Yesterday Philip Rivers went all Philip Rivers on the Kansas City Chiefs, leading the Bolts to a 41-38 victory, on the road, at the cauldron that is Arrowhead Stadium. Rivers hit Seyi Ajirotutu for a glorious, waning-seconds touchdown. The play call sounds like it was designed during a psychedelic experiment, spent listening to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. According to Ajirotutu, "Philip said, 'Fly on the boundary.' So I knew that's a little code word that he usually says that the ball's coming to you." FLY ON THE BOUNDARY, SEYI!!!
A good rule of thumb for gambling is that anytime Vegas sets a "record" point spread, you should take the underdog. No matter how great one team is and how horrible the other is, the laws of the universe almost always keep it close somehow. That's what happened in Denver on Sunday.
It didn't matter that Peyton Manning said this last week: “We’re playing a good NFL football team. I don’t look at anything besides what I see on the tape on defense, and I see a team that’s stingy in the red zone, I see some offenses that have made some really good plays against them, that have been hard to defend. Certainly, you know, it’s a team with a lot of pride.”
Afterward, he was saying this: "Sometimes, you score a lot of points and people take it for granted. Even people in your own building can take it for granted. It's not easy to win football games. I learned a long time ago, don't take winning for granted."
It was always going to be that way. The hidden bonus in all this?
In case you were busy bringing the ol' Rally Bear out of hibernation, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Philip Rivers and a surprisingly effective San Diego rushing attack led the Chargers to a 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts. "Oh, I hope Ryan Mathews is still on waivers," said world's saddest man Gary Pittson after seeing that the perpetually inconsistent Chargers running back had his first 100-yard rushing game of the year. Pittson, who was checking his fantasy league from the cab of a tow truck after his Datsun 120Y finally gave out on him halfway home from his new job as the late-night fry cook at the Hardee's in Dover, then muttered to himself, "I knew I shouldn't have cut him after one bad game." The good news for Pittson was that Mathews was still available as a free agent in his league. The bad news for Pittson was that his cell phone was about to die, and Clem the tow truck driver had no intention of stopping his truck to let Pittson retrieve his charger. The worse news for Pittson is that in the time it would take him and Clem to reach his auto repair shop in Wilmington, where they would finally notice that the Datsun was actually on fire, world-class bassist and league commissioner Teddy Jackson would both pick up Mathews and offer him to Pittson in exchange for his first pick in next year's draft.
Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu threw seven scoreless innings and Yasiel Puig broke out of a slump with a huge RBI triple as the Los Angeles Dodgers closed the gap in the NLCS with a 3-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. "You know I'd K'd five times in a row before that triple," Puig said after the game as he hung out with his entourage at the Chateau Marmont. "That's L.A., baby," said Puig's second cousin, Terry "Tortoise" Puig. "Travolta in Pulp Fiction, Rourke in The Wrestler, NPH in Starship Troopers. This town loves a comeback." Just then, a hand reached out from the darkness and tapped Puig on the shoulder. "You boys talking comebacks?" asked a deep voice from the darkness, "because I know something about coming back." Puig turned and looked up: the distinctive red hair, the pale face, the black suit. "Holy shit, David Caruso!" exclaimed Puig. "I'm a huge fan. CSI: Miami, Jade, NYPD Blue um, CSI: Miami." Caruso smiled, nodded, and said, "I've always been a fan of the Dodgers," before putting on a pair of sunglasses and adding, "but now it seems the Dodgers are a fan of me," while walking away. "Where else does something like that happen?" asked a starstruck Puig before exclaiming, "I love this town!"
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.
Is Philip Rivers a good quarterback? About five years ago the answer was obviously “yes.” But more recently the answer was clearly “no.” Through three games this year, the answer seems to be “yes” again.
From start to finish, Sunday brought us an orgy of awful. The RedZone Channel could barely keep pace. You had games like Browns-Dolphins and Titans-Steelers that were overflowing with awful quarterbacking. At one point, the Lions and Vikings traded a Matt Stafford fumble for a Christian Ponder interception in about three plays. And there was that one play in Bears-Bengals where Jay Cutler threw it five yards behind his receiver and straight to Vontaze Burfict. This is why we watch.
Ladies and gentleman, we live in the golden age of Bad Quarterbacking. Teams are throwing the ball more than ever and star running backs are an endangered species, but there are also fewer good quarterbacks than ever before. All of it means that there are more opportunities than ever for bad quarterbacks to spread their wings and fly straight into a plate-glass window.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next two and a half months providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
A little more than three years ago, on a cloudy March day in Missouri, I learned most of what I needed to know about Danario Alexander. I’d spent the past month accompanying Alexander to the University of Missouri training room, where he was rehabbing his fourth knee surgery in the past four years. This one had come during Senior Bowl practices, on a nothing play during a nothing drill, and it would be responsible for keeping him out of the NFL combine and from hearing his name called during the NFL draft.
