Last week I suggested maybe we should all take naps. Last season's two Super Bowl competitors were on byes, along with two undefeated teams and a Cleveland Browns team that you should take the time to gawk at if you haven't yet. The matchups were weak, which isn't a good thing when it's still early in the season and the stakes are low. Then something happened. The week turned out sort of great. And at some point while I was watching Steve Smith torch his former team, I dropped my jaw, slapped my leg, said "guh-haw" and let every synapse fall agape. For a bit, there was nothing else in my universe. It was weird. It was nice.
You shouldn't ignore the rest of the world for football. Being too absorbed in anything is exactly how lapses occur, moral or otherwise. If we know anything from the last few months it's that one should be conscious that the world is much more vast than the parts that only concern you. But you still have the right to ignore whatever you want, and for a few moments at a time it may even be healthy. Just know that there's a reason why you liked this stuff in the first place.
The fun starts Thursday night when the Minnesota Vikings travel to Green Bay for an NFC North matchup against the Packers.
Thursday, Oct. 2
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, 8:25 p.m. ET -- CBS/NFL Network
Rookie quarterbacks make you realize how basic life is. They're like fawn taking their first wibbly-wobbly steps in a big, wide world. Or even better, like bacteria cultures in petri dish in science class. For a few days your little bacteria pet seems to be coming along nicely -- yellow dots pop up, maybe you get some cute fungi fuzzies. Then Roger, who everyone HATES, sprays your dish with Windex and the whole thing turns black and dies.
Point being, Teddy Bridgewater looked really good last week, but he's still in the fragile stages of his career where it feels like setbacks now could have profound effects. Going to Lambeau in primetime is a hell of a way to make your second career start.
Sunday, Oct. 5
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. -- Fox
The Bears and Panthers are two malfunctioning pieces of expensive hardware, like turning on a new computer to a crash screen. This game should be similarly rage-inducing for fans, and probably pretty fun for outside observers.
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m. -- CBS
If the Browns spent their bye week cooking up more packages for Johnny Manziel, it will have made the exercise of watching the Titans much more tolerable. I can't in good conscience tell you to definitely watch this game, however, because if Manziel sits the whole time, you are going to be PISSED, and my Twitter handle is right up there and I don't know how to get rid of it.
St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. -- Fox
The Rams were the sixth team to spend last week on a bye, but they didn't seem worth mentioning up above. They've been a disappointing team in every respect except at quarterback, where they were supposed to be a disaster but found a workaround in Austin Davis.
Fortunately for St. Louis, it gets to face the NFL's hot mess du jour. Chris Long and Robert Quinn should have some fun against a wreck of an offensive line.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, 1 p.m. -- Fox
This is true: The Falcons and Giants are the two teams most likely to make you ask, "What the hell are you doooing?" during a win.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. -- Fox
The Saints have been the most disappointing team of the first quarter of the season. This feels like the loss that could officially derail the season with a harsh six-game stretch coming up after the bye. The Bucs are playing with house money the rest of the year -- they know that the playoffs are out of the question, and they know that they have the talent to play spoiler to anyone. Let's call this the most watchable ugly game of the week.
Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m. -- CBS
Don't you dare miss a minute of J.J. Watt's MVP campaign. In fact, don't you dare miss a minute of watching the Cowboys' offense do its thing, either.
Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. -- Fox
I'm a Bills slappy. I said it. I have no connection with Buffalo. I have never been a fan prior to this season. But I like the team -- I like the chutzpah, I like that the head coach and GM are desperate under pending new ownership, and I like that the team is young enough to go along with whatever crazy shit its coaches are going to pull to try to get a meh team to the playoffs. The Lions feel like a good team this season, but beatable because a Lions team has never not been beatable. This is a wonderful cross-conference matchup.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. -- CBS
Andrew Luck is starting to look like Andrew Luck No. 1 Overall Pick, but he doesn't have Steve Smith, and I would follow that guy to the end of this earth.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. -- CBS
This would be skippable on bad slate. You might as well pretend it doesn't exist this weekend. The best you could say about it is that it's a palate cleanser before a fantastic evening lineup. Go listen to Treefingers or something instead.
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m. -- Fox
I have incredibly high hopes for this game, which means it will probably fall short of my expectations, especially in Denver where the Broncos tend to suck the life force out of opponents. The Cardinals probably don't have the weaponry to keep up, but they've gotten by on scrappiness so far.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m. -- CBS
These teams feel like mirror images of each other -- just a lot of tight ends and big receivers, strong running games and big defensive fronts. I sort of want to see a seven-game series of this matchup. Alex Smith's return to San Francisco puts him on watch for an eff-you performance, too.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers, 4:25 p.m. -- CBS
The rule of thumb for the Chargers is that, no matter how good they look, they are liable to drop a game they shouldn't. And the Jets have been known to pull wins out of their butts. But I can't promise you this game won't go exactly like looks like it should on paper, either.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m. -- NBC
A lot of people have been waiting a looong time to be able to enjoy some schadenfreude at the expense of the Patriots. If that's you, you probably don't want to miss another stop on the season-long tar-and-feathering.
Monday, Oct. 6
Seattle Seahawks at Washington, 8:30 p.m. -- ESPN
I can't tell you exactly what happened to Washington last Thursday. All I know is that none of it bodes well for a Monday night bout against the Seahawks.
|Vikings @ Packers||Thurs., Oct. 2, 8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL||5/5|
|Chiefs @ 49ers||Sun., Oct. 5, 4:25 p.m.||CBS||4/5|
|Cardinals @ Broncos||Sun., Oct. 5, 4:05 p.m.||Fox||4/5|
|Texans @ Cowboys||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||CBS||4/5|
|Ravens @ Colts||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||CBS||4/5|
|Bills @ Lions||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||Fox||4/5|
|Buccaneers @ Saints||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||Fox||4/5|
|Falcons @ Giants||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||Fox||3/5|
|Bears @ Panthers||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||Fox||3/5|
|Bengals @ Patriots||Sun., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.||NBC||3/5|
|Rams @ Eagles||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||Fox||3/5|
|Jets @ Chargers||Sun., Oct. 5, 4:25 p.m.||CBS||3/5|
|Seahawks @ Washington||Mon., Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m.||ESPN||2/5|
|Browns @ Titans||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||CBS||2/5|
|Steelers @ Jaguars||Sun., Oct. 5, 1 p.m.||CBS||1/5|