Peter King Goes Streaking During Flyover
Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, which has just been awarded column of the year by the Uptown Athletic Club.
Before we look at this week’s schedule of games – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, Doubtful worth, and no worth – let’s talk about the Associated Press NFL awards, which allows voters to split their votes.
Making a decision and standing by it? Pfft. Not in the NFL, known harborer of equivocating little nancies.
If Peter King were a baseball writer, Cabrera and Trout might have been co-MVPs
Throughout the season talking heads and football writers have expended considerable time discussing the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Perhaps it should go to Andrew Luck, who has led the Colts to an 8-4 record behind five fourth-quarter comebacks, while raising the question of why he’s so consistently mediocre for the first three quarters. Or perhaps it should go to RGIII, who has electrified football with his dual-threat skills, while raising the question of whether a black quarterback should have the additional nickname of Bobby Three Sticks, which sounds like a bit character in a Scorsese film.
Meanwhile, many NFL observers have devoted almost as much energy discussing the candidates for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Should it go to Jay Cutler, the feel-good story who could retire now and write his ticket in politics? Or should it go to one of those two other guys – Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson?
What’s great about the NFL is that you don’t really have to decide.
Unlike baseball, which uses a weighted system that asks its awards voters to cast ballots that rank MVP and CY Young award candidates, the NFL simply asks its voters to vote for “THE” guy – except when you can’t make up your mind and you decide to vote for two guys equally. That’s right, the NFL lets you split your vote.
Frankly I think it’s a stroke of genius. Not only do voters not have to decide who is the seventh-most valuable offensive rookie in the NFL (it’s Kendall Wright, but that’s beside the point), voters can admit that life is not black and white, and that sometimes both candidates are deserving of equal respect. Imagine if this option were available in presidential campaigns; you could give half your vote to President Obama and half your vote to Mitt Romney, thereby leaving it up to the actual grownups to make the decision for you.
Think this doesn’t happen in NFL voting? Think again.
In voting for the 2009 NFL MVP award, a voter gave half a vote to Peyton Manning and half a vote to Drew Brees. In the voting for the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, someone split his vote between Michael Vick and E.J. Henderson. And in voting for the 2006 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award, one voter split his vote between Peterson and Joe Thomas.
If this option were available to Major League Baseball writers, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout might have shared this year’s MVP award. And really, would that have been so bad? Would it have diminished the award to have it shared between two worthy candidates? The Triple Crown winner and the darling of sabermetricians?
In the same regard, who can rightfully say that Andrew Luck deserves to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year over Bobby Three Sticks? Or that Peyton Manning is more worthy of winning Comeback Player of the Year than Adrian Peterson?
Just give them all participation ribbons and a lollipop.
“We’re going streaking!”
The most interesting teams in the NFL are teams in the midst of winning and losing streaks. These streaks have a sublime ability to get fans worked into a lather, both to the pro and con. We’re not talking about one- or even two-game winning streaks, which might only indicate that you played Buffalo and Detroit in back-to-back weeks (hello, Indianapolis).
In our estimation, a team is not streaking unless it’s won or lost three straight games. Is this an arbitrary parameter? Perhaps. But if we gave equal time to every team that’s won at least two in a row, you’d be reading as much about the Browns and Rams as you would about the Falcons and Redskins. And frankly, nobody wants that.
So let’s look at the teams that are truly streaking and see how it’s affecting their fans.
