From Best to Most Questionable in NFL
Editor's Note: Cameron Martin, formerly of ESPN's Page 2, is bringing his popular 'Pregame Flyover' column to RealClearSports. His weekly irreverent preview of the upcoming NFL weekend will appear each Friday.
Welcome to the Pregame Flyover, your weekly buffet of all things NFL-related. Gossip? Injury updates? Unfounded opinions? Yes, you will get all of that and more. If you don’t like what you read from me, take heart: The regular columnist is locked out, but she’ll be back once RealClearSports stops trying to steal her pension. According to RealClearWorld, that could be any day now.
Now before we get to this week’s slate of games - and tell you which games will Probably be worth watching, which games will be of Questionable worth, which games will be of Doubtful worth, and which game will feature the Browns - let’s look at the six remaining unbeaten teams and assess their odds of ending the season with a perfect record.
Undefeated Team: Niners.
So far: The Niners have handily beaten the Packers on the road and the Lions at home, and these victories have catapulted San Francisco to the top of every power ranking in the English-speaking world. When your offense can move the ball with ease against the vaunted defenses of Green Bay and Detroit, lemmings will align themselves to sing your praises.
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: Alex Smith has the second-highest passer rating in the NFL, which seems impossible until you remember he’s faced the Packers and the Lions.
Odds they go undefeated: The same as Randy Moss winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Undefeated Team: Cardinals.
So far: The Cardinals almost lost in Week 1 when the replacement refs gave the Seahawks an extra timeout in the fourth quarter, and they almost lost in Week 2 when Bill Belichick inexplicably decided to down the ball three times to set up a game-winning field goal attempt – which Stephen Gostkowski shanked, warming the joyous hearts of the smug contrarians who didn’t take the Patriots in their survivor pools.
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: It doesn’t. The Cardinals are obviously among the best teams in the NFC West.
Odds they go undefeated: The same as you wearing a William Gay jersey to a Mitt Romney fundraiser.
Undefeated Team: Texans.
So far: The Texans have bottled up the likes of Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert, proof they can contain quarterbacks from Florida.
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: They’ve beaten the Jaguars and the Dolphins, who’ve collectively beaten the Raiders.
Odds they go undefeated: The same as an expansion team naming themselves the Los Angeles Californians.
Undefeated Team: Eagles.
So far: They’ve beaten the Browns, who are universally considered terrible, and the Ravens, who are universally considered a bunch of whiners. (Relax, Steelers fans; back in your cages, Back!)
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: The Eagles are a classic case of a team that plays to the level of their competition. With their level of talent on both sides of the ball, it’s not surprising the Eagles are 2-0; but it is surprising that they won these games by a combined total of two points.
Odds they go undefeated: The same as Michael Vick sharing the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award with Randy Moss.
Undefeated Team: Falcons.
So far: They’ve pasted the Chiefs 40-24 on the road, and held off the Broncos 27-21 at home. Atlanta is looking brilliant for its decision to trade up and take Julio Jones in last year’s draft. With Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, quarterback Matt Ryan has a plethora of offensive weapons. Their only offensive weakness is at running back, where Michael Turner’s inability to call a freaking cab could lead to a suspension for his DUI arrest.
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: It doesn’t. The Falcons were supposed to be one of the best teams in football, so they should be congratulated for meeting expectations through the season’s first fortnight.
Chances they go undefeated: Not good. The Falcons still have to face the Chargers, Cardinals and Eagles, three undefeated teams who share the same dream of shoving it down the throats of Mercury Morris and the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
Undefeated Team: Chargers.
So far: They’ve been the quietest team to go 2-0, beating the Raiders in the Monday Night late game that was watched by six people east of Carson City (Source: Nielsen Ratings); and beating the Titans 38-10 in Week 2, a game that will be remembered fondly by the families of Dante Rosario and Jackie Battle.
Why that undefeated record looks suspect: We all knew Dante Rosario was the best tight end in football, but can we really expect him to score three touchdowns per week? What ... he only plays when Antonio Gates is hurt? OK, then maybe we can.
