Let's make some Week 3 picks (home teams in caps) …
Chiefs (+3.5) over EAGLES
I nailed one! By the way, I zipped through this game in 35 minutes on DVR thanks to my new philosophy, "Don't watch the Thursday-night game live because it's always a disjointed, sloppy suckfest of a money grab with beaten-up players who played just four days earlier." I highly encourage you to follow suit.
What did I do instead last night? I took my daughter to the Sparks-Mercury WNBA playoff game. And I'll tell you what else … NO REGRETS. My daughter had a fantastic time and made me buy her a Sparks T-shirt, nachos, Sour Patch kids and a soda. We saw Floyd Mayweather and Mr. Belding. We sat next to Lisa Leslie (who couldn't be nicer). We saw Brittney Griner's first playoff game, although she was saddled by a massive knee brace and didn't look anything remotely like the Female Bill Russell … but still. We saw the best women's player of all time, Diana Taurasi, who is absolutely brilliant and killed the Sparks in the second half as I repeatedly told my daughter (who loves basketball) to watch her command of the court, watch how hard she tried on every play and watch all the subtle things she was doing. Then again, my daughter couldn't really concentrate because she was zonked out on a sugar high. I blame myself.
You know what was interesting? They gave Candace Parker the MVP before the game, even though Taurasi is still the league's best player. As Taurasi laid the smack down — 30 points and seven assists — I was sitting there thinking, This is a little like the game when Hakeem got pissed because David Robinson won the '95 MVP and decided to kick his ass. So I told my daughter the Hakeem story, but her eyes were rolling back in her head from the Sour Patch Kids, and she has no idea who Robinson and Hakeem were. Other than that, she totally followed it. Regardless, we had fun and I support any event that includes (a) getting to watch the absolute best at something (in this case, Taurasi), and (b) getting three hours of quality time with my daughter, because in five years, she won't want to hang out with me anymore and it already makes me sad.
(Hold on, I'm going to give you a few seconds to recover from the last two paragraphs.)
(You need another few seconds?)
Cards (+7.5) over SAINTS
Say this much for the Cards: They're one of those teams that, when they make a big play near their own sideline, suddenly 20 guys are excitedly leaping toward the field with their fists pumped. They just seem locked in. They aren't a playoff team, but you're not rolling over them, either. Dangerous home game for the Saints. Oh, wait — Carson Palmer on the road. Let's tweak that to "semi-dangerous."
Anyway, here's our Sneaky-Good Watch for Week 3: the DeAndre Hopkins era; the way Christian Ponder played in the second half in Chicago; T.Y. Hilton, Gamebreaker (he's Reggie Cobb without the PR); the fact that I can't stop calling Randall Cobb "Reggie Cobb"; Ray Lewis on TV; Dontari Poe's Vince Wilfork 2.0 potential; Ed Reed officially looking like someone who lives under a bridge; and the Honey Badger era (at least for now). Have you SEEN the Honey Badger? Third round??? They stole him.
Browns (+7) over VIKINGS
You're afraid to take the 0-2 Browns because (a) they're starting their third-string QB on the road in a dome against Adrian Peterson, and (b) they had to exhume Willis McGahee's running back corpse this weekend. I get it. But when you've tallied 16 points and five third-down conversions in two weeks, can you really call Brian Hoyer a "third-string QB"?6 I'd gravitate toward a phrase like "Next In Line," "He Can't Be Any Less God-Awful" and "Screw It, Why Not?" And how much will the Browns really miss someone who ran for 3.2 yards per carry and only played half their offensive plays in Week 2? Really, the 2013 Browns can get WORSE offensively? You didn't think it was strange that Cleveland just traded their best offensive weapon (on paper, anyway) for a future pick and Vegas moved this line only one point?
Throw in Josh Gordon's return and … well …
EWING THEORY ALERT!!!!!!!
Fine, maybe not. But I'm grabbing the points. The Vikings easily could have been blown out both weeks. They're 0-2 for a reason. Anyway, last week I mentioned RedZone host Scott Hanson calling the Browns the "Factory of Sadness" without realizing that that phrase came from Cleveland comedian Mike Polk (and this video) …
Apparently they make Factory of Sadness T-shirts and everything. I love that there's a "Cleveland comedian." Who knew those words were legally allowed to appear in the same sentence, especially this week, when they're sending me e-mails like this, from Scott in Cleveland:
"Having overcome the shock of the Browns tanking the season before fall begins (literally, it's only September 19th), I sent this email to my friends. It sums up being a Cleveland fan. 'I've been getting weekly junk emails from the Browns for years now and have just been deleting them in case there is really important or awesome news. I just got one about Sunday's game. I finally unsubscribed. Fuck the Browns. But we should still watch the game. Mike and I agree someone's house is probably best. I don't want to be seen in public in Browns gear. We can still usher in the Brian Hoyer era by getting drunk.' The really awful part is that I now have tickets to the seven remaining home games that are worth less than Jimmy Haslam's word at a trucking convention."
