NFL Week 3: Tabula Rasa

Is there anything better than Sunday morning?  It’s like a newborn baby- I have nothing but high hopes and irrational expectations for how amazing it will be. You sit there at 10:30 a.m., listening to Warren Sapp and Michael Irvin yell at each other about nothing, painfully sift through Twitter, ESPN.com and whatever Matthew Berry is yammering about to find the latest information on your 4th string fantasy receiver’s upcoming matchup then creep over to Bodog and indulge in a 15-team parlay that will turn your $5 bet into a cool 20 grand a mere ten hours later. You can see it all playing out in your head- a full slate of exciting games, a resounding fantasy thanks to 30 points from your sleeper- Montario Hardesty, and soon, enough disposable income to make it rain for a week straight and never touch the same bill twice. Maybe you’ll just invest the 20 grand in another parlay next week. You could be a millionaire in three weeks!  It’s a glorious feeling.

Cut to 10 hours later- hungover, wallet light from the Bills blowing your parlay by 3:45 and lighter still from the $40 you just dropped on Chinese food, Montario Hardesty had three carries for 7 yards and you lost by 50, work tomorrow is going to be horrible. The outlook is bleak, the current feeling though? Satisfied. Somehow, in spite of your considerable losses and personal embarrassment, the NFL has again slaked your thirst for entertainment.

Week three of the NFL season turned the league’s balance of power upside down for a day. Six of the top ten teams in ESPN’s power rankings last week lost and the Steelers (8), Lions (11) and Chargers (12) all barely escaped bad teams. Only the Packers, Ravens and Saints scored decisive victories on Sunday, although the Pack still had a fair amount of trouble in Chicago and the Saints surrendered 33 points and needed a late drive to beat the Texans. What’s going on in the NFL? Who can make sense of all this parity? Scott Hanson Me. Fear not, I will shepherd you through the valley of upsets and you shall fear no evil, besides Andy Reid…who is Beelzebub.

Speaking of Mr. Hanson, a truly transcendent moment occurred during the Red Zone telecast on Sunday. Scott was in the midst of a quad box, when the Fox telecast unveiled a quad box of their own, DURING THE QUAD BOX- a quad box within a quad box. It’s like Inception. In fact it’s not like Inception. It IS Inception.  On to the dream theater that was this week’s games:

Steelers 23, Colts 20- If Thor had a younger brother who was a marginal NFL quarterback, he would be Curtis Painter and his power would be an incomparable ability to overthrow receivers.  Here’s a fun Thor Painter stat- he’s been the quarterback for 20 drives during his NFL career and on those 20 drives, the Colts have been outscored 14-7. Yep.

Thor Painter- GOD OF THE INCOMPLETION

But despite Painter’s stillborn NFL career, were the Colts wrong for lacking a contingency plan if Peyton Manning got hurt? Put it this way- how many back-up quarterbacks in the league could take over for Peyton Manning on short notice and take that team to 8 or 9 wins? The answer is none. In fact, there aren’t many starting quarterbacks who could do that.  The Colts’ offense is built specifically around the unique skill set of one of their quarterbacks. While it’s not wise to place all your eggs in the basket of one player, if that player happens to be one of the best (and consistently healthy) quarterbacks of all time, it’s not the worst strategy either. The Colts error was in the roster surrounding the quarterback. They’ve put together an offense that lacks a capable running back, which would be the most important asset to a QB filling in for Manning.  They’ve also neglected to improve their team (more specifically, their defense) through the draft in recent years.

Even in the best case scenario, a good backup wouldn’t be able to operate with close to Manning’s effectiveness. He is essentially the team’s offensive coordinator, and a backup would have to rely on a completely different system of play calling than the one that was in place. So what happens when Peyton goes down? They lose. And we’ve learned over the years that if you’re not going to be good, it’s best to be really, really bad. Now the Colts are looking at a (hopefully) healthy Peyton Manning and a likely top 5 draft pick going into 2012. From a fan’s standpoint, it’s horrific since it means that by week 3 you already know that you’re destined for another three months of watching Thor Jr. embarrass himself and his franchise, but from a G.M.’s perspective, they’ve done what’s best for the team in the big picture.

