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WEEK THREE CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND: What We've Learned
Taking stock of the young NFL season
My friends, we’re 17 days into the NFL season and it’s time to take a look at a few things we’ve learned in the early goings of the campaign. Take it for what it’s worth.
1. Second acts can be difficult.
Two second-year head coaches who did a great job in their debuts - Minnesota’s Kevin O’Connell and the Giants Brian Daboll - are living proof that strong rookie performances can be hard acts to follow. Their teams are 0-2 and 1-2 respectively.
O’Connell needs a win today against the visiting Chargers, but he is in a much better spot than his New York counterpart given the weakness of the NFC North. Daboll, on the other hand, does battle in the tough-as-nails NFC East and that could make 2023 very rough sledding if the Jints don’t right the ship ASAP.1
2. A silly rule continues to affect key games.
I’m referring, of course, to the rule that awards the defense the ball and places the rock on the 20-yard-line if an offensive player fumbles the ball through the end zone.2 This regulation reared its ugly head in Week Two when Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson lost the pill while trying to score against the Iggles. A huge momentum swing in what turned into a disappointing loss for the Vikings.
The simple solution: when a runner fumbles the ball out of bounds through the end zone, the ball should be placed at the spot where his body was when he lost control. The ballcarrier is obviously advancing towards the goal line and should be rewarded for his efforts.
3. Joe Burrow is mortal when he’s hurt.
The Bengals franchise player looked decent vs. Baltimore in Week Two after a rough opener in Cleveland but his nagging calf injury is a legitimate concern. If he cannot move nimbly in the pocket against Aaron Donald and the Rams Monday, it could be a rough evening. Of course, longtime Cincy fan SIR STRIPES, is used to tough nights.3
4. The NFC East is as real as my love of beef stew.
The division placed three squads in the playoffs last season and each of its four teams finished .500 or better, quite a feat. If my Commies can somehow hold up their end of the bargain, we could have a repeat trifecta as Philly and Dallas look like shoo-ins for the postseason.
Interestingly, the division has three 2-0 teams for the first time since 1989 (h/t NFL Network) when the Giants, Eagles and Phoenix Cardinals all started 2-0. New York and Philadelphia made the postseason but the Cards fell hit the skids and finished 5-11, four games ahead of 1-15 Dallas. Washington started 0-2 and just missed the playoffs with a 10-6 mark.
As the NFC East looks to follow its outstanding 2022, I’d like to repeat my better-than-usual Week Two performance, which was 12-4 (.750). The season mark, following the Niners Thursday beating of the Giants, is 22-11 (.667). On to the games.
Let’s begin with the 1 pm contests, where I’m taking all home teams. You read that right, folks: Nine games, nine home winners.
-Dee-troit (1-1) over Atlanta (2-0)
-Green Bay (1-1) over New Orleans (2-0)
-Jacksonville (1-1) over Houston (0-2)
-Minnesota (0-2) over the Chargers (0-2)
-Baltimore (2-0) over Indy (1-1)
-the Jets (1-1) over the Pats (0-2)
-the Commies (2-0) over Buffalo (1-1)
-Miami (2-0) over Denver (0-2)
-Cleveland (1-1) over Tennessee (1-1)
In the late window, I’ll roll with two more home teams - Kansas City (1-1) over Chicago (0-2) and Seattle (1-1) against Carolina (0-2) - with one outlier: visiting Dallas (2-0) taking down Arizona (0-2).
On Sunday night, Pittsburgh (1-1) wins in Vegas (1-1) and, in Monday’s doubleheader, the Eagles (2-0) get a road win at Tampa (2-0) and Cincy (0-2) gets a home victory vs the Rams (1-1) in a Super Bowl LVI rematch.
Enjoy your NFL weekend, folks. God bless!
Late last season, this publication compared the New York area’s love of Daboll with how much the same fans swooned over NYG head coach Ben McAdoo after his outstanding 2016 rookie season. Sadly, his second act was as successful as Coca-Cola’s 1985 introduction of the new Coke. The 2017 team quickly went off the rails and McAdoo benched Eli Manning later in the year for Geno Smith, leading the coach to summarily walk the plank. He didn’t coach in the league for three seasons and spent 2022 as offensive coordinator in Carolina.
Write Mike Tanier did an excellent breakdown of the rule and its history in this 2017 column, tracing its roots to the early 1900s. “I didn’t like the rule back then and I don’t like it now,” BROTHER BLUENIK told me recently.
STRIPES and I worked together early in our careers, and he turned in a particularly noteworthy effort after one of our company’s mid-1990s NYC holiday parties. He hopped the late-night train home to New Jersey but, in a discombobulated state, mistakenly disembarked in Trenton and promptly fell sleep on a station bench until the morning. When he woke, all four limbs were somehow still intact, which is more than could be said of his ever-fragile dignity.