NFL Power Poll
OK, we're two weeks in, and there are several common themes across the NFL.
First, it has to be injuries. Whether it's fantasy stalwarts who are one-name identifiable — like Christian or Saquon or Kittle — or defensive standouts, the surge in serious injuries to seriously needed players.
Second, the gambling weekend was close to historically bad for Vegas over the weekend. Yes, the betting operations made back a lot of money on the Saints' Monday night meltdown. It also leads us to Week 2 of our Intimidator Pool. Here are the teams and the players who advanced. (If I missed you please email sometime today.) Good luck next week, and remember, once you pick a team you can not use the same team twice.
(Pittsburgh — Mike B, Danny P, Drew N. (aka Union Delegate), Peter W and Mike L; Titans — S Brown, Alejandro, Intern Scott, Larry L; San Fran — Fat Vader, Mark J, Shawn W, JTC; Seattle — Chris O, Mike R, Larry L, Terry T; Dallas — Mike T Jason G., Ted P., Lamar H.; Green Bay — Spy, Jason I, Todd G, Brent R.)
Third, bad coaching is exposed in these times, and new coaches are exceedingly behind the eight ball. Check the numbers: There are five first-year guys, and they are a combined 3-7, with one of those wins because Dan Quinn Dan-Quinned and the other was because the Browns get to play the Bengals twice a season.
Finally, the stats since the playoffs expanded to six teams from each conference in 1990, 88 percent of the teams that started 0-2 missed the playoffs and 62 percent of the teams that started 2-0 made the playoffs. Roughly translated, that means 1 of 9 0-2 teams in any given year will rebound and find the tournament; 6 of the 10 2-0 teams get there.
So with that, and with the acknowledgement that an added playoff team this winter will open those percentages a little more, let's explore the five best and the five worst from the Shakespearean-spinning, "2-0 or not 2-0, that is the question."
(And for those asking, I think the most fraudulent 2-0 team plays in Chicago and the 0-2 team with the best chance to make the playoffs is likely the Houston Texans, considering they have losses against two of the top three teams in the NFL and they play in the AFC South. In some ways the Falcons are there two because of how uncertain the NFC South appears after the Panthers are going to stink.)
Baltimore. Yes, we juggle the top five frequently, because, while we appreciate the Parcels' parcel of "You are what your record says you are" there also are layers of 2-0. The Ravens have been smothering on both sides and handled their BID-ness like great teams do. Against two inferior foes, Baltimore dominated Cleveland and Houston.
Kansas City. Yes, they struggled to separate from the Los Angeles Chargers, but a win is a win. And sometimes it's just that simple, especially for what the Chiefs are about to face week-in, week-out. Because as a) the reigning champs, b) a weekly prime TV spot, be it at night or in that national 4 p.m. window, c) the team with the QB who is the emerging face of the league the Chiefs will have to become comfortable in the grind that the Patriots have excelled over the last 12-plus years. Kansas City is going to be everyone's regular-season Super Bowl, in division and out. Period.
Pittsburgh. Wow, this is a team built just how old-school Pittsburgh fans and coaches have always loved. Multiple bruising backs with James Connor and Benny Snell Jr., and a defense that is filled with diverse and athletic playmakers — the turnover firm of Watt, Dupree, Bush and Kirkpatrick may be the best quartet of open field defenders on any team in the league.
Seattle. That Sunday night game was one of the best TV sports experiences I've had since the pandemic started. I know the 12th man was not available to the Seahawks, but watching Russell Wilson and Cam Newton deal and duel was a ton of fun. And a large part of that was Wilson, who has been simply fantastic through two near perfect weeks. Forget the 140 passer rating, which leads the league, forget the nine TD passes which leads the league, and know this: Russ-diculous is completing a league-best 82.5 percent of this throws and it's the opposite of check down city because he's averaging 9.7 per attempt, which is second in the NFL.
Green Bay. Speaking of great quarterback play, Aaron Rodgers has been a joy to watch. A joy. Which brings us to the opposite of joy, which could be called football in NYC or whatever the Panthers have put together.
