Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Thursday Morning FGR

I despise much of what the NFL stands for these days due primarily to Biff the commissioner and the team owners who were already a bunch of insufferable dickheads even before they started genuflecting to Donald Trump like Roman senators devoted to nothing but preserving their continued existence of eating grapes, groping concubines and watching those they deem less worthy kill each other for the sake of entertainment (a certain owner with a name that rhymes with "Stan Snyder" immediately comes to mind). 

Much like my father, Al gets a bad
rap because he had an idiot son.
Are you seriously telling me that out of thirty-two teams, not one of them has a billionaire owner with the stones to get in front of a microphone and tell Trump to go fuck himself? I don't care which side of the anthem debate you come down on (well I do but we're not going there now), letting some two-bit carnival barker dictate how you run your business because you're afraid he might drive away some of your customers makes you an out-and-out coward. If Al Davis' head is cryogenically frozen somewhere in Oakland like we know it is, now is definitely the time to unfreeze it, give it its own Twitter account and unleash it on the president. 

With all of that being said and despite the fact that I went out of my way to be playing squash with my daughter (scholarship quest) at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, there I was with my entire family including the dog sitting happily together at 3:30 p.m. thoroughly engaged with the endings of the early games on NFL Redzone. I include the dog because we needed him to field a team in our family fantasy football league and I'm glad you asked who he picked first because it was Saquon "Bark"ley and yes, WE . . . ARE . . . THAT . . . CLEVER. 

This year's fourth monsoon season certainly had a lot to do with the rare instance where my 17, 14 and 11 year old children happily hung-out together and with me at the same time but I don't care. The fact is that it happened spontaneously and organically and the damn National Football League is the reason why it happened so I have to give the NFL its due. As a universally appealing multi-generational entertainment product, it is without peer and no amount of suspect calls, excessive TV timeouts* or Phil Simms constantly inventing new stupid sentences is apparently going to change that.  

So despite my previous efforts to escape the NFL's tractor beam by selling my season tickets,* ditching multiple fantasy football leagues and no longer sleeping in my Stoney Case jersey, I am going to do more than accept it as my fate that I will be a fan until I die. I am going to embrace it by picking-up where the likes of Peter King and Gregg Easterbrook left-off with a weekly self-indulgent football column/post/blurb/opus. 

It will ostensibly be a weekly power ranking of all thirty-two teams, however, one cannot possibly come-up with something entertaining to say about each team every week (as evidenced by all other power rankings) so those gaps will be caulked over with personal anecdotes, movie/television reviews and other arbitrary thoughts. In some cases, I will say almost nothing (some cases?). I'm really curious to see how long I'll be able to keep this up. I set the over/under at 3.5 weeks (I'm taking the under).   

1. Los Angeles Rams (Projected Record: 13-3)*

As I write this part on Monday afternoon, the Rams haven't even played a game yet so they're still perfect in my mind. Theoretically that should also apply to the Raiders, Jets and Lions but ummm . . . no. (Editor's Follow-up Note: Nailed it! Get some!). 

2. New England Patriots (Projected Record: 12-4)

If the goal of the top two spots in your power rankings is to identify the eventual Super Bowl teams, then how do you not rank these fucking assholes first or second? 

3. Minnesota Vikings (Projected Record: 12-4)

Here are two things that should make Vikings fans feel really good about Kirk Cousins: (1) He's way better than the variety pack of mediocrity they had there last year, and (2) Everyone plays better when they're not wearing a Redskins jersey. 

4. Philadelphia Eagles (Projected Record: 11-5)

I've recently learned that many of my die-hard Ravens fan friends despise Eagles fans. Is there a psychological diagnosis for hating someone who acts almost exactly like you? Like the way I hate that arrogant prick Todd Haley after watching Hard Knocks.

