This week, I’ve decided to change things up a smidge and, instead of analyze the games and explain my selections, I’m going to ask some burning questions about the NFL during each pick. I figure with one of the most bizarre seasons in recent memory coming to an end, I’d open my mind and explore some of the thoughts that are stuffed in the recesses of my subconscious.
Let’s face it: if you want expert analysis, you’d watch Stuart Scott before the Monday night games. He doesn’t have expert analysis either, but he gets paid like he does, so there’s that.
For continuity’s sake, I’ll attempt to tie in each anecdote to the game at hand, but I make no guarantees. It’s kinda like being a Titans fan: there’s a chance things will work out, and you’ll buy into it, but three quarters of the way through, you realize it’s a lost cause.
So here we go.
FOR THE YEAR: 133-75
16. San Diego over San Francisco
I wonder: Who in their right mind thought that Joe Theismann would be a great compliment to an already bad color analyst in Matt Millen? Theismann was condescending poison on ESPN for all those years, so much so that the world rejoiced when he was replaced by biased, yet cheery Ron Jaworski. Millen struggles to get his sentences in with the ham-fisted subtlety of a nuclear strike, while Theismann continues to pick apart players that still have two good legs and their dignity. It’s NFL Network; can’t we get Bob Papa someone worthwhile like Jamie Dukes? Dukes may be untested as a broadcaster, but isn’t the important thing that Papa a) has someone to provide entertaining banter with and b) be paired with someone that is likeable AND knowledgeable? Well, I guess it could be worse. Papa could have gotten stuck with Tony Kornheiser. Yeech.
SCORE: Chargers 41, 49ers 13
15. Atlanta over Seattle
I wonder: Does anyone else get the same enjoyment out of the Falcons’ “Play 60” ad with the school bus with the kids and players and Mike Smith and Arthur Blank as I do? I don’t know what’s better: Blank bobbing his head to the funky bass rhythm, or Smith with that crazed smirk/sneer (smeer?) on his face. It sure beats that Hyundai Genesis commercial that’s played incessantly on NBC Sunday Night Football with the indie rock band playing “Deck the Halls”, where the guy looks like an even more pretentious Russell Brand, and the girl just stares at the camera with a face that reads “I may be kinda smiling, but I really feel awkward and I’m seconds away from stabbing you between the eyes with a shiv”. Bottom line: commercials suck now.
SCORE: Falcons 35, Seahawks 14
14. Miami over Buffalo
I wonder: How exactly is getting knocked out of bounds and not immediately returning to the field “unsportsmanlike conduct”? If anything, it gives the other team an advantage on a kick return by having only ten opponents to contend with, as opposed to eleven. I love how that’ll get flagged, but the cheap shots that Michael Vick‘s taken the last few weeks don’t. This is what happens when you let representatives from PETA attend competition committee hearings.
SCORE: Dolphins 24, Bills 7
13. Tampa Bay over Detroit
I wonder: What NFL player is the next Brett Favre? You know, the player that we all love now, and the one we could NEVER see becoming a total self parody in ten years, but will end up being one anyway? Can you imagine Drew Brees mired in scandal at age 41, knocking up some relief aid worker? Perhaps Tom Brady will be divorced from Gisele in a decade, living bald and fat, working as an occasional guest analyst while dating Dakota Fanning? You never know, right? I mean, we all once thought Favre was a loveable bumpkin with a passion for the game, and now look at how things turned out. When Favre finally retires, we’re going to need a new source of unlikely comedy. The question is, who?
SCORE: Buccaneers 27, Lions 10
12. New England over Green Bay
I wonder: if CBS tries to copy Fox’s idea of having a rules analyst on call during coaches’ challenges (Mike Pereira), who would they bring in? Fox already has the Vice President of Officiating, and I’m sure the two networks wouldn’t share the same guy, so who could they get? I think for a goof, they should bring in someone like Brad Childress (the only coach that made more senseless challenges than Andy Reid) and have him explain what a smart challenge it is every single time, even when it’s blatantly obvious that the challenge is costing the team a time out. Besides, it gives Brad something to do other than look like Frank Oz fallen on hard times.
SCORE: Patriots 31, Packers 14
11. Chicago over Minnesota
I wonder: What does Tony Siragusa bring home for a paycheck? He just puts on a headset and wanders the sidelines, occasionally adding perspective insight, while largely playing an awkward third wheel, and showcasing videos of him eating from every team’s catering spread the day before games. He’s probably the only ‘commentator’ in sports history that doesn’t wear anything vaguely resembling a suit, save for Jerry Lawler and Jesse Ventura in WWE. Do you think he makes over $50K a game? If so, then life isn’t very fair.
SCORE: Bears 27, Vikings 10
10. Dallas over Washington
I wonder: Why doesn’t the media get on Chris Cooley more? Cooley not only made an asinine statement this year when he laughed at the Eagles for trading the Redskins Donovan McNabb for a pair of picks, saying it was “one of the ten best trades in NFL history”, but also “accidentally” tweeted a picture of his genitals a few years back. Isn’t he really worth making a public mockery of, the way we do Randy Moss, Chad Ocho Cinco, TO, and Albert Haynesworth? I really think Chris Cooley could hit his stride as a dumb Chris Farley/Zach Galifinakis type in R-rated comedies, to be honest.
