same kind of hip beardy dads and tastefully tattooed moms. But it feels at least a little bit supernatural when it happens. Like for example there's a West Coast version of C. who comes to Ye Rustic some Sundays. One of the people Janet saves a stool for. She's a whole head taller and probably five years older, but that somehow makes it more eerie, like you're seeing two different actors playing the same character.
Enrico Fermi is in town for a wedding. He has got a bunch of plans but he asks if he can watch football with me on Sunday. I tell him to meet me at 10, at Ye Rustic, my place of business. I'm there at 9:57. They've got the Bengals/Bills game on the TV in the back corner, the one that's blocked by a pillar if you don't choose your seat right. The only open seat at the bar with an unobstructed view of the TV is the one Janet saves for her plus-one, so I take a booth that's big enough for five people.
The old jukebox is gone. The new one is a glowing LED slab bolted to the wall by the front door, one of those touchscreen models that looks like a giant Zune and beams down 3,600 new releases from Skynet every week. I haven't checked but I'm assuming it has that feature that you can pay an extra dollar to have your song play immediately instead of waiting out the queue, an option I find ideologically repellent. I spent my 20s sitting in bars waiting for my songs to come on and so should everybody else. Letting somebody cut the line because they've got an extra dollar to blow is dictionary-definition antidemocratic. Might as well institute a policy that you can pay a buck to opt out of the rule about not spitting in other people's drinks.
In case you were busy signing with the Vikings in order to guarantee a Super Bowl ring, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a game away from the National League Championship Series after Pedro Alvarez powered them to a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. "Don't say anything," said Pittsburgh superfan Willie Langdon after the game. "Just no one say anything. This isn't happening. No one talk about this." When asked if he was excited, Langdon yelled, "Shh, shh, shh. No. Not excited. Why would I be excited?" before whispering under his breath, "You shut your damn mouth before this whole damn thing falls apart. It's built on Popsicle sticks and Silly Putty, and if you crush this dream I'll crush you."
Today's the day, Tony Romo thought to himself as he sat on the bench, helmet in his hands, feeling a feeling: pride? He was almost sure it was pride. He glanced at the scoreboard. 48-41. He looked at the field; his team's defense was outmatched. Didn't matter. Don't think about being a hero, don't think about being a hero. You become a hero by being a hero, not by thinking Be a hero. Also, maybe the defense will keep things together. Maybe. So just think about anything else. Like why do humans feel pain? Huh, that's a brain tickler. Think, Anthony, think why do humans feel pain?
What is reality? I think Bill Belichick asked that at a press conference once, and it's a question I've been pondering mightily regarding Philip Rivers. In the corporeal sense, sure, I'll concede that he's real but is he actually fantasy's third-best player?
Chargers coach Mike McCoy has worked miracles before, but we're now beyond the season's quarter point, and this is usually when miracles start to die a slow and painful death. Mirages melt away, Lil Bow Wow loses his magical sneakers, and the Eagles call on Nick Foles to replace an injured Michael Vick.
For the record, I believe in Rivers, Jordan Cameron, Bad Eli Manning, Giovani Bernard, Kansas City's defense, and, of course, HOYER THE DESTROYER. On the flip side, I doubt the long-term viability of Michael Vick, Fred Jackson, DeMarco Murray, Julius Thomas, and, of course, Eddie Royal. What are some of your hot takes? Feel free to share them in the comments, but remember: The only way to determine whether reality's really real is with the passage of time.
I've been to Las Vegas four or five times. It's always for work, which means I always go by myself. Public service announcement: Don't do this. There's being alone, and then there's solitude, which is aloneness plus contemplation. It's useful aloneness. You find out who you are. Vegas doesn't permit contemplation. Vegas is a machine designed to blast the quiet out of your brain. Vegas aloneness is aloneness stripped of all its spiritually nutritional value. I can stand it for about 36 hours. I can tell myself, as the plane touches down, that I'm somehow going to do it right this time, that I will engage with what Vegas has to offer without letting the town's ambient despair and desperation infect me. But in the end the house always wins.
We’re not even a quarter into the season, and it seems like almost every starting running back has suffered an injury. I’m reading Stephania Bell’s blog as avidly as I read Harry Potter back in the day, and I was a Harry Potter freak. What’s more, outside of four or five elite guys, the running backs who are still healthy are mired in maddening committees. It’s truly outrageous, and in some way, Mike Shanahan is surely to blame.
Anyway, with so many backups suddenly becoming hot commodities, I’ve power-ranked the best of the bunch into one convenient list. Enjoy!
Backup Running Back Power Rankings
A random list I felt like making.
1. Giovani Bernard, Bengals. I won’t rehash my thoughts on Gio, but I'll say that it’s strikingly obvious just how much more effective he is than BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
On Sunday, the Bengals apparently became the first team in NFL history to turn a 14-point lead into a 16-point deficit and still eke out a win, which is easily the most archetypally Bengals-ish record ever set.