NFL Week 4: I Won’t Back Down

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The NFL season is now at the one quarter mark before the playoffs begin. It seems to fly by in large part because the league has become a year round spectacle that has surpassed all other leagues to the point fans prefer following the NFL off season more than the regular seasons of MLB, the NBA, and the NHL.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
(Claudia Gestro)

I really believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sells the owners on why off season distractions like player behavior or what to do about the anthem protests are a good thing. Just like movie stars, the NFL seems to have bought into “the only bad press is no press at all.” The only time they sweat is when they can’t get ahead of a story, but in most cases, the league does a good job of controlling the narrative, which allows their spin to outweigh the cynical thoughts of guys like me.

The thing that shocks me is how politicians are unable to do the same. At this time, our president and the GOP have to be jealous of how the NFL manages to always come out smelling like roses while the stench from Washington, D.C. grows worse each week.

How is it a force like the GOP, armed with all the money they have, are unable to swiftly and smoothly shove their agenda down our throats when they control all branches of government? It is the ultimate example of what happens when you have a pack of hungry dogs calling the shots. Each wants to be fed first without disrupting the pack to the point it turns on each other.

Come November, I have a feeling the pack will turn on their fearless leader and other than a few die hard political lovers, the rest of the nation will just chuckle before turning their attention to more important matters like whether or not their team still has a shot at the playoffs.

LA Story: Let me start by saying I did not watch one second of this game. I was too busy watching 90 Day Fiancéwith my wife and five dogs (it’s the one thing our pack can all enjoy together), plus it was Thursday Night which means for an old fart like me, football wasn’t close to being on my mind.

Despite never having been a Rams fan, I am fascinated by this bunch. It is not easy to start the season with four straight wins, but the Rams have done so. It helps this was their third home game. Still, being undefeated at this point is a great thing. The Vikings were expected to be one of the teams to challenge for the NFC’s best record so a win against them gives Los Angeles the tie breaker advantage.

Rams Running Back Todd Gurley II
(Claudia Gestro)

With the rest of the NFC West showing no signs of challenging for a playoff spot, the Rams now have the luxury of setting themselves up for a great playoff run. They will be able to rest guys who are dinged up instead of needing them to play through an injury so they can enter the post season healthy. Home field advantage is great in the NFL post season, but a healthy team is a confident team. A healthy team playing at home can be unbeatable.

Right now Jared Goff is playing like an MVP. Todd Gurley keeps racking up yards on the ground and through the air as well as touchdowns. Their defensive front line is dangerous. Plus, their head coach, Sean McVay, appears to have no ceiling when it comes to dialing up big plays for the offense.

Each week that passes like the first four have for the Rams will just mean a greater sense of confidence for a team that is loaded. Chemistry on and off the field just draws the team that much closer to the point they become the top dogs of the league anxious to tear into their next victim.

Their last hurdle will be seeing how they do on the road, especially in foul weather. At this point, I think it is something they do not think about. The Rams see themselves as a runaway train and have no problem ripping through any opponent’s attempt to derail them. We might be seeing one of the best assembled teams to come along in a long time.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski
(Claudia Gestro)

Not Dead Yet: Despite a sluggish start to their season, the New England Patriots showed us they are not yet going to relinquish their superiority over the rest of the AFC without a fight. The one thing they have always been good at doing is taking care of business within their division and that is exactly what they did this week when they dismantled the previously undefeated Miami Dolphins.

Until someone comes along and makes them work to earn a division title, the Patriots will always land in the post season where they have proven enough times, home or away, no one is more used to playoff pressure than them.

Assuming they roll through the rest of their divisional games, New England just has to play 500 ball outside their division to secure a high playoff seed. If they play .600 ball, they are almost assured home field advantage throughout the playoffs which is about as close to a sure thing to punching another ticket to the Super Bowl.

The beast lives.

Who Now? Tampa Bay decided to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick even though Jameis Winston returned from suspension. Who wouldn’t make that choice given his three straight 400 yard performances? However, after he and the rest of the team laid a giant crapper against the Chicago Bears and dropping to 2 and 2, how long do you stick with him? Apparently, not long since Winston came on in the second half.

Brown Grizzly Bear — We didn’t have any photos of the Chicago Bears (Bill Hughes)

This is looking more like the Bucs of last year and if their slide continues, they will be looking for a new coaching staff next year as well as new quarterbacks.

The Bears, on the other hand, appear to be one of the few teams to come along in a while looking like they can beat anyone with just their defense. The question remains whether or not they can hang with teams like the Rams who have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. However, for now, they are a fun bunch to watch in this day and age of offense.

It’s Lonely At The Top: Philly is finding out just how tough it is to be the defending champs. Each week teams look to make a statement against them and this week, Tennessee showed it has moxie coming from behind to beat the champs.

