Man Getting Hit By Football: Week Two

In which our prognosticator gets very nervous about the Seahawks and willingly enters a blacked-out Jets bar.
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Illustration by Brad Beatson.

“New York” Jets (+12) at New England

One thing you forget in those grim, colorless spring and summer months in between football seasons is just how overwhelming the NFL is. The sports bar I walked into on Sunday wasn’t so much packed as it was cavernous: high ceilings, a dozen long tables and a big bar under the pallid flatscreen light of ten or so TVs. Shortly after I walked in they taped paper over the windows to protect the massive projector screen from sunlight. No natural light to be had here, son, this is FOOTBALL country!

All the games were playing at once and each broadcast was constantly being interrupted not just by commercials but by highlights from the other games—slowly turn your head to look around the space full of jersey’d fans engaged in their private rooting dramas and you’d experience the NFL Sunday as a blur of sacks and incomplete passes and rushes for gains of three and contextless variously absurd commercials for GEICO and booth reviews and replays of plays you’ve just seen two screens and five feet away, all engulfed in the booming play-by-play of the Jets and Bucs grinding each other down. When the Jets game went to commercials, a DJ filled the breaks by playing Blink 182 and leading the crowd in “J-E-T-S” Jets Jets Jets!” chants. Periodically fans would check fantasy scores on their phones, presumably because they were starved for media content.

I can’t imagine knowing nothing about the culture of football and walking into a place like that. The calculated overstimulation is something PETA would picket if it happened to rats. In an average sports bar showing NFL games, every available surface shows giant men sprinting across a landscape demarcated ritualistically by numbers and lines; when the men take a break, statistics and acronyms and graphics and animated robots zip around while disembodied voices explain, generally poorly, the seriousness of what has just transpired.

Fans are used to this scene, but it is also objectively terrifying. There is something wrong with us that we don’t run away from the crowded, screen-filled bars, or smash the jabbering metal boxes of light the way our primitive ancestors would have. We don’t give them enough credit, these stooped proto-hominids. They were decent people who loved their bloodsport but would have shredded the sad, sanitized package we put it in.

Um, which is to say the Patriots have an awful lot of injuries on offense. This line seems a bit high, so:

PICK: “New York” Jets

Cleveland (+6.5) at Baltimore

Poor Brandon Weeden. Poor poor poor Brandon Weeden. Even his name is sad—he sounds like a weaselly Ayn Rand villain who wants to stop the production of a powerful new kind of steel, not a Tom Brady/Phil Simms/Bart Starr-style All American Quarterback type. And poor Brandon Weeden threw 53 passes last week! That’s not how the Cleveland Browns will win football games, though it is unclear how exactly they can win.

This photo from the Cleveland Plain Dealer shows Weeden on his back after being sacked by the Dolphins, gazing sadly upward; it reminds me of a face of a saint on a stained-glass window, a tragic figure beseeching his Creator during a particularly tough bout of persecution. Why have you made this my task, o Lord?

PICK: Baltimore

Miami (+3) at Indianapolis

In my sports bar, the Indianapolis-Oakland game played out on a TV wedged in the corner, unnoticed by nearly everyone, even as Terrelle Pryor had a career game and the heavily-favored Colts almost lost. I can’t imagine this being the marquee game in any bar outside of Indianapolis. (I assume that everyone in Miami is too busy scoring coke/being rude to valets/shooting each other and/or partying at some sundrenched beach/club combo to care about their relentlessly mediocre team.)

PICK: Miami

Tennessee (+9) at Houston

Everyone is talking about this game—the Oilers are coming back to Houston, baby! GET YOUR RIVALRY BOOTS ON AND LACE ‘EM UP AND STRAP ‘EM ON AND POUND THE ROCK! Just kidding, I don’t think anyone is talking about the game from that perspective, but here’s an Oilers highlight reel featuring Earl Campbell anyway. Dig those 70s NFL horns!

PICK: Houston

St. Louis (+6.5) at Atlanta

This is what’s known in NFL circles as the Stepdad Bowl, because clearly, both Jeff Fisher and Mike Smith are your stepdad. Jeff Fisher is cool because he let you drink beer that one time and has a motorcycle. Mike Smith is OK, you guess. Mainly he just watches the History Channel a lot.  

PICK: St. Louis

Dallas (+3) Kansas City

I’ll admit I didn’t catch a minute of the Chiefs’ crushing of the Jaguars—I didn’t even see any highlights until just now, when I felt guilty about not watching a team I was writing about. But it seems like Kansas City might be decent this season. They have Andy Reid and Alex Smith, and they are tops in FootballOutsiders’ DVOA stat, at least for this week. I dunno. Most NFL teams are probably pretty good.

