Crystal Ball

WEEK TWO CRYSTAL BALL: GURU Scoffs at Week One Results

My friends, THE GURU is here to offer a warning: pay little attention to what happened in the season’s opening week. Don’t worry about who won big, don’t worry about who lost big. And, don’t spend a second fretting about the stubborn mustard stain on the front of your throwback jersey (I’m looking directly at you, HONG KONG MIKE).

When I think of the opener, two games – and their aftermaths – immediately come to mind. A little anecdotal evidence.

In 1993, my beloved Skins crushed defending Super Bowl champion Dallas 35-16 in the season opener, Washington’s first game without Joe Jackson Gibbs at the helm in 12 years. Based solely on this one-evening body of work, media outlets like The New York Times saw great things ahead for the Skins and new coach Richie Petibon, and a nosedive for Dallas.

Washington proceeded to lose the next six games in absolutely Corkyesque fashion, including three by scores of 41-7, 36-6 and 38-3. They finished 4-12 and Petibon was fired, paving the way for the Norval Turner Error (pun intended). Meanwhile, Dallas lost their first two, won seven straight and ended the year on an eight-game win streak, waltzing to its second straight NFL title.

Want another example? You got it. In 2003, the Bills beat the Patriots in Buffalo, 31-0, on opening day. It was sweet vindication for former New England star Lawyer Milloy, who’d just been unceremoniously cut and immediately joined the Bills. There was plenty of “the sky is falling” coverage the next day regarding the Pats and other articles talked about the possibility of the Buffalo team having a great season.

Three weeks later, New England lost to a bad Steve Spurrier-coached Skins squad and Patriot Nation was again collectively beside itself. New England promptly ripped off 15 straight wins, including Super Bowl XXXVIII over Carolina, winning their second championship in three seasons.

For their part, the Bills won big again in 2013’s Week Two, pounding Jacksonville by three touchdowns. And then they sunk to irrelevance, losing 10 of their final 14 games on the way to a 6-10 campaign. The finale was a huge clunker as Buffalo lost in New England by the score of – you guessed it – 31-0.

Ty Law, the New England cornerback, said it better than even THE GURU after that humiliating season opener against the Bills: “I’ve gone to two Super Bowls on teams that lost their opening game. You can’t draw any conclusions.”

True dat, Mr. Law, true dat.

The Week One was record was 7-8 (.467). On to the games…

 

THURSDAY

8:25 PM, NFL Network

Houston (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-1) Both teams laid eggs in Week One and it says here that it won’t happen this week. Expect a good game with two competitive squads. The difference, believe it or not, will be the most maligned redhead this side of THE CHIEF, Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton. BENGALS, 20-17.

SUNDAY

1 PM, CBS

Cleveland (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0).This is the biggest grudge match in football. The Browns and their #1 fan, RON TESTAVALLOVERDE (aka RAVEN RON) against the team and city that stole the franchise back in 1995. Cleveland is getting much better but they’re not quite there yet. RAVENS, 23-20

…Buffalo (1-0) at Carolina (1-0). Barbecue over wings (I prefer mine boneless). CAROLINA, 26-19

…Tennessee (0-1) at Jacksonville (1-0). Jacksonville’s win over Houston last week was the biggest shocker since that 1992 evening when FATBACK HOBBS said, “no mas” to the green Jell-O at a Chinese buffet. He’d met his gelatinous match.

Beware: A Jags loss here and we’re looking at a return of the celebrated Tom Coughlin Redface Index (TCRI). JAGUARS, 19-16

…New England (0-1) at New Orleans (0-1) Last week the Pats were crushed by KC and some folks are salivating over the potential demise of Brady & Co. Don’t buy it.

Flash back to 2014 when the same thing occurred against the same team with the Chiefs winning 41-14 at Arrowhead Stadium on a Monday night and Brady looking awful. I recall the game well as I watched it in a Scottsdale sports bar while on a work trip with my man THE OLDEN DOMER. And all the Pats did was win the Super Bowl that year.

With the TCRI likely returning to the Ball soon, we also debut the Sean Payton Hotseat Measurement (SPHM). After a Week One loss, it’s at 6 on a scale of 1-10 – “Time to start wearing snow pants around the office.” PATS, 37-31.

 

1 PM, FOX


Arizona (0-1) at Indianapolis (0-1)
The Colts are abysmal and provide the #1 illustration for not paying a quarterback too much until he shows he’s elite. In fact, after giving Luck an $140 million contract, the team has been forced to make some hard-financial choices.