Bengals (Streak: 4W) – Cincinnati has clawed its way back into playoff contention with four straight wins, and Bengals fans – are they the Who Dey crowd or the Who Dat crowd? Who cares? Indeed – are having flashbacks to their glory years. Who’s the most famous Bengals fan out there? Gotta be Nick Lachey (the only famous Bengals fan) and he’s down with the 2012 cats, bro – so much so that he got in a fight with an Igor Olshansky fan at the Chargers-Bengals game this past Sunday in San Diego, prompting security to throw him out. If you’re smack-talking an Olshansky fan at a Chargers game, your worldview has obviously been clouded by years of losing. Smarten up, Lachey, you have an example to set. The Who Cares nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Lions (Streak: 4L) – Calvin Johnson is on pace to break Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards, amazing when you consider Megatron is on the cover of Madden 13 and thus supposedly cursed. In the Lions’ last four games (all losses), Johnson has amassed the following yard totals: 207, 143, 140 and 171. And in the Lions’ last four games, their defense has allowed the following point totals: 34, 34, 34 and 35. In short, Calvin Johnson is on course to break Rice’s record largely because the Lions’ defense can’t stop anyone and Detroit must constantly sling the piggy to keep up with opponents. Well, that and the fact Matthew Stafford has stalker eyes for Megatron and would probably continue throwing at him even if the Madden curse put him on the sidelines in a full body cast. Meanwhile none of this is affecting Lions fans at all; they lived through the Millen era, so this ain’t sh*t.
Falcons (Streak: 3W) – Atlanta has already clinched the NFC South, and at 11-1 are in position to have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But no one outside of Atlanta seems to think that the Falcons have what it takes it win the Super Bowl, which is odd when you consider that winning 11 of 12 games is usually a good recipe for winning the last game of the year. Atlanta fans hate you for not believing in their team, but privately they dread the possibility that the Falcons will lose their opening playoff game and remain winless in the postseason under Matt Ryan. Knowing Atlanta, they’ll keep coming up short in the playoffs until they meet a star-crossed Cleveland team that has a placekicker named Mesa.
Chargers (Streak: 4L) – Igor Olshansky was the NFL’s first Soviet-born player, leading me to believe that Nick Lachey just messed with a guy in the Russian mob. Dasvidaniya, Nick. Other than ridding their stadium of pesky Bengals fans, the Chargers faithful has been patiently waiting for the end of the Norv Turner regime. It will last four more weeks, and then general manager A.J. Smith will have the opportunity to replace him with an available coach who actually got fired after going 14-2. Wonder what moron gave that guy his walking papers?
Redskins (Streak: 3W) – So, what’s it gonna be, Skins fans? Is it RGIII or Bobby Three Sticks? Personally I like Bobby Three Sticks, because every time I hear that I expect someone to stay, “I’m going to get the papers, get the papers.”
Raiders (Streak: 5L) – I just finished reading “Badasses” by Peter Richmond, the story of the 1970s era Raiders. It was really funny, entertaining and illuminating, chronicling one of the most colorful teams in NFL history. I’d recommend it for any Raiders fan who can read.
Patriots (Streak: 6W) – Come on, Patriots fans, admit it: It’d be a little bit funny if you lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl again. No? Well, it’d be hilarious to the rest of us.
Eagles (Streak: 8L) – With three wins on the season, the Eagles are in the running for the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. No one is sure who the top pick will be, but if he lands in Philadelphia, you can be sure the fans will either love him like family or hate his guts. There really is no gray area where Philly fans are concerned, which is why team owner Jeffrey Lurie should switch the team’s uniforms to a black-and-white color scheme. Would anyone care? The only people who look good in green are frogs and Irish people – both of whom are in short supply on the Eagles’ roster.
Texans (Streak: 6W) – Houston has a two-game lead on the Patriots for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, a game that can be narrowed to one if the Texans lose on the road to New England this week. Houston has lost one game all season, a drubbing at the hands of the Packers that happened so long ago as to be almost moot. But if there’s a team that could humiliate the Texans before the playoffs – and get Houston players and fans questioning the team’s Super Bowl chances – it’s a New England team that’s first in the NFL in scoring at nearly 36 points per game. If the Texans win this game, they’ll have the confidence to carry them far in the playoffs; if they get waxed like they did against Green Bay, they’ll probably recede into their shells and congratulate themselves on the best regular-season in team history.
Cardinals (Streak: 8L) – Remember when the Cardinals were 4-0? Man, those guys were streaking. They beat the Seahawks at home, the Patriots on the road, and the Eagles and Dolphins at home. September was a great month for the Cardinals and their fans. October and November? Full of fail. But that’s what happens when you have the No. 32 offense in the league. When every team in the league is better than you at one-third of the game, you’re going to have games like last week – a 7-6 loss to Greg McElroy and the Jets, a tagline that made me very depressed to consider and even more depressed to write. I can’t even bear to re-read it. Were there any typos? Actually, don’t look!