Sounds like Browns fans desperately need some cheering up. These three links won't do it, but hey, at least you'll forget about the Factory of Sadness for a couple minutes.
Link No. 1: Remember the time Tim Couch threw a Hail Mary to win a Browns game? Me neither. But dammit, it happened.
Link No. 2: Who wants to see footage of someone completing a 118-yard Tecmo Bowl bomb for a Browns touchdown as his buddies cheer him on? Wait, you do? You're not gonna believe this, but I have it right here!
Link No. 3: Hard-core evidence that, in your lifetime, you can take the Browns to the Super Bowl in a situation that doesn't involve toilet paper and flushing.
Packers (-3) over BENGALS
Say it out loud with me: Aaron Rodgers vs. Andy Dalton … Aaron Rodgers vs. Andy Dalton … Aaron Rodgers vs. Andy Dalton … Aaron Rodgers vs. Andy Dalton.
Rams (+4) over SAME OLD COWBOYS
Your official "The NFC West Is A Juggernaut And The NFC East Is A Doormat" game. If you add up the rankings for every Week 3 team from my Half-Assed Power Poll and separate them by divisions, the lower the number, the better that division is overall, right? Example: Seattle (1) + San Francisco (3) + Arizona (19) + St. Louis (20) = 43, our lowest number for the eight divisions. Who has the highest number? Well …
NFC West: 43
NFC North: 53
AFC West: 57
NFC South: 66
AFC East: 67
AFC South: 72
AFC North: 84
NFC East: 86
Translation: The NFC East blows. This would have been the perfect season to adopt my "You can't make the playoffs unless you finish above .500" rule, if only because the Cowboys finishing 8-8, winning the NFC East and being ruled ineligible for the playoffs would have been the greatest thing that ever happened. Speaking of great things, I'm excited to introduce a new weekly feature called "This Week's Really Mean E-mail About Roger Goodell." Our first installment comes from Jeff Z. in Weston, Florida:
"It appears that the porn industry voluntarily shut itself down after Cameron Bay tested positive for HIV. Who would have thought that porn purveyors would show more responsibility for the safety of employees than Roger Goodell?"
TITANS (-3) over Chargers
Congrats to the Chargers for regaining their "High-Scoring, High-Flying & Ultimately Harmless" identity; they were sorely missed. It's good to have a gun-slinging, consistently annoying Phil Rivers back. I missed that dude. And congrats to the Titans for outplaying Houston last week, causing Houston fans to boo the Texans for half the game, before the Titans blew the game in overtime. But not before earning some poignant words from Bernard Karmell Pollard — who, by the way, gave Andre Johnson a concussion in the game and earned a $42,000 fine, because he's Bernard Karmell Pollard and these are the things he does. Here's what he said afterward:
"Oh, we beat the piss out of them. We did. I truly believe that … We outhit them. We did some good things, we did some really good things. We'll see them. We're going to see them again, I'll promise you that. We know they're in the division [AFC South] and we're going to play them again at home. And hopefully it goes further than that."
Hopefully it goes further than that? You mean, like, a murder? I think Bernard Karmell Pollard just vowed to murder the Texans!
Bucs (+7.5) over PATRIOTS
The good news for the Bucs: They're a stupid late hit and a missed 46-yard field goal from being 2-0. The bad news for the Bucs: everything else. Meanwhile, here's how bad it's gotten for my Patriots this month (I'm using "we" if that's OK) …
• After getting 10 days off, we are barely favored by a touchdown over an 0-2 team with a QB who might get traded and a coach who might get fired.
• Our five best receivers have that little red flag next to their names on fantasy websites.
• On the phone this week, my dad seriously wondered if we could get Danny Woodhead back from the Chargers — and what pick we'd have to give up — then said the words, "I mean, he could save us right now."
• Rhode Island reader Dr. Jeff sent this chilling e-mail: "Is it me, or is Tom Brady starting to act a bit like a late-career Dan Marino? Physically he can't throw the ball with the velocity or accuracy he used to, but he expects perfection from his receivers. This leads to screaming on the field and tantrums on the sidelines."
