The Pregame Flyover
Welcome to week two of the NFL season, or what’s known in Buffalo as “week one, the redo.”
Before we get to this week’s slate of games — and tell you which games will Probably be worth watching, which games will be of Questionable worth, which games will be of Doubtful worth, and which game will feature the Browns — let’s address the matter of Thursday night games.
So, has the novelty of these Thursday night games worn off already? It’s only week two and my liver is already suffering the ravages of this new NFL schedule. If they’re going to play games three days a week, why not just go all in and play seven days a week?
With 32 NFL teams, the league has to play 16 games a week (please check my math). How difficult would it to set up a staggered schedule that features two games per week night (one game at 7 p.m. ET, one at 10 p.m. ET) and features three games each on Saturday and Sunday? Say, one game at 1 p.m., another at 4 p.m., and the last at 7 p.m.? This way we get to see ALL the games, and not just a select few. I can’t believe bar owners and divorce attorneys haven’t been pushing this. They need to organize their lobbies.
Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we tackle some of the best in football.
Best use of four timeouts: The Lions.
Best seen coming out of the woodwork: Redskins fans.
Best of luck to Packers defensive backs: Said Jay Cutler.
Best evidence that you could be a long-snapper: Travis Goethel.
Best be sure: Wait, Antonio Gates did not get injured last week?
Best way to neutralize LeSean McCoy: Call 56-plus pass plays for Michael Vick.
Best chance to go undefeated: Between the Packers and Cardinals, it’s the Cardinals.
Best thing you can say about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s performance against the Jets: He never got sacked.
Best reason for that: He was too busy throwing incompletions and interceptions.
Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out
Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let’s face it, you can’t watch them all.
Probable Game of the Week: Jets at Steelers.
Before the preview: False start, Willie Colon, five-yard penalty, repeat first down. Versus the Broncos the Steelers committed five pre-snap penalties, the type of shoddy offensive line play that has been emblematic of the team throughout the Ben Roethlisberger era. Against a team like Denver, which has impressive pass-rushing bipeds in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, a certain level of happy feet is expected. But against the Jets? No. The Jets have no one who puts consistent pressure on the quarterback. If Roethlisberger gets sacked during this game, it’s probably because he held onto the ball too long, and we know he never does that shit.
Matchup to watch: Cameramen versus the tendency to constantly track Tim Tebow.
Other matchup to watch: Tim Tebow versus the tendency to look bored.
If the Steelers win, it’s probably because: Their play makers were able to get into space against LaRon Landry, who made C.J. Spiller look like Usain Bolt last week.
If the Jets win, it’s probably because: Mark Sanchez was able to avoid being sacked for the second week in a row.
Odds that James Harrison plays in this game: 2:1.
Odds he plays next week: Off.
Odds he misses next week due to a suspension for dislodging Sanchez’s lower mandible: 1:2.
(Others games receiving votes: Ravens at Eagles; Lions at Niners; Broncos at Falcons; Bears at Packers.)
Questionable Game of the Week: Redskins at Rams.
Before we carve a bust for RGIII in Canton, let’s try to remember one thing: He was facing the Saints, who surrendered 36 points to Alex Smith and the Niners in the playoffs last year – when New Orleans actually had the services of Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma. Don’t get me wrong, RGIII is probably going to be better than Health Shuler. (Maybe.) But using a reduced Saints defense as a measuring stick can lead to premature conclusions.
Jeff Fisher is the most properly rated coach in recent NFL history: Football observers often bemoan the tendency to rehire coaching retreads like Chan Gailey, Norv Turner, and Mike Mularkey. Why bring in a guy who has a mediocre track record? Why not give a chance to an up-and-coming coach? Why can’t Norv Turner be killed with conventional weapons? All legitimate questions.
When Jeff Fisher was hired to coach the Rams, people may or may not have asked similar questions. I was too busy asking myself, “Why in the hell would Jeff Fisher want to coach in St. Louis?” He reportedly had an offer to coach the Dolphins, who play in Miami, a city associated with beaches, sunshine and stylish mammals. Then there’s St. Louis, which plays in a dreary-looking dome in the heart of flyover country. Present these same options to, say, Jimmy Johnson, Mike Shanahan, or Norv Turner, and you can bet your children’s bail money that none of them would have landed in St. Louis.
Miami, after all, is considered a marquee destination, even though the Dolphins haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1972. These coaches I mentioned have all won Super Bowls, either as head coaches or offensive coordinators, so they tend to possess messianic mitochondria. In short, they’re fucking overrated. Jimmy Johnson didn’t win shit in Miami, and his last game as head coach (also Dan Marino’s last game in the NFL) was a humiliating 62-7 loss to the Jaguars in the 1999 playoffs. Mike Shanahan is now in Washington, another marquee football town that hasn’t experienced the ultimate success in two decades; and Norv Turner is in San Diego, where residents are so distracted by great weather and alternative hobbies that they haven’t noticed that the city has gone longer than Cleveland and Buffalo since its last major sports title.
(Check out the ramblings of this smart fellow.)
Jeff Fisher, meanwhile, has a career record of 147-127 (.542) and took the Titans to one Super Bowl and six playoff berths. His teams always seemed to surprise (the Music City Miracle, reaching the 1999 Super Bowl) or to underperform (going 10-0 at the start of 2008, winning the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and then losing in the second round of the playoffs). His teams never seemed to match expectations, either to the bad or the good. And he managed to do that for 16 years in Tennessee.
