Man Getting Hit By Football: Week Nine

In which we reach the point in the NFL season where we can acknowledge that many/most of these teams are not fun.
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Illustration by Brad Beatson.

Cincinnati (-3) at Miami

We’re at the point in the NFL season when it’s okay to acknowledge and increasingly difficult not to admit it: many pro football games are not very much fun to watch. Star players are hurt, teams are dressing up medium-size farm animals and stacks of empty soda cans and Actual Kellen Clemens-es in jerseys and using them as quarterbacks, certain offensive and defensive units have revealed themselves as unable to move the ball in the correct direction. As is the case every year, we discover that football is a really tough game and there are maybe like five “elite” teams capable of functioning as smooth NFL machines. The rest of them are basically just tossing a bunch of muscular men in color-coordinated outfits onto the field and hoping they work together.

At the beginning of the season I made some not-very-coherent comparisons between football and ballet. Which is a nice enough idea, if not that novel, but which had no resemblance at all to the thing that happened when Seattle played St. Louis on Monday. It was, in a sense, like watching ballet, except the dancers kept falling down for no reason and the performance stopped every five minutes while a man in stripes comes out to explain in a Southern accent the particular legalistic offense that means things went wrong. Oh, and also, when a dancer does a really good chateaubriand (or whatever, I’m sorry I don’t know ballet slang), he celebrates in the crassest way possible:

So no, that game wasn’t very good. Neither was the Panthers-Buccaneers Thursday night game, which featured Mike Glennon tossing a ball at nothing in particular while continuing to look like the kid from Gummo. And neither was the Bengals’ 49-9 shellacking of the Jets or the muffled grinding sound that was Kansas City-Cleveland; neither was whatever happened when the Raiders played the Steelers; the less said about the field-goal-riffic Giants win over the Eagles, the better. Even the most thrilling game of the week, the Lions’ 31-30 last-second-surprise-QB-sneak victory against the Cowboys, included the Cowboys getting a stupid holding penalty near the end of the game that stopped the clock.

It takes a lot of guys doing incredibly athletic stuff in tandem to make a football play look pretty. When those guys are hurt, or tired, or not having good days, the game resembles what it must have looked like back in the early days of the NFL: a bunch of big men driving each other into the mud and flailing at an oddly-shaped ball that usually floats just out of their reach.

The Bengals can be fun to watch, provided you like defensive struggles and large men dressed like cartoon tigers crashing into each other. Miami, well, they’re getting “It’s not time to panic yet!!!” articles written about them in the local paper, which is never a good sign. As is the case for a bunch of the games this week, it’s sort of a lopsided matchup on paper that could be an upset if the better team screws up a bunch. The rest of the games feature two teams trying their darndest to just play football competently and not get hurt too bad.

The NFL—where some of the teams are okay.

PICK: Cincinnati

Atlanta (+7.5) at Carolina

The Falcons best receiver is currently Harry Douglas, who has a name that should belong to a vaudeville performer with an act centered around a talking pickle. Last week, they managed to lose to the Cardinals—who rushed for over 200 yards for the first time in many years—by double digits. It’s now apparently headline news when Tony Gonzalez doesn’t want to leave the team. What I’m trying to say is…

It’s more like the FalCAN’Ts

There, a one-sentence paragraph that is also a disparaging pun—do I get a vote for the NFL Hall of Fame now?

PICK: Carolina

Minnesota (+10.5)  at Dallas

Last week, Christian Ponder threw 14 completions for 145 yards and had no interceptions or touchdowns; the Vikings lost. Naturally, the Vikings are considering keeping him as the starter. I think the Vikes need to do a little bit more PONDERing before they make such a decision—right now they’re acting like they have a HEAD INJURY like the one Josh Freeman suffered. This Hall of Fame vote is going to rule.

PICK: Minnesota

New Orleans (-6) at “New York” Jets

Do you wake up on Sundays suddenly gripped by a compulsive, all-consuming need to watch men in suits talk loudly about NFL football? Are you an insomniac who builds little piles of bitten-off fingernails and needs something—anything—to distract you from that caged, roiling feeling in your chest? Did you pass out after drinking can after can of warm malt liquor while watching the NFL Channel? Well, the NFL heard your anguished groans. They created the 7am show NFL GameDay FIRST just for you! Seek help!