SCORE: Cowboys 27, Redskins 14
9. Oakland over Denver
I wonder: is Frank Caliendo going to impersonate any celebrity under the age of 30? I mean, how many kids really give a damn about Dr. Phil or Andy Rooney? Even David Letterman isn’t all that “hip” anymore. Can’t he at least go for someone not exactly young, but relevant to the younger demographic like Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, or someone like that? Fox needs to steal Jay Pharaoh from SNL and have him do the picks. Like you wouldn’t wanna see ‘Jay Z’ or ‘Denzel Washington’ picking games.
SCORE: Raiders 23, Broncos 10
8. Houston over Tennessee
I wonder: if the analysis and pre-game shows hype up the Cortland Finnegan-Andre Johnson fight from a few weeks ago for this game, and then the two players get into it again, are the same shows going to condemn them for fighting this time, given that they spent a few days making their prior brawl a “main attraction”? It’s such an ESPN thing to do, so I’m kind of hoping that it happens. You know, just to prove that I’m right.
SCORE: Texans 21, Titans 10
7. Pittsburgh over New York Jets
I wonder: if you had to play a drinking game for whatever game Brian Billick does commentary on, and you had to take a sip every time he says something that could be easily twisted into a double entendre, how soon would you be completely trashed? Halftime? Midway through the second quarter? Is it possible that someone under 105 pounds playing this game would need their stomach pumped at the end of the opening drive? I really think we need to make the Brian Billick Double Entendre Drinking Game a reality. It has good “penetration”, and the idea just rides “down my back”, and you can see the excitement “all over my face”.
SCORE: Steelers 17, Jets 9
6. Indianapolis over Jacksonville
I wonder: Does ESPN get annoyed when they have to promote the Jaguars during their good seasons? They have no controversial stars, don’t have a large fanbase, and don’t have any rivals that would bring both teams’ fanbases together in a Warriors-like street riot. How long until George Bodenheimer openly tries to tip troubled players like TO or Pacman Jones or Albert Haynesworth their way? If the Jaguars are going to be deep playoff contenders, they’d damn well better stock up on “gets”, otherwise their playoff match-ups’ll be ignored by the likes of “So, is this REALLY it for Favre?”
SCORE: Colts 31, Jaguars 24
I wonder: If an Eagles fan and a Giants fan were engaged in a loud, possibly alcohol-fueled argument over their teams, if a Cowboys fan walked in, would fan one and fan two stop arguing and go over to beat the crap out of the Cowboys fan? I think in a perfect world, Philly and New York would come together and do the right thing. We may have a longtime rivalry, but anyone that supports a quarterback who allows his mojo to be sapped by bubblehead blonde singers should probably be razzed on sight.
SCORE: Eagles 27, Giants 20
4. Cleveland over Cincinnati
I wonder: is it wrong to celebrate Peyton Hillis being the first Caucasian running back in 25 years to break 1000 yards rushing? I worry that it may seem racist, but I see it more as affirming that we lame, uncool, uncoordinated white folks still have a miracle or two in our ranks. I feel like Hillis’ achievement is worth celebrating, because I held back when Steve Nash won two NBA MVP awards, and I just can’t hold back anymore. Peyton Hillis is to white people what Manny Pacquiao is to Filipinos, except Manny actually has a name that doesn’t make him sound like a mindless valley girl on MTV’s Parental Control.
SCORE: Browns 24, Bengals 17
3. Kansas City over St. Louis
I wonder: Is Gus Johnson the most universally loved announcer in sports today? Is he? I have nothing to add here, because the question speaks for itself. It was rhetorical, by the way. We already know that there isn’t.
SCORE: Chiefs 20, Rams 17
2. Carolina over Arizona
I wonder: When John Fox is ultimately fired from the Panthers after his worst season ever, which team is going to clean up by bringing him in as defensive coordinator and turning their entire team around in one year? I think Denver, whose defensive stats are about on par with a team made up of eleven people in persistent vegetative states, would do well to clean up with Fox, either as head coach or as the D-Cord. The Chiefs brought in Romeo Crennel, and their stats on defense are night and day compared to last year. Someone do the right thing and make sure a savvy coach like Fox has a job in 2011. And if there’s a God, he’ll be in Philly after Sean “Blitz-Dweeb” McDermott goes.
SCORE: Panthers 17, Cardinals 13
1. New Orleans over Baltimore
I wonder: If/when the Saints make the playoffs, will they actually be portrayed as the favorite in any game? Jeez, last year, we had to deal with them as home underdogs against the almighty Minnesota Favres if you listened to the wistful media, and then in the Super Bowl, the Colts were considered the odds-on favorites because Drew Brees doesn’t have an endorsement deal with Sony. As defending champions, I hope the Saints can be portrayed as such, because defending champion “storylines” can make any good more enticing. Being the team that knocks off the kings is infinitely more interesting than Favre’s will he/won’t he, and TOcho’s “guess what we tweeted THIS time!”. Let’s make the Saints into true defending champions, please?
SCORE: Saints 17, Ravens 14
Join ESPN Insider today for the best sports analysis online, plus ESPN The Magazine!