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: Texans at Patriots.
What a matchup for Monday night. This game features a team with one loss on the season versus a team riding a six-game winning streak. I’m not usually given to hyperbole, but I’m not gonna lie: This game will be OK. It might even be entertaining. It might even feature the 2012 co-MVPs: J.J. Watt and Tom Brady. If I had a vote in the MVP voting, that’s how I’d split it: one half for an offensive guy, one half for a defensive fella. If the NFL could ever become truly enlightened and allow a vote to be cut into thirds, I’d give one-third to a special teams player. Actually, as reparations for being overlooked for decades, I’d give my full vote to a special teams player.
(Other games receiving votes: Dallas at Cincinnati; Chicago at Minnesota; Baltimore at Washington; New Orleans at New York Giants.)
Questionable Game of the Week: San Diego at Pittsburgh.
I attended the Steelers-Ravens game in Baltimore last weekend, unabashedly wearing my Troy Polamalu jersey while keeping my head on a swivel. Seriously, football fans at stadiums need to chill the hell out. Too much drinking and not enough free love. I asked around and no one was offering.
After the game ended on a game-winning field goal by the Steelers, two fans in front of me got into a brief scuffle and one of them knocked the other’s glasses off. You guessed it: the combatants were women.
Yeah, nothing sexier than two middle-aged ladies scrapping at a Steelers-Ravens game. It was over before I could even take bets, but my money would have been on the Ravens fan. I mean she had a yellow towel on which she had written “ass wipe,” as a means of disparaging the Steelers' Terrible Towel.
Witty? No. Crazy in a give-that-chick-a-wide-berth way? You betcha. My mother warned me about women who write filthy slogans on yellow towels.
(Other games receiving votes: Philadelphia at Tampa Bay; Miami at San Francisco; Arizona at Seattle; Detroit at Green Bay.)
Doubtful Game of the Week: St. Louis at Buffalo.
When it comes to sports, I am something of a frontrunner. I’ve never switched allegiances when my teams are not competitive, but I am loathe to devote my leisure hours to watching an inferior, exasperating product. If you were a Red Sox fan and you were tuning in to watch them play games this past September, I’d suggest you need more hobbies. Sports are entertainment, and I’d no more watch an undermanned team get pasted than go see a movie that had a 30 percent chance of ending prematurely because of a broken projector.
I realize that many other fans have a different opinion about this, and will continue watching their teams at great expense to the hearts – and, in the case of Buffalo restaurateur Russell Salvatore, their wallets too.
Salvatore stepped in when the team was in danger of having its game against the Rams blacked out on TV in the Buffalo area. He agreed to buy 10,000 tickets, so that Bills fans can watch their 5-7 team play the 5-6-1 Rams on Sunday. Are both of these teams still in playoff contention? Yes. In the same way I’m in contention for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Will some fans be happy that Salvatore spent his hard-earned money so that they can sit in their houses on Sunday and watch the Bills-Rams game? Undoubtedly. To those people, I’d say: Go to Buffalo Wild Wings or Hooters or any other place that has the NFL Sunday Ticket. Call your bookie first, of course, and place some money on some games that will actually be interesting. You owe it to your hearts, if not your wallets.
(Other games receiving votes: Atlanta at Carolina; Tennessee at Indianapolis.)
Out Game of the Week: New York Jets at Jacksonville.
I like Rex Ryan, but frankly he makes the Jets too interesting, and I’ve reached the point where I don’t want the Jets to be interesting, because the Jets suck and they’re not close to being good. If you’re going to be interesting (and have the likes of Ryan and Tim Tebow in the fold), then you need to be good. Otherwise you’re just annoying, and the Jets have become extremely annoying with their disparity between how interesting they are and how well they play. They need to adopt the proper balance. They need to, say, take after the Jaguars, who have perfectly married how interesting they are with how well they play. Who gets annoyed by the Jaguars? Ya know, other than their fans?
(Other game receiving votes: Kansas City at Cleveland.)