NFL Week 6: Viking Funerals, Hoobastank and the NFL Coach Battle Royale

49ers 25, Lions 19- COACH FIGHT! That was awesome wasn’t it? Full disclosure- I’m Team Harbaugh all the way on this one. Not even because I like Jim Harbaugh all that much, I just hate Jim Schwartz because he’s a hypocrite and a lunatic. He took exception after the game to Harbaugh’s over-exuberant celebration, which is never something he’d do, and the fact that he cursed at him, which Schwartz would also never do in a million years, and said that he was shoved by Harbaugh, which after booth review, uh, didn’t happen.

Schwartz should just count himself lucky that Harbaugh didn’t beat his ass, which wouldn’t be a tough task for the 6’3”, 215lb  former first-round pick. If there were an NFL coach battle royale, Harbaugh would have to be considered a favorite given his size, youth and NFL career.  If there had been a lockout, the NFL should have had an All Valley Karate Championship-style tournament  that pitted the league’s 32 head coaches against each other in cage matches. Tell me you put $49.99 on Pay-Per-View to watch Rex Ryan beat the shit out of Mike Shanahan, or see Andy Reid collapse out of exhaustion 20 seconds into the first round. If only someone would put together an NCAA-style bracket for an NFL Coaches Tournament of Destruction…BAM! Here you go. And it only took me 12-and-a-half hours hours to learn how to make a bracket online then meticulously rank and seed each coach based on size, aggressiveness, NFL experience and projected fighting style.  The best way to go about sorting out all the coaches was by dividing them into divisions then ranking them 1-32. Listed below are the divisions, with each coach’s overall ranking in parentheses:

The Favorites:
Lovie Smith (1)
Mike Tomlin (2)
Jim Harbaugh (3)
Mike Munchak (5)

The Heavyweights:
Mike McCarthy (18)
Rex Ryan (4)
Andy Reid (21)
Pat Shurmur (6)

The Old Man Strength Division:
Chan Gailey (22)
John Fox (23)
Tom Coughlin (29)

The Frail Five:
Jason Garrett (32)
Sean Payton (27)
Norv Turner (30)
Pete Carroll (31)
Mike Shanahan (28)

The Veterans:
Marvin Lewis (19)
Jack Del Rio (16)
Bill Belichick (24)

The Mid-Majors:
Gary Kubiak (11)
Leslie Frazier (14)
Ron Rivera (12)
Mike Smith (8)
Jim Schwartz (13)
Jim Caldwell (25)
Tony Sparano (26)

Degeneration X:
Hue Jackson (9)
Raheem Morris (17)
Steve Spagnolo (15)
Ken Whisenhunt (10)
John Harbaugh (20)

The Todd Haley Division:
Todd Haley (7)

Round 1 is highlighted by New York rivals Rex Ryan and Tom Coughlin squaring off in the cage and John Harbaugh’s shot at fraternal redemption against Jim Schwartz. Tune in next week to see which coaches emerge victorious and move on to the Sweet Sixteen!

Bengals 27, Colts 17- I hate the Bengals’ recent success. Everything about Cincinnati indicates that they should be banished from existence- boring offense, half-empty stadium, dreary city, painful colors, a star-less roster and a coach that’s perennially on the hot seat. Since T.O. and OchoCinco left they haven’t even had any controversial players or cause for interest. They are a historically garbage franchise whose greatest player is, fittingly, an offensive lineman. Their owner Mike Brown is notoriously cheap, refuses to hire a G.M. and is so unbearably bad that Bengals fans started www.MikeBrownSucks.com out of protest. Did you watch the Bengals season of HBO’s Hard Knocks? It was embarrassing how poorly run their franchise is. For example, when most teams cut players on Hard Knocks, they bring them in to talk with the G.M., coach or director of player personnel in private, tell them what they did well and what they can improve on, and generally treat them with the respect a guy who did two-a-days for a month in the summer heat deserves.  Not the Bengals. That wasn’t even the worst of their cuts. In one episode, that same oompa loompa woke up a player before the sun had risen and let “we’re placing you on waivers” be the first worst words he heard that day. Despicable.