PICK: Kansas City

Washington (-7.5) at Green Bay

In the offseason everyone remembered just how exciting it was to watch Robert Griffin III, who is one of those athletes that seems to show us that there are new ways to play an old game. He’s the most exciting athlete of his generation, yadda yadda yadda. We didn’t remember that the R******s’ defense was middling at best because the human brain isn’t structured to keep track of mediocre defenses. Then, on Monday night:

PICK: Green Bay

San Diego (+7.5) at Philadelphia

It’s a shame that all the games happen in a blur of simultaneous motion, because it takes a heck of a lot of mental effort and study to even figure out what is happening in one game. Nearly every recap of the Philadelphia shellacking of the Washington R******s mentions new Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s “up-tempo” and/or “fast break” offense, and rightly so, but even in a system that seemingly relies on the guys getting up to the line and snapping the ball as fast as possible there’s a lot of subtle stuff going on that we in the sports bar miss out on. Witness, for instance, the diagramming done by the always-great Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth on a play from the preseason that shows how the fast pace of the Eagles offense combined with odd, unexpected formations, can undermine defenses.

PICK: San Diego        

Carolina (-3) at Buffalo

My LOCK OF THE WEEK is the Medeco Maxum 11WC60L Deadbolt, the only lock to pass tests done by Consumer Reports. It may be a little pricey at $180+, but why put a dollar amount on the safety of your home?

PICK: Carolina

Minnesota (+6) at Chicago

Remember a few years ago when Prince put out a song in honor of the Vikings and it was weird and sort of embarrassing? I’d like to draw your attention to the lyrics, because if there’s one thing you should spend a lot of time thinking about, it’s Prince’s lyrics:

the veil of the sky draws open / the roar of the chariots touch down

BUT THE VIKINGS DIDN’T HAVE CHARIOTS! I mean, OK there are references to chariots in old Norse myths and whatnot, but they probably meant something that looked more like a cart—in any case, what are Vikings doing in chariots? They should be in boats. Come on, Prince.

PICK: Chicago

New Orleans (-3.5) at Tampa Bay

Apparently there is a city in Florida called Treasure Island that for one hour is going to change its name to Revis Island, in honor of Darrelle Revis. This is a town renaming itself after a cornerback following a loss—I think it’s fair to say that Bucs fan base is a little starved for good news.

PICK: Tampa Bay

Detroit (-1.5) at Arizona

Ndamukong Suh is one of those exceptionally big, exceptionally uncontrolled players who, if there were no such thing as professional football, would probably have another job that involved hitting people until they were on the ground, then hitting them some more. His latest transgression was this brutal, unnecessary block on Vikings center John Sullivan:

On the other hand, Suh does sell golf balls with his name on them.

PICK: Arizona

Jacksonville (+5.5) at Oakland

OK, so Jacksonville will probably win at least ONE game this season, right?

PICK: Jacksonville

Denver (-4.5) at “New York” Giants

I was going to say that the Peyton/Eli Manning-starring DirecTV commercial was the most NFL thing of all time—a sub-sub-sub-sub-Lonely Island sketch where two of the most focus-grouped athletes of their generation talk-sing unfunny lyrics in a display of corporate synergy that an executive thought, correctly, some people would enjoy and share it as if it weren’t a shitty ad.

But then I saw this headline on “Eli Manning: Peyton and I Enjoyed Filming DirecTV Rap Video,” which is credited to the Associated Press but reads like a barely reworked press release. It opens, “Jay Z and 50 Cent had better watch out” and goes on to describe how much fun Eli had wearing a wig and fake rapping in a commercial for a satellite television provider. A cheesy ad that’s carefully calibrated to be seen as “goofy” could be made by anyone, but only the NFL will make sure to tell you how much fun their player-commodities had while pushing product. It’s like we’re having fun, too, just reading about it!

PICK: Denver  

San Francisco (+3) at Seattle

This is the big game of the week, obviously, and as a Seahawks fan I am frankly terrified.

Seattleites are unaccustomed to having their teams receive national hype; when it happens it seems strange and wrong, like everyone messed up. Last year’s late-season dominance (the Seahawks outscored opponents 170-43 in the last four games) was an aberration, and on Sunday against the Panthers they looked sloppy at times and racked up way too many penalty yards. Percy Harvin is and will remain hurt, which will not help the offense at all. Their defensive line is injured as well, which might explain why the Panthers ran the ball so well.

The 49ers, on the other hand, nearly won the Super Bowl last year. Their team seems amazingly well-run, loaded with talent at every position, and led by a quarterback who’s part dubious early-aughts alt-rock bassist, part gazelle—he just had over 400 yards passing even though he was missing Michael Crabtree, his best receiver. I think San Francisco will probably win, but I hope the Seahawks will—I guess that  sensation of thinking and hoping for two different things is just the normal state of being for a fan of any team, but that doesn’t make it much easier to take. One of the better things about sports fandom is that you get to practice hope and disappointment and recalibrating expectations over and over again. Which is to say I’ll be watching this game at home, quietly, in the dark, with my face in my hands.

PICK: Seattle

Pittsburgh (+7) at Cincinnati

This was probably an exciting matchup when they scheduled it—an AFC North Rivalry! Toughness and grit and tradition and hard knocks! But now, after the Steelers got blown out at home and lost five players to injury, including their center, it might just feature Ben Roethlisberger getting chased around and sacked and chucking the ball into heavy traffic. Which, actually, doesn’t sound so bad.

PICK: Cincinnati

Previous week’s record: 8-7-1
Overall record: 8-7-1


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