This is a return of the Tuesday potpourri article, presented in a different format.
NFL football is back. Fans are back. Fantasy is back.
Seven months of not knowing what to do Sunday when worship time is over (if you partake in such time) comes to an end. SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium finally get live fans for the first time. All these rookies, especially quarterbacks, finally get to show if they can cut it in the big league. For those of you who never thought that 16 games was not enough, this year you get 17, the first time in 43 years that the NFL extended the length of the regular season.
And that’s where we will begin.
What’s worse, mentally unbalanced or schedule unbalanced?
Anyone who needs to see a shrink is always cause for concern. But in December, when some team has nine home games and a contender has eight home games, you may see a lot of fans (and perhaps team execs) crying foul.
When you expand a season, what happened to the good old common sense theory that an even number of games is the right way? Baseball has 162 games. Basketball has 82. Hockey has 80. Football had 16. Now it has 17. One extra game. Just one. The tradeoff is one less preseason game. But why just one extra game? Why the odd number?
In 1972, MLB began the year with a mini-strike, nothing of the proportions of 1981 or 1994. But it was enough to affect the outcome of the AFC East. When the season began, the Red Sox lost eight games, the Tigers lost 7. The season predictably came down to three games at Tiger Stadium, The Sox lost two of the three games and finished one-half game behind the Tigers.
This isn’t the same thing, but it underscores schedule disparity. Sox fans felt cheated back then. A team with only eight home games will feel cheated this year if they are fighting this other team for a division title, home field advantage, or even just to get into the playoffs, and the season hinges on that one less home game. Prediction: At least one team will be adversely affected in playoff seeding because they had only eight home games and their competition had nine.
The real problem: Whither Stephon Gilmore?
All you the Patriot fan can think about right now is fumbleitis. Blowing a won game. 0-1, not 1-0. Mac Jones lost his NFL debut when he deserved to win it. Bill Belichick needs to re-teach his team how to win.
Here is the real problem that you can glean from Sunday: The Patriots missed Stephon Gilmore. Badly.
If Tom Cruise were his agent and Gilmore were his client and not Rod Tidwell, he would be looking at Jonathan Kraft rubbing his fingertips with his thumb. Show him the money. Gilmore’s price went way up after Sunday.
J.C. Jackson is good. Yes, he can intercept. But he is no Gilmore. If Gilmore had been on Jaylen Waddle and Jackson on DaVante Parker, maybe the Dolphins get a field goal or two. Then Damien Harris would not be dedicating his entire life to holding on to a football (Rhamondre Stevenson might still be, and perhaps is sleeping with a football since he is a rookie) and instead daydreaming about his glorious 100 yards rushing against the Fish defense.
Gilmore has to miss at least the first six games. The next two won’t be that problematic as the Jets have nobody you know at wideout and Michael Thomas is still injured. It will matter in three weeks when Jackson will have to cover Chris Godwin, Mike Evans or Antonio Brown.
John Wayne actually said it better. Pay the man.
Day of the Dogs
On any given Sunday…yes, you have heard that statement many times, and not just from Chris Berman.
Jacksonville was a three-point favorite over woebegone Houston. Tennessee was a home fave over Arizona by a field goal. Pittsburgh was a touchdown dog at Buffalo. Atlanta was a field goal fave at home against Philadelphia. And NFC champ Green Bay was a three and a half point favorite over downtrodden New Orleans, having to play the game at Jacksonville because their home city is once again cleaning up after a generational hurricane.
Berman also loved to say ”THAT’S…why they play the game!”
Trevor Lawrence’s NFL debut went much worse than Jones’. The sickly Texans took it to Jacksonville, 37-21, in a very unlikely upset. Kyler Murray went nuts against a usually stout Titans defense, and the Cardinals won at Nashville, 38-13. Buffalo suddenly morphed into a clone of their old selves instead of presumptive division champs, and the Steelers smothered them in western New York, 23-16. Atlanta opened at home to a lively crowd, but the Eagles and Jalen Hurts laid a hurt on the Falcons, winning 32-6. The Packers have a major problem with Aaron Rodgers, and looked totally out of sorts in losing to the Saints, 38-3, a game which should have been a gimme for the Pack.
Upsets happen, but these upsets are really puzzling. Fantasy leagues which deal only in picking flat winners saw several games where over 85% picked the team that lost the game. One team in the AFC East is 1-0, but it’s Miami (who also won as a road dog) and not Buffalo. If this is any indication of what is to come this year, maybe we won’t complain about the odd number of games after all.
A horrible day remembered
Sunday was the NFL’s day to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the attacks of September 11, 2001, which turned 20 years old on Saturday. Patriot Nation remembers Joe Andruzzi not so much for being a good guard for several years, but instead for his three FDNY brothers, one of whom nearly lost his life as one of the twin towers was collapsing.
Week 2 in 2001 was postponed until the end of the season. The Patriots had to wait 15 weeks for a road game at Carolina. They wound up pummelling a downtrodden Panther team to seal the two seed and a home playoff game, which wound up being the Snow Bowl. When they resumed play the next week, the one play that changed NFL history took place. That Jets game is remembered more for 9/11 than Mo Lewis, but it was one strange time for the advent of Tom Brady to take place.
That said, the 1:00 PM games were treated to perhaps one of the most touching renditions of the national anthem since Whitney Houston. From the Ground Zero monument in lower Manhattan, Juliette Candela, whose father was killed that day when she was a little girl, sang the national anthem. It was sung mostly straightforward, without the Hollywood glitz that surrounded Houston 31 Super Bowls ago. But it was compelling, very moving, and very well presented. A young lady pays tribute to her late father in a beautiful way. And she also paid tribute to all the other people who perished on that awful day.
There are lots of young people who were not born when it happened. Those of us who do remember it will never forget. The next generation should never forget, either.
Posted Under: NFL Commentary