The Bengals haven’t even been impressive this season, certainly not enough to warrant the attention they’ve been getting from the national media. Sure their defense is good, but besides a three-point win over the Bills, who played horrific football that day and only lost on a field goal as time expired, they’ve beaten the pitiful Browns, Jaguars and Colts. They also handed the Broncos, who are in the bottom third of the league in nearly every category (besides helping old ladies cross the street), their only win of the season. Before Peter King anoints them this season’s feel-good story, let’s see if they’re actually a good team and not just the least shitty or the league’s shitty teams, the one-eyed king in the land of the blind.

Raiders 24, Browns 17- The Raiders celebrated Al Davis’ life with a nice ceremony at halftime then lit an eternal flame that will burn at Raiders games until they move to L.A. forever. Unless you have access to a giant, solar-powered laser beam, the eternal flame has to be the single greatest way to commemorate someone.

"Your candle burned out long before your giant burning podium ever will"

When If I die, I want my loved ones to hike to the top of the highest nearby mountain (or volcano), build a giant tiki-torch, then find a way to set it on fire using some kind of water-proof, eternally-burning lighter fluid. I think this is both reasonable and tasteful.  The other option is to go the Viking funeral route, which would entail putting my body in a canoe, which is then engulfed flames and sent down a river never to be seen again While it may lack some subtlety, it certainly makes up for it in spectacle, however, the Viking funeral has a few short comings. For one, it would be really disgusting and uncomfortable for whoever was swimming downstream.   Two, I’m pretty sure that’s what going to happen to Donovan McNabb next week if the Vikings don’t start Christian Ponder, so by my time it’ll probably played out. And finally, that sounds like exactly what you would do if you were trying to send someone to Hell, which I’d like to avoid if at all possible.  What I’m trying to say is R.I.P. Al Davis.

Steelers 17, Jaguars 13- Rashard Mendenhall finally started watching game tape instead of Loose Change and came out of his season-long coma. The Steelers running back went for 146 yards and a TD in a much-too-close victory over rookie bro Blaine (yo Gabbert ) Gabbert and the Jaguars.  Mendenhall’s emergence came just days after yours truly completed a shameless trade rape for the Steelers’ star. For those unfamiliar with the term “trade rape”, this video from The League should clear things up.

The deal sent Cedric Benson, his three yards-per-carry and imminent three one-game suspension, along with Mike Thomas, Joey Addai, Kenny Britt (out for the season, though it is a keeper league) and Doug Baldwin to the victim for Mendenhall and Dez Bryant. I’m not proud of it, in fact, I feel a little like I just stole from the collection basket at church. Then again, it’s not my fault he actually agreed to it, and when I look at my team, and I feel just so, so happy. I’d imagine it’s like what Bernie Madoff felt like before he got caught. Actually, it’s not “like” that, it’s the exact same feeling, only I fucked over a fantasy team, and he fucked over the Mets.

Eagles 20, Redskins 13-

Reid reacted more to that punch than Sean Payton did to having his leg broken. FACT- Andy Reid is soft.

Reid reacted more to that punch than Sean Payton did to having his leg broken.

Fox had Cleetus the Robot displaying Michael Vick’s possible concussion about 10 seconds after it happened. I like that they now have Vick concussion animations ready to go at all moments like it’s an inevitability, that’s encouraging. That beings said, I loathe the Fox Robot more than anything on Earth. The NFL has absolutely no connection to Robots. None.  At least not since Tony Dungy retired. So why has Fox chosen to trot an animated one out for pregame shows and commercial breaks since 2005? Because they think that people love robots, which is fair; but they like robots when Michael Bay is blowing up a city around them, not when they’re dancing or pointing or doing some other meaningless activity. Worse yet, the Fox Robot is constantly lifting weights or doing cardio like jumping rope or running in place, which is interesting considering IT’S A ROBOT. WHY WOULD IT NEED TO WORK OUT??? It’s not going to tear a hammy, seeing as its hamstrings are made of METAL.  Either build a robot that can actually play football or send that animated dancing pile of tin back to where it came from, which is probably the brain of some stupid Fox intern who got fired five years ago.

The Eagles didn’t score in the second half and didn’t win convincingly, but they won, which is really the only important thing today. I don’t doubt that their offense can get it together (as long as their offensive line is remotely decent), it’s their defense that scares me. But it finally looked like they got away from inanely playing zone, as they’d done all season, and switched to man-to-man which makes sense since, ya know, they signed the second best man-to-man defender in the league in the offseason and had him stuck playing out-of-position all year.  Granted, they were playing against the Sex Cannon who threw four picks, three to the previously benched Kurt Coleman. Grossman went being called the best quarterback in the NFC East, to being benched for John Beck in the span of three days. Such is the life of Grossman. One moment he is this, the next, this.In the land of Rex Grossman, there are only peaks and valleys.

