TMD-B (Late Edition)

We’re still experiencing technical (sleeping) difficulties here at KTNFL, your patience is appreciated.

No Fins No!

Well, this one stung. I didn’t expect it to be as competitive, for starters. Once I was invested in the possibility (and eventually, the high probability) that we would win, what occurred in the last few minutes of this game blew my mind. Blown coverages. A patented Dan Marino fake-spike play by Aaron Rodgers (the insult!), the last-second winning touchdown…

This one stung. But it brings me closer to accepting something that part of me is still reeling against; we need to change the scenery on the sidelines. Joe Philbin is most likely on his way out. In his place? I’m prepared to go on the recruiting trail for Bill Cowher. Who’s with me?

Smile Like You Mean It

Plenty of teams (and/or players) who aren’t the Dolphins have reason to smile after week six. Not one as much as the Dallas Cowboys, who undeniably just put their “for real” stamp on the NFL by beating the defending NFL Champion Seahawks in their own home. The 12th man were stunned by the outcome, even if it was a closely fought contest throughout. This is the house where Russell Wilson isn’t supposed to be frustrated, where Marshawn Lynch isn’t supposed to be limited, where the defense isn’t supposed to be exposed. All of that happened, though, and in the process the people who were living under a rock while Dallas rolled are finally catching on: these Cowboys are for real, and they might be the team to beat in the NFC going forward.

If you’re the Colts, you’re smiling. If you’re J.J. Watt, you’re smiling somewhere down below the frustration of having to play on a team that has too many question marks and too many expiring stars to really compete. Why Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the starting QB is either an indictment on Ryan Mallet or Bill O’Brien, and none of us can know which it is while Fitz continues to start, and struggle.

The NFL experts are, once again, praising the Browns. Why? They beat a Pittsburgh team that can’t get out of their own way offensively and are so unbalanced defensively that the stereotypical “Steel Curtain” mentality we all have regarding the unit simply doesn’t apply anymore. The Browns beat an average team, proving themselves above average: which is where they’ve been since the middle of last year. I do believe they’re on the upswing, but in the AFC North, they’re lucky to not be basement dwellers.

Speaking of that illustrious division, are the Bungles back? It certainly seems so. Vontaze Burfict has some ‘splainin’ to do. Twisting people’s ankles on purpose, bro? You should be ashamed. Cincinnati? I feel for you. I thought this was the best team in the NFL but, after being blown out by the Patriots and dropping the ball (or missing the kick of the ball) against the Panthers, I’m having doubts.

Oh, the Ravens are looking good. Really good. The Buccaneers are occasionally a good scrimmage for opposing offenses, and Joe Flacco took advantage with four (!) first quarter touchdown passes, and five in the first half.

Smile, Joe. You earned your pay check for a change.

In my primer for this week, I made a bit of an off-hand comment about Tony “We Want Field Goals!” Sparano not being able to change the direction of the cellar-dwelling Raiders. Well, he stripped things back and allowed the young talent on his team to shine. Even in defeat, a close game against an opponent like San Diego has to be something to at least subtly grin about.

Who is smiling in New York? We both know I’m referring to both teams here. First, the Jets? I can’t help but enjoy the collapse, but in all fairness, it’s hard to watch. This is a team with zero identity, few emerging prospects and so many glaring holes on their roster that nobody not named Rex Ryan has to be sick to their stomach when they see this team take the field.

And the Giants? How do you get shut up by the Eagles? That’s not a defense capable of shutting anyone out, but they did, and Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoobeedoo and Eli “Afraid Of Birds” Manning should be ashamed.

Get well soon, Victor Cruz. Nothing left more of a mark this weekend than watching his injury, and his reaction to it. I have literally felt that pain, and it’s not pretty.

Don’t Talk To Me About These Teams

Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Minnesota, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, St. Louis.

While I never thought all of them would be able to compete for a playoff spot this year, I certainly expected more from each after six weeks. Perhaps not even in terms of wins and losses, just general competitiveness. The Steelers are losing games on their own, the Bills are still in the hunt but look to be trending in the wrong direction. The Vikings are building something special, but 2014 isn’t going to be the year it all comes together, while the Bears have built something great that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. The Falcons are 90/10 offense/defense, a recipe for failure. The Redskins are…god, what are they? How can a team have so much talent and so little to show for it? And St. Louis? Jeff Fisher is turning them into the Tennessee Titans of the NFC; a nondescript team with decent expectations, the ability to live up to them once a month, and no actual identity or name power. The defensive line that was supposed to be their foundation? What’s been happening there?

