I’m going to get to football in a moment but ask that you bear with me through this first little bit because tragedy struck twice on this past Sunday, and these folks transcend just one sport. Arnold Palmer was not only a golf legend but a great humanitarian. Palmer was responsible for making the game of golf popular among all classes of people, making it accessible to youth, and helped golf become the television behemoth it is today. He leaves behind a great legacy and he will be deeply missed by many.
Earlier that same Sunday, we lost someone who was still making his mark, and who was slowly building his legacy in the world of baseball. The youngest pitcher to amass 500 strikeouts, Jose Fernandez, was an amazing talent whose life was cut short by a tragic accident. The fact that he was so young and on his way to superstardom is sad; the fact that he leaves behind a loving family and an unborn child even more so. I’ll recommend Jordan Sargent’s excellent Deadspin piece (please do yourself a favor and watch the videos) for more details, but Fernandez was an amazing talent that is gone way, way too soon. I hope his family and his teammates find eventual peace.
On to football, and the big story around my geographical area is how awful the Jaguars seem to be. From getting stomped on in week 2 against the Chargers, to a messy loss that should have been a win against the Ravens this past Sunday, the team seems to be in disarray. Bortles is not playing his best, and that seems to be a combination of him losing the mechanics he learned last year while studying with Tom House, and Greg Olsen’s changing the scheme of the offense from taking more shots downfield and making Blake dink and dunk his way down the field, which is not what he is best at. Bortles is a gunslinger and whatever made Olsen change his mind about the offensive identity this offseason, it was a bad influence because this prolific offense that scored well and often last year is just sputtering, and unless the offensive ship rights itself soon, it will start to get ugly. A change is being called for at the head coaching position of the Jags, and I can’t say that I disagree, especially with a member of the coaching staff with previous head coaching experience (Doug Marrone) being there to take over mid-season if necessary. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened this week if the Jags lost to Indy over in Jolly Olde England, as Khan is known for going through coaches like crazy and eating their contracts with his soccer club. The patience of the fanbase is wearing thin, because the team has amassed too much talent in order to be playing this well. In fact, it seems like conservative coaching is what did the team in against the Ravens, with two awesome interceptions coming near the end of the game but literally nothing being done to capitalize on them. The patience of the players seems to be wearing thin, too, and the attitude of some of the newcomers to the squad is almost refreshing, in my opinion. The losing needs to stop, somehow. Who knows what the cause for that will be, but it better happen soon, or Gus Bradley will be finding his way onto another team’s coaching staff.
My picks for genuinely surprising teams after three games are the Vikings and the Eagles. Who would have thought, that with the loss of not only their starting QB but also their starting RB, the Vikes would be looking like contenders and be dominant over some of the best teams in the league so far this year? Minnesota is off to their first 3-0 start since 2009, and I’m not sure that they will slow down anytime soon. I am also legitimately disappointed that I don’t get to follow the Eagles through a game this week (they are on a bye), because man, do they look great. They have no right to be, but they just trounced the Steelers this past Sunday and it doesn’t look like there’s any stopping them. The regime has truly changed in Philly and that is okay with Eagles fans, I’m sure.
On to the picks for this week…
DOLPHINS at BENGALS – Miami and Cleveland made each other look competent last week, but don’t expect that much this week. The Bengals should relish the opportunity to deliver a prime-time smackdown for their home crowd and shouldn’t have much trouble standing behind that desire.
COLTS at JAGUARS (in London) – I’ve expressed my disdain for the Jaguars in the introduction for this column but this game may be close considering the Colts’ buildup of injuries, including Luck not being quite 100% thanks to their horrible offensive line, and the Jags’ ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Disgruntled Jaguars Fan Aaron expects the Jags to return from across the pond with a win, but I’m also grounding that expectation in the fact that they have been beating themselves so far this season.
TITANS at TEXANS – Woof. The Raiders beat the Titans at home pretty easily and the Patriots took the Texans out to the flagpole after school and beat ‘em up. I figure that the Texans will do better in rebounding from a loss, and their mini-bye from playing last Thursday will see them rested, and hopefully not rusty. Texans over Titans in a game that may later decide the AFC South, such as it is.
BROWNS at REDSKINS – The ‘Skins squeaked by the Giants and the Browns rode Terrelle Pryor into overtime. Will Washington’s injuries make them susceptible to MoneyFootball? Probably not, because if you read about the way the Browns horribly mismanaged the signing of their kicker this week, it’s easy to note that organization is as inept as ever.