It wasn’t the worst one, though. For that, you’ve got some choices — really, any of the three ACL tears Alexander suffered during his time in college. For most of his time at school, Alexander was a 6-foot-5, little-recruited, ultratalented wide receiver continuously betrayed by his body. Then, as a senior, he caught 114 passes for more than 1,700 yards. He was, likely, the best wide receiver in the country. When it came time for him to prove it, in the run-up to that year’s draft, there was his body, betraying him again.
We’d talked a lot about the first three injuries, how as he sat waiting for his third surgery he wondered if football was for him, and on that March day, as sweat dripped from his forehead as he worked out in the pool, I asked him whether he ever found this all unfair. He shook his head. “That’s just how it is,” he said. “I’ll fight however long. However long I have to fight, I’ll keep fighting.”
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit a preview for each of that weekend's games. The best preview from each game will be selected and combined with the others into one comprehensive guide, and points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do, too.
Panthers at Bears
A thought experiment, on the occasion of Panthers GM Marty Hurney’s Monday-morning firing: If millions of devotees followed your fantasy football team with the passion of NFL fans, and this team started the season 1-5 primarily because you used (wasted?) a first-round selection on Cam Newton, would you be out of a job? Newton’s fantasy points are that of a backup QB (13th overall), and the former no. 1 pick is regressing while contemporaries — Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Andrew Luck, RG3, to name a few — improve. Perhaps he’s just suffering from an especially lethal sophomore slump, but this is very concerning. As such, I expect a pick-six or two from the ferocious Bears defense, the 11th highest-scoring entity in all of fantasy football.
The way we define a benching is by asking the question, “If he had played well, would he still be on the field?” I bring this up because there were some borderline benching calls this week — a couple of those sympathy benchings, those-bruised ego benchings, those “If you throw another pick I am going to strangle you on national television so I am just going to put in T.J. Yates right now” benchings. The BQBL committee (read: some dude we’ve never met) has reached the conclusion that both Matt Schaub and Alex Smith were the recipients of this type of merciful benching this week. Even with those extra 35 points, their combined terriblocity couldn’t top what Philip Michael Rivers did last night. When Philip Rivers plays a division rival on Monday night, it doesn’t just go poorly, it goes straight Shakespearean tragedy.
Each week, the Fantasy Island contestants will submit waiver wires detailing their recommended pickups. The best waiver column will be published and awarded points as part of Grantland's ongoing contest to select our fantasy football writer. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
What follows is a transcript from the latest meeting of Underperformers Anonymous (UA), the oldest support group in the country for underperforming fantasy football players. Names have not been changed, but some details have been omitted to protect the innocent.
Doctor: Welcome, everyone, welcome. I see a lot of faces here today — some old, some new. I’m Dr. Edwards, or Braylon, but most people here just call me Dr. B. I know what you’re all going through. I am living through my sixth year of underperforming, and my third year leading the groups here at UA. [Light applause in room.] Thank you. Our thanks once again to the Holiday Inn Paramus for letting us hold our events in the Springsteen Ballroom. This is an informal group, so whenever you feel like talking, you can. We just like to give everyone a chance to tell his story. Let’s just start clockwise from me, OK? [Nods to his left.]
For most of his time in San Diego, Philip Rivers hasn’t exactly been flush with weapons. This year — with Vincent Jackson’s bolt to Tampa Bay, one more year removed from losing Darren Sproles, and Ryan Mathews’s perpetual spot on the injury report — it seemed Rivers might have as tough a time as ever. And that was before the Chargers lost Vincent Brown. The second-year wide receiver broke his ankle on a touchdown catch against the Cowboys on Sunday, brutal news for a player whom one Chargers veteran described as “our best receiver.”
Originally thought to be lost for the season, reports are now saying that Brown could be back in as little as eight weeks, and the Chargers plan to keep him on the roster. Still, this leaves Rivers with one less target on the outside, and although the word out of Chargers training camp is that Antonio Gates looks as good as he has in years, there’s no doubt that this was a break San Diego could ill afford.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
Philip Rivers threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns as the Chargers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 38-14 win over the Jaguars. "It's disappointing not to make it to seven," said Chargers coach Norv Turner, "but wait, is this the playoffs?"