You saw the play. You saw Breeland Speaks of the Chiefs storm into the Patriots backfield and wrap his arms around quarterback and moon dust impresario Tom Brady. You saw a fleeting glimpse of potential, honest-to-God defense in a game that had little use for it. And then you saw Speaks meekly let Brady out of his grasp, allowing him to scamper four yards for a touchdown he had no real right to score. You heard Cris Collinsworth feign incredulity at Speaks's negligence, knowing full well WHY Speaks did what he did. Speaks thought the ball was out of Brady's hands, and he thought he'd get flagged for dragging the GOAT to the turf if he held on. It was all there in front of you: a football game fully denuded of its innate footballiness.
What you saw was also, by far, the most breathtaking NFL game of the season. Like February's Super Bowl, Chiefs/Pats didn't have a single boring moment, and the fact that poor Speaks was utterly hamstrung from making a critical play in a critical moment does little to dim the legitimacy of the outcome for me, the viewer at home. If you think this brand of Big-12ian track meet represents the nadir of NFL gameplay, I can assure you that the NFL had heard your complaints and gives precisely zero fucks about them. They've been hearing people rattle their canes about the supposed pussification of football for four decades now, and ignoring those pleas has not only profited them handsomely, but it has resulted in a brand of football that is, frankly, much more entertaining the turgid, ground-and-pound dogshit that so many old fuddies duddies still yearn for.
Again, none of these grievances are new. Remember the furor over the "in the grasp" rule? Back in the 1979, the NFL ordered refs to blow a play dead if a defender had the QB in his grasp but hadn't quite brought him down yet (had Speaks held onto Brady for one more second, he may have been a beneficiary of this call). People were fucking LIVID about that rule. Even the quarterbacks hated it, including Terry Bradshaw:
Bradshaw said, "It is a stinking rule; it is just killing us (quarterbacks). We can't be athletes anymore. We're sissies."
Bradshaw is roughly as bright as a windowless closet, but he wasn't alone in complaining about that rule being the sport's death knell. Forty years later, no one bitches about "in the grasp" anymore. That's how these changes go in the NFL. The NFL is a website redesign you hate for six minutes before getting used to. Its owners are a damp-brained lot, but they know enough to know that you'll still gobble up whatever shit they give you, and you'll do it even more greedily if the changes they make jack up the collective fantasy scoring output by 15 percent. The game changes, and people adjust even when they claim they don't want to.
This year's insane offensive outburst was likely a happy accident, the collective result of NFL owners constantly tinkering with the rules in a showy effort to make the sport safer and, more important on their end, to keep the stars out on the field longer. Those moves have somehow paid off. Only one major QB (Jimmy Garoppolo) has gone down for the year, and that was the result of a freakish non-contact injury. For the moment, QBs have never been healthier.
The new rules have also made playing quarterback easier, which is another welcome development. You could say it's a damning indictment of football when Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Mitch Trubisky can rack up 400 yards passing any given week, but the truth is that it's a lot more fun to watch those men succeed than it is to watch them fail. It's also nice to know that, so long as Nathan Peterman isn't on your roster, losing a starting QB doesn't nuke your season. I have no interest in going back to a time when only six QBs knew what they were doing, and half of those six were on IR.
And we're not going back. Against all odds, the NFL has managed to un-fuck itself this season and jack ratings back up, and it has done so in the face of hemorrhaging viewership across the rest of the industry. You can bitch all you like about those roughing-the-passer penalties. They are the absolute smallest cost of doing business, as far as the NFL is concerned. They're not gonna fix it. This IS the fix. If anything, they're gonna make it even harder to sack any QB not named Marcus Mariota. This is working for the NFL. They've been hearing complaints about football not being as good as it used to be for about as long as Lorne Michaels has heard the same shit about his show. They're used to tuning us out on these matters, and they're probably right to do so.
They don't mind turning defenders into collateral damage to goose the on-field action, and it turns out that I don't mind all that much either. Before the season began, everyone was freaking out about the newly instituted helmet contact rule, myself included. In response to all that pre-uproar, SI's Tim Layden whipped out a take that more or less shut it all down:
This year they have tightened the rules involving the helmet in collisions and fans have not liked it. Taking the head out of football collisions remains an almost impossible task, and enforcing rules in this area is very challenging. This is what changing football looks like. A safer game will look different.