The Eagles are a flawed team, and they won’t be winning the Super Bowl any time soon, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be entertaining. Unfortunately for Philly, with their remaining schedule (Bears, Patriots, @Giants, Jets, Redskins and two vs. the Cowboys), the playoffs seem unlikely. They would most likely need to go 8-2 the rest of the way, and that still might not get them in. They have the personnel, but not the coaching or durability, but like I said, doesn’t mean they can’t give the Philly faithful something to cheer about.

Packers 24, Rams 3- I have nothing to say about this game so uhh…BACON CANDY CANES! And Wade Phillips falling!

Falcons 31, Panthers 17-Ron Rivera continued his reign of terror on people who own the Panthers running backs in fantasy leagues. Jonathan Stewart and D’Angelo Williams again averaged nearly five yards per carry and again did not get 20 carries between them. Instead, Rivera opted to let his rookie quarterback go H.A.M. again, only this time he got nothing but bologna (sorry, I hate myself for that joke). Newton averaged less than seven yards per passing attempt and threw three interceptions. Entering Sunday, the Panthers had run 27 plays inside their opponents’ ten-yard line this season. Jonathan Stewart (4.8 yards per carry) got two touches, D’Angelo Williams (5.2 ypc) got one, Cam Newton had 15 carries and nine passes.  While their offense isn’t Carolina’s biggest problem, they need to get the most production and time-of-possession possible when their defense is playing as poorly as it is. The Panthers are 31st in the league in total defense according to Football Outsiders, strange given the fact that Rivera was the defensive coordinator in  San Diego and Chicago before replacing John Fox in Carolina.

Ravens 29, Texans 14-  Good God Ray Lewis is an intimidating man. He’s the only person on earth who can call someone a jerk and pull it off as legitimate trash talk. There’s really nothing better than watching guys like him, Drew Brees or Brian Dawkins pumping his team up in the pre-game huddle. I think if I was on their team I’d be fired up to the point that I’d beat the shit out of a ball boy before the game even started.  I always think about what my pre-game ritual would be if I was professional athlete (which probably isn’t time-well spent, unless draftable attributes like “upside” and “length” are replaced by “loud” and “pale”).  It’d be a lot of the standard stuff- slowly and over-dramatically putting on my pads for effect, helmet bashing, running out of the tunnel dressed as Captain America. Music would be key though. I want music that’s intense, but focused, like Coldplay’s second studio album!  When I played lacrosse, I obsessed over my pre-game CD, which I would custom-make for each game. It’s all pretty pathetic in retrospect, even the music selections themselves sucked- lots of HoobastankEvanescence  and Trapt. Looking back, I probably should have spent that time practicing or running sprints or something, seeing as I was fourth on the JV goalie depth-chart. Then again, the coaches also probably should have just cut me after my first season, woulda saved a lot of money on blank CDs.

Patriots 20, Cowboys 16- With this game tied in the fourth quarter, was there a single person watching at home thinking the Cowboys would win? For 57 minutes, Rob Ryan and the Cowboys defense kept Brady in check and did a great job containing Welker (mostly by getting physical with him and keeping him from getting into his route), but Brady undid all their hard work in two minutes and nine seconds, going 8 for 9 for 78 yards and an eight-yard TD to Aaron Hernandez.

Just before that drive, the Cowboys chose to run the ball three times up in a row up just a field-goal with 3:36 left in the game despite being without running back Felix Jones who left the game with an injury. I know that Jason Garrett was sort of damned-if-he-did-and-damned-if-he-didn’t in that spot, but running on third-and-18, leaving Brady two minutes and thirty six seconds and a timeout needing field goal to tie seems pretty indicative of a lack of confidence in Romo. While Romo wasn’t conjuring visions of Roger Staubach on Sunday, he’d still thrown for 76 more yards, 6 completions and one less turnover than Brady at that point in the game.  If this were the Bengals or Chiefs, three straight running plays would have been understandable, but it’s Tom effing Brady, everyone in that stadium knew what was coming. The bottom line is that while Romo’s been more Clay Aiken than Troy Aikman in clutch situations, the Cowboys either need to trust him or find his replacement rather than change their game plan because he’s had problems in the past.

