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WEEK FIVE CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND: COLD, HARD FACTS
Remembering Butkus, Looking at a Big Day of Football
My friends, there are a few sports truisms we can all agree upon, cold, hard facts that are inarguable:
1. The media is too focused on Kelce’s relationship with another entertainment superstar.
2. Former Atlanta Hawks head coach Bob Weiss is a dead ringer for Chevy Chase in the “Fletch” franchise.
3. On any given Sunday, any NFL team can win - or lose.
Unfortunately for my beloved Commanders aka the Commies, that holds true for Thursday evenings as well. Indeed, the previously winless Chicago Bears laid the wood to the boys from DC in the week’s first game, sending many a Washington sports fan into a tailspin.
LEHIGH VALLEY MIKE and HOTLANTA WILL called for the immediate firing of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. BONELESS MING declared the primetime defeat a “new bottom” for the franchise. THE CHIEF called it a night in the third quarter.
Folks, all of these wonderful, tailgate-loving individuals are missing the forest for the trees. This is already a winning season in DC, no matter the game-by-game result. We now have an owner, Josh Harris, who gets it! We now have a new quarterback, Slingin’ Sammy Howell, destined to break franchise passing records.1 And that’s enough for me.
As for the loss itself, I believed the Bears were bound to win this game and I might’ve picked them outright if I weren’t so worried about being mocked by TOMMY BIRD and the rest of his mouth-breathing ilk. Chitown played better than their record in their first four games and they showed what they’re made of in DC.
It’s a shame Bears great Dick Butkus didn’t live a few more hours to see Chicago’s effort as he would’ve been bursting at the seams enjoying the team’s 40-20 romp. The legendary linebacker, who passed just hours before the game, was as intense as any player that’s ever played the game and his presence at league events, Bears games and even social media will be missed.2
If youve only watched the Butkus highlights - and that’s the case with me - it’s very easy to see him as a human wrecking ball who destroyed all in his path. Surely, he was a weapon of mass football destruction but, oh, he was so much more.
You see, Dick Butkus wasn’t just a tackling demon. He was also very athletic and quick enough to cover tight ends and receivers out of the backfield, as his 22 career interceptions will attest. Further, he’s a Chicago icon who belongs on that fine city’s Mount Rushmore of athletes, perhaps as the most iconic figure the town has ever known. And that’s saying something.
As we mourn Mr. Butkus and talk about all he did for the city and for the game of football, rest assured that every offensive player in heaven is walking around with his head on a swivel, quaking in his boots. Dick Butkus is now in the house, and, as usual, things are bound to get interesting.
Rest in peace, legend, rest in peace.
Thursday’s loss drops my record to 42-23 (.646) for the season. On to the games with Cleveland (2-2), Seattle (3-1), Tampa (3-1) and the LA Chargers (2-2) enjoying the bye…
SUNDAY, 930 AM ET
Today’s games kick off from jolly old England with the Jaguars (2-2) and Bills (3-1) facing off. I like Jacksonville for one major reason: they’ve been in London for about two weeks as they played Atlanta there last Sunday. Assuming they packed enough underwear and haven’t gone overboard on fish and chips, it seems like an advantage against Buffalo. Jags, 25-22.
In the 1 pm window, let’s start by taking a couple of home teams: Miami (3-1) over the Giants (1-3) and Detroit (3-1) to beat the Panthers (0-4), the NFL’s only winless team. Both favorites have a massive advantage in offensive firepower and that means the New York and Carolina defenses need to have great afternoons. I just don’t see it…
…I like the visiting Texans in Atlanta in a battle of 2-2 teams. Houston’s offensive line is playing well, and the Falcons may have a quarterback controversy on their hands if Desmond Ridder starts slow today. If Heinicke enters the game, it says here that the home team’s chances of victory increase significantly…
…In the rest of the early contests, I’m rolling with one road team - Baltimore (3-1) over Pittsburgh (2-2) - and a pair of hosts: New England (1-3) over New Orleans (2-2) - and the Colts (2-2) over the Titans (2-2). I think the Jonathan Taylor signing ignites Indy today, even though it’ll be the star running back’s first game of the season.
In the Steel City, I’m impressed by Kenny Pickett’s toughness in bouncing back from last week’s knee injury, but I know the Baltimore defense is going to test his mobility and force Pittsburgh to run the ball. And that’s a tall task.
As for the Patriots, today is a great opportunity to get win #2. I know folks are down on Bill Belichick and his squad, but all three of their losses are to some of the league’s elite: Dallas, Miami and Philadelphia. I think they find a way to frustrate Derek Carr today and win a close game.
In the late afternoon window, let’s start in Arizona, where I see the Cardinals (1-3) beating Cincinnati (1-3) in a battle of two of Boomer Esiason’s former employers.3 The Bengals are struggling to find their way and it’ll be hard to get a “W” against a Cards team that is playing better than expected…
…Denver beats the visiting Jets in a pick ‘em game between 1-3 teams. I don’t have a good read on either team just yet but expect a close one…
…in the other two late games, I’m picking the host Rams (2-2) to upset Philly (4-0) and the Chiefs (3-1) to win in Minnesota (1-3).
I love the way LA is playing and think they could beat the Birds in a tight game. The Philadelphia defensive line is stacked but their leader, Fletcher Cox, is out this week so maybe that gives the Rams a bit of an opening.
Meanwhile, if Taylor Swift makes the trip to Minneapolis, it’ll be the biggest thing to hit the state since the 2019 State Fair doughnut controversy.4 She’s likely to see a fun game with the Vikings collective backs against the wall. Look for KC to pull out a late-game win.
In the night games, I’ll take a pair of hosts: San Fran (4-0) over Dallas (3-1) tonight and Las Vegas (1-3) over Green Bay (2-2) tomorrow. The Niners look like the best team in the league and, in Nevada, Jimmy G.’s return is a big deal.
Enjoy the games, all, and God bless!
Butkus entered the Twitter game in the past couple of years and put some hilarious stuff out there. I’m not sure if Dick was posting himself or if someone else was doing it for him but, whatever the origin, there were some timeless classics.
As a Cardinal, Esiason threw for 522 yards against my beloved team in 1996, dealing a major blow to Washington, which faded after starting the season 7-1. It was the third-highest total for a QB in a game to that point. A terrified GURU watched the updates in horror while on vacation in Kansas City, suffering the ultimate kick in the teeth when Kevin Butler drilled a field goal for the Cards as time expired. Making matters worse, Arizona ended DC’s playoff hopes five weeks later with another last-second Butler field goal. Esiason was benched in favor of Kent Graham, who completed just 20 of 46 passes in the game.