Chances they go undefeated: The same as Norv Turner being named NFL Coach of the Year.
Backup Quarterback Rankings
From time to time we’ll look at the top three backup quarterbacks in the league. We arrive at these rankings using a complex algorithm that accounts for many things, including the won-loss record of the starter, the potential of the backup quarterback, and the possibility that sports columnists will talk out of their ass when discussing the intangibles of the backup quarterback.
1. Tim Tebow. If the Jets’ offense struggles again this week and the team loses to the Dolphins and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, you can bet that Tebow will still be third-best quarterback on the Jets (hey, Greg McElroy) and yet be tabbed as the savior of a team that considers Santonio Holmes a No. 1 wideout.
2. Brock Osweiler. Coming off four neck surgeries, the arm strength of 36-year-old Peyton Manning is a little questionable, especially on deep throws. At the end of Monday’s loss to the Falcons, Manning’s backup was warming up in the event that the team needed to throw a Hail Mary. Too bad his backup wasn’t the departed Tim Tebow, because the odds of completing a Hail Mary would have gone up precipitously.
3. Ryan Mallett. Matt Cassel will tell you: The backup to Tom Brady is only one play away from being the overpaid starting quarterback of some championship-starved team next season.
Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we tackle the best in football.
Best running back in football: Is obviously C.J. Spiller.
Best new drinking game: Drink when someone bitches about the replacement referees.
Best term for the people who threatened to kill Josh Morgan for his gaffe at the end of the Redskins’ loss to the Rams: Redskins fans.
Best winless team in the NFC: The Saints.
Best reason for that: They’re the only winless team in the NFC.
Best football team in Ohio: The Bengals (until their next momentous clash against the Browns).
Best look in the mirror: Chris Johnson.
Best guess: Jay Cutler ends his career as an Oakland Raider.
Best use of a franchise tag: The Patriots slapped it on Wes Welker, who didn’t even start last week.
Best suggestion about kneel-downs: Eliminate them completely, says Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Best question about RGIII: Why doesn’t he wear No. 3 instead of No. 10, asks Dave Dameshek of NFL.com.
Best indication that the replacement refs are doing a shoddy job: Cortland Finnegan says they’re doing a great job.
Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out
Just as the NFL puts out an injury report on the likelihood that certain players will suit up each week (Probable, Questionable, Doubtful or Out), we rate the NFL schedule on the likelihood that games will be worth watching. Because let's face it, you can't watch them all.
Probable Game of the Week: Patriots at Ravens.
Why couldn’t the Bucs have bum-rushed a Patriots kneel-down? Gallons of whale oil were expended this week about the Buccaneers’ decision to storm the Giants’ victory formation like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday. For every commentator who derided the Bucs as classless, there was another who lauded them as go-getters. Bucs head coach Greg Schiano would not apologize for his win-at-all-costs approach, which makes it all the more regrettable that his team wasn’t facing the Patriots. If the Bucs had bum-rushed Tom Brady, what would have been the reaction from New England coach Bill Belichick? After all, he’s basically written the modern NFL handbook on winning at all costs. I suspect the postgame handshake between head coaches might have been a postgame high-five for the first time in league history.
(Other games receiving votes: Giants at Panthers; Falcons at Chargers, Eagles at Cardinals, Texans at Broncos.)
Questionable Game of the Week: Packers at Seahawks.
Thanks a lot, Russell Wilson. This was supposed to be Matt Flynn’s opportunity to show Green Bay that they made the wrong decision in keeping Aaron Rodgers over him.
Finley's agent is now teaching a Twitter course in leadership: The agent for Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley said Aaron Rodgers – the reigning league MVP who set a single-season record for passer rater last year – lacks leadership skills. Blake Baratz wrote on Twitter, “ARod is a great QB he isn't a great leader. There's a major difference. Leaders take the blame & make every1 better. He doesn't." Not content with one incendiary pronouncement, Baratz expounded on his thesis in a series of followups, including his conclusive message, “Fine, I’m an idiot, I admit it.” (If only.)