Packers 27, Bears 17- What’s that? WouldI like to watch Jay Cutler get annihilated by Clay Matthews and the Super Bowl champions’ defense? You bet your ass I would. A week after being sacked six times by the Saints, Cutler was taken down three times by the Packers. If Roger Goodell is reading this, and I assume he is, I propose that from this day forward sacks of Jay Cutler count for half sacks, since it’s apparently the easiest thing to do in the NFL besides injuring a Cowboys skill position player.  I’m introducing a weekly feature to rank how badly Jay Cutler got assaulted by opposing defenses on a scale of 1-5 Theismans. This week, gets a meager 2 Theismans. Besides the three sacks, Cutler threw three interceptions and stubbed his toe really badly while trying to change the locker room stereo to the new Evanescence album.

Oh hey by the way, the Bears had 13 rushing yards total. Matt Forte had two yards on nine carries. For some perspective, James Starks had quadruple that amount on a single carry, and Starks finished the game with ZERO net yards. Mike Martz’ diabolical plan to personally give Jay Cutler Alzheimer’s is working flawlessly.

Bucs 16, Falcons 13- Matt Ryan and Josh Freeman combined for 29 incompletions, three interceptions, two fumbles and four sacks. Apparently the only thing working for Freeman on Sunday was his vocal inflection as he drew Atlanta offsides to seal the game on 4th and 1 when it was completely obvious to everyone who has ever watched an NFL game that the Bucs had no intentions of actually running a play. This would have incensed the Falcons defensive coordinator, were he not this man. Good god look at that mustache. His name is Brian VanGorder and you can find him and Todd Haley in the corner of your local college bar crushing Miller High Lifes and asking 19-year olds if they want to know what a strip sack is.

Raiders 34, Jets 24- I can’t wait until two years from now when Mark Sanchez is missing open receivers while playing for the Raiders and Jason Campbell is on the Jets. By which I mean he is a flight attendant on A jet.  The Jets would have probably lost to Cowboys in week one were it not for a blocked punt and Tony Romo having a stroke late in the fourth quarter. They beat a horrible Jaguars team, then lost to the Raiders. Now they play at Baltimore and at New England then home for the Chargers two weeks later.  The Jets need to get their defense together quickly or Rex Ryan will be spending his January talking shit to inanimate objects and telling his discarded Christmas tree that he’ll kick its ass if it doesn’t admit that the Jets are the best team in the NFL.

In case you missed it, cornerback/kick returner/offensive experiment/willing sperm donor Antonio Cromartie had four penalties and a disastrous fumble on a kickoff in the loss. If only Cromartie had a nose for the ball the way his balls have a nose for anything that moves, he might have had a better day. Revis Island is where receivers go to die, but Cromartie Island is where receivers go to get receptions…and drunk whores go to get STDs.

Ravens 37, Rams 7- Maybe Sam Bradford, uh, isn’t as good as we thought he was. The Ravens front 7 might be as good as ever, but their secondary was torched last week by Matt effing Hasselbeck. In the first half of Sunday’s game, Bradford and the St. Louis passing offense gained a total of 9 net yards on four receptions on 18 drop backs. And this abominable performance took place in front of their home fans. Do the Ram Rules mean nothing to you Bradford??

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ram Rules, allow this St. Louis Rams-produced video to enlighten you to the wonder and awe that is THE WAY OF THE RAM.

RAM RULES-

For the record, these rules are being brought to you by an Elvis impersonator,  4 grown men in facepaint, generic jerseys and Sideshow Bob wigs, this weirdo and an old lady wearing horns.  Why wouldn’t that be the case right?  They use clever terms like Twelfth Ram (Worst. Shakespeare comedy. Ever.) and “dome field advantage” (which needs to be the name of a Dolph Lundgren movie) and bring you rules for cheering on the Rams as they embarrass themselves and their city for the 10th year in a row.   Without further ado here are….RAM RULES #1-5 (sidenote: 1-5 is also the record the Rams are on pace to have after six games).

Rule 1. Be quiet when the Rams are on offense.  Really? You have pump-up music and a ridiculously over-the-top intro then start off the rules by telling your fans to be quiet? Couldn’t have made that rule #4 or something?

Rule 2. When the Rams get a first down, yell “first down”. YEAH!  This was important to spell out for Rams fans since their previous first down exclamations were “FUCK YOU HATERS” and “SOMEONE TAKE LARUSSA’S KEYS FROM HIM.”

Rule 3. Make noise on 3rd down. Although it can be assumed that they mean this only when the Rams are on defense, the people who are watching this video (unironically) probably don’t know that, so it’s a direct contradiction to rule #1. Congratulations, you have five rules and two of them don’t make sense.

