Man Getting Hit By Football: Week Three

The Sad Bowl. The Browns in, um, transition. Scary moments and metaphors in which you are both the Colts and a failing comedian.
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Illustration by Brad Beatson.

Kansas City (+3) at Philadelphia

During Sunday’s game between the Eagles and the Chargers, there was what announcers call a “scary moment.” San Diego receiver Malcom Floyd tried to make a catch in the middle of the field and got slammed between two Philadelphia defenders—in the replay you could see his head whip and crunch backwards as it collided with a shoulder pad. The whole bar grimaced at that one. It was a car accident with no cars.

First a few doctors, then an entire team of medical professionals gathered around Floyd as he lay crumpled on the field like a broken toy. The players milled around on the edges of the scene—I don’t know what they thought of all this, but they were probably and quite reasonably saying versions of something like, Damn. In the end, Floyd got carted off the field on one of those horrible stretchers, and the good news is that he’s as OK as a person can be after going through something like that. There are still scans to be processed, but he’ll likely be playing again this season.

This sort of ugliness happens fairly often in the NFL, of course, which is why phrases like “scary moment” came to be so queasily familiar. Even worse things occur at lower levels of football—a high school player died after a helmet-to-helmet hit this week. This is a dangerous sport, and unless you’ve written the whole enterprise off as a moral disaster on par with public executions and no longer watch, you’ve probably thought about how it could be made safer, if not exactly safe.

The NFL could adopt one of the many helmet designs that supposedly reduce the risk of concussions; it’s unclear how effective these helmets are, but the league could certainly give them a try. It could require players to wear less protection, which some claim would mean they would take fewer risks. Or it could go wackier and institute drastic rule changes, as college football authorities did back in 1906, when they allowed the forward pass in hopes of cutting down on the number of deaths and injuries in the game. What about letting teams throw multiple forward passes per down?

That won’t happen, but neither, it seems, will anything else. The NFL has decided to basically do nothing about the safety of its players beyond issue some fines and appearing stern at strategic moments. Sure, Roger Goodell and company are offering $10 million in prize money for people who come up with “helmet innovations,” but that’s a laughably small sum for the multi-billion dollar industry—and, given the league’s history of actively suppressing new helmet technology, it’s pretty laughable to believe that its offer of relative pocket change to help fund concussion research means it cares about its players now.

What the NFL does care about is shit like cracking down on players using profanity on the field, and making sure the guys risking broken bones or worse so we can be entertained don’t celebrate too much after doing things right. The league wants the games, those bloody choreographed micro-epics, to be as sanitized and glossy and advertiser-friendly as possible, but is willing to let them be as violent and destructive as ever. Which makes sense, since those games and that violence are the league’s products. The players are just the employees, and most are easily replaceable. (Some stars also count as product, which is why the league seems so eager to protect quarterbacks from lasting damage.)  

I love watching football, but I can’t stand the suits who are selling it to me, the executives who want to repackage the chaotic and violent beauty of the game into a sleek, soulless, blindingly American video game, where faceless players blurt platitudes before crashing into each other and disappearing into the air before anyone can notice their injuries.

All of which is to say to the players in what’s sure to be a decent-to-okay Thursday night contest: be careful out there, guys. It’s only a game.

PICK: Philadelphia

Tampa Bay (+7) at New England

The league’s War on Excessive Celebration and Taunting meant that last week, when Tampa Bay returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown that gave them the lead in the fourth quarter at home against their divisional rival, they were penalized for enjoying it too much. It would cost the league a lot to try to fix the game’s concussion problem, but it would cost them nothing to let players show genuine emotion after plays. So why doesn’t the NFL go ahead and do that?

PICK: New England

Green Bay (-2) at Cincinnati

Emotion is the best part of NFL games, after the actual football. Exhibit 1:

This is probably the best game of the week, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll get to see a hefty guy celebration.

PICK: Green Bay

Arizona (+7.5) at New Orleans

Another example of the NFL’s constipated and PR-centric approach to player safety and discipline was the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal, where the league found out about the team’s practice of paying defensive players to deliver nasty, injury-causing hits, then proceeded to punish the individual players, as well as coach Sean Payton.

Which sounds reasonable, except bounties were relatively common around the NFL, and that the onerous player suspensions Goodell handed down were judged by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to be arbitrary and inconsistent. Maybe players aren’t pooling their money to pay bounties anymore, which is a good thing—invest it, go get some sushi or ugly new suits, just don’t give it to Dashon Goldson for trying to decapitate someone. But the NFL’s way of expressing its displeasure with the practice was hamfisted, unneccesarily harsh, and late, like much of the policies that the guys at the top implement. In case I’m not being clear enough: fuck that, and fuck them.

PICK: Arizona

Cleveland (+6.5) at Minnesota

BROWNS NEWS SIREN:

The Browns announced the were starting their third-string quarterback on the same day they traded their best offensive player. I hope everyone is looking forward to the Browns’ December 1 matchup with the Jaguars.  

