On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Sunday Dead-of-Night Football
Robert Mays: Of all the things to get used to about the West Coast, watching sports comes last. The first time you roll out of bed at 9 a.m. on a Sunday and kickoff is only an hour away, it’s hard to not wonder why everyone doesn’t live here. But six months later, when playoff basketball tips at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, that question is answered pretty quickly. I’m not sure if that part will ever feel right. It hasn’t yet.
When the news came out that the Raiders and Chargers would be kicking off at 11:30 ET last night, part of me was a little disappointed that I’d get to watch it three hours earlier. We love novelty in our sports watching. Think of how many times an extra-inning baseball broadcast has flashed the shot of the clock hitting midnight. There’s something about staying up past our bedtime that will never go away, no matter how old we get. Watching live football until 3 a.m. is almost like playing hooky for Opening Day. Knowing you shouldn’t be doing it is most of the fun.
Injury: Right hip Prognosis: 4-6 weeks Impact: Anyone who saw that Locker injury live is likely to lean toward the most pessimistic end of those four to six weeks. When Locker eventually hit the ground after taking that helmet in the chest from Muhammad Wilkerson, he stayed there, completely still, clearly doing his best to not move any part of his body. He knew it was bad.
“Right hip” is the best way to describe this because we still don’t know exactly what’s wrong. The swelling around the hip was so bad that initial tests were inconclusive. Locker will have another MRI today to determine what exactly is wrong, but no matter what the conclusion, we know he’s going to miss a significant chunk of time.
The timing here couldn’t be more cruel. Locker was 18-of-24 for 149 yards and three touchdowns when he went down. It was probably the best start of his career. As Bill Barnwell wrote on Grantland last week, Locker still has a long way to go as a reliable quarterback, but it does seem like there’s been some signs of improvement. One thing Locker has been this year is good enough to win. The Titans are 3-1, with their one loss coming on a last-second play on the road at Houston. Tennessee’s defense is much better than it was a year ago, and so far, the Titans have asked Locker to be steady enough to keep them in games as they try to pound away with Chris Johnson and their high-priced offensive line (a strategy that’s come with mixed returns so far).
In case you were busy getting your NIT bracket in before tipoff, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Miami Heat secured their 23rd consecutive victory, overcoming Jeff Green's 43 points to grab sole possession of the second longest winning streak in NBA history, as they edged the Boston Celtics, 105-103. "That has a nice, non-confrontational ring to it," said Heat forward LeBron James after the game. "'Second best of all time.' Maybe people can just say that about me. And just leave it at that. Really. I don't care at this point."
Not to be outdone, the Denver Nuggets won their 12th consecutive game, overcoming 34 points from Nate Robinson to beat the Chicago Bulls, 119-118, in overtime at the United Center. "That has a nice non-confrontational ring to it," said Nuggets head coach George Karl. "Second best team in the NBA hold on, I seem to be getting a call." Karl then looked at his phone before sheepishly muting the ringer. "It was Coach Pop. I'll call him back How about third best team in the NBA?"
In case you were busy dealing with your body shutting down all systems unrelated to the production of mucus, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Dwight Howard scored 39 points as he led the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-96 win over the Magic in Orlando, where he played the first eight seasons of his career. Howard was met with a chorus of boos, or as he calls them, "Laughs, right? Cause that's the typical reaction to my hilarious antics. That and guffaws. Kobe's a big guffawer. Let me show you what I mean." Howard then stared at the assembled press and did a throat slash gesture, before adding, "Oh, man, that guy can't get enough of me."
Valparaiso beat Wright State, 62-54, to win the Horizon League championship and qualify for the NCAA tournament. "Bryce Drew isn't walking through that door, so it's time to write your own destiny," said Valparaiso legend and current head coach Bryce Drew after the game, before adding, "Well, he is. He did. I mean, I is — I did. I meant, as a player, you're gonna have to create your own legend. But he will be attending the game. I mean, I will. You don't have to worry about that."