Don’t talk to me about these teams. Posers in contender’s clothing.

Hey, Lions Fans, R.E.L.A.X.

I doubt Aaron Rodgers would extend to you the same courtesy he did to Packers fans, you need to understand that, barring something unforeseen, your kicking issues have been solved. Matt Prater is one of the best, he just needs to regain his form. Nobody seemed to notice the 50-something yarder he hit between his deep misses. I doubt Alex Henery could even have hit the upright on that last miss.

So, relax about your kicking. You’re in good hands. You’d better start worrying about your offense, though. There’s no reason why Calvin Johnson should be the catalyst for all their other talent to succeed, but somehow he is. Until they learn to live without him, or with a lesser version of him, the Lions are going to struggle to keep up when their defense can’t do what they’ve been doing. It’ll happen sooner or later.

Either that, or they’ll be winning 16-10 games until they find themselves in the playoffs.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: He put on one of his once-every-blue-moon clinics, so Joe Flacco has to take this however much I hate to give any overpaid player props. Kudos to Kaepernick’s big game, as well.

RB Of The Week: Welcome back, Shady. Welcome to the NFL, Brandon Oliver.

WR Of The Week: Lots of outstanding performances this week, but if you tuned in Thursday Night, you already had your winner. T.Y. Hilton, if you weren’t aware. You should have watched it.

Offensive Line Of The Week: This is at least the second time they’ve won it, but never have they deserved it as much. The Dallas Cowboys kept DeMarco Murray rolling, kept their pocket clean and basically held their own against one of the toughest fronts in football, in the toughest place to communicate in football. No unit in the league had a better performance this week than the Cowboys’ O-line.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: You want to give this to the Eagles, don’t you? They really did play inspired against an offense that, before Sunday Night, had put up at least 30 in three straight contests. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding performance of the Houston Texans’ D, which is also known as J.J. Watt.

Goat Of The Week: Mike Nugent, dig a hole and don’t come out until your next in-game kick. Even then, come out slowly, asking everyone around you “is it safe?” and “are you still mad at me?”

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Jason Garrett? Sure. Rod Marienelli? Oh, yeah. The Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator is the unsung hero of this powerhouse team. This guy is on his way to a head coaching job.

What’s Next

Thursday Night gives us the Jets and Patriots, a game where the unfortunate trend of early-week blowouts should continue. I’ll watch it, of course. I rarely miss a game regardless of the teams playing. But I’d be lying if I said the real draw here is to see the Jets fall a little deeper into a pit of despair…muahaha.

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Come Sunday, we’ll have a bounty of intriguing matchups to observe. Some that are less obvious than others.

At one, the Titans travel to Virginia in a battle of incompetency and lowered expectations. Should make for a close one, at least. The Seahawks have a road game that, even against the Titans of the NFC, might be tough on them. Actually, what am I saying? This team isn’t going to take losing too lightly. If you have Seahawk offensive players on your fantasy team, start them. Start all of them.

The true highlights of the early games are the Colts hosting the Bengals, the Bears hosting the Dolphins and the Lions hosting the Saints.

The Colts have started to cement their “for real” status, but beating the Bengals will be their biggest achievement so far this year. Cincinnati needs to get themselves back on track now, or their hopes at another divisional crown might slip away.

I’m not promoting the Bears-Dolphins game out of simple fandom: these two teams match up extremely well and both have struggled despite having a solid base of talent to work with. Miami’s rushing attack may control the game, but the quick-striking Bears could run away with this in their own way. It’s going to be an exciting game for any football fan.

I think it’s going to happen, and if it does, I’m afraid of what might start happening behind closed doors with the Saints. They’re already a step or two from a failed season; this game is going to be one tough nut to crack, against a Detroit defense that is suddenly capable of dominating at will.

Later on Sunday, the Chiefs and Chargers will meet up and try to lay claim to which team is the 2nd best in the AFC West. But, later that night, the best team in the AFC West will have their work cut out for them when they host the 49ers.

Monday Night’ game has little intrigue, but the possibility has been talked about in regards to Jadaveon Clowney returning to Houston’s lineup. With or without him, watching J.J. Watt dominate opponents never gets old, and I honestly believe he can tip the scales of games by himself. He shouldn’t have to against the Steelers, but with Pittsburgh at home and Houston’s ineptitude elsewhere, he might have to.

Enjoy the games! And remember, when in fantasy doubt, start any defense playing the Jets, any QB playing the Jaguars, and any kicker not playing for the Lions.

I know, I know. Just kidding. Only about the last bit, though.

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