That last one killed me. Like every other Pats fan between the ages of 37 and 47, I grew up hating the Dolphins and despising Marino, who beat us nine straight times at one point before everything turned. Near the end of his career, he suddenly turned into a cross between a rabid pit bill and an Egyptian mummy — he couldn't move and he was snapping at everybody. Mummy Pit Bull Dan Marino lost five of his last seven career starts against the Pats, throwing three TDs and 12 picks while we remained scared the entire time, because Dan Marino could have been throwing passes from a wheelchair and we still would have been scared. But I specifically remember loving the sight of him getting knocked around, then blaming everyone else. So the thought of people who hate Brady and the Pats feeling that same satisfaction … I mean … it's a little sobering.
Or, it WAS a little sobering. Because on Wednesday night, I was watching America's fifth professional sport (The Challenge) and one of America's greatest competitors, CT, described his feelings about making the Challenge finals like this …
"I don't wanna be Dan Marino, I wanna be Tom Brady."
(I'm back in! HERE COME THE PATS!)
Lions (+1) over SHANE FALCO'S OLD TEAM
A compelling case AGAINST the Lions from Brandon M. in Ann Arbor: "Since moving to Detroit, the Lions have never won in Washington. Under no circumstances do I believe they will win this Sunday. The one reliable thing about the Lions is when they don't win somewhere (Washington, Arizona & Green Bay) they don't win there for extremely long periods of time. So the Washington fans can relax and enjoy the upcoming week of 'RG3 Lights up the Lions' & 'RG3 Returns to Form' articles and segments on SportsCenter."
Sorry, Brandon, I'm not picking Robert Garbage Time III until (a) his defense gets through a first half without giving up 25 to 30 points, and (b) he throws a football without planting his right leg in a way that makes it look like he's wearing shoes with knives in them. That reminds me, I enjoyed this idea from Jeff in Fort Wayne: "I was listening to Tim Hasselbeck describe the problem with RGIII's throwing motion and how, because of his injury, he is not throwing properly. Hasselbeck described him missing a receiver by a 'mile.' It instantly occurred to me that we need to change this to a 'Tebow.' As in, 'He was open by a full Tebow.' It seems so obvious, besides, it is likely the only way we can keep Tebow in the league."
Twist my arm — I'm onboard. One more relevant e-mail, courtesy of Connor in Delaware: "On Tuesday's Around the Horn, they discussed a report by Jay Glazer that said that Suh gets physical and mean with teammates at practice. Bob Ryan said, 'At this point in time, we are prepared to believe anything negative that we hear about Suh with regard to over aggression or dirty play. We have no trouble believing it.' Ndamukong Suh's dirty play has entered the Tyson Zone!" It's a great point — I keep waiting for him to get penalized for grabbing a bag of salt from his trousers and throwing the salt Mr. Fuji–style at the opposing center. Couldn't you see Suh doing this?
Texans (-2.5) over RAVENS
DOLPHINS (-2) over Falcons
Don't blink — just take the better teams here. I loved the way the Dolphins reacted to Sunday's road win in Indy — no celebrating, no acting surprised, no pouring Gatorade on their coach (come on, Kansas City), just a few handshakes and a collectively icy jog back to the locker room. The Dolphins are for real, and no statistic sums it up better than this: in Indy last week, they didn't commit a single penalty. No penalties! NONE! I wish I had known they were good two weeks ago when I gave Baltimore their playoff spot.
As for the Ravens, they're a 30-40-50-40-30 team this year — every time you flip over to one of their games, the football is located somewhere between the 30s. Houston's too good offensively to lose to a 30-40-50-40-30 team right now, especially a team that has Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark on pace for 128 catches total. That offense is miles away from being good. And speaking of miles, HAVE YOU SEEN this piece from the Philadelphia magazine writer who figured out that Rocky Balboa's running montage in Rocky II was geographically absurd and actually would have taken 30.61 miles to complete? Just send a 2013 Pulitzer to Dan McQuade's house right now.
Although that's not the craziest Stallone link of the week. Tim Cohane in Plymouth, Massachusetts, sent me this: "As a fellow Sly Stallone fan, I wanted to bring your attention to this gem of a theme song from his 1978 film Paradise Alley." He didn't sell it nearly well enough. Oh. My. God.
Giants (-1.5) over PANTHERS
You know the problems with the Giants right now: Eli is the first player since 2005 to throw at least seven picks in the first two games. They've given up 77 points in two weeks. And even though only 22 teams have come back from 0-2 since 1990, the fact that they did it in 2007 and are saying things like "We've been 0-2 before, we've dug ourselves into a hole before, and been able to fight our way out of it." (Tom Coughlin's words) … I mean, is that a positive or a negative? Can you possess real urgency if you know better and feel like there's no real reason to panic yet? This happened to them last year, too — they kept waiting for that "Nobody Believes In Us" switch to kick in and it never happened.