With all the rookie quarterbacks in the NFL BQBL this year, you'd think that there would be more fresh faces on the BQBL Summer Jam Screen. Aside from the artist currently known as Ryan Lindley, the rookie crop has been more or less serviceable. The most entertainingly inept TAINTers have actually been quarterbacks that were at one time labeled franchise guys, guys considered for the elusive (and ridiculous) “elite” label. Look at this week’s top three: Matt Stafford (remember when he was giving the Lions “swagger”?); Ryan Fitzpatrick (remember when his brain was saving Buffalo?); and Josh Freeman (someone that works here at Grantland may or may not have written less than a month ago that he continues “to be totally, unequivocally, 100 percent sold on Skinny Josh Freeman and the undeniably explosive Bucs”). Let’s see how that worked out in Week 14 for Skinny Josh Freeman and his “undeniably explosive Bucs.”
You may have noticed that we at Grantland take bad quarterback play very seriously. While Grantland's finest in the Los Angeles office take part in the BQBL each season, my basis for bad quarterback knowledge dates back to a childhood during which the starting quarterbacks for my favorite team were universally terrible. You try suffering through Dave Brown, Kent Graham, and Danny Kanell for a five-year stretch and see how much you enjoy it. Those mid-'90s Giants teams even gave away Tommy Maddox, who would eventually become a starter in Pittsburgh after winning an XFL Championship, but he delivered one of the worst backup performances in a single year I've ever seen: 6-for-23 for 49 yards with three interceptions and a fumble is probably deserving of professional excommunication.
With my esteemed qualifications, then, I was skeptical this Sunday when people started referring to Philip Rivers's bizarre pick-six against the Buccaneers as the worst pass of the year. Sure, it essentially turned a game that was about to be tied in the fourth quarter into one where the Chargers had an 11 percent chance of winning, but swings like that happen every day. A truly bad pass is more than just an ill-timed poor decision. It has to have panache. It needs to make you rewind with equal parts disgust and confusion. If possible, the cheery ex-quarterback doing color commentary should audibly groan or say something like "Oh no" as the pass is traveling in the air. It shouldn't look anything like a normal football play. Those are the truly terrible passes. And after I watched Rivers's pass, I realized that it did truly deserve to be in the running for worst pass of the year.
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.
Bills at Patriots
Buffalo hemorrhages 169.5 rushing yards a game and there’s a toddler-with-permanent-marker glee in Tom Brady’s eyes when he gashes open wounds, even if it means doing so via hand-offs (40 carries, 247 ground-game yards when these teams met in Week 4). There won’t be six New England turnovers this time; coupled with the running game, I’m expecting sub-par receiving lines for the Pats’ aces. Stevie Johnson has been leaving behind a data trail of ghastly box scores, including a three-catch-for-29-yards showing last week. This is largely because Ryan Fitzpatrick loves wheel routes to running backs and third-read safety-valve tosses to Scott Chandler. Donald Jones has scored every three weeks this season, and these migration patterns point to a touchdown this week.
As I write this it is 7:46 p.m., Monday, October 8, 12, 2012 AD. I point this out because I am writing the introduction to this week’s BQBL post BEFORE Mark Sanchez takes the field against the Houston Texans. There is a 90 percent chance that I will rewrite this after Sanchez throws three picks and is sacked a bajillion times by J.J. Watt and the Texans defense; there is a 5 percent chance he has a great game and we post this intro just to prove how unpredictable the NFL is; and there is a 5 percent chance this column is canceled because Sanchez is decapitated on the field of play, somehow lives, but the NFL is taking a couple weeks off to draw up some rule changes. Regardless, I doubt that even the inevitable ineptitude Mr. Sanchize is sure to muster up later this evening will top the week that Yo Gabba Gabbert had on Sunday. He was so bad he forced me to completely re-imagine how I write this column.