Whether or not the football is actually safer right now is hard to quantify, especially given the NFL's eagerness to do so favorably. But, and I can't believe I gotta hand it to Roger Goodell here, he DID say they were gonna change the game, and they have, and the end result in 2018 has been demonstrably better television. Is it different from the NFL of my youth? Of course it is. That's how this shit goes. Expecting a sport to stay exactly the same year to year is naïve and foolhardy, and frankly deprives you of the pleasure of watching it evolve. The sport changes, whether you want it to or not. It shifts and morphs, giving each season its own shape and storyline, and there's an enjoyment to be had in watching that progression, especially now that the primetime games are decent again. The NFL has handled the bulk of its evolution with a blind, staggering clumsiness. They don't deserve a product this good, but they found it, and if you think they're gonna dial it back just for poor Breeland Speaks's sake, you must have been watching a different league all these years.
Patriots at Bears: Let's talk for a moment about Bigger: The Joe Weider Story.
If you were unaware of this movie until now, you're not alone. Bigger made a grand total of $31,477 on its opening weekend. This is a pity, because I feel like America was extremely primed for a biopic of the, uh, dude on Mega Amino 4000 pseudo-vitamin label. Starring Tom Arnold and Steve Guttenberg, no less! Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a character in it! Haven't you always wanted to see a movie about Arnold Schwarzenegger...........'s mentor? I KNOW I HAVE! I feel like the 300 people who saw this movie in the theater are the EXACT same 300 people who saw Gotti in the theater.
Bengals at Chiefs: I was watching a game on my phone last week, and if you watch any game using Sunday Ticket on your phone, the app has a quick pop-up box that alerts you to a score that happened in another game, plus it gives you the option to play the highlight if you want. I promise you that this little quirk is coming to all TV broadcasts. It's a given because A) Producers always feel compelled to add a new graphic flourish every year, even when it isn't necessary (like the Green Zone), and B) It makes sense to add a dash of Red Zone Channel to every game, especially in dead spots between plays. How many game breaks do you get during as normal broadcast? Maybe a dozen, if that? At some point, maybe when they finally end their deal with AT&T, the NFL will go hog wild and stuff highlights into every broadcast orifice.Four Throwgasms
Saints at Ravens: We have to do something about Curt Menefee's halftime previews. First of all, I don't need a preview of halftime. It's halftime. They're gonna show some highlights, let Terry cackle for three straight minutes, and then say goodbye to a recently deceased cameraman. That's halftime every week. And yet, they still trot out Menefee around the two-minute warning to let me know what's coming up, and it's always couched in some hideous, pre-taped, dad joke bit that even I groan at. Like, they have real meetings just to plan this out. What if, for this week, we put Curt next to Howie and Terry while they play ping pong, and then he says 'All that, plus some spirited BACK AND FORTH, next on the Visa Halftime Report.' Does that work for everyone? Will that finally be enough to make the home audience finally commit seppuku this time? Let's hope so, team!
Panthers at Eagles: I have little statistical evidence to back this up, but hear me out: Christian McCaffrey sucks. He sucks. Every week, the Norv game plans to give this man 37 touches a game and he NEVER does anything with them. He has one touchdown this season. How the fuck does he have one touchdown if Cam Newton is the QB and has no one else to throw to? I'll tell you why: because he's ASS. He's like if you made the Giants offensive game plan into a person.Three Throwgasms
Titans at Chargers (London): This is roughly the 57th straight year of " There's momentum building for a London team! " stories, so let me just throw a fun stat out there for you: the aggregate score of the last six London games has been 190-34. And that stat will grow even more hideous once the Titans stroll into town and proceed to dismember their own quarterback despite having two Pro Bowl tackles. If you're faffing bloke of a lad who's positively CHUFFED over the idea of an NFL team taking up permanent residence in your town, do take a moment to reconsider.
Cowboys at Skins: I'm getting very tired of analysts trying to hype up second-string puds on the any given team's roster. It's like training camp never ended. "Jason Garrett loves what he's seen so far from this Dave Farto. The Cowboys think he has a bright, bright future ahead of him, Joe." Just once, I would like the color guy to be like, "Wow, they threw in this pud? LOL they must be really hard up for linebackers if THAT asshole is out there." Sure, that color guy would then be immediately fired and deemed unhireable for the rest of his career, but what about MY needs?Vikings at Jets Lions at Dolphins Two Throwgasms
Giants at Falcons: I know the Raiders are off this week, but...
