"One week is a fluke, two weeks is a coincidence, three weeks is a trend."
Not sure whether that matters, but I heard Tom Jackson say it once, and here we are in Week 3. Who's ready to identify some trends?!
But seriously, this week should tell us a lot of the NFL's hierarchy this year. Even after Week 2, we know a lot more about the NFL than we did seven days ago. For instance, as much as we'd all like to see Peyton Manning lose for once, the Indianapolis Colts probably won't be experiencing a letdown this year. They looked unstoppable against New York Sunday night.
Likewise, the San Diego Chargers aren't rolling over just yet. Nobody in San Diego saw it, but the Chargers absolutely destroyed Jacksonville, leading many to conclude... Well, Jacksonville sucks. So let's hold off on the conclusions, except to say that Norv and the Chargers aren't going to collapse just yet.
Elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers look like they're about ready to prove last year was a fluke letdown. It hasn't been pretty, but that's sort of the point. Pittsburgh's ability to win without a functional offense says a lot about their potential down the road. And the team they beat this past week? Well, when Vince Young's your starting quarterback, Vince Young's your starting quarterback.
Isn't seafood great? Onto the 10 Questions...
1. How Much Money Is Your Favorite Team Spending?
There's something poetic about the Redskins and Cowboys spending more money--by a wide margin--than any other franchise in the NFL. According to ProFootballTalk, Washington spent a whopping $178 million on its roster for 2010, while the Cowboys checked in at $166.5 million.
The next biggest spender, the Saints, spent just $145 million. They also won the Super Bowl last year, while Dallas and Washington have spent the past decade spending at this rate, with just two playoff wins to show for it. There's a maxim in there somewhere. Something like, "Smart money doesn't always spend money." Or, "Money's only as valuable as the man that's spending it." Or, "If you're drunk and feeling invincible, put away your checkbook, Danny. That's how Deangelo Hall happened."
I don't know. Something like that. And it's nothing that remarkable, but as you probably heard about 10,000 times this offseason, 2010 is an uncapped year in the NFL, allowing owners to show their true colors. And obviously, Jones and Snyder aren't afraid to be looked at as the reckless ones in this group.
Other teams of note? The Seahawks have the fifth most expensive roster in the NFL, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think they have one, single good player on that team. Oh, and they also paid $35 million to Pete Carroll to join Seattle this summer. God.
I know Paul Allen bathes in money, but damn Paul. Hit up Haiti with some of your Seahawk money.
Beyond Seattle, other notables include New England ($128.8 million), Steelers ($122.9 million), and Jets ($135.7 million). I would have expected each of those teams to be higher on the list, but it just goes to show... There's A LOT of dumb money being spent in the NFL. And if the Chiefs ($84.5 million) make the playoffs, just remember they did it with half the Redkins' payroll.
2. Should Detroit Just Give Up?
It's been a tough few weeks for the Lions. They've looked uncharacteristically good against both Chicago and Philadelphia--two playoff-caliber teams--and yet, they're still sitting 0-2, likely to be 0-3 after this weekend's matchup with the Vikings.
Jahvid Best has been pretty spectacular for Detroit, providing exactly the glimmer of hope that Lions fans probably deserve at this point. I was leery of Best as an NFL prospect because it's sort of terrifying to think about a running back with a history of concussions, but Best has at least proven that he was worth the risk. And even though the Lions aren't winning, with Best they're exciting, and that's a step in the right direction.
(Now watch: he's going to get a concussion this weekend. Poor Detroit.)
3. Why Are The Vikings Favored By 11 Points?
While we're talking Lions, let's point out the most ridiculous line of the week. If you'd asked me to guess this number on Wednesday, I'd have said Vikings by 5.5. But no. IT'S TWICE THAT.
Has Las Vegas not seen the Lions the past two weeks? Have they seen Minnesota? I understand the whole "betting-on-a-bounceback" concept, but the Lions look like a team that's going to lose close games all year long, scaring the crap out of numerous contenders along the way. And Minnesota's just going to roll over them?
Uh-uh. The Vikings may win this weekend, but no way it happens in a blowout.
(Now watch: Lions will lose by 40. Poor Detroit.)