5. Kansas City Chiefs (Projected Record: 11-5)

"I made Ron Rivera a Super
Bowl coach. So eat it!"
I know Andy Reid's appearance and persona don't exactly scream offensive genius so much as they scream leave me the fuck alone while I enjoy this hot pretzel but the fact is that the guy is a damn guru. In addition to making the playoffs with two different teams and three different quarterbacks, he's had ten assistants become head coaches and seven of them are still currently employed in that capacity. So when I destroy Reid later in the season after he tries to run a slow-developing play from the 12 yard line with 5 seconds left in the first half and no timeouts, please remember that I once said something nice about him.

6. Houston Texans (Projected Record: 10-6)

I had no fucking idea who to put in this spot. The Jacksonville Bortles? The Saints sieve defense? Aaron Rodgers' one good knee? I'm not going to penalize the Texans for going-up to New England and having the ball at the end of the game with a very slim chance to win. However, this is the fucking year for Bill fucking O'Brien to fucking put-up or shut the fuck up because he's got all the fucking pieces in fucking place for a fucking winning fucking team. (That was my Bill O'Brien impression).  

7. New Orleans Saints (Projected Record: 10-6)

It amazes me how the same good team can go through years of personnel and coordinator changes and still have the same glaring flaw no matter how hard they try to address it. It's almost as if Drew Brees so demoralizes the Saints' pass defense all week that they have no will to live by the time Sunday rolls around. "Fuck it. You cover Mike Evans."   

8. Green Bay Packers (Projected Record: 10-6)

Speaking of the same glaring flaw, why can't the Packers ever run the freakin' ball? The other team's defense starts every play in a state of mortal terror that Aaron Rodgers is going to make them look stupid like he did in the second half on Sunday night. Shouldn't that mean you can run a few successful draw plays? Maybe Mike McCarthy just doesn't want to bother with it like that time I saw him on a beach in Florida just standing there with a puss on his face while his kids played without him. He was probably looking at them thinking "you'll never be Aaron Rodgers." (82% of that story is true).  

9. Baltimore Ravens (Projected Record: 10-6)

I'm not sure how much you can extrapolate from the Ravens' converting the easiest lay-up of week one against Buffalo. You have to believe that starting the season (1) on the road, (2) in Baltimore, (3) in a monsoon with (4) Nathan Peterman as your quarterback may have mitigated the desire of some Bills players to live much less put forth their most competitive effort. And for those saying "if you can't get up for week one then . . ." please just shut-up. Admit it. You would've quit after ten minutes of hearing that Baltimore accent cascading down between the rain drops. 

10. Denver Broncos (Projected Record: 10-6)

So I'm going to blatantly rip-off Gregg Easterbrook's "Cheerleader of the Week" concept where he included a bio presumably to justify posting a cheerleader picture purely for the sake of posting a cheerleader picture. Brielle owns a dance studio, went to Colorado State University and two of her favorite movies are Friday Night Lights and Lone Survivor both of which I thought were very good.  

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (Projected Record: 9-7)

I know the defense is great but Leonard Fournette just went down with a hamstring injury and you can pretty much prorate Blake Bortles 18/33, 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT performance over the rest of the season. In other words, let's all just take a beat. 

12. Carolina Panthers (Projected Record: 9-7)

Godspeed to all (both) of my readers in the Carolinas this weekend.   

13. Seattle Seahawks (Projected Record: 9-7)

We've been taking for granted that the Seahawks are good for so long that I'm not sure we even know who they are anymore beyond Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll. Marshawn Lynch. Gone. Richard Sherman. Gone. Clearly they added Brandon Marshall in an attempt to keep some of the crazy going but even that feels a bit half-hearted. Now it's just an ordinary team in an ordinary town. (Easy Seattle, it was a joke. Go throw a fish and relax). 

14. Atlanta Falcons (Projected Record: 9-7)


14. Pittsburgh Steelers (Projected Record: 8-7-1)

I grew-up right in the middle of Burt Reynolds' prime which, as far as I'm concerned, ran from Deliverance in 1972 through Cannonball Run in 1981. The three best movies in between were The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit and an underrated stunt man movie called Hooper which featured a cameo by Terry Bradshaw. I may test whether Cannonball Run (in which Bradshaw also appears) still holds-up by making my kids watch it with me as I say every seven minutes "here comes a really good part." They love that. Especially if I'm guzzling cheap wine while I do it. On an unrelated note, I can't tell you how happy it made me to put that tie in the Steelers' projected record.    