Bucs 26, Saints 20- The Bucs are who we thought they were, well except when they’re not.  Tampa has to be the most confusing team in the NFL. They sit atop the NFC South at 4-2 with wins over the Falcons and Saints, yet they barely escaped the Bucs and Colts. Then last week, the 49ers manhandled them 48-3 in the most thorough beating we’ve seen all season.  Sunday, without LeGarrette Blount, took down one of the best teams in the league, putting up 420 yards of offense in the process. The defense forced three interceptions from Drew Brees, and held the Saints to just one TD in four red zone attempts. Meanwhile, the Saints are 2-2 on the road this year, with losses to the Packers and Bucs, a three-point win over the Panthers and an unimpressive 23-10 win at Jacksonville.

Can we talk about how Sean Payton stayed on the sidelines and barely grimaced after he BROKE HIS LEG? That was the anti-Paul Pierce injury reaction.  He eventually left the sideline at halftime over an hour after the injury occurred because he was in too pain, but not before he became immortalized as the Sad Keanu of the NFL. Payton had surgery on Monday morning to repair the damage less than 24 hours after the injury occurred, or roughly 1200 hours earlier than David Garrard waited to get “immediate surgery” on his injured back.

I guess the fact that Payton was hopped up on pain meds might mitigate the Bucs’ big win. Payton knew it was time to give up the play-calling duties when he called Red Dog 2, Blue Tiger 18 on the Bucs goal line, not because that’s a play the Saints run, but because he thought he’d been watching 20 rounds of a fight between a blue tiger and a red dog. Somewhere, Terry Francona had it scored 19-1, tiger.

Giants 27, Bills 24- Joking aside, the Boston Globe’s article on the Red Sox is three-thousand words of sensationalist, misguided and slanderous garbage.  The reports of Red Sox pitchers drinking, playing video games and eating fried chicken during games now appear to be grossly exaggerated, unless you consider one beer in the ninth inning and fried chicken once-a-month to be the culpable for a team losing 21 of its final 29 games.

Far worse, however, was the face that the article alleges a painkiller dependency by Francona, based solely on unnamed “team sources” who said that his performance “may have been affected by his use of pain medication”. That’s an awfully weak foundation to support an alarmingly dangerous claim.

The article also says Tim Wakefield contributed to the off-the-field issues by “appearing to be more interested in himself than the team” when he told the media that he’d like the Red Sox to bring him back next season, while responding to a question about whether he wanted the Red Sox to bring him back next season.

The blame fest continues and no one is spared, not even the troops! “While Francona coped with his marital and health issues, he also worried privately about the safety of his son, Nick, and son-in-law, Michael Rice, both of whom are Marine officers serving in Afghanistan.” To allege that drug problems are responsible for managerial ineptitude is libelous, to assert that Francona was distracted on the bench because his sons are serving in Afghanistan, and thus partly responsible for the Red Sox collapse is fucking insane. What’s the point of that sentence honestly? Should the Red Sox have stipulated that their manager’s family can’t join the military? That statement makes no salient point except that the writer is a fucking asshole.

They also have this wildly deceitful and inane gem in there: “Other than Varitek and Wakefield, the only holdovers from Francona’s 2004 championship run were David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis.”  As Deadspin wisely asserted, that sentence neglects the fact that they did have THIRTEEN players from the 2007 championship team.

“Ellsbury produced one of the most sensational seasons for a leadoff hitter in franchise history – he also ranked with Pedroia, Aceves, and Jonathan Papelbon among the team’s hardest workers – but he contributed little to the clubhouse culture. The gift of leadership also eluded Adrian Gonzalez. On the field, Gonzalez’s overall production was superb, but he provided none of the energy or passion off the field that the Sox sorely needed.”

Only an idealistic reporter grasping at straws that don’t exist would attempt to explain the Red Sox collapse by blaming their two MVP-candidates, including one with a  .958 OPS in September, for not contributing to “clubhouse culture” or displaying “energy off the field”.  But only a reporter with greater interest in page views and popularity would try to explain a September collapse through naïve, melodramatic and overstated anecdotes instead of anything that actually happened on the field.