4. What's The Deal With Alex Smith?
Thanks for asking! Now if you'll please just hand over your press pass and see yourself out, we'll be glad to have Mike Singletary not answer your question, and work with someone that won't ask relevant questions.
Yeah, so in case you missed it, Mike Singletary doesn't want to talk about Alex Smith, the rumored tension between his players and coaching staff, or his offensive coordinator. As he explained to the offending reporter, Dennis O'Donnell of San Francisco, "Don't base a man's whole career on a dad gum Yahoo commercial!"
I think we've all given Mike Singletary the benefit of the doubt ever since his underwear speech at halftime, but this whole situation just makes him look stupid. The 49ers forced the TV station to reassign O'Donnell, pulling him from his weekly 49ers show, and perhaps most important, Alex Smith and the offensive coordinator still have obvious communication issues, as seen by the 49ers sloppy showing Monday night. So, now seems like a good time to point out that Singletary will probably be fired this season.
(Also, I actually wrote " we've all given Mike Singletary the benefit of the doubt ever since his underwear speech at halftime" without a hint of irony. And that's why sports are awesome.)
5. Kanye West Tweet Of The Week
To Jason Campbell of the Raiders and Trent Edwards of the Buffalo Bills, two quarterbacks who were benched this past week, possibly for good. It's hard to imagine Campbell or Edwards landing another shot as a starter after their latest struggles.
But are they quarterbacks, really?
We can't say for sure, and frankly, there's a good chance that both of them are just artists, and the last few years have been a performance of sorts. Like the comedian that bombs on purpose as a statement, Trent and Jason just refused to compromise their ideals. If that meant holding onto the football too long, forcing balls downfield, and taking a physical and emotional beating from opponents and allies alike, then so be it. SO BE IT.
For them, it was worth it. As Kanye says, the "real world" isn't designed for true true artist. That's the tragedy of Jason Campbell and Trent Edwards as NFL quarterbacks. The battle was lost before it even began. But they fought anyway, and never compromised.
Disastrous starting quarterbacks? No. Artists, I say. Warrior artists.
6. Who's Got The Worst Job In The NFL This Week?
That would Rashad Butler of the Houston Texans, who will be making his first start at offensive tackle this week, just in time for a matchup with the best pass rusher in the league, Dallas' DeMarcus Ware.
"He has speed and power and he does a good job of using both," Butler said. "A lot of guys go wrong because a lot of guys aren’t sharp on their technique, so this week I’ll just worry about myself first, and foremost get my technique right."
Yes, technique is a good thing to focus on. Technique and prayer. "I’ve been preparing for this about five years now, so I’m going to make the best of it." Ah, yes... Like a lamb preparing to lay down with a lion, poor Rashad has no idea the brutality that's lays ahead. So bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, about to become road-kill. Aww.
7. When Did Devin Hester Stop Being Awesome?
Watching the Dallas-Chicago game last week, I couldn't help but notice that Devin Hester has A. Become a pretty solid receiver for Chicago, and B. Completely disappeared in the return game. The Chicago Tribune confirms my suspicions:
Hester has gained 12 yards on six returns through the first two games, and he lost five yards on a return in the fourth quarter Sunday at Dallas that backed the Bears up on their own 9-yard line.
And it's a trend that's continued for some time now:
He has had two punt returns of more than 25 yards — 33 and 32 last season — since a 64-yard touchdown in the 2007 season finale against the Saints at Soldier Field.
It begs the question: is it possible to be a superstar return man and a competent receiver at the same time? Even going back to Desmond Howard, then guys like Dante Hall and Antwaan Randle-El, and now someone like Hester. It seems like the best return guys aren't very good receivers. When they become stars for their return skills, teams begin using them more in the passing game, and that often prompts a decline in their return skills.
Or is it because once they become stars, teams focus more on stopping them?
Either way, it's a strange trend, and something that'd give me pause if I were an NFL team trying to convert star return guys. Because bottom line: Devin Hester, unstoppable return man, is a lot more valuable than Devin Hester, mediocre second receiver.