Over-under on number of passes Braylon Edwards will drop in this game: Two.
And we’re taking: The over.
Matchup to watch: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch versus the Packers’ defensive line.
Matchup to ignore: Packers tight end Jermichael Finley versus the Seattle defense. Thanks to his mouthy agent, Finley has seen his last tight spiral from Aaron Rodgers. Oh, sure, Rodgers will still throw him the ball, but the passes will be lovelorn and sad.
(Other games receiving votes: Buccaneers at Cowboys, Bengals at Redskins, Rams at Bears, Niners at Vikings, Lions at Titans)
Doubtful Game of the Week: Jets at Dolphins.
Can’t we just move the Dolphins to the AFC South already? No doubt this game’s introductory highlights will include that clip of Dan Marino faking a spike and throwing a touchdown pass against the Jets back in 1994. This is one of those heated rivalries that is quaint to outside observers. The Dolphins have been terrible to mediocre for the better part of two decades, while the Jets have been terrible to mediocre for the better part of their existence. The most memorable thing to happen in this rivalry in recent years is when Jets assistant Sal Alosi tripped a Dolphins player during a kick return in 2010. Did Alosi do that because he hates the Dolphins? No, he did that because he’s an idiot.
Fans of these teams are obviously better acquainted with some of the more memorable moments in this rivalry, but these events are long forgotten by the masses. The league would be better served by moving the Dolphins to the AFC South, where they can build a geographical rivalry with their fellow Floridians, the Jacksonville Jaguars; while the Indianapolis Colts can be moved from the AFC South to the AFC East. What, Indianapolis isn’t in the East? Yeah, well, it ain’t in the South, either.
Over-under on how many Dolphins wide receivers you can name: One.
And we’re taking: The under.
Over-under on how many times Tim Tebow is mentioned by commentators: 55.
And we’re taking: The over.
Paging Stephen Hill: A certain person in a certain fantasy league wasted their waiver position on you after you nabbed five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. That certain person was left unfulfilled when you followed that up with zero receptions for zero yards and zero touchdowns in Week 2.
(Other games receiving votes: Jaguars at Colts, Chiefs at Saints, Steelers at Raiders.)
Out Game of the Week: Bills at Browns.
Among rookie starting quarterbacks: Brandon Weedon is the only one without a victory.
Hey, did you hear? Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went to Harvard.
Remember when: The Browns had Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow at the skill positions? And when legendary Browns quarterback Derek Anderson made the Pro Bowl? That was 2007, a halcyon year in Browns lore.
Hey, let’s see what Jim Brown has to say. The Browns are one of only four teams that have never played in a Super Bowl (along with the Texans, Jaguars and Lions), and because of that the team and its fans are largely stuck in the past. The way, way past, back when the team was winning NFL titles with the likes of Jim Brown. Because the team has been unable to generate any fond memories in, oh, 50 years, Jim Brown is looked to as the unofficial spokesman of where things stand with the organization. The Jets have Joe Namath, and the Browns have Jim Brown. The Lions would have Barry Sanders, but he has the good sense to keep his mouth shut and not inject himself into the conversation. Not so with Brown, who called Trent Richardson “ordinary” after the Browns drafted him; and certainly not the case with Namath, who offers a sound bite every time Mark Sanchez overthrows a receiver.
It’s all so unnecessary. I mean, you don’t hear O.J. Simpson badmouthing the Bills every other week, do you? And he has plenty of time and ammunition to work with. By the way, have you seen this television special that lays out the case against O.J.’s son, Jason, as the actual murderer of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman? It all makes perfect sense. Was O.J. at the crime scene? Yes, but only after his son called him and told him what he’d done, a private investigator claims. And why did O.J. flee in the Bronco? Because he knew he couldn’t bring himself to pin the blame on the actual killer, his son. Watch it when you’ve got an hour to spare – say, during the Bills/Browns game?
(Other games receiving votes: None, the Bills and Browns were unanimous.)