Can we just talk about the games? There may be something there at the end about kneeling, standing, or whatever… but can’t football be football, for right now?
I’m leading off with something I just noticed about a stadium that opened last year: the new Vikings stadium looks like they are playing in an open-air facility when it is the afternoon. The highlights of the Bucs-Vikes game looked like they were in Tampa instead of Minneapolis. Just really cool… I know we can mock Minnesota for building a crazy-looking stadium, but at least the old Metrodome had serious issues, unlike the Georgia Dome, which was in large part a perfectly good venue until the Falcons wanted more money.
I digress, though: week 3 was definitely about surprises in the NFL. The Jags started the day with a thorough and glorious beatdown of Baltimore; the Vikings with a backup QB beat what should be a solid Bucs team; the Bills beat the Broncos (!), the Jets beat the Dolphins (!!!), and the Niners and the Rams played a fun game of football (!!!!!).
In the interest of full disclosure, I watched the latest season of All or Nothing, following the L.A. Rams in the 2016 football season. Before he got pulled for Jared Goff, Case Keenum was the starting QB of the Rams. Especially after watching All or Nothing, I find myself rooting for Keenum; when the right weapons are around him, he is a competent starting QB. He is at the very least one of the top backups in the league. The Vikings have very quietly built a solid football team on both sides of the ball, with a defense that looks good and an offense with playmakers on it. Look for them to make noise this year and maybe be a surprise playoff contender. It is a testament to their organization that it doesn’t matter who the QB is, they play hard.
Are the Steelers vulnerable? The Chicago flippin’ Bears beat them in overtime, and held them to 17 points, and the score was 17-14 for most of the second half. I’m on board with the idea that Pittsburgh’s defense is taking some time to gel, but I think their offensive line may be a little suspect too. As long as the Ravens don’t come back with a LONDON BEATDOWN HANGOVER from the Jaguars whooping them, the Steelers appear to have a strong three-game test coming with Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Kansas City next up. They tend to save their best football for later in the season so the jury is still out, but the Steelers could certainly be ripe for being on the losing end of a defensive showdown.
Is anyone else pleasantly surprised that Tony Romo is an amazing TV analyst? His work on the games so far has been great, calling plays before they happen, giving some great sound bites and opinions. OF course he can’t know everything, but so far he is like a much less annoying Cris Collinsworth: very knowledgeable but not to the point that he is a chore to listen to. In putting together Nantz and Romo, CBS has the best play-by-play and analyst duo on NFL games right now, in my opinion.
I also want to jump on the Beth Mowins train. She did play by play for the late Monday Night Football game in week one and became the first female play by play announcer for CBS when she did the Browns-Colts game last week. She is awesome and has worked hard to get where she is. She is better than some of the guys CBS has doing the “lower-tier” games. Hope she gets more work.
The Jaguars were like a beacon of awesome shining across the Atlantic from Great Britain last Sunday morning. Their last matchups with the Baltimore Ravens have been boring, defensive slugfests, with neither team able to do anything in the air and pounding the ball into the opposing defense, the score a multiple of three. However, the Jags took advantage of a weakened Ravens offensive line, several skill positions affected by injury, and a defense that may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and blew the pants off of Baltimore. It was fun to watch. Now, the question is, will Jacksonville seesaw its way back over to acting like they don’t know what’s going on, as they did in week 2, or will they build on the success of week three and win a game that they by all accounts should win? Miami should have manhandled the Jets last week, but they didn’t – is Miami not as good or did they get sucked into the trap game fallacy? That can’t happen for the Jags. They lost their first game of the season at home, and even though Baltimore was a “home” game, they really need to beat the Jets and look at least good against the Steelers before they come back to Jax. If they can spread the ball around like they did last week, and if the corners can provide coverage in the secondary so the rest of the defense can get pressure on the QB, then they should win. Of course, the onus rests on Blake Bortles, who looked serviceable in week one, bad in week two, and glorious in week three. If he doesn’t make a mistake, or let his mistakes get him down – watch out for the Jaguars.
Finally, all the standing, kneeling, sitting during the national anthem is getting both controversial and old. There was a straight up murder at a church on Sunday and it did not get as much coverage as what NFL players did before their games. I understand the desire to show unity when your entire team feels insulted. I appreciated the gesture of people standing arm in arm, including, in some cases, owners and coaches. If my employee was insulted, I would we want to do the same.
I think that instead of this display, we need to have solid dialogue between these people who have the money to invest in resources to better the things that have opportunity in this country to improve, and we need to allow them to take the action they want to. Whether that job falls to the mayor of the city the team is in, or some sort of city council committee, we need good dialogue and action from that. Bill Cowher said it in a pregame show, when asked what he, as a coach, would say to Colin Kaepernick: come on the pregame shows, talk, tell everyone what you are wanting to happen, and what we need to do to help. It is great that Kaepernick has invested a million dollars in charity. I wish more folks would do more things like that. But to “protest” like that, without stating exactly why you do it, and expect us to recognize it as valid action – that I am not sure about.
