WEEK SEVEN CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND:
My friends, Bob Dylan never sang about pro football but, if he broke into song today, he’d surely bust out a few verses of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” when thinking about today’s NFL.
The long-downtrodden Lions are among the league’s best, while the championship-pedigree Patriots are bringing up the rear. New England is joined by one of last year’s darlings, the New York Giants. Offenses, not defenses, seem to win championships. And, rightly or wrongly, running back is one of the most devalued positions in all of sports.
The NFL is often described as a year-to-year league where teams’ fortunes change on a dime,1 sometimes hinging on the performance of a new - or departed - player or two. Certainly, I believe there’s some truth to the year-to-year argument but, honestly, it’s often a week-to-week proposition as well. Heck, maybe it’s always been that way.
Who is injured? What are the key match ups? Which coaching staff is best positioned to win this week’s chess match? Which team is most prepared to deal with all of the twists and turns that occur over 60 minutes of play?
It’s a fascinating game, this sport of ours, and there’s not an NFL game I don’t enjoy, even if my team is being bludgeoned by a seemingly inferior opponent. And, as you know, that happens a fair amount of the time.
Two weeks ago, I sat in my well-worn spot on the couch and watched the Bears, losers of 14 straight, take my Beloved Commies to the woodshed to the tune of 40-20. Each time my man Sam Howell dropped back to pass, I experienced that pained feeling one gets when they've stubbed their toe and have only a split-second before the pain kicks in. Still, I never considered going to bed early and, truth be told, I still enjoyed myself.
On Sunday afternoon, I’ll be at Giants Stadium with THE TRE MAN, BONELESS MING and WEST CHELSEA JIMMY, among others, taking in an NY-Washington contest unlikely to wind up in The Louvre.
The Giants are a miserable bunch at this point, one rally in Arizona away from being winless. Indeed, last year’s run to the NFC Divisional Playoff Round is looking more and more like an anomaly as New York speeds towards its sixth losing season in the past seven campaigns.2 Ever wonder why BROTHER BLUENIK has so little hair?
Unlike our NY superfan, THE GURU sports a full head of lettuce, albeit a more salt-than-pepper mane which lost most of its original color during the Norval Turner era in DC. Oh man, there were some tough losses during that 1994-2000 stretch, the kind of losses that leave one questioning his very existence.
Mr. Turner is one of 13 full-time Washington coaches I’ve seen in my lifetime, and I’ve lived and died with each of them on every NFL Sunday during the past 53 years. That passion is courtesy of THE CHIEF, who christened me a DC football fan at birth, the ultimate kick in the shins.
My father turned 83 years old Saturday and has spent those eight-plus decades on the edge of this seat - or barstool - watching his beloved team. He is a fan in the truest sense of the word, a man that never gives up on his squad, even if the team’s fortunes prompt a patented CHIEF tirade every now and then.
When THE TRE MAN and I roll into MetLife Stadium to watch our Commies, I’ll surely be thinking of my Pops. A great man who loves his football team. And thank God he passed that love along to me.
The 2023 record sits at 62-32 (.660). Let’s check out the weekend’s games with Carolina (0-6), Cincinnati (3-3), Dallas (4-2), Houston (3-3), the Jets (3-3) and Tennessee (2-4) all on the bye…
SUNDAY, 1 PM ET
Las Vegas (3-3) wins at Chicago (1-5), spoiling the starting debut of Bears rookie QB Tyson Bagent. There is a tendency to dismiss a guy like Bagent because of his D-II pedigree but know this: the kid is a leader who can spins. Don’t be surprised if the youngster plays well during Fields’ brief absence and gives Chicago’s front office something to think about…
…Cleveland (3-2) wins at Indianapolis (3-3). Gut call here. I think the Browns find a way to make Gardner Minshew’s afternoon miserable…
…Buffalo (4-2) wins big at New England (1-5). After winning five of 40 games vs the Pats in the 2000s and 2010s, the Bills have captured six of seven to start the current decade. This is a trend likely to continue…
…Washington (3-3) at Giants (1-5). This is a rare opportunity for the Commies to move about .500, the type of chance we’ve squandered in recent decades as we wander through the football desert. But I think this team is a little different and will play well, pressuring Daniel Jones (or Tyrod Taylor) and doing just enough offensively to win. And, if they fail to capitalize, you’ll hear THE CHIEF’s bloodcurdling screams all the way from Naples, Fla…
…Atlanta (3-3) loses at Tampa (3-2) and the Taylor Heinicke era gets underway when the Falcons insert him in the second half with Desmond Ridder struggling…
…Dee-troit (5-1) gets a victory at Baltimore (4-2). I like this Ravens outfit, but I won’t be picking against the Lions anytime soon.
4:05 PM ET
Pittsburgh (3-2) loses at the LA Rams (3-3) in a rematch of one of the league’s great championship games, Super Bowl XIV. That ballgame was won by the Steelers, who became the first team to win four Super Bowls, and featured one of the most beautiful touchdown plays in football history…
…Arizona (1-5) falls at Seattle (3-2). The Cards are going to compete every weekend but, in most weeks, they just won’t have enough juice.
4:25 PM ET
Green Bay (2-3) loses in Denver (1-5) while the LA Chargers (2-3) fall at Kansas City (5-1). Justin Herbert & Co. have performed well against the Chiefs during the young quarterback’s career while losing a series of heartbreakers, including a pair of three-point defeats last season. It feels like more of the same tomorrow.
8:20 PM ET
Miami (5-1) at Philadelphia (5-1). There’s a lot to like about this Dolphins squad but I’m not sure they’re ready to beat an Eagles team coming off of its first loss of the season. Feels like they could be walking into a buzzsaw. Birds by seven.
MONDAY, 8:15 PM
San Francisco (5-1) at Minnesota (2-4). Niners fans of a certain age still cringe when they think of the Vikings, the 1987 playoff loss to the Purple People Eaters still fresh in their minds. Walsh benched Montana in that game and replaced him with Young, opening a Pandora’s box that never shut. San Fran by three.
That’s all for this week, folks. Enjoy the games and God bless!
For you youngsters, a dime is a unit of currency, worth 10 cents and made of various alloys and metals. I kid you not.