I know I hyperbolize everything. I take a shit bigger than a candy bar and I'm ready to broadcast the news to America about it. But I swear to you, in my life, I have never, ever seen franchise sabotage on this level. Not even when Josh McDaniels got the Denver job. It's appalling. Two years ago, this team was the future of the AFC. Now Jon Gruden has torn it all apart just to build a new roster that will NEVER be as good. He is a child who is never happy with the toys he already has.
Let me tell you something, you empty visor: you can get up later now. It's over. If you AREN'T tanking, you're missing the point. The commissioner should step in.
Texans at Jaguars: The other day I started to open up a seltzer bottle, only it hissed and began to bubble quickly. That's when my Bomb Squad instincts kicked in and I deftly screwed the cap back on before the fucker could spew all over me. Now tell me, is there a sweeter feeling IN THE WORLD than the shaken bottle save? [Brian Regan voice] I submit that there is NOT. I feel like I just put the pin back in a grenade. It's a real moment of triumph for me. Then I let my guard down, go to open a bottle of Coke Zero, and get treated to an aspartame volcano.
Rams at Niners: I'd like to tell you about two Fox color men. The first is Ronde Barber. The second is Mark Schlereth. I listened to Barber do a whole game last week and, I have to tell you, he was extremely pleasant. He was conversational without being intrusive, and he was knowledgeable without being overbearing. At one point, the QB got sacked by the back of his shoulder pads on a play and Barber, unprompted, reminded the audience that it's not a horse collar penalty if the quarterback gets taken down in the pocket. That's helpful information, right? Barber delivered it straight away, so that you, the viewer at home, could stop screaming HORSE COLLAR at the TV set until your ventricles burst.
So that's Barber. Barber is good. Now we come to Schlereth, who now does games with mummified gin bottle Dick Stockton in a pairing that clearly hatched out of the devil's toilet. Schlereth is fucking UNBEARABLE. He never has anything useful to say and yet he never shuts the fuck up. He is an invasive fungus upon the broadcast, and the worst part is that networks have been giving him consistent work for YEARS! I've been bitching about Mark Schlereth here before half our current staff was born. Who the fuck likes this guy? How fucking hard is to root through audition tapes and find another Ronde Barber for the fifth-string game of the week? Fire Mark Schlereth out of a cannon.Browns at Bucs One Throwgasm
Broncos at Cardinals: When things aren't going well for him (which is to say, all the time), Vance Joseph is very good at making the Grim Tiger Woods face. You ever see Tiger hit a drive he doesn't care for? That's Vance Joseph, but every down.
Bills at Colts: I'm going to have to hire a tutor to teach my children how to pour a drink. There is nothing more nerve-wracking than watching these children handle liquids. My daughter will turn a bottle all the way upside down to fill a glass. And my youngest son will fill the cup at the way to the fucking brim. Every time. It's lunacy. I keep yelling at them YOU'RE GONNA FUCKING SPILL, and then they're like, "No I'm not," and keep carrying on. My hair is going gray and this is the reason why.
"Man Behind the Curtain," by Valient Thorr! Here's Brian:
Draw the curtain back to discover the depths of this band's debauched rock soul. The opening riffage slams into your skull like the hammer of Thor himself. Each band member looks to be entranced by the all encompassing power of the RIFF. LET IT INSIDE YOU. Then the singer (looking shockingly identical to the guy who offered you a swig of his homemade MoonPie flavored bathtub gin from an empty plastic milk jug in the parking lot at your high school's homecoming game) ambles onstage to deliver vocals neither proficient nor agreeable to the ear, but piercingly captivating all the same. He uses his microphone cable to swing from the rafters of what is no doubt an illegally zoned concert hall to give the sweaty masses a taste of his drunk-Tarzan-esque grace. Around the 2:05 mark the song takes nightmarish turn where the singer has been bereft of his shirt, lights flash ominously, and the "curtain is drawn." WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?! GIVE IN, or IT WILL CONSUME YOU!
Sir, I don't know what your day job is, but quit it right this instant. It's time for you to assume your rightful place as editor-in-chief of Metal Hammer. Whoever is currently running that mag now is FIRED. The job belongs to you, BRIAN. Maybe it always has.