Rule 4. When the Rams get a sack, yell “sack”.  YEAH! SACK! ST. LOUIS- WE YELL THINGS THAT JUST HAPPENED. These people are sheep, not Rams.

Rule 5. Do a stadium-wide slow clap leading up to kick-off. This sounds good in theory, but in practice, not at all. First of all clapping, no matter how rhythmically, will never be intimidating. By the time the kick returner is getting the ball it’s going to sound like someone just gave a moderately entertaining Academy Awards acceptance speech. WELCOME TO HELL, DEVIN HESTER.

Chargers 20, Chiefs 17- Todd Haley knows the Chiefs would have pulled off the upset if they only had more conditioning. Consequently, he’s making the entire team run back to Kansas City from San Diego. NO EXCUSES.

Oh and Antonio Garay’s hair/beard (below) is an absolute masterpiece, although it does appear that he tried to do a lightning bolt

"It looks like an awesome lightning bolt right, guys?" "Uhhh, yeah man, totally realistic"

design, then forgot how to make a lightning bolt midway through.

Bills 34, Patriots 31- Could the Bills actually be for real? Their offense legitimately looks like one of the best in the NFL. Fred Jackson is playing like one of the best running backs in the league and Ryan FitzZuckerberg had himself another good game, going 27-40 for 369 yards. Granted, the Patriots are apparently trying to set the record for most wins by a team that doesn’t have a secondary. Their inability to stop receivers is further hampered by the fact that their pass rush has been anemic, failing to sack FitzZuckerberg even once Sunday. Credit the Bills though, they looked like they were going to get blown out until they made a ferocious comeback. FitzZuckerberg’s last 5 passes all went for 18 yards or more and Jackson set up the game- winning field goal with a monster run down to the New England goal line. Did you know that Fred Jackson went to Coe? That doesn’t even stand for anything, it’s just called Coe College, and it’s a small liberal arts school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s also the alma mater of Curt Menefee and Marv Levy. But enough about Coe, Fred Jackson’s transformation into a star running back isn’t totally complete until we get an awesome nickname for the man who is the Eduardo Saverin to Fitzzuckerburg’s Zuckerburg.  My nominations are Buffalo Wild Thing, Fred Win-stone or Coe-d Stone Deamery. Since he plays for a team called the Bills and he shares the last name of the man on the $20 bill I think we should just call him The Currency.  Then everyone can chant “Fuck Blitzes, Get Money” whenever he runs the ball. It sure beats whatever the hell the Rams fans are doing.

Titans 17, Broncos 14- The good news is that Chris Johnson led the Titans in rushing. The bad news is that he was tied with punter Brett Kern for that distinction…with 21 yards….on 13 carries.  He also had 4 catches for 54 yards. He also just signed an extension of 4 years for $53 million dollars. Enjoy that $30 million guaranteed, Tennessee.  On the year, Johnson has 46 carries for 98 yards. Did you know that contracts are void if they’re signed with anything other than blue or black ink? FACT- a guy told me that once. If you unexpectedly see the Titans front office replace their entire BIC collection with Gel Pens, you know why.

Lions 26, Vikings 23 (OT)- Last year during the Ravens playoff game against the Steelers, I was so inebriated that I thought half time was the end of the game (the Ravens were winning handily) and didn’t realize that they had gotten destroyed in the second half until hours later. I tell you this because I’m 80% sure that’s what Leslie Frazier and Donovan McNabb have been doing all season.  The Vikings have outscored opponents  54-7 in the first half this season and been outscored 67-6 in the second half.  The Vikings were up 20 at half time this week and blew it in spectacular fashion.  Adrian Peterson had 12 carries for 73 yards and a TD in the first half, then got the ball just five more times in the entire second half. Man, if only…they had a star running back they could rely on…Fortunately they have Donovan McNabb and his mind-bending playmaking ability. 11 times the Vikings had third down and five-or-less and they let McNabb do his thing. Unfortunately for them, “his thing” meant get 2 first downs, throw 7 incompletions and get sacked twice.  COFFEE IS FOR CLOSERS ONLY, MCNABB. On an unrelated note, here’s your SAT Word of the Day:

Ponder:  verb, singular- to wonder how long it takes before a team realizes that they spent a first round pick on a guy who is learning from quite possibly the worst 4th quarter quarterback in recent history.

Oh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz would like you to learn the fucking rules please:  I’m not totally sure what rules he is referring to, but I can only assume, based on context clues, that he means the RAM RULES.