Any time a young team like the Titans beat a talented squad like the Eagles, it raises their confidence level. It also raises the expectation level of fans who are desperate for a deep playoff run.

Close Ain’t Good Enough: It seems each week the Falcons play in the game of the year and each time they come up short. This week it was a one-point loss to the Bengals. The difference between a playoff team and one that goes looking for a new coach is often how well they do in the games decided by six points or less. So far, the Falcons are failing in this department. The season is still young and they can still win their division, however, if this trend continues, there may be a new sheriff in Atlanta next year.

As for Cincinnati, they were written off before the start of the season. Head coach Marvin Lewis was believed to be coaching for his job and quarterback Andy Dalton was playing for his. Maybe this is the perfect recipe for a great season. The problem is, if they win their division and make a deep playoff run, you are stuck with them and I am not so sure that is a good idea. The AFC North is starting to look like it will be a fun division to follow all season.

It’s Good … Again: In case you missed it, Adam Vinatieri set the NFL record for the most field goals in a career. This should be no surprise considering this is his 63rdseason in the league and he just kicked his 8,265thfield goal.  At least that is what it seems like.

Earl Thomas flipping his team the finger (YouTube)

How Do You Really Feel? In case you missed it part two, Seattle safety Earl Thomas was carted off the field with what appears to be a lower leg fracture. Thomas has been in a contract dispute with the team and has tried to convince the team to trade him to the Dallas Cowboys. Instead, he has been stuck playing ball for a franchise he no longer likes. As he was being carted off, Thomas was seen flipping the bird to his sideline just to let them know what he thinks of them.

Don’t Get Excited: So Oakland finally won a game. Before Raider fans get too excited, you beat the Browns at home and it took you over time to do it. Any team that gives up over 40 points against a rookie quarterback has nothing but a very long season in front of them. Meanwhile, that pass rusher you traded, you know the, the one you recently said is very hard to find even when he is right under your nose, continues to pay big dividends for the Bears.

Raiders QB Derek Carr (Claudia Gestro)

Tick Tock: We are now into October which means the NFL trade deadline looms and there is no bigger prize to be had then Pittsburgh Steeler running back Le’Veon Bell. He is one of those runners who can do it all for a team and wants to be paid what he is worth (more than Todd Gurley). He is tired of being franchised tagged and wants guaranteed money in case he ends up with a career ending injury.

The problem is, the Steelers are not going to break the bank for a guy who is one hit to the knee away from being in a wheel chair. They know they are better off with him in the lineup short term, but the Steelers have always approached things from a long term perspective. As a result, they have grown tired of Bell’s holdout and are listening to trade offers.

Here’s the problem: while Bell wants money he won’t see from the team he is on, that team wants more in compensation from anyone interested in trading for him. Why would a team give up a very high draft pick or picks for a player who clearly thinks of money before the team and who certainly values it more than winning?

This is a perfect example of how the NFL — and by NFL I mean owners and players — are all about business first and foremost while winning games is down the list. Will Pittsburgh get what they want in a trade? Will Bell sign with a new team if traded or sit out the year? Or perhaps, will an organization like New England that thinks winning first, second, and third trade for him knowing they never plan to sign him long term just so they can win another title?

Pittsburgh trading Bell to rival New England is not going to happen. That just leaves 30 other teams to consider his value. Then again, after their loss to division rival Baltimore, Pittsburgh may want to cave and get Bell signed while there is still hope for a good season.

Song Dedication:  This week, I dedicate my song of the week to all parties involved in the Le’Veon bell fiasco. They’re all guilty of playing a high stakes game of NFL Chicken.

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UPDATE: It really looked like the Denver Broncos were going to chalk up their third win of the season against a division rival. Not just any division rival, but the best team in the AFC — the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller of the Denver Broncos — he can’t save Denver’s season alone
(Claudia Gestro)

This year’s QB phenom, Patrick Mahomes, faltered for more than three quarters under a withering defense that introduced him to the turf of Mile High more times than he wants to remember. And then he made some very Mahomes-like — Brett Favre-like — moves. Like making a pass for a first down — with his left hand. While being tackled by Von Miller. He throws right, in case you didn’t know. All through the game ESPN had pictures and video of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid pulling his hair out while Favre made such plays with the Green Bay Packers. Reid was the Green Bay QB coach back in the day. On that series the Chiefs took the lead and never let go.

In the end the Broncos had to watch their hopes for a comeback win vanish into the cool night air of Denver, a mile up from the rest of the NFL. Case Keenum ain’t no joke as a starting QB; he had 245 yards passing and just one interception. Patrick Mahomes had 304 yards —six of which were with his left hand — and his team has another “W” for the season.

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of Patrick Mahomes
making a left-handed pass while being tackled by Von Miller