The good news: They're going against the immortal Ron Rivera, who has run out of ways to blow victories and is now repeating the same late-game mistakes that he's already made in other games. Steve Smith defended last Sunday's Rivera boner by saying "It was the right decision. I don't care what you think. You're sitting up there in the press box," which makes me want to move on because, like everyone else, I'm terrified of Steve Smith. But here's a sampling of what my readers thought.
Josh L. in Baltimore: "I was texting back and forth with a friend who is a Bills fan. As the Panthers clung to a 20-17 lead, they reached the Bills 30 at the two minute warning. This is the exact text that I sent my Bills friend (with the typos left in): 'Panthers chewing up clock. But Bills still have all 3 timeouts. Lets see how Rivera blows this one. FG unit on 4th and 1 on 22 with 1:43 left. Bills get Td at end. Final score Bills-24, panthers-23.'"
Ben Logan in Austin: "Ron Rivera is now 2-14 in games decided by 7 points or less. Is this epic enough that we can start using 'Ronrivera' as a euphemism for a disease in which a coach just can't win the close games? E.g. 'He was a great guy and players liked him, but was prone to the debilitating spasms of Ronrivera.' Also, it's 2013 — how come scientists can't find a cure for Ronrivera?"
Dave in Greensboro: "I am sure we'll see a lot of 'EJ Manuel is Coming of Age' pieces this week, but isn't this really like losing your virginity to a post-meltdown Lindsay Lohan? If Ron Rivera isn't the worst head coach in the NFL, surely he is the easiest?"
Jake in D.C.: (Extended and totally inappropriate analogy that includes phrases like "Ron Rivera storms into the room" and "lay there in pain" and ends with this line: "Stop punching me in the dick, Ron Rivera." You're better off not seeing this one. But I fully enjoyed it.)
Grant M. in Raleigh: "Seeing the Panthers blow game after game in the 4th quarter due to Rivera's complete ineptness is starting to take years off my life. I find it funny that Rivera, the worst game closer in the NFL, shares his name with the best baseball closer ever. In October when both of them are out of work (hopefully), my only wish is to see them paired together. Maybe Mariano and Ron star in a sitcom called the Two Riveras. Story lines include them going to a bar with Ron buying drinks for a girl all night until Mariano sweeps in at closing time to take her home while Ron stands there with a blank look on his face. Every week the same situation happens and nothing changes because that is the life of a Panthers fan."
To recap: We just heard Ron Rivera compared to a disease, losing your virginity to Lindsay Lohan, getting punched in the dick, and being the Bizarro Mariano Rivera. Also, he made someone feel telepathic. I'm parlaying the Giants with "Rivera gets fired during Carolina's Week 4 bye."
Bills (+2.5) over JETS
Reason No. 29 why Cleveland made that Richardson trade: Look how excited Bills fans are right now about EJ Manuel. Find the right QB and you just bought five years of goodwill. Only one red flag: Last week, he became the fifth rookie QB to lead a game-winning drive in his first or second game. The other four: Archie Manning, Jim Druckenmiller, Ryan Leaf and Geno Smith. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here's the Shaky Watch for Week 3: anyone in New York stuck watching this Bills-Jets game without NFL Season Ticket or the RedZone channel; SF's receivers; the Luke Joeckel era; Josh Freeman's chances of starting for even one fantasy team this season (nine completions last week!); the Rams/Browns/Giants RBs; Detroit's offense whenever a trainer is working on Reggie Bush; Houston's kicker; Carolina's secondary; Baltimore's passing game; Ben Roethlisberger's Hall of Fame chances; Joe Flacco's nine-figure contract; the Mike Shanahan era; anyone who bet the under on 2013 NFL lightning delays; every fantasy team featuring Tom Brady or Ray Rice; the NFC East; the NFC East a second time.
49ERS (-10) over Colts
The two 2013 teams you wouldn't want on the road one week after they were embarrassed in a night game: San Francisco and Seattle. Three leftover notes from Sunday night's shellacking in Seattle.
• Robert Mays's "We Went There" piece on Grantland was excellent. You should read it.
• Andy in Temecula wonders, "If Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll did throw down after a game, what would the line be? Straight up, I would take Harbaugh. Besides being younger and possibly stronger, I think he may be face-eating crazy and his grin is more manic and is suggestive of McMurphys. Carroll doesn't frighten me." Hmmmmm. I'd have Harbaugh as a -250 favorite, just because he's younger and we know he broke his hand punching Jim Kelly once. Can you really go against someone just described as "face-eating crazy"?
