Did you miss me? Yeah! When I was away? Did you hang my picture on your wall?
Well you probably would have if I looked like this:
Don’t worry, we’ll get to the Number 4 business in a moment.
Last week I had Swine Flu and missed writing this column, and I can honestly say my life was poorer for it. Yours was completely unaffected obviously but then this isn’t really for you. This is really therapy for my NFL addiction and some purloined photos of purry loins. This column gives me a REASON to look for these photos. That makes it so much more wholesome and ok somehow.
It was quite odd being told I had Swine Flu. I have never had anything really serious disease-wise (finds 15 pieces of wood to touch, some of them twice) so this was my first experience of the Doctor Sad Face. He came back in, pulled his chair over to mine, and delivered the news. Given that I had already run through the gamut from AIDS to Prostate Cancer in the 15-odd seconds he’d been pulling that chair over I took it quite well. After all, it is just the flu, and its worth bearing in mind that ALL flus are dangerous. But just in that moment, I saw the future and it wasn’t fun. So to all of you that have experienced the Doctor Sad Face, for far worse reasons than I did last week, this column is for you.
After 3 weeks of the NFL season certain things are starting to come into focus.
Recently a commentator suggested that I was cowardly not making post-season predictions BEFORE the season starts. Listen, only bored sports writers desperately trying to sell more match.com banner ads have to do that. In the real world you wait a few weeks, and make intelligent guesses. If you’re smart you’ll still make real money on betting odds.
So here’s what we know:
Indianapolis are very good. They haven’t missed a beat losing Coach Dungy (which is a tribute to him) and Manning P is currently the smartest football quarterback in the NFL.
Baltimore are SCARY good.
New Orleans is good, but may be flattering to deceive. They will put up gaudy numbers and you do not want to play them right now, but let’s see if they have the legs for the long run.
NY Jets and NY Giants are both for real. The Jets are getting all the attention because of Mr Sanchez and coach Rex Ryan’s outsize personality (and gut – what is he: 6XL???8??) but the Giants are solid as a rock. A Broadway Super Bowl is absolutely a possibility.
Vikings. More on this in a moment.
BETTER THAN WE THOUGHT
San Francisco. Wow, has all-time NFL great Mike Singletary done a great job here. Their QB Shaun Hill would struggle to make the roster as a back up on most other teams, and yet they would be 3-0 if not for a patent Favre© miracle. If this is what you get when you moon your team at halftime of your first game in charge, if I were any of the struggling coaches below here I’d walk around without pants for days on end.
Denver. Great job by Josh Daniels taking on the team AND its fans and winning so far.
Cincinnati. Now we know how bad it was for them to lose Carson Palmer to that terrible injury two years ago. This is a good team, maybe one or two defensive linemen from being great.
Chicago. Personally I’m all for the Obamas shilling for their home city for the Olympics. Why not? It would actually be a good Olympics too because Chicago is one of the best cities on Earth. Perhaps they could incorporate the Super Bowl Shuffle into the Opening Ceremony.
COVER YOUR EYES GODAWFUL
St Louis. The late 90’s seem a LONG time ago. Perhaps Dick Vermeil can bottle some of his tears and they can sprinkle them in the locker room like Holy Water.
Cleveland. Now vying for being the worst pro franchise in US sport, up there with the Clippers and Washington Nationals. And its in a league that contains the Oakland Raiders!
Oakland. See above. QB JaMarcus Russell is an incredible physical specimen. A giant of awesome physical power. He just SUCKS at being an NFL QB. There’s a skinny kid who lives next door to me that throws a more accurate ball. Hits the windscreen of my car every time.
New England. They’ll be back.
Miami. Losing Pennington is a real blow (words I personally never thought I’d write), but there’s still talent and coaching there.
I’M ENJOYING THIS ON SO MANY LEVELS
Dallas. Hehehe. Suck on it JJ. Hehehe. I could chortle menacingly like this for hours. I really could.
All the rest are in a category I like to call, WHO GIVES A FUCK? That would be Buffalo, Jacksonville, Carolina, Seattle (good team though) San Diego, Kansas City etc. You boys are just cannon fodder or good for the odd highlight (that’s mostly you San Diego). At this point none of them have made any impression, and unless you’re into fantasy football you struggle to remember they exist. By the way, I am not into fantasy football.
GAME OF THE WEEK, MONTH, YEAR, CENTURY
MINNESOTA VIKINGS v GREEN BAY PACKERS
Monday Night Football ESPN 8.30 EST (US)
This is it, the moment of the season. This is one of the greatest grudge matches in US sports history, and its difficult not to think of it in terms of a heavyweight boxing contest.
This is an icon vs a small town in the heartland of America who worshiped him like no mortal should ever be. An icon now playing for THEIR MOST HATED ENEMY. This is Rocky fighting for Russia in Rocky III, Micheal Jordan as a Laker come back to destroy Chicago, All Blacks Colin Meads or Wayne Shelford pulling on the jumper for South Africa. Think about that for a minute. And think about this: he wanted it this way.
Everyone forgave him for the NY experiment last year. Hey, no-one wants to really hang them up, the Jets were desperate and still irrelevant, so ok. But the VIKINGS? The most hated enemy of the team (and the town) that created you? THE F*&KING VIKINGS? Even Vikings fans are torn. This guy was THEIR hated enemy for so many years, and now he’s the lynchpin of their very good team?? I cannot come up with a stranger example of a single athlete toying with the loyalties of so many fans in so many different ways. John Terry flirting with Man City has NOTHING on this. Perhaps in Rangers/Celtic lore or teams in Buenos Aires or Rio. But this is a new thing for the US, and I can’t imagine what the TV ratings will be like. We are all witnesses. We are all fascinated.
So, WHO YA GOT??
In the GREEN corner the Packers are absolutely solid. Aaron Rodgers is only a couple of post-season wins from being called an elite QB, the defense is terrific, the play calling excellent. This is a VERY good team.
In the PURPLE corner, there’s Adrien Peterson. If Green Bay do not bottle him up, if the Vikings line can give him half a gap, the Vikings win this easily. Favre recently compared him to Walter Payton, which, not being rude, is a compliment to Walter Payton. Peterson is a brutal yet fluid runner with the ball skills of a LaDanian Tomlinson in his prime. He can run and he can catch. And he can hit like a freight train. The only thing that could upset this is a Favre wanting to do too much. If he can keep a lid on the Favre-ness, and play it straight, I have to give this to the Vikings, 27-24. But then last week he goes and does this:
so who knows, maybe he thinks he can do that on every throw……..in which case Green Bay will have a warm feeling that will last right through their long, awful winter.
– Mark Tierney