16. San Francisco 49ers (Projected Record: 8-8)

So Jimmy G isn't omnipotent and the 49ers aren't going undefeated. At least we got that out of the way. The Vikings defense is going to make a lot of people look bad this year but, when you're supposed to be the Bay Area savior, you gotta open better than 15 for 33 with 3 picks. Maybe they should get the running backs more involved. Who do they have again? Oh. Maybe not.      

17. Washington Redskins (Projected Record: 8-8)

The Redskins looked thoroughly competent and efficient against what appeared to be an eventual 4-12 Cardinals team so it's hard to get a read on what the Alex Smith era is going to look like but between having to play the NFC South, the Jags, the Texans, the Packers and the Eagles twice, I'm feeling 8-8. And Dan Snyder is a dick.

"Don't let my losing playoff record
fool you. I had a Super Bowl
caliber supporting cast."
18. San Diego Chargers (Projected Record: 8-8)

One day in the year 2027 when Phillip Rivers retires from the Barcelona Chargers, football people are finally going to stop falling for this fake stick throw of a team. That means we have to endure about nine more years of takes along the lines of "I really like the Chargers as a Super Bowl sleeper pick" from guys on ESPN and NFL Network who spent a lot of time having their heads slammed against thinly carpeted concrete.

19. Chicago Bears (Projected Record: 7-9)

The Bears were a trendy sleeper pick even before the Raiders handed them one of the best defensive players in the league and for one half on Sunday night they appeared ready to validate that hype. Then they produced two measly field goals in the second half and got run over by a gimpy Aaron Rodgers. Kinda feels like the same old Bears for at least one more year. It's almost as if they are who we thought they were. 

20. Miami Dolphins (Projected Record: 7-9)

The Dolphins are the NFL's version of the shitty little kid at the mall who plugs his ears and keeps yelling "LA LA LA LA LA LA!!!" when his parents are just trying to get him to calm down and act reasonably only the Dolphins are yelling "TANNEHILL TANNEHILL TANNEHILL!!!" Did you know that Tannehill is 30 years old, has a career record of 38-40 with no playoff appearances and they just extended his contract and gave him $45M guaranteed? But no one goes to games in Miami because the weather is too nice. OK. Sure. 

21. New York Giants (Projected Record: 7-9)

You have to admire the faith the Giants have in Eli Manning. First they passed on Sam Darnold in the draft and then they decided to go with a 30 year old back-up who's made four NFL rosters in seven years getting into just one game (yes one) for the Titans in 2015. I'd tell you his real name but instead let's just call him "Exhibit Q" which is what he'll be called in Colin Kaepernick's collusion trial against the league.   

22. Cincinnati Bengals (Projected Record: 7-9)

I just spelled Cincinatti right on the first try for the first time in my life (well there goes the streak). Anyway, as long as they remain ofDalton and ofLewis, they're relegated to the third tier. (If you don't get those references, then we need to have a serious talk about your current binge watching choices).  

23. New York Jets (Projected Record: 6-10)

I really want to rank them higher because I think Todd Bowles is a solid coach, Sam Darnold is going to be a solid quarterback and some of my best friends are Jet fans (you can't control these things). However, a rookie quarterback generally means your ceiling is about eight wins which for the Jets means six. 

24. Indianapolis Colts (Projected Record: 6-10)

My two sons are Colts fans and I can almost give the first one a pass because he's 17 and, during his formative years, Peyton Manning was at the top of his game. But my 14 year old is only a fan because he chose to go with his big brother's favorite team over mine. So fuck him. I hope Andrew Luck spends another season trying to run through linebackers like he's Brendan Frasier in School Ties.   