PICK: Minnesota

Detroit (+1.5) at Washington

The R******s are a mess. Their quarterback Robert “The Third” Griffin isn’t able to run like he was thanks to that big ol’ knee brace he has to lug around, their defense is maybe the worst in the league, and coach Mike Shanahan has to answer dumb questions about benching Griffin, as if the R******s would magically be able to tackle if Kirk Cousins was throwing the ball. Now fans are apparently protesting their racist name when the team goes on the road:

The last bit, at least, makes some sense.

PICK: Detroit

Houston (-2.5) at Baltimore

This contest between two AFC contenders has all the posters at MattSchaubAndJoeFlaccoFallingDownWhileGettingHit.co.uk extremely excited.

PICK: Baltimore

San Diego (+3) at Tennessee

Speaking of quarterbacks falling down:

Ha! Philip Rivers, I have never met you but you seem kinda jerky when you play, and now I get to laugh at you getting punk’d by a big dude who probably also thinks you’re a jerk.

PICK: San Diego

St. Louis (+4) at Dallas

I can’t do a better job of recapping the kinda-thrilling experience of watching the Cowboys lose a sloppy game to the Chiefs than Sports On Earth's Mike Tanier did this week:

“Chiefs-Cowboys was an odd game, of the kind often played between two bad teams that can each do one or two things very well. The Cowboys blitzed Alex Smith frequently and effectively, as if they had read every scouting report filed about Smith, ever. Meanwhile, Tony Romo completed 25 of 30 passes at one point in the game, but the Cowboys only had 13 points, thanks to a combination of sacks, awful field position (the Cowboys started three straight drives at or inside their 10-yard line in one sequence; Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt was by far the game's MVP), and seven-yard passes on 3rd-and-10.”

Sometimes close games can be terrible, especially when the Cowboys are involved. We might see another one this Sunday.

PICK: St. Louis  

“New York” Giants (+1) at Carolina

Last week, this happened:

A blown coverage on the last play of the game is bad. It’s the tenth fourth-quarter lead blown by the Panthers under head coach Ron Rivera, which is worse. During Rivera’s tenure, the team is 2-13 in close games… you see where this is going. Fans have overwhelmingly called for Rivera to be fired, because he doesn’t seem to be any good at his job. It’s a shame, because in some alternate universe a better-coached, more prepared version of the Panthers is a playoff contender thanks to their great running game, superlatively talented quarterback, and tough front seven.    

PICK: Carolina

Atlanta (+2.5) at Miami

The reason Miami is favored in this game is both running back Steven Jackson and (maybe more importantly) linebacker Sean Weatherspoon are both injured. Weatherspoon’s sprained foot is going to keep him out at least eight weeks, which is terrible news for the Falcons, but you have to think they’re still better than the Dolphins, who barely beat a shaky Colts team last week. (He said confidently, days before a 24-17 Miami victory.)

PICK: Atlanta

Indianapolis (+10) at San Francisco

This game will be the football equivalent of you going home to visit your parents to find your sister in the kitchen explaining to your dad why she has to go to Shanghai again because no one else at the firm knows the language well enough. As she drizzles truffle oil on the complex salad she is making, your dad asks why you’re there and you tell him you’re taking fewer shifts at the restaurant so you can focus on your comedy.

“Your what?” he asks.

“Comedy, dad, remember? You saw me do a show once.”

“You’re still doing that? OK, tell me a joke.”

The weekend goes downhill from there.

(In this metaphor, the aforementioned shaky Colts are you, and you should really think about grad school at this point, by the way. Stop kidding yourself.)

PICK: San Francisco

Buffalo (+2.5) at “New York” Jets

Oh Jesus, it’s one of the six yearly Sad Bowls played by AFC East teams who are not the Patriots. Someday, Tom Brady will retire and the dynasty (they’ve won ten out of the last 12 division titles) will be over. Not this year, though.

PICK: “New York” Jets

Jacksonville (+19.5) at Seattle

This line is absurdly high, but if I were putting real money on this predictions I would never, ever, bet on the Jags in any capacity. In the glimpse I got of their gormless 19-9 loss to the Raiders, they looked like a bunch of schlubs who took Introduction to Football as a Professional Environment at a community college then got thrown out on the field before their final.

PICK: Seattle

Chicago (-2.5) at Pittsburgh

If you find yourself somewhere this Sunday night arguing that Jay Cutler is not a bad quarterback, here are some talking points to help you out:

1. He’s a gunslinger who will give your team a chance to win.

2. Football is a game of inches.

3. Offensive line play!

4. He is no longer “seeing ghosts” (????!!!!????)

5. Other quarterbacks are much worse.  

6. Especially around women. Like, other quarterbacks in this game.

PICK: Pittsburgh

Oakland (+15) at Denver

If you wonder why, after three straight weeks of writing about how awful and bullshit the NFL is, I still love it so dang much and pay attention to it, all I can say is that I love watching a really, really good team like the Broncos. Even when they’re demolishing substandard opponents, as they will be on Monday.

PICK: Denver

Previous week’s record: 10-6
Overall record: 18-13-1
Lines taken from FootballLocks.com


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