PICK: New Orleans

Tennessee (-3) at St. Louis

“Kellen Clemens to Start in Week 9, Fantasy Value Low” is an actual headline. Other events that will have little effect on your fantasy league include:

-Any upcoming elections
-The firing of an incompetent cutlery salesman in Fort Worth, TX
-The Dow Jones going up or down
-The birth of your cousin’s second daughter
-James Franco thinking about hovercars
-The dog going under the deck again

PICK: St. Louis

Kansas City (-3.5) at Buffalo

Here’s a song ostensibly about the Kansas City Chiefs:

According to his Facebook, the artist is from Cameroon and now lives in Georgia, which doesn’t explain why he’s singing (rapping?) about the Chiefs—nor does it explain the titles of his other songs, which include “You My Coca-Cola” and “My Halloween Song.” The world is a strange and wonderful place, and the Chiefs remaining undefeated is a part of that.

PICK: Buffalo

San Diego (-1) at Washington

This game brings up an almost existential question. Since it involves two teams who are almost certain not to make the playoffs, why would you want to watch it? Is it to see Robert Griffin III play against a soft defense, watch Philip Rivers celebrate like a child after every completed pass, or keep track of your fantasy team? Or is it simply because the rest of the early afternoon games look like 12-7 struggles? Any answer is acceptable, honestly.

PICK: San Diego

Philadelphia (+2.5) at Oakland

A fun thing to do is to read an article titled “Barkley Continues Adjustment to the NFL” on the Philadelphia Eagles website, then read an article on ESPN posted a day later that announces Nick Foles is starting instead of Matt Barkley. That really clarifies what “adjustment” means. PS the Eagles’ offense has scored three points in two games and I still think they could win this one.

PICK: Philadelphia

Seattle (-16) at Tampa Bay

The Seahawks did not deserve to win on Monday night, but neither did the Rams. It was one of those weird games where there were huge mismatches created by injuries—the Rams’ defensive ends could walk past the wadded mounds of athletic socks the Seahawks had pressed into service at both tackle spots, but on the other hand Kellen Clemens has tiny hands made of glass and therefore couldn’t complete a pass. This game will at least be more watchable than that. Right?

PICK: Tampa Bay

Baltimore (-2.5) at Cleveland

I love flea-flickers. Teams can toss the ball backwards as much as they want but they hardly ever do, so any time they start taking advantage of this it’s just more thrills than I can take. He’s running up the middle—OH WAIT HE’S TOSSING THE BALL BACKWARDS! YES!

The Browns should build a whole offense based around that play. It would be better than what they have now.

PICK: Baltimore

Pittsburgh (+6.5) at New England

I picture important sports news in New England being spread from village to village, like Paul Revere but with burly men in pickups driving extremely fast through the suburbs shouting, “Something is wrong with Tom Brady’s throwing hand!”  “Something is wrong with Tom Brady’s THROWING HAND!”

PICK: New England

Indianapolis (-2.5) at Houston

All the whining above about the lameness of many/most NFL teams/games can be thrown out when it comes to the Colts, who have—somewhat insanely—beaten the Seahawks, the 49ers, and the Broncos during the season’s first eight weeks. Their defense made Peyton Manning look mortal a couple weeks ago (Denver scored 33 points, but still), and Andrew Luck is the platonic ideal of a quarterback, give or take a chin. Reggie Wayne is out for the season, which sucks, and will matter eventually. For now, though, this is one of the weird/good teams.

PICK: Indianapolis

Chicago (+10.5) at Green Bay

Josh McCown is starting this game at quarterback for the Bears. He looks like a Build A Player from Madden, sort of a Strapping Blonde Quarterback Template waiting for various attributes to be added. I’m sure he’s a very nice fella and loves animals and would help people out if they had car trouble or something. That’s good. That’s all very good. Good luck, Josh!

PICK: Green Bay

Previous week’s record: 6-7
Overall record: 61-57-2
All lines taken from

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