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Projected Record: 6-10)

Nice beard. We get it. You're smart.
There goes Ryan Fitzpatrick stirring-up another quarterback controversy again. You know he just floats from one shitty team to the next on purpose so that he can throw-up one big game like he did on Sunday and make everyone think he might be better than the presumed starter (which in this case may be true). If you weren't aware that he went to Harvard, then welcome back from your lengthy coma. 

26. Dallas Cowboys (Projected Record: 6-10)

I didn't realize how bad the Cowboys had gotten in a hurry until I watched them play on Sunday and then took a look at who they have at wide receiver. I'm pretty sure Jerry Jones spent the off-season watching Varsity Blues on a loop (he loves him some Coach Kilmer) and convinced himself that Scott Caan could be a #1 receiver in the NFL. How else do you end-up with Cole Beasley catching a team high 7 passes for 73 yards? I've got a great anthem jab here but holding back for the sake of FGR fan unity . . . we need to stick together! (Ironically, that sounded like a Trump tweet).   

27. Tennessee Titans (Projected Record: 6-10)

The first of our two playoff teams from last year to land in the bottom five. I just kind of feel like NFL defenses are going to be able to handle an offense built around last year's 27th rated passer and a guy who runs like Erick Dickerson twenty years after that style was rendered obsolete by lightning fast linebackers and safeties who knock you on your ass before you take the ten steps you need to get to top speed.

28. Cleveland Browns (Projected Record: 5-10-1)

Lost in the Browns historic comeback tie against the Steelers is the fact that, on the strip/sack/fumble/return play in overtime that should have effectively won them the game, they committed a brain dead block in the back penalty that meant they ended-up with a 43 yard field goal try instead of a 29 yard field goal try. Of course it was blocked and, in arguably the biggest surprise of the day, it was not returned by the Steelers for a touchdown. 

29. Oakland Raiders (Projected Record: 5-11)

Now might be a good time to point-out that Jon Gruden's post Super Bowl coaching record was 45-51. Then he took ten years off to pursue a broadcasting career which would draw immediate comparisons to Dick Vermeil except for the fact that Vermeil didn't spend ten years developing a clownish persona to enhance his commercial value. If you're a player in that locker room, how could you possibly resist an audible snicker every time Gruden decides to go full Chucky and then full-blown laughter when he leaves the room a la Bruno Kirby in Good Morning Vietnam?   

30. Arizona Cardinals (Projected Record: 4-12)

I have a feeling that one of this season's ongoing mysteries will be why anyone thought David Johnson was going to be a top five fantasy player for a team that will initially be quarterbacked by an impending shoulder injury only to be replaced in week 6 or 7 by a rookie turnover machine. Larry Fitzgerald is currently sobbing into a couch pillow.  

31. Detroit Lions (Projected Record: 4-12)

Matthew Stafford's career playoff record is 0-3 which is pathetic on its face but even more so when you realize he's been in the league since 2009, started every game since 2011 and is the 8th highest NFL player of all-time. Oh yeah, he's made one Pro Bowl. And oh yeah, they just signed him to a five year $135M extension with $92M guaranteed. So if you were genuinely surprised by his four interceptions on Monday night, you might have a bright future in the Lions' front office. Feel free to use Matt Millen as a reference. 

32. Buffalo Bills (Projected Record: 2-14)

There is a certain school of thought that, after you make your first playoff appearance in a millennium, you should keep your starting quarterback and make relatively minor tweaks to build on your success. By starting Nathan Peterman in week one, however, you are acknowledging that you found the whole playoff experience overwhelming and awkward such that you will now do anything to avoid it. It's ok Buffalo. January football is not for everyone.   


* I no longer have the capacity to understand how anyone could sit through a full regular season game on TV much less attend one in person. I know I used to do it eight times a season but those days are long gone. Like my hair. And my ability to digest dairy projects. Now someone pass the prunes and crank-up Rod Stewart's Greatest Hits and leave me the fuck alone.  

* I am going to update each team's projected record every time I do this AND I'm going to add-up all of the records to make sure that they are sort of mathematically possible. No other website works this hard for you. 

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