Bears 39, Vikings 10- I had a tough time choosing between watching Donovan McNabb and the Vikings or watching the 90-minute season premiere of The Walking Dead. On one hand, you have a bunch of lifeless zombies wreaking havoc on your Sunday night, on the other, you have The Walking Dead. Vikings fans long nightmare came to an abrupt end, however, when Christian Ponder replaced McNabb in the second half.  McNabb’s stats weren’t terrible, but worry not, he was just as bad as you would expect. In his defense, the Vikings’ o-line was horrific, allowing McNabb to get sacked five times and hit eight in three quarters. Now, trust me I like ridiculing and laughing at struggling quarterbacks as much as anyone, but watching McNabb waddle around the field and under-throw five-yard outs is just depressing now. Every time I watch this video I die inside a little:

So, so sad.

Now, typically I use this section to make fun at Jay Cutler, his ridiculous back-foot throws, his overall douchiness, or just generally his face; however this week I’ve gotta give him some credit, he’s been a tough bastard this season while dealing with a horrific offensive line and a lack of receiving options.  Perhaps his greatest handicap this season though has been offensive coordinator Mike Martz, for whom Cutler awesome had some strong words during the game-

Monday Night Football- Jets 24, Dolphins 6:

THIS GUY Jon Gruden signed a 5-year extension to stay with Monday Night Football yesterday, which is just fantastic. Watch this video below and tell me you don’t love Jon Gruden.

This video has everything you could in a Jon Gruden highlight- talking over the interviewee, lots of “this guy”, questions that should be rhetorical but never are, repeating the same words over and over again, inexplicable giddiness, referring to someone as a “FOOTBALL” player, outrageous enthusiasm and the totally serious “what’s wrong with this world?” at the end is the magical cherry on top. THIS GUY Gruden is the total package.

ESPN opted to replace Hank Williams’ traditional opening song with a pep talk by a franchise great every week on Monday Night Football. Love the concept. Last week, Barry Sanders gave an impassioned soliloquy about the city of Detroit. Which legend would introduce his franchise this Monday? Fireman fucking Ed. And it…was…horrible.

“Listen up America, since 1975 I’ve been bleedin’ green and white.”Whoa whoa sorry I’ve gotta stop you right there. 1975? But you were  born in 1959, so what were you doing for the first 16 years of your life? I’m sure you just hadn’t gotten into football yet, or maybe just rooted for a random team, definitely not one in the Jets’ division, and certainly not the one they’re playing tonight. What’s that? You were A DOLPHINS FAN? Get this disloyal mercenary clown off my television forever.

“This is OUR HOUSE!” Ed emphatically exclaimed to no one. Actually, Ed, your house is a one-bedroom apartment in Paramus, New Jersey that I’m guessing you share with your pet turtle and your 10 Mark Sanchez jerseys, which is ten more than any 52-year old man should own.  Fireman Ed is horrible.

Besides letting everyone know he planned on getting kicked out of Monday Night’s Game, he also advised reporters that he no longer thinks his nickname “The Beast” is appropriate. Said Marshall, “I consider myself a monster now. If you see a beast, you should run because the beast is really scary. I don’t want to be that anymore. You think of ‘monster,’ you know it’s like a little nightmare. You should be scared, you should run, but at the end of the day he’s not going to hurt you. I consider myself a monster now, and I’m going to play that way on Monday night.”

Some would call Marshall’s distinction between fantasy characters a bit over-scrupulous, Red Shirt guy would not be one of those people.

The game itself was horrible, so I’ll sum it up briefly: Neither team could catch, Matt Moore refused to throw at any corner except Revis and paid dearly for it, Chris Berman talked too long without taking a breath then kept talking and Shonn Greene finally broke a tackle, unfortunately the tackler was a referee.

Finally, this week’s Underachieving Fantasy Players Who Should Be Force-Fed Cantaloupe Until They Inevitably Contract Listeria:

Pierre Thomas- 11 yards, 1 fumble
Scott Chandler- -3 yards
Jermichael Finley- 20 yards
Peyton Hillis- 14 yards
Owen Daniels- 1 catch, 13 yards.
Roddy White- 21 yards
Vernon Davis- 8 yards
Victor Cruz- 12 yards
Ryan Torain- 22 yards

And your Insufferable Overachievers Who Stole A Victory From You Like An…Overachieving Cat Burglar:

Josh Freeman- 303 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers
Jacoby Jones- 76 yards, 1 TD
Earnest Graham- 131 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw- 104 yards, 3 TDs

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