Namely, owner Jim Irsay can longer afford to pay the Colts’ parking lot attendants and his Learjet simply can’t justify high-end caviar. Competent offensive tackles, of course, are also out of the question. CARDS, 23-19

…Philadelphia (1-0) at Kansas City (1-0) Ex-Eagles coach Andy Reid is more nervous than usual this week, wondering if any of his former Philadelphia colleagues will bring him cheesesteaks and soft pretzels on the cross-country flight. You just can’t find those things, legitimately, in KC.

The Eagles looked good against the Skins last weekend – as LE GURU forecast – but will likely have a much tougher time against a professional outfit. Reid vs. Pederson is the top mismatch in this one. CHIEFS, 33-26

…Minnesota (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0) Sam Bradford is experiencing a Betty White-like rebirth in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes and one of the top five pubs you’ll ever enter, complete with a giant lawn bowling court on the roof. The fun ends in Pittsburgh. STEELERS, 34-23

…Chicago (0-1) at Tampa Bay (0-0) These former NFC Central participants were hardly ever rivals at all as there was never a time when they were both good while in the same division.

Bears fans were buoyed by their team’s close game against Atlanta last weekend but they shouldn’t be – it was a mirage and exposed the Chicago club as one possessing more holes than OBNOXIOUS MIKE’s resume. BUCS, 30-10.

 

4:05 PM, CBS

New York Jets (0-1) at Oakland (1-0) Forty-nine years ago, with LEHIGH LANCE not yet a glimmer in BIG LLOYD’s eye, these two squads took part in one of the most infamous football contests ever, the Heidi Game.

The gist of it: The Jets were leading 32-29 with about a minute to play when NBC switched the eastern half of the country to the film Heidi at 7 pm sharp, thrilling a movie buff like SIR STRIPES but angering every right-thinking male in America. Calls flooded the network’s switchboard and the game was put back on with the score 43-32, Raiders. Yep, Oakland scored two TDs in the amount of time it takes to microwave a good plate of nachos. And Jets’ fans missed it all.

A little-known fact: Chet Simmons, an NBC exec who was involved in the Heidi decision, was later the president of ESPN, overseeing the network’s launch. RAIDERS, 64-3…

…Miami (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1).I have three rules: always skip gas station sushi, don’t hang out with guys who use the word “posh” and never, ever believe the Jay Cutler hype.

The game between these two pugs is unlikely to evoke memories of the most famous Dolphins-Chargers tilt – the 41-38 1981 playoff win for San Diego that stands as one of the most exciting postseason games in NFL history. The seminal visual from that game, of course, is Chargers legend Kellen Winslow being helped off the field afterwards, much like I carried THE FAIR CLAUDINE over the threshold in Aught-four.
CHARGERS, 17-16.

 

4:25 PM, FOX

Dallas (1-0) at Denver (1-0) The Cowboys’ defense looked very good in Week One – Jaylon Smith is going to be a special player – but don’t forget they were facing a weak Giants’ offensive line. How weak? The organization is thinking of suiting up a severely bloated BROTHER BLUENIK as an emergency sub against Denver. And unlike most septuagenarians, my man hasn’t lost a step (because you can’t lose something you never had). COWBOYS, 20-17

…Skins (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0). How much trouble are the Skins in? Ever eat Taco Bell in your car, feel a surge in your stomach and realize the next suitable latrine is 45 miles away? That’s Gruden’s squad right now, intestines leveraged to the hilt.

To make matters worse, they are going against a Rams team that a) won by 39 points in Week One b) gets start defensive tackle Aaron Donald back from a holdout and c) is coached by ex-Skins offensive coordinator Sean McVay. McVay is a student of the game, a man who knows everything from what the Skins like to do on third down to what time Gruden takes his daily constitutional (editor’s note: it’s 27 minutes after he finishes his first cup of coffee).

The Skins (potentially) vastly improved defense is their only hope. SKINS, 17-16…  

…San Fran (0-1) at Seattle (0-1).The Niners, under another former Skins offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch, expected to be 0-1 for one good reason: they stink.

It wasn’t so long ago that San Fran-Seattle was turning into a Pepsi-Coke or Biggie-Tupac type of rivalry. Wait ‘til next year. SEAHAWKS, 33-14

 

8:30 PM, NBC

 Green Bay (1-0) at Atlanta (1-0). Last time these two met, the Packers laid a BATTLESHIP BARTELLE-sized egg and were never competitive, losing the NFC title game. Think Aaron Rodgers has revenge in mind? Does PLODDING GEORGE STAHL move like a three-toed sloth? PACKERS, 40-37.

MONDAY


8:30 PM, ESPN

Dee-troit (1-0) at New York Football Giants (0-1).Like an ultra-aggressive rash, Matt Stafford just keeps coming back. Upset special? No chance. GIANTS, 26-23.

 

That’s it for this week, all. Enjoy the games.

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