Welcome to what will become a weekly recap of the NFL games over the weekend. This blog will hit on 32 points – one for each team in the NFL. The writing is biased, of course, but not blinded. So enjoy the banter, insight, or whatever you want to call this – this is What We Learned.
This is it. This is where you get your money’s worth. It takes time to get past the distractions that come with this relationship. You know it’s tough to ignore, but you want the NFL to be perfect. You like the potential – so much, in fact, that you are willing to ignore reality. The distractions are only in the back of your mind, being overshadowed by a distraction.
It’s called football. A team of professional evaluators, strategists, and former participants work together to assemble a 53-man roster built to win against all odds. It takes control, speed, power, and reckless abandon. That comes in the form of experience, youth, size, and finesse. Polished players coupled with raw talent. Underproductive leaders coupled with stat-racking hotshots. Guys that play for the love of the game coupled with guys that play because it’s a legal alternative to beating people senseless. There’s a formula to winning – it all has to mesh just right. We’ve turned it into a spectacle, watching the process of forming teams from the ground up. We watch empires crumble and marvels rise in their ashes. We’ve watched teams drag themselves through the mud of hope, while others crack the sky with realized ability. It’s a beautiful art, and we are its connoisseurs.
Football is its own best distraction. All the things about the League that put knots in your stomach and make your head ring can be pushed aside with the right kind of show. The NFL has this figured out – they know the rules. It’s their game – you’re just another player in this game for two, Mr. Timberlake. The League is dirty, broken, and nowhere near worth the cost it demands of you. When you think you have finally had enough – you’re finally ready to pack your things and leave – you get trapped in the show again. You still know that it’s dirty, but the League mesmerizes you with its slow, smooth, twisting façade. Somewhere beneath the beautiful is everything that you hate about the NFL, but it’s hard to walk away. One more time can’t be any worse, right?
Before you realize it, you’ve gone too far to get away. You’re wrapped into the show and holding on for the ride. You’ve been here before and you know what to expect. The League will go against what you believe, break what you know, and leave you alone when its done. That’s how this relationship works – you take your share and guiltlessly go back for more next season. The NFL keeps the show going – keeps the on-field masquerade intact – enough to keep you interested. It distracts you just enough to get you to stay.
It’s show time. Four weeks into the season, the spectacle that is the NFL is ramping up. Everything that you love about it – the pleasure that you wring from the filth – is culminating. The storylines are developing. Plots are twisting in anguish. The lights are bright, the sound reverberating, and the climax is being set. You’re learning what the story holds this time. You’re remembering how good it feels. You’re learning how to feel it again. Every week, you learn more and more. Here’s what we learned…
- The Redskins are the definition of inconsistent. This is not to predict that Washington is bound to be 8-8, but any bets for or against could end exactly the way you didn’t plan.
- The Giants looked fantastic (as I choke on those words). Eli tossed four touchdowns and the defense came up with six takeaways. That’s hard to beat.
- The Vikings are right to have hope in Bridgewater. The rookie played extremely well, throwing for over 300 yards without a turnover. However, he’s dinged up already.
- The Falcons can be great, but they can’t do it every week. They have enough talent and firepower to ruin a playoff dream, but not enough to have one of their own.
- The Panthers may have been exposed. They looked like a junior high team, and it didn’t include any ridiculous mistakes either.
- The Ravens are faster and – dare I say – stronger than the team that won the Superbowl a few seasons ago. When Flacco has time to get comfortable, he’s great. And Steve Smith, Sr.? He’s 35 going on 25.
- The Packers have had some ups and downs early this season. Still, it’s Aaron Rodgers; it’s Jordy Nelson; it’s Clay Matthews; it’s Eddie Lacy; it’s Green Bay.
- The Bears should know by now – Jay Cutler will bring the best of times and the worst of times. He is either the best player on their roster with the worst luck, or the worst player on their roster with the best luck. Flip a coin.
- The Bills have talent (Watkins, Woods, Williams, Spiller) to spare – but not the wins that should accompany that. Someone else figured the same thing, and made the switch at QB. No more EJ Manuel, so maybe they win.
- The Texans are good – and JJ Watt is great. He has two touchdowns on the season already, and he loves it. Houston still will have to best some good competition in their division, but they are prepping for a good chance.
- The Colts (speaking of good competition) are much better than their early record indicates. Andrew Luck leads the NFL in yards and touchdowns, so as mistakes decrease, wins increase. Simple football math.
- The Titans are one of several teams that have the unfortunate position of being in a division that is much better than they are. It happens – it has to happen. Again, simple football math.
- The Lions are heartbreakers. They have incredible potential to dominate opponents, but incredible potential to ruin their own season. This week displayed the former… the latter will come.
- The Jets do not seem to be under control of the coach. If Rex Ran had his way, it is pretty safe to assume that the one-two starter combo would be Vick and Ivory. New York still lines up with Smith and Johnson, so someone is pulling the strings (and writing the checks).
- The Buccaneers did just enough to win. Still, it was iffy. They will need to utilize the talent they have to spread games out if they want to make this a trend.
- The Steelers couldn’t close the game out. They’re old – it happens. Slow players have a hard time finishing it out, and speed fades with age.
- The Dolphins have the talent to win consistently. Eliminating mistakes will spread the games, but discipline is a struggle for Miami.
- The Raiders are officially the worst team in the NFL. And they fired their head coach over the phone.
- The Jaguars are not the worst team in the NFL. They will do their very best to reclaim that spot next week.
- The Chargers can win with Rivers if he stays mistake free. The Bolts have a tough division, but the way they have been playing will compete with the best of them.
- The Eagles are built as a high-risk, high-reward team. The potential is crazy, but the fallout is devastating. Touchdowns and turnovers are a dime a dozen.
- The 49ers are not a bad team, by any means. With several defensive cornerstones returning in the next several weeks, they could get better.
- The Saints have yet to win on the road this season – and yet to lose at home. Consistency is the key, and the Saints have plenty of home games coming up to build momentum.
- The Cowboys look… good. Murray is a legitimate MVP candidate at this point and Romo was turnover free this weekend. This is real.
- The Patriots have looked awful this season. (Here comes the bias…) Brady is not solely to blame. The offensive line looks like Swiss cheese and the receiving corps could be on the roster at a high school… as the junior varsity.
- The Chiefs looked solid Monday night. Last year was probably a fluke – this year looks more resolved.
- The Bengals were on a bye – but didn’t seem to need the rest.
- The Browns were on a bye – but still probably lost.
- The Broncos were on a bye – and spent it at Papa John’s.
- The Rams were on a bye – and went QB shopping.
- The Cardinals were on a bye – and prepped for the run at the top.
- The Seahawks were on a bye – and they think it’s the calm before the storm.
Once again, 32 points that distract you from everything football wants to hide. Distractions are the show, and it’s a good show. You’re stuck looking at the beautiful, willing yourself to ignore the truth that hides. For now, you’re just enjoying the show.