Also, I don’t think we are saluting our President when we salute the flag – we are saluting our country, the land of opportunity, the place that allows billionaires to pay athletes millions of dollars to play a game, and the place where people from other countries want to go to “make it.”
That said, I’m not going to stop watching the NFL, and I understand players’ (and others’) desires to take a position on something, just use your platform and your resources to then do something about it.
AARON’S TOP FIVE: WEEK FOUR “I SPOKE TOO SOON” EDITION
WEEK 4 GAME PICKS
BEARS @ PACKERS – Da Bears beat the Steelers and the Bengals gave the Pack a solid game, and this matchup all of a sudden looks a lot more intriguing. The Bears kept the Steelers off-balance and their defense looks… maybe… good? But Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, and while he will lose a few games this year, this is not one of them. Packers win.
SAINTS @ DOLPHINS – I don’t think losing to the Jets will take the wind out of Miami’s sails for long. I expect that Jay Cutler and company will be able to snap out of whatever funk they had against New York and beat a clearly vulnerable Saints team. Dolphins win.
PANTHERS @ PATRIOTS – The Panthers lost to the Saints while looking horrible, and two of Cam Newton’s favorite targets are injured. That all builds up to a Patriots win.
JAGUARS @ JETS – When I pick against the Jags, they win. When I pick them, they lose. The Jets looked surprisingly competent against Miami but I don’t see it happening again. Here’s hoping my streak is broken – the Jaguars win.
TITANS @ TEXANS – I can’t believe I’m saying this after week one, but the Texans are better than they were a month ago. Whether some of the units took some time to gel or it’s the presence of Deshaun Watson, Houston is playing decent football and kept up with the Patriots right to the end last week. The Titans are just kind of squeaking by in their wins. I think Houston’s defense has the ability to make Mariota see pressure, and I’m calling this a Texans win.
STEELERS @ RAVENS – The Ravens don’t have the personnel to hang with the Steelers, that is for sure. However, it seems like the entire AFC North may just not be any good this year. Baltimore soundly beat the Ohio teams but got smacked around by the Jags. The Steelers are not putting up as many points as they normally would and seem to have more issues than they let on. Still, though, 8-8 may win that division and the Steelers would get there first. Steelers win.
BENGALS @ BROWNS – Do I have to talk about this? Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat. You know what, I’m going to give Cleveland the benefit here – Browns win.
LIONS @ VIKINGS – The Lions took the Falcons down to the wire last week. The Vikings pretty soundly beat the Bucs. I think that the defense will give Matt Stafford enough trouble to allow the Vikings to win.
RAMS @ COWBOYS – I still can’t take the Rams seriously. If they win this game, maybe. The Cowboys should dominate this game, so I’ll say the Cowboys win.
BILLS @ FALCONS – Buffalo beat Denver last week, which was pretty impressive considering Denver’s defense. I don’t think Buffalo is built to hang with the point totals that Atlanta is putting up this year. Especially when they are at home, their ability to score gives them a significant advantage. Falcons win.
EAGLES @ CHARGERS – I may be wrong here, but I think the Eagles are a strong contender for second place in the NFC East right now. Yes, it is early. But, they are winning games and even though they may be close ones, it can build confidence. I definitely see them rolling through San Diego with no problem. Eagles win.
NINERS @ CARDINALS – This is an easy one – Arizona should bounce back from a difficult Monday night loss and be able to beat up on the Niners here. Cardinals win.
GIANTS @ BUCS – Both teams are reeling slightly from their losses and not seeing the success they anticipated before the season started. However, I think this week is where the Giants can turn a corner, if they are serious about getting it together. Five of the next six games on their schedule look very winnable if they straighten up. I’ll call this a Giants win.
RAIDERS @ BRONCOS – Ooh, both teams coming off a hard defeat last week and a Denver crowd that’s hungry to scream at Oakland for three hours. This is a hard one to predict, but the Raiders defense is at least on par with the Broncos’. I’m going to predict the Raiders win.
COLTS @ SEAHAWKS – One of the smartest things the Colts did was replace Scott Tolzien with practically anyone. Jacoby Brissett is doing a great job filling in for Andrew Luck and is making smart plays with his arm and his feet. He is what the team needed to carry them through until Luck’s return, and puts them in a much better situation for success. I think that he will lead Indianapolis past a Seahawks line that is suspect and defense that is not as good as it used to be, and lock in a Colts win.
REDSKINS @ CHIEFS – An intriguing matchup, because the Redskins were able to put a stop to the Raiders last week. However, the Chiefs have just as much offensive weapons as the Raiders (if not more) and Hunt is playing lights-out for Kansas City. While it may be a shootout, I’m going to go ahead and call a Chiefs win.
See you next week!