Jeff Fisher is not overrated or underrated. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Rams make the playoffs this year. When you play the Cardinals and the Seahawks four times, you can never be counted out. Contrast that with playing an AFC East schedule. Yeah, Jeff Fisher is no dummy.
(Other games receiving votes: Tampa at New York Giants; Chiefs at Bills; Saints at Panthers; Cowboys at Seahawks; Titans at Chargers.)
Doubtful Game of the Week: Cardinals at Patriots.
It’s awfully unfair: To make the Cardinals fly all the way to New England to get waxed. Couldn’t they have simply met somewhere in between, like St. Louis?
The Cardinals starter this week is: Maybe Neil Lomax. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has refused to name Kevin Kolb as the team’s starter, even after Kolb filled in admirably for John Skelton last Sunday and led the Cardinals to a win over Seattle. Whisenhunt said, “He beat the Seahawks? Whoopty-fuckin-do. Let’s see him beat a big-boy team.”
(Other games receiving votes: Texans at Jaguars; Vikings at Colts.)
Out Game of the Week: Browns at Bengals.
Remember when: The Browns had Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow at the skill positions? And when legendary Browns quarterback Derek Anderson made the Pro Bowl? That was 2007, a halcyon year in Browns lore.
Remember when: The Browns played the Bengals in that classic all-Ohio playoff game? No? That’s because it’s never happened. These teams have never been good at the same time; in fact, they’ve rarely been good at all.
This might be: The most untapped rivalry in the NFL. Hall of Famer Paul Brown coached both of these teams, which are both located in the same state as the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I could make a flimsy supposition about Cooperstown, New York, and the hypothetical inadequacies of the Mets and the Yankees, but there’s nothing hypothetical about the Mets’ inadequacies: They suck, and so do the Browns and Bengals.
(Other game receiving votes: Raiders at Miami.)
FANTASY FOOTBALL BITCHIN’
This is the point in our program where someone other than me (seriously, this isn’t me; I would never discuss my fantasy team in public) bitches about their fantasy football team. Person who is not me writes,
“Before week one, the last time Adrian Peterson had any meaningful contact with other grown men, those men were wearing badges and slapping handcuffs on him.
Peterson, who blew out his MCL and ACL eight months ago, didn’t take a single effing snap in the preseason, and Vikings players were warned that they’d be shot if they so much as farted upwind from him. Were fantasy owners afraid to draft him? Yes, especially in the first two rounds. But I grabbed him in the third round — with the 26th pick overall – thinking he’d be ready to contribute in the not-so-distant future. That meant NOT in week one, Peterson, you sandbagging mutant! Two touchdowns and 84 yards rushing? You even caught a freaking pass! And you catch passes as frequently as I catch the Ebola virus.
Who in the hell blows out every C, L and A in their knee and returns to the field eight months later – without playing a single minute in the preseason? That is some bullshit right there, man.”
From: Karyn Pitts, public relations officer at Cadillac
Dear Mr. Vandervander,
Thank you for your note of March 11 concerning our line of sports utility vehicles and the need, as you put it, to stop “poisoning the environment with street panzers that operate as efficiently as 90-year-olds with emphysema.” You mentioned that you drive a Smart car and that you’re proud of the fact you got beyond the initial urge to see this car and want to “drop kick it off the road.” While we admire the success of Smart cars and recognize that smaller automobiles are practical for many people, we like to think that larger automobiles – though they typically get less miles per gallon – also have a place in our society, particularly for large families. So enjoy your Smart car, but your suggestion that we change the name of the Escalade to the “Dumb-Ass Car” will probably not happen.
From: Joel Howard, director of reality programming at NBC
Dear Mr. Vandervander,
Your letter of March 11 was very thought-provoking. Why hasn’t NBC – or, as you put it, “any of you TV purveyors of reality excrement” – devoted a reality show to stay-at-home fathers? It’s an interesting idea. “The Real House Fathers of Stratford, Connecticut” is certainly a catchy title, so kudos for that; but the aspects that make the Lifetime series about real housewives so successful – namely, the money, glamour and charity events – seem to be lacking in your proposal. Our program developer asked you to outline what might happen in the first three episodes, and your proposals did not really rise to the standards of what we’d consider good entertainment. Episode One – with you dropping by unexpectedly to the place that fired you for “some baseless, trumped-up charge” – did not make clear where your baby would be throughout the confrontation. At home? In daycare? Hopefully not with you. Episode Two – with you taking the baby to the park to “scout moms and get some sun” – seemed rather crass. And Episode Three – with you and Tommy, the next-door neighbor, putting on a block party – sounds promising, but it seemed like all the pertinent organizing details were going to be left to your wives. Unfortunately we’re going to have to pass on “The Real House Fathers of Stratford, Connecticut.” Good luck placing it elsewhere.
From Syd Luckman, editor of The Harpy Press
Dear Mr. Vandervander,
Once again thank you for reading a novel published by The Harpy Press. We appreciate your continued patronage. As in the past, we can still offer no clear explanation for why one of our published authors chooses to use the word “valise” in their prose. You claim you’ve “never heard that pretentious French word for ‘luggage’ used in everyday conversation.” Come to think of it, neither have I. From now I will insist that our authors substitute a less pretentious, commonly used word in place of “valise.” How about “murse”? Does the abbreviation for “man purse” work for you?
Yours in luggage,
From Syd Luckwoman, editor of The Harpy Press
Dear Mr. Vandervander,
I was not mocking you with my suggestion of “murse” instead of “valise.” Moreover, I disagree that “murse sounds like something old people contract in the hospital.” At any rate, I always enjoy our correspondence and look forward to your future missives.