I know that Phil Mushnick has appeared a lot in this space over the years, because he is the worst. Ah, but showcasing Mushnick means giving short shrift to all of the OTHER horrible columnists that the New York Post has sicced upon the reading public over the years: Steve Dunleavy, Andrea Peyser, Funny Cide, and such and such. Just look at sports columnist and human block of muenster cheese Mark Cannizzaro, who turned in this take earlier in the week:
How sweet it will be for Jets to shut up classless Kirk Cousins
See now, I'm all for shutting up Kirk Cousins. Every time Kirk opens his mouth, he embarrasses God. So we're on steady ground here for a moment, although presuming a Jets win is usually ill-advised for 5,000 different reasons.
He left $6 million on the table to go to Minnesota. He chose the Mall of America over Manhattan, Olive Garden over Il Mulino.
There's an Olive Garden in Times Square. The wait is always two hours. If developers in Manhattan have their way (and they will), every mom-and-pop restaurant on that island will be razed and replaced with an overpriced chain restaurant within the next five years. Also, the Jets play in Jersey's asshole.
Good for him. And good for the Jets, who are on a much better path - for now and the future - with their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Sometimes the moves you don't make in life are the most important ones you make.
Oh, so you're better off now. So everything is good?
How delicious would it be for the Jets to exact sweet revenge on Cousins on Sunday with Darnold, who's improving every week, outplaying the $84 million man?
But that's... that's not how revenge works. Revenge is for when someone leaves you broken and helpless and wounded. Kirk spared you three years of Kirk. Where does revenge factor in here?
Revenge is a dish best served cold. The high on Sunday is expected to be about 52 degrees.
That's not very cold. Revenge is a dish best served pleasantly nippy? As you can see, this one of the Post 's trademark "New York was too tough for this pussy to handle!" sort of columns. You can hear Sinatra playing on a Victrola as you read it.
The 75,000 or so fans who'll be at the game Sunday have a chance to show the chip on their collective shoulders and show Cousins what he's missing - other than that $6 million he left on the table.
First of all, that $6 million extra the Jets offered would have immediately been taxed and allocated to Bill De Blasio's budget line for rain buckets in the subway system. Secondly, has anyone, in history, ever FOMO'ed the Jets? No, they have not. I am a Vikings fan but I don't think I'm biased in pointing out that the Jets have the horrific misfortune of being the Jets. Win or lose, I don't think that guy is trotting away from the Meadowlands being like, "Boy I wish I played for the little brother team in this sewage drain!"
When Cousins was about to sign with the Vikings, McCartney waxed on about how he was going to a place where people are "Minnesota Nice."
Well yeah, they're all fakes. Just like Cousins! Of course he liked that more than the overpriced pothole of a city where everyone is a cock.
Jets fans, if you have one task on Sunday, it is this: Show Cousins what "Meadowlands Nice" is.
My friend, I assure you that they are more than up to the task. Once they give themselves blood poisoning in the parking lot and then file into that graveyard of a stadium and then scream themselves hoarse for tits, they'll be primed and READY to exact sweet, sweet revenge on a man who, uh, ensured them a brighter future than if he had signed with them?Cryptkeeper Al Davis Lock Of The Week: Texans +4
"EEEEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!!! Looks like trouble in paraSLICE for you, BLADE Bortles! Maybe Tom WHOOPING COUGHlin should have traded for a different QB when he SAW you play! But now you'll have to face down JJ ROT and the HEXans! EEEEE HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!!! I hope their defensive SCREAM doesn't have you falling to PIECES! That wouldn't be very KNIFE!"
Maybe we should just put every Raider here for the rest of eternity. That's how long Gruden will be in charge anyway. Reader Ethan was already livid about this weeks ago:
It's only halftime but fuck Amari Cooper. Week 1 he sucks ass. I bench him in week 2. He goes off. Back in my lineup for week 3. He sucks ass. Bench him for this week and he's already scored a touchdown. This is Gruden getting revenge on me for thinking he was always a hack coach.
I assure you, good sir, the only person Gruden is getting revenge on currently is himself.
Dodd's Furniture! Reader Templeton sends in this horrific ad from Western Canada's foremost mattress purveyor/pop culture parodist:
Gordy Dodd of Dodds furniture in Victoria, BC has been doing these insane fever dream furniture ads since the late 90's and is somehow not improving at it over time. Here he is 7 years ago after over a decade of honing his acting chops. And here's Gordy employing the Stanislavsky Method in December 2016 to channel the actual Jon Snow or possibly Gene Simmons.
A Game Of Thrones parody? Why hasn't anyone else thought of that before?