SEAHAWKS at JETS – On paper, the Seahawks should win this – they are by far the more talented team and certainly have the more talented QB. Fitz can’t (obviously) make horrible decisions and expect to win. But, Russell Wilson may not play, and against a blitz-heavy defense the likes of which Jets coach Todd Bowles likes to run, a team needs Wilson’s improvisational skills to be successful. The result of this almost literally rides on Wilson’s ability to come back from a sprained MCL.
BILLS at PATRIOTS – Well, the Bills surprised everyone by beating the normally high-octane Cardinals by double digits, and Rex Ryan kept his job another week. Can Ryan make something out of nothing again as his team heads to Boston to face the New England Julian Edelmans? We’ll have to wait and see, but Belichick almost always has Ryan’s number.
PANTHERS at FALCONS – The Panthers’ high-flying offense has proven susceptible to a dominating defense. The Falcons’ offensive issues from last year seem to be resolved after putting a 40-burger on New Orleans. This seems to be an “all-offense” game but defense is the story here, because the team that stops the scores, will win the game (second week and I’m already delivering Madden-isms). I think that the Falcons will win and continue their run in the surprise first place of the NFC South.
RAIDERS at RAVENS – Joe Flacco is the type of quarterback that should not be making as many stupid mistakes as he is. He still seems to get a little nervous in the face of pressure and is still not mentally 100% back from that injury from last year. He has some pretty decent weapons still but the interceptions that he threw against the Jaguars bordered on the ridiculous. The Raiders seem to be gelling at the right time and are coming off a trip to Nashville that earned them a win, especially thanks to dominating defensive play. I see the Raiders heading home from back to back road trips with a win.
LIONS at BEARS – The Bears stink. The Lions hung on in Green Bay, and I think their offense is much more prolific. And of course, they have their starting QB still. This is a pretty easy write-up; the Lions should win.
BRONCOS at BUCS – Trevor Siemian is playing competently at quarterback, and the Broncos defense is doing their part and then some helping the team to victories. Meanwhile, the Bucs and their supposed high-powered offense just got beat by the Rams. This is a pretty easy decision for me – Broncos should bring the win.
RAMS at CARDINALS – Who are the Rams? Who are the Cardinals? Can either team put together a winning record? Are they just starting slow? Do they both stink? Will this paragraph be made up completely of questions? How about we find out together? I think the Cardinals will win, what about you?
SAINTS at CHARGERS – The Saints are 0-3. Sean Payton may be taking measurements for office space over in Baton Rouge soon. The team seems to be wasting Drew Brees, who has at least a year or two left. In my opinion, a team like the Jets or the Bills should send a couple of high draft picks for Brees, and let the Saints get into the rebuild that is coming. In any case, the Chargers seem to be playing more competent ball than New Orleans, although Manti Te’o’s imaginary girlfriend decided to wreck his knee and ended his year. I think that the Chargers will find a way to win this one.
COWBOYS at 49ERS – Dez Bryant, who is part of what I’m calling Triplets 2.0 (Prescott, Elliott, and Bryant) has a knee injury that may or may not keep him out of game action Sunday. But Cole Beasley and his Flowing Locks seems to be a great contributor to Dallas’ offense as well, and so if Bryant is somewhat limited, I think Dallas will still come out on top. The 49ers are a Blaine Gabbert-led team, in case you’ve forgotten. Call this one for the Cowboys, and let the “Prescott should stay in even when Romo comes back” train keep rolling.
CHIEFS at STEELERS – Man, the Chiefs just laid one on the Jets last week. Both the defense and the special teams were absolutely on point. With the offense doing well, they seem to be a good contender for the AFC Wild Card. The Steelers are coming off a surprising loss to the Eagles, and are looking to bounce back at home. With the force of Heinz Field behind them, I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think the Steelers will win.
GIANTS at VIKINGS – I’m pretty proud of ESPN, who usually pulls matchups that not many care about, for airing this game. The Giants at Vikings game is going to be entertaining. Can the Vikes continue their supremacy and keep the undefeated streak alive, especially in their purty new house in prime-time? Or will the Giants rebound from their defeat at the hands of their division rivals and be out for blood? We’re gonna be closing the week out strong, because I’m calling this my GAME OF THE WEEK not only for the no Adrian Peterson and Odell Beckham throwing tantrums narrative, but also to see if Sam Bradford continues his semi-Cinderella start to this season.