Flyover: Who'll Miss Replacement Refs?

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Welcome back to the Pregame Flyover, one of the few venues that will bemoan the loss of replacement referees. 

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 stripper pants - let’s pour some out for the departing zebras.

As someone who’s an armchair arbiter at heart, I lived vicariously through these replacement refs, confident in knowing that they possessed the same grasp of the rules as me. The two refs in the Green Bay-Seattle game who simultaneously signaled touchback and touchdown? Yeah, that was basically me, except I was using my arms to signal touchback and my legs to signal touchdown. 

But now we get the return of Ed Hochuli and his decisive, authoritative decisions. How can you expect me to relate to Ed? You know, beyond my propensity to wear tight shirts to show off my massive man boobs guns?

I won’t be the only one who’ll be missing the replacement refs. In fact, the following people will probably miss them more.

1. The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. What a coincidence that Packers lineman T.J. Yang was shouting the loudest after the team’s controversial loss to Seattle. He probably thought it would help distract people from the fact that the Packers’ offensive line – ya know, the one on the cover of the ESPN the Magazine football preview – allowed eight sacks in the first half. In advance of this week’s game Aaron Rodgers insisted that the team install these upfront.

2. Chris Johnson. In three games CJ2K has rushed for 45 yards total and is averaging 1.4 yards per carry. Ask him to grab you a beer from the fridge and he’ll be back in a week.  

3. Mark Sanchez. Thanks to the referee conundrum and the injury to Darrelle Revis, the siren calls to replace Sanchez have been somewhat muted. But the Jets barely beat the Dolphins and now they face the Niners. A loss to San Fran will have Greg McElroy fanatics hitting the streets to proselytize. 

4. Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer. Does anyone outside New Orleans even know what this guy looks like? If the Saints remain winless, they probably will. 

5. Internet tough guys who wanted to turn this situation into a debate about unions versus non-unions. You can now go back to trolling the Yahoo! message boards beneath Romney and Obama stories, your work is done here. 

6. Dirty players. Joe Mays of the Broncos separated Matt Schaub from his helmet and tore off part of his ear last week, the kind of dirty hit that would have been a top NFL story during most weeks. Mays was suspended for one game and fined $50,000, but the ultra-sanctimonious contingent of NFL fans hardly noticed; they were too busy claiming they wouldn’t watch the NFL again until regular referees returned to action. Those sanctimonious types will now retrain their eyes on the James Harrisons of the league.

7. Apple. How damn easy is it to scratch the new iPhone? Oh, yeah, you’re gonna hear it now, Apple.

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CONFUSION IN NEW ORLEANS AND CLEVELAND

Last year it was abundantly clear whom teams were sucking for. They were sucking for Luck. The Colts were the most committed to this slogan, and they secured the No. 1 pick and the right to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. 

But it’s obvious through three games that winless teams like the Saints and Browns are unclear of whom they’re sucking for. After all, who is the surefire No. 1 pick next season? Quarterback Matt Barkley of USC? Linebacker Barkevious Mingo of LSU? Linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia? Barkley, Mingo, Jones: none of those names rhyme with suck. Confusing times in New Orleans and Cleveland.

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Weekly Best

Welcome to the Weekly Best, where we gang tackle the best in football. 

Best believe the honeymoon’s over: Cam Newton.

Best defense against a Hail Mary: Knock it down?

Best defensive player in the NFL: And Darrell Revis is out for the season.

Best wide receiver in the NFL: And Calvin Johnson is on pace for a record 1,968 receiving yards.

Best reaction to hearing about the end of the referee lockout: “I dropped down on the floor and started doing pushups,” said Ed Hochuli.

Best term you need to learn, Michael Vick: Ball security.

Best third-place team: Patriots.

Best place to find the replacement referees this weekend: Foot Locker.

Best way to distract yourself from the sudden death of a loved one: Play your heart out like Torrey Smith. 

Best quarterbacks in the NFL: And for the first time Rodgers, Brady, Big Ben, Brees, and Peyton all lost in the same week.  

Best offense in football: Apparently belongs to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Best defense in football: Apparently belongs to the Dallas Cowboys.

Best story written by a replacement writer: This one about the Jets in the Wall Street Journal.

Best team in the NFL: The Texans (for now).