 Saints 40, Texans 33- The Saints had 23 fourth  quarter points. Lance Moore had five straight receptions in the fourth quarter on Texans corner Kareem Jackson and two two-point conversions using the exact same play. The Texans secondary has improved, it is still not good.

Giants 29, Eagles 16-“For Philadelphia, Dream Team is not a boast but a descriptor. The Eagles’ games follow the disjointed logic of the subconscious, each one a fantasia of improbable joys and unspeakable terrors jumbled together in a neurotic heap.”  -Mike Tanier on the New York Times “5th Down” blog.

That is the best sentence I’ve ever read and totally appropriate for yet another baffling performance. Let me make this as short as possible and give you five reasons why Andy Reid is the NFL equivalent of a black hole and he needs to get fired before I go on a rampage:

1)      The Eagles, for all the star power acquired in the offseason, went into the season with a JV squad of linebackers and safeties then expected opposing offensive coordinators to ignore this fact and just throw at the Pro Bowl cornerbacks all game. It’s like they built a SuperMax prison but forgot to put a fence around 30% of it and were shocked when everyone escaped that way.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that Andy Reid would free all imprisoned murderers if he could.

2)      Speaking of murderers, if you crossed the pedigree of Clay Matthews with the innate unlikability of Casey Anthony, you get Eagles starting linebacker Casey Matthews. Reid saw him struggling late in preseason,  started him anyway at middle linebacker, saw he hadn’t learned how to play middle linebacker yet, then started him at a different position that he also didn’t know how to play on five days notice. Then he got burnt by a guy who weighs 280 pounds. That all happened.

3)      He started Kurt Coleman at safety and Coleman proceeded to tackle Nnamdi Asomugha and single-handedly turn a 10 yard catch into 74-yard touch down. You know what was interesting about that tackle? It was THE ONLY ONE HE MADE IN THE GAME. It’s okay though because the Eagles new defensive coordinator was hand-picked by Andy Reid and he really knows how to develop defensive talent. OH WAIT, he was the offensive line coach last year and neither coordinated nor defended ANYTHING during his 16 years in the NFL.

4)      Last week, the Giants secondary got shredded by something called a Danario Alexander. Alexander is an undrafted free agent who had major knee surgery last year. He also had three catches for 122 yards and a touchdown last Monday night.  So what does good old Andy do against such a porous secondary? He never once even tries to throw deep to DeSean Jackson who did NOT have knee surgery last year and happens to be the best deep threat in the NFL. Jackson finished with two catches for thirty yards and no one on the Eagles had a reception for 25 yards or more. It’s as if Reid prepared for the Giants by secluding himself in a bell tower all week.

5)      Hey it’s first and goal inside the three-yard line, the Eagles have a star running back, two stud receivers, a good pass-catching tight end and a really fast quarterback. What’s the call? HAND IT OFF TO THE SLOW WHITE GUY. ..Didn’t work? Then let’s have our frail, recently-concussed quarterback just dive right into a pile of guys who would like to kill him….He got kicked in the head and didn’t come close to scoring? CALL IT AGAIN…Still didn’t work? Don’t worry I have the perfect play call- GIVE IT TO THE WHITE GUY AGAIN.  Andy Reid is a sociopath and he must be stopped.

Panthers 16, Jaguars 10
Seahawks 13, Cardinals 10
Browns 17, Dolphins 16
49ers 13, Bengals 8

With all the upsets this week, we may not know who’s good in the NFL, but we definitely know who’s bad. The Panthers, Jaguars, Bengals, 49ers, Browns, Dolphins, Seahawks and Cardinals had a fun little round robin of suck on Sunday. Each had the chance to separate itself from the other cellar-dwelling teams by scoring a decisive victory, yet none managed to score more than 17 or win by more than six.

There were just 42,000 fans at the Bengals home opener. At least with Miami, San Diego and Jacksonville, you can argue that fans have great weather and better options than spending $100 on a game. But Cincinnati? There is ONE relevant event going on in the entire city on Sundays and they still can’t come close to selling it out.  In fairness, their own quarterback would rather sit at home and drink rather than go to the games, and he’s getting paid. That depressing abyss is compounded by the fact that their running back, Cedric Benson, was one of eight players who the NFL Players Association supported suspending as part of the lockout negotiations. Benson, who is the only player on that list to actually receive a suspension (three games at that) is fighting the decision, but honestly, you know you’ve got issues when two parties couldn’t agree on ANYTHING for 5 months except for the fact that you’re an asshole. Poor, poor, Cincinnati.