8. What Games Are On Network TV This Week?
Coverage maps are here. Most of America will be getting Dallas at Houston, but in Washington D.C., I'm worried that I'll miss that game because of that stupid rule that blacks out the second game on a given network. So, instead of Dallas-Houston, I'll get Washington at St. Louis. I'm not sure how this rule works, why it exists, or whether it'll apply this weekend, but it's probably the dumbest part of football. And I realize that I'm writing online right now, and could easily Google this right now and find out what the deal is, but whatever.
The point is, I shouldn't have to go combing through Google to find the answer, and I shouldn't have to live in fear that I'm going to get stuck with the Skins-Rams as my only game out of the NFC. If Fox is broadcasting two games, fans should get to watch two games every week. Same with CBS. We all have to watch a Rams game on Sunday? It's f***ing idiotic.
/End of rant.
...While we're here, one more thing that really bugs me: announcers that talk about fantasy football during the games. Like, "Jahvid Best breaks off a 75-yard run! I bet his fantasy owners are excited!" Yeah, probably a lot more excited than actual Lions fans, rooting for actual football, in a game with actual meaning.
Fantasy football's cool, but it's become so intertwined with the NFL's popularity these days that at least 10 different times-a-game, some announcer will start talking about his fantasy team. Or my fantasy team. Or your fantasy team. Or America's figurative fantasy team. ... WHO CARES?
I don't, and it's sort of embarrassing to watch all these announcers fall all over themselves to cater to the nerds within us. A NFL broadcast should be a fantasy-free zone. I'm supposed to believe that Darryl Johnston cares about fantasy football? That's the first thing he notices after a big play? "Hooo boy! Six more fantasy points! Bet a lot of people are happy about that one!" It's f***ing idiotic.
/End of second rant.
9. Ever Wonder About NFL Coaches As Teenagers?
I'd never thought of it, to be honest, but it's a funny concept. Imagine various NFL coaches as teenagers. Bill Belichick was probably sooooo prepared when he lost his virginity. Norv Turner probably got bullied throughout high school. Jeff Fisher was a badass, but also got straight A's. Mike Smith was that random kid in class that everyone forgot about. And Tom Cable ate a lot of paint chips, clearly.
As for Rex Ryan? This past week on Indianapolis' 1070 The Fan, ex-Chicago Bear Dan Hampton remembered a story from his playing days, when Rex's dad, Buddy, was coaching the defense in Chicago:
He and his brother Rob... They were knucklehead 16 year-olds trying to steal beer out of the ice chest in the back of our cars. Buddy Ryan used to just cuss 'em out, sayin 'What a bunch of idiots!' But the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, you know what I'm saying?
It's a throwaway anecdote that's significant for two reasons. First, because that's EXACTLY how I would have imagined Rex Ryan as a teenager. And second, because NFL players apparently used to keep giant chests of beer in the trunk of their car, and that's just AWESOME. What happened to that league? Back when men were men, and everyone got hammered after the game.
I'm only half-kidding. You could argue there was no better time to live in America than the era depicted in Dazed and Confused and the ten years that followed. That holds true for NFL players, knucklehead 16 year-olds, and Wooderson. I miss it, and I was never even a part of it.
10. If You Can Only Watch One Game This Week...
Was originally going to tab New Orleans and Atlanta here, but who am I kidding? The Saints looked shaky in their first two games, just lost their most explosive playmaker on offense, and they're coming in on a short week. That has letdown game written all over it.
And with all due respect to the Dolphins and Jets on Sunday Night, I don't care how big the implications are for the AFC playoff race. A game featuring Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez simply isn't watchable. Especially not if it's competing with Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, and the premiere of Eastbound and Down.
Texans-Cowboys is enticing, then, but I'm still convinced that Dallas is in Phase One of my Super Bowl cycle for them, and they'll manage to look like a complete disaster again this weekend. That game will probably suck. (Then they'll come together during the bye week and go onto to run the table and win the Super Bowl. Just watch.)
So, screw it: It's not a great slate this week, and there's no reason to talk yourself into anything. Just watch Michael Vick. He's the biggest story in football right now, he's been electrifying the past two weeks, and oh yeah, he's also The American Dream. Because whatever you think of him, it's hard to resist keeping an eye on a game involving Michael Vick.