Best stock up: A global bacon shortage is unavoidable.

Best watch your back (and your knees) the next time you face the Jets: Reggie Bush.

Best indication that some people in northern Wisconsin are underemployed: A group of Packers fans spent Tuesday at Lambeau Field protesting Monday night’s controversial game.


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: Giants at Eagles.

Can we please ramp up this feud between Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Eagles running back LeSean McCoy? These two have been sniping at each other for several years. Last year McCoy went on Twitter (the contemporary answer to entering the Thunderdome) and called Umenyiora soft, overrated and the third-best defensive end on the Giants. Umenyiora responded by referring to McCoy as “she” and “Lady Gaga,” and later wished McCoy a “Happy Mother’s Day” on the prescribed day. 

McCoy most recently referred to Umenyiora as a “ballerina in a Giants uniform,” and Umenyiora responded by saying, “I might be a ballerina in a Giants uniform,” and then followed up with attempted comebacks that were undermined by his inability to grasp the first rule of “Yo, Mama”: Never admit you’re a ballerina.

One of the great things about football is that a war of words between opposing players can be settled in the most American way possible: With violence. Will one of these two just please get on with it and knock the other one senseless? We’re Americans, we can handle it.

(Other games receiving votes: Niners at Jets; Seahawks at Rams; Patriots at Bills; Bears at Cowboys.)

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Questionable Game of the Week: Saints at Packers

Did the Packers get jobbed at the end of last Monday’s game against the Seahawks? Yes. Will this karmic development stop Seattle fans from bitching about the officiating in Super Bowl XL? Not likely. And if the Packers lose this game at home against the Saints, you can bet that a certain segment of the Packers’ fan base will keep pointing back to the Hail Mary pass to Golden Tate as the turning point in their season – the point when the odds turned against them and the season unraveled. But the fact is the bad call was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the negotiations between the NFL and the referees. Fans went ballistic, especially the ones who lost money on the game. 

The Packers needed to take one for the team, as it were. For that we owe the team and their fans a little something. So here’s a glass of milk and some cookies. Now off to bed with ya. 

(Other games receiving votes: Chargers at Chiefs; Vikings at Lions; Titans at Texans; Dolphins at Cardinals; Redskins at Buccaneers.)

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Doubtful Game of the Week: Panthers at Falcons.

The Falcons are 3-0: Against the AFC West.

The Panthers are 1-2: With Hello Kitty under center.

Advice from Steve Smith. Cam Newton says that five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith is like a big brother to him. So when Smith criticized Newton for sulking during last week’s blowout loss to the Giants, Newton took it to heart. Wise move, as other teammates have been known to take it to the face where Smith is concerned.

Falcons are prepared: Michael Turner and John Abraham were both arrested recently, Turner for alleged DUI and Abraham for obstruction of justice after he allegedly refused to leave a scene where a woman was threatening to jump off a building. (Hey, could have happened to anyone.) In the event another Falcon is arrested this week, the team has released the following statement: “We are aware of the news regarding  _____. We are in the process of gathering more information and we will have no further comment at this time.”

(Other game receiving votes: Raiders at Broncos.)

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Out Game of the Week: Bengals at Jaguars.

This is a matchup between: Two teams with ugly uniforms. The Bengals have one of the sleekest, most distinct helmets in the NFL, and they muddy it up by pairing it with pants that a stripper might throw on after her routine. Even Snooki thinks those pants are tacky. Clean it up, Mike Brown. The Bengals are a revered franchise in certain pockets of Cincinnati.

A change of heart: Initially I’d slotted the Browns-Ravens game as the Out game of the week, but then I remembered that the game was being played on Thursday, so fans wouldn’t have to pick between watching that game and some other contest. Besides, the Browns-Ravens allowed us to witness the return of the NFL referees, who inexplicably did not descend into the stadium via parachute. That would have been badass and utterly appropriate, a harbinger of things to come. Namely, the inevitability that “replacement ref” will be a hot costume around Halloween. Right up there with “whiny Green Bay Packers fan.” All you need is a cheese head and a bottle of pinot. 

(I kid, I kid. Welcome back, real refs!)

Cameron Martin has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, and CBS Sports. Send your ideas to cdavidmartin@yahoo.com.

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