• You might remember that I centered last Friday's column on the "Should you watch Niners-Seahawks or Breaking Bad?" decision. Well, God ended up deciding for us — He decided to have a one-hour weather delay from 9:05 ET until 10:05 ET, allowing everyone to just watch the episode in real time. The poetic justice here: When AMC launched Breaking Bad in January 2008, it researched possible dates and settled on the Sunday after both NFL conference title games. It picked 10 p.m. thinking that it would be far-fetched for the second game (in this case, Packers-Giants) to stretch past that time. Basically, the second game would have to go into overtime. What happened? New York's Lawrence Tynes missed the game-winning kick, the game stretched into overtime, and Breaking Bad's premiere got crushed by what became the second-highest-rated telecast of 2008 (trailing only the Super Bowl).
Fast-forward five years to last Sunday: They're showing an episode that creator Vince Gilligan deems the best of the series, only it's going against a monster football game. And then, fate intervenes. Lightning. For an hour. Breaking Bad ends up with its most viewers ever, and it happens for its most important episode ever. Karma? Coincidence? Blind luck? You tell me.7
SEAHAWKS (-20) over Jaguars
Poor Gus Bradley — he's returning to Seattle with Chad Henne against a juggernaut with an insane crowd that won its last nine home games by an average of 30-11. They couldn't make this line high enough. There's only two tiny cases for the Jags +20: Bradley knowing how to slow down Seattle's offense, and Carroll feeling bad and going out of his way NOT to embarrass Bradley. But here's how to ignore those +20 urges in two steps.
Read this story.
Read this e-mail (courtesy of Jacksonville reader Louis Richman) …
"We need a new statistic to truly define the stink that is the Jaguars offense. I think I have it. You see, my cousin was given a clock with the Jaguars' score as the hour and the visitors' score as the minutes. His coworkers have taken it upon themselves to show up to the Clock whenever the Jaguars are able to successfully complete a clock game. What's a Clock game? Any time the Jaguars score 12 points or less and the opposing team has anywhere from 2 to 59 points. I am proud to say the Jaguars have started off the year with two consecutive clock games (2:28, 9:19). Any bets on how many clock games they have this year. I think the over/under at 8.5 is acceptable."
That's brilliant. A Clock Game! The key for a Clock Game is that you can't get shut out — you'd think the 1977 Bucs (103 points in 14 games and six shutouts) would be the Clock Game leaders, but they were shut out six times. I don't know who had the most Clock Games in NFL history, but I couldn't resist looking up the offensively impotent 1990 Pats — coached by Rod Rust's cadaver, the worst Pats team of my lifetime — and they churned out a whopping NINE Clock Games. NINE! If anyone can beat nine, by all means, lemme know. Regardless, Jacksonville's quest to have 16 straight Clock Games is my new favorite subplot of the 2013 season. Who else is rooting for 2:59 this week?
Bears (-2.5) over STEELERS
I know it's a Kitchen Sink game for the Steelers — they lose this one and they might as well Play Dead For Ted, trade Roethlisberger to the Vikings or Cardinals and blow everything up. You're right, they'll never do that. But if they blow Sunday night, they're screwed. You know what's not helping? Their utter inability to block, run the ball or call a decent sequence of offensive plays. The Steelers stink. And I kept fighting off the urge to say, "I think the Bears are legitimately good" until Jaws lavished praise on them on Thursday's PTI as Wilbon beamed like a proud dad. If they have the Jaws Seal of Approval, I'm in.
(Fast-forward to me swearing at Jay Cutler on Sunday night and kicking myself for making this pick.)
BRONCOS (-16) over Raiders
The good news: Ninety points in two games for the Broncos! The bad news: They're suddenly missing their All-Pro left tackle and their best two centers. Uh-oh. Thank God it's Peyton Manning in a night game and we don't have to do anything here other than say, "Never bet against Peyton Manning in a night game."
As for the not-quite-as-putrid-as-we-thought Raiders, this e-mail from San Francisco reader Kris T. sums it up: "I realized this weekend that Terrelle Pryor is the absolute perfect RedZone Channel player. I got more and more excited whenever I saw the 'Update — Raiders/Colts' message, and started betting with friends whether it would be an amazing run for a score, or a stupefyingly dumb turnover. Or a score AFTER a stupefyingly dumb turnover. Either way it was going to be amazing. I love the Terrelle Pryor Era!" So there's that.
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 7-8-1