(*potential midseason firing)
Every time Aaron Rodgers performs one of his little miracles, he unwittingly helps ensure the job security of the very coach whose unending idiocy forces Rodgers to perform those miracles on a daily basis. Even as the fan of a rival team, I swear to you that this displeases me. I genuinely hate Beav and want him out of Green Bay for Rodgers's sake. Imagine how much EASIER his life would be if his coach wasn't a grunting bag of ham. It's like they force Rodgers to play with one arm tied behind his back every week.
Here's Mike with a story I call GRAMPY GOT FINGERED:
My grandfather grew up very poor in the slums of my Boston area town. He's an amazing person, but he can be a little rough around the edges. Somehow he worked his way up in the local bowling alley (candlepin of course), managed to buy the business cheap in the 70s, and scratched out a nice life.
One day ~30 years ago he went to fix one of the pin machines and cut off about half of his right ring finger. He couldn't find the nub so he got it cauterized. A day later he finds his finger, puts it in the freezer at my grandparents house, and announces he's going to make a lucite bookend with the finger inside. My grandma was definitely not pleased about this, and the finger managed to quickly disappear. Grandpa was livid. I once asked him if he ever had doubts about their marriage; they were together 70 years till my grandma died. His response: "the time I got the maddest at her was when she threw away my damn finger".
Bonus Story: Same grandpa once left a can of orange soda sitting out for a day or two in the summer. You can't waste good soda according to him, so he went to drink it and got a mouthful of dead ants that had fallen in and drowned. That whole summer he left half drank cans of orange soda all over the house since "they're far better than those Raid traps".
Bonus Bonus Story: Same grandpa to this day drinks a glass of milk with crushed up saltines in it before bed. He "likes his milk to have a little texture".
Ice cream cake! For my birthday a few weeks ago, my wife got me a Carvel cake in the shape of a football with EXTRA chocolate crunchies. I was the happiest boy on the block that day. Crunchies are so fucking CLUTCH.
House beer! Reader Jonathan sends in this ironic cheap beer gone wrong:
I'm having drinks at a hipster "speakeasy" (oh Lord) in the basement of a Best Buy in Los Angeles. I ask the bartender what's on special and I'm told the House Beer is $4. He adds that it's locally brewed down the street in Venice, CA. Great! I order it and to my chagrin, I get a 12oz can of, literally, "House Beer". A flat, liquid cardboard. A mouthfeel of what a Lager's aspirations were before it spent 5 years in Hollywood JUST TRYIN' TO MAKE IT.
Brutal. Never trust a cheap beer that isn't actually a cheap beer. For the real thing, you have to go to a heartless multinational conglomerate churning out millions of gallons of rice piss by the hour. Those are the people who make your mass-produced swill the RIGHT way.
"I don't need some fancy blood test to prove I'm part-Indian, you understand me? All I need is this...
[rolls up sleeve]
"You see that? That's a ceremonial tattoo of the Susquehannock. They only give these out for taking down enemies in combat. I can't speak much about what I did, but let's just say Peoria Joe learned the hard way about stealing from my friends. Know what I mean? This tattoo took 14 hours to put on my arm, okay? Tribal elders do it using mackerel bones. You ever sit for 14 hours while some guy pricks you with a fish bone? I got a boil on my ass now the size of a pitcher's mound. Small price to pay for this though, if you ask me. They say this baby gets me into the afterlife. No such luck for Peoria Joe. I'll leave it at that."
Moonlight. I saw Moonlight two years after everyone else did, and thus I have no one to share my smoking hot Moonlight takes with. This is a pity because my Moonlight takes are STERLING, and I'm gonna leave them here because I am a selfish monster. First of all, the movie is good. You won't hear that from a lot of critics or award bodies, but I'm brave enough to say it. Secondly, the two kids who play Chiron in his early years (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders) are better than Mahershala Ali, who won an Oscar for it. Thirdly, the third dude who plays Chiron is WAYYYYYY too fucking buff. Like, I know they explain that Chiron works out a lot and does knuckle pushups because he doesn't want to look as fragile as he feels. That's all well and good, but he had a gangly frame in the first two parts. Now we get to the third part and he's wider than 50 Cent. It's like he bought a new skeleton. ARE WE SIMPLY SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE THAT?! I hope this plot point is addressed in later installments of the Barry Jenkins cinematic universe.
"We're always buying Maggie vaccinations for diseases she doesn't even have!"
Enjoy the games, everyone.