Three and Out
Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert), 89 points: Each week, I usually give the BQBLers a little synopsis of the atrocious turnovers that each of the top scorers compiled. But I was thinking ... by doing that, I’m leaving too much shitty quarterbacking on the cutting-room floor. Blaine Gabbert was so terrible this week that he deserves the full treatment. Ladies and gentlemen, I will now go through Yo Gabba Gabbert’s tremendous Sunday against the Bears defense, incompletion by glorious incompletion:
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, where points are awarded based on how many individual previews from each writer are selected. Get it? OK. We sorta do too.
Bears at Packers
[Ed. note: The deadline for submissions was prior to last night's Lambeau Massacre]
I’m a Bears fan. This week, I desperately fear the Packers defense. I fear they’ve prepared with the white-hot intensity of 1,000 ninja warriors. I fear they’ll strafe the field at Lambeau with thunderous hellfire, spitting shrapnel and leaving nothing but Bear parts where the Bears once stood. I fear their emotion. I fear their will to win. I fear Clay Matthews will eat me while I’m waiting to board an airplane. I am just plain sceeeered.
Brandon Marshall and the Bears D all looked extremely solid last week, but I’m not sure I would start either of them if I had James Jones (who is my call for Aaron Rodgers's boyfriend receiver this year), Randall Cobb, or the Packers D. Matt Forte is probably not a bad bet, but I’m just so scared of those Packers! I hope I’m wrong.
Look, there are plenty of places on this very website and many others where you can read thoughtful, measured responses to Week 1 quarterback performances. This is not that place. KEVIN KOLB IS THE GREATEST QUARTERBACK IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND! PEYTON MANNING IS A CYBORG FORGED OUT OF OLD CAR PARTS AND VICTORY JUICE! TIM TEBOW SHOULD BE A SLOT RECEIVER! What was that? That last one is actually a thoughtful, measured response? My bad.
Quick update on the (aptly named) BQBL Failure Machine. Like the quarterbacks we celebrate, its performance has not been perfect. We are feverishly working on ironing out all the kinks, and your super-friendly, understanding e-mails to email@example.com are a big help with that, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line. We’ll figure it out.
Ryan Pickspatrick threw three picks, had only 146 yards passing, led the Bills to a 37-point loss in Dallas, and didn’t even make the BQBL Top Three Scorers this week.
Week 10 the competition between stiffs was, well, stiff (never too early in the scorecard for a hacky joke). Curtis TAINTer was benched for the second consecutive week, Josh Freeman was benched, Tim Tebow completed only two passes the entire game, and Matthew Stafford tried to decapitate a man. That happened. After throwing an interception, Matthew Stafford tried to remove D.J. Moore’s head from his shoulders. As you can imagine, it didn’t go over well with Mr. Moore.
The beginning of the NFL season is an exciting time for mediocre franchises because they can envision success without actually having to achieve it. They can dream of a first-round playoff appearance like it is "their Super Bowl" without having to think about the questions they will have to answer when their team is eliminated.
These are the buzzworthy NFL franchises. Buzzworthy franchises are branded as "unknown" "surprises" that we didn’t expect to do so well.
We celebrate buzzworthy teams for what they can be, solely based on a few random regular-season games. As one of the world’s leading experts on forecasting the authenticity of buzz behind emerging bands, I am familiar with the best ways to analyze and enjoy the buzz behind "what’s next." Kings of Leon, Coldplay, and the Strokes used to be buzzbands, and the quality and context of their product was easier to enjoy before they achieved status as ubiquitous brands that people think they are supposed to like. We want to jump on board the spirit of buzz before a band or a team builds a successful franchise model that they recycle until it becomes irrelevant.
These are the buzzworthiest NFL franchises thru three weeks of action (before they actually become what they are).
Coming into this season, I didn't think the Buffalo Bills were that bad. Apparently, neither did the Bills. Buffalo won again Sunday to bring its record to 2-0. The Bills crushed the Kansas City Chiefs en route to a sleepy victory in Week 1, but their win Sunday over the Oakland Raiders was full of pyrotechnics: an 18-point comeback and a back-and-forth fourth quarter capped with Ryan Fitzpatrick’s touchdown pass to David Nelson to give Buffalo the lead.