Philadelphia. Yes, I was tempted to put the Falcons here because I am bitter. And angry. And frustrated. But then I realized that is the lane Falcons fans past, current and forever will occupy. The Eagles have been dreadful and that Week 1 loss to the Washington Football Team will age like warm milk.
Denver. Yes, the Broncos had high hopes. Yes, the Broncos created a lot of offseason buzz with draft picks and free agent acquisitions. Well, how many teams could handle season-ending injuries to your best defensive player (Von Miller) and your best wide receiver (Courtland Sutton) as well as game-missing injuries to your QB (Drew Lock) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Phillip Lindsay)? Not many.
New York Giants. A team built around a running back in the modern-day NFL feels like a team built on a sandy foundation, no? Ask the Giants, who will now try to find production from Wayne Gallman and others.
Carolina. Or ask the Panthers, who will try to fill the abyss-like void of a Christian McCaffrey-less backfield for at least the next month with Mike Davis. No the other one.
New York Jets. That's the worst roster in the league, and I'm not sure it's close considering the injuries (slash washed-up-state) of Le'Veon Bell and the fact that the Jets traded their far and away best player in Jamal Adams before the season. Worse yet, do we know anywhere close to enough to make a decision on whether Sam Darnold is a QB in this league?
Rachel Nichols has become the female face of pregame and postgame NBA coverage on ESPN. She's good at her job and one of the reasons is she asks tough questions.
This question is tough, too. And more importantly fair.
From Nichols' Twitter (@Rachel__Nichols): "Why wasn't Ruth Bader Ginsburg honored by the NBA this weekend? In a league that absolutely holds equality as a core value, the icons of that equality can't only include those who helped the men we see on TV, but those who paved the way for the women who work right alongside them."
Simply put, this is an expected by-product of turning your product into a platform for selective causes and issues. Because there are always going to be important people and directives that you exclude.
After staking its stance on the Black Lives Matters issues, the NBA is being called to task for not honoring arguably the biggest champion for gender equality of the last 50-plus years than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And rightly so.
If your cause is equality, then RBG was a champion that should be celebrated, but fighting sexism is not as celebrated or self-serving or hip as fighting racism I suppose. (Side note: It will be interesting to see if the NBA recants and does something similar to what the WNBA in honor of RBG, and while that outcome may seem just, it will continue to open up pandora's endless box of causes and whenever anyone or any cause that is important to just about anyone gets slighted, the rail birds will start squawking. Again and again, and louder and louder.)
Ultimately the only way to avoid those distinctions and decisions which lead to these types of slights is to keep the uniforms uniform.
For Goodness sake, the NBA universally honored Kobe and praised his awakening after Colorado and praised him for being a "Girl's Dad." (Side note: As a proud Girl Dad, shouldn't that be the baseline of what we do as dad's? Man, it's a strange place when we make the baseline look like the finish line in terms of so many things.) And that's fine for Kobe because of his impact on their game and sport.
But when the court became a conversation piece on NPR and the jerseys became billboards for commentary, well, you better get ready for questions about this cause or that honoree as opposed to others.
And that will be now and forever, as long as the uniforms are not uniform.
Which leads us to turn 3
NASCAR is welcoming a new team.
Michael Jordan — yes, that Michael Jordan — in as a team owner. MJ is creating a team with Denny Hamlin and they will welcome Bubba Wallace as their driver.
Hmmmmmmm. Beyond interesting.
Now the looming questions are fun, even if they are unanswerable at this time:
> Will Jordan become the one of the most financially backed teams, and is Nike or Gatorade or even special causes — hey, this is the sports platform that has always been open for rent or to own — ready to be a primary sponsor for a NASCAR team?
> Will MJ give NASCAR the buzz he brings everywhere and the buzz the sport is starving for?
> With MJ and Bubba — the lone black driver on the top circuit of the sport — will this team appeal to Black sports fans and other non-traditional NASCAR fans?