Hey Carolina, you spent hundreds of millions of dollars building a 70,000 seat stadium and no one thought to put some kind of drainage system in the field? From the looks of it, I’m pretty sure their groundskeeping crew is just Jimmy Clausen, Sir Purr and a Shop-Vac.  By the way, this is Sir Purr, the Panthers mascot.He looks kinda like the aliens from District 9, only if they were wildly unintimidating and loved pastels. He doesn’t even look like a panther at all- he looks like some sort of rat/bear hybrid. Panthers also don’t purr, cats purr, panthers rip faces off, read a book, Carolina. He’s not even wearing a Panthers jersey for god’s sake!  They need to replace that abomination with a real Panther. In fact, every team needs to bring back live mascots, no exceptions. Oh, real Giants don’t exist? Then get Georghe Muresan, there’s no way he’s busy. Ironically, the Broncos could have a real horse on the sideline and New Orleans could have Tim Tebow on theirs! And you can’t tell me you wouldn’t watch a drunken Navajo accidentally stumble onto FedEx Field in the middle a play.

Blaine Gabbert made his debut in the Carolina aquarium and hit for the bad-quarterback cycle against the Panthers- he had an interception, a sack, a safety and a fumbled snap (actually, THREE fumbled snaps).  The NFL’s campaign to make me feel racist because I thought Cam Newton was going to be terrible continues…

Peyton Hillis missed the Browns matchup against the Dolphins because he had…strep throat. That has to be a joke right? He must have gotten arrested for DUI Saturday night or something. Tony Romo played 60 minutes with an effing collapsed lung and bruised ribs and Hillis sat out with Strep? THIS IS THE MAN YOU VOTED ONTO THE MADDEN COVER? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, AMERICA?

The 49ers played in Cincinnati and play in Philly next week, so rather than return home for a couple days, they’re spending the week in Youngstown, Ohio- THE SAN FRANCISCO OF THE RUST BELT!  I wonder how long 53 pro football players are in Youngstown, Ohio before some senile resident calls the police to report a flash mob. I put the over/under at 90 minutes after arrival.

I love Kevin Kolb, but man does he look shady. Believe me, I’m not saying he’s racist, I’m just saying that he looks like someone who would hang out with Henry Rollins’ character on Sons of Anarchy. He also had more incompletions against

"Hobbies include throwing game-ending interceptions and cooking methamphetamine in his basement"

Seattle on Sunday than Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger had against the Seahawks COMBINED in weeks 1 and 2.  Yikes, Kev.

How long do we have until Reggie Bush is out of the league and starring on some horrible E! reality show? Based on his 12 carry, 38 yard, two fumble performance on Sunday, I’d say eight months.  Also of note, from the last two plays of the third quarter to the end of the game, Chad Henne was 2-9 for 17 yards, was sacked twice, and never got a first down.  Slow down Chad, there’s only room for one insufferable athlete who disappears in the 4th quarter in Miami.

Without further ado, here are your Underachieving Fantasy Players from Week Three Who Should Be Waterboarded until They Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit:

DeAngelo Williams- 10 carries, 18 yards.

Santonio Holmes- 1 catch, 19 yards

Michael Turner- 11 carries, 20 yards, 0 receptions

Steve Smith- 2 catches, 15 yards

Rashard Mendenhall- 18 carries, 3 catches,  46 total yards.

Frank Gore- 17 carries, 42 yards, 0 receptions, 1 fumble.

DeSean Jackson- 2 catches, 30 yards.

James Starks- Not that he’s a great player anyway, but besides Starks’ eight yard run in the 2nd quarter, he had 10 carries for 0 yards and a fumble.  Jesus.

And this week’s Horrible Fantasy Players Who Inexplicably Ruined Your Sunday and Ipso Facto Your Entire Week:

Wes Fackin Welkah- 16 catches, 216 yards, 2 TDs, 19 yards rushing.

Torrey Smith- 3 catches, 152 yards, 3 TDs

James Casey- 5 catches,126 yards, 1 TD,

Rob Gronkowski- 7 catches, 109 yards, 2 TDs

LaDainian Tomlinson- 6 carries, 5 catches, 154 total yards, 1 TD

Eli Manning- 254 yards, 4TDs, 0 INTs

Lance Moore- 9 catches, 88 yards, 1 TD, two (TWO!) two-point conversions.  (Yes I just wrote the word “two” three times in a row and it worked grammatically. SEE ME, DICKINSON!)

Victor Cruz- 3 catches, 110 yards, 2 TDs

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