There are others of course, but those three are the biggest for me, and while the ultimate answers will become known with time, we can certainly spitball.
No. 1 — Absolutely. Businesses are falling all over themselves to be partners with MJ. Always have been. Always will be.
No. 2 — At first absolutely. We have gone from being an almost-every-Sunday kind of NASCAR fan to completely ignoring in the last decade or so, and without question on its face, this is the most interesting storyline form that sport in quite a while.
No. 3 — Not unless they win. Because, as gracious and strong as Wallace has been in a borderline impossible environment of racially unrest and the decisions made around him in NASCAR this season, without checkered flags and week-in, week-out contention, it will feel more like a novelty than sporting nobility.
Because if you look at Tiger Woods, who welcomed more minorities and non-traditional fans to his sport than anyone arguably since Jackie Robinson, his mass appeal from the start was clear. Dude was Mike Douglas at 2.
But if he does not come out and win and roll and do things that made everyone — golf lovers and golf neophytes — pay attention, then the original splash fades away.
This and that
— Speaking of the NFL, wow, the NFC South has wobbled out of the gate. The division collectively is 2-6 and both of those wins came against NFC South opponents.
— Speaking of the NFL and the NFC South, here's the Falcons owner saying point-Blank that the players didn't understand the rules for the onside kick debacle that cost Atlanta the game Sunday at Dallas. Here's Arthur Blank's quote via ESPN: "Clearly on the last play of the game yesterday our players, you know, didn't do what they either were instructed to do and they didn't understand it, or, it's clear, though, they didn't, in my view, they didn't clearly understand what the rules were and exactly what they had to do. I think that's demonstrated when you watch the video of it."
— Speaking of the NFL and some masked (and marked) men, how about this from the Twitter account of ESPN's Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter): "NFL fined three head coaches — Denver's Vic Fangio, Seattle's Pete Carroll and SF's Kyle Shanahan — $100,000 each for not wearing masks Sunday, and each of their teams another $250,000, sources told ESPN. So that's $1.05 million dollars in fines for not wearing masks."
— Well, looks like the solicitation charges from that good-time spa against Patriots owner Robert Kraft will be dropped. So, it appears Kraft got off. Again. Cue Pepper from Dodgeball "Usually you pay double for that kind of action, Cotton."
— You know the rules, and sweet buckets, Paschall was busy Monday. Here is DP on UT looking for its first season-opening win under Jeremy Pruitt. Here's DP on former Dalton High star Jahmyr Gibbs making a splash in his debut at Georgia Tech. Here's DP on Georgia seeing an old friend Saturday, and looking to pound that old friend. Here's DP on Nick Saban embracing the chance to play 10 league games and his hopes it will help expand the current eight-game SEC slate.
— Here's today's A2 hoping that Ellen makes the most of a second chance a lot of TV folks do not get. (Side note: I kind of feel like a slacker considering Paschall had four stories in the paper. My bad.)
— You think so doctor? Here's a headline that Bryson DeChambeau is among the favorites for the Masters in six weeks. Duh. Dude's bomb-it-and-wedge-it-and-putt-it is forever suited for Augusta National. Because if he's going driver-wedge to get to the 555-yard ninth in two at Winged Foot, he will have nothing more than 8-iron in his hand to reach every par five other than 8.
True or false, it's Tuesday after all.
True or false, Russell Wilson has done enough to be a Hall of Famers if he never played another snap.
True or false, the modern-day socially woke NBA should have honored RBG on Sunday night.
True or false, a MJ-Bubba Wallace NASCAR team will cause you to watch more NASCAR next year.
True or false, those Falcons players are to blame and not the coaching staff for the botched onside kick.
You know the drill. Answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.
As for today, it's Sept. 22. Side note: The No. 22 has always been my favorite number. So there's that.)
Wow, on this day in 1994 "Friends" debuted.
OK, Rushmore of most-punchable notable TV characters of all-time, because by all accounts, Ross certainly seems like he's going to be hard to stop.
Go, and enjoy this lovely weather.