I believe it was Mark Twain who once said, “Those who have good ideas about pro football write insightful “think” pieces about the game. Those who don’t have good ideas do weekly prediction blogs.” If it wasn’t Twain, then it was probably Winston Churchill, but in any case, here are my thoughts on six upcoming games that are of the utmost interest – to me. Why just six games? Hey, it’s called “Pick Six.” Capece?
1. Jets at Steelers
New York has been Crazytown for the last 6 months, thanks to the arrival of Tim Tebow. Even in a jaded city like NYC, fans have felt the awesome power of “Tebow-mania.” Many felt that surely at some point the unconventional but undeniably exciting quarterback would wrest the starting job away from Mark Sanchez, who in 2011 struggled with passing inaccuracy and personal insecurity. Surely, the sensitive Sanchez would wilt from the media pressure and the cries of “Te-bow!, Te-bow!, “Te-bow!”
But after the Jets’ season-opening 48-28 beatdown of Buffalo, New Yorkers suddenly find themselves in the grip of “El locora furiosoo de la Sanchez.” The quarterback threw for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. I liked the way Sanchez performed last Sunday, but in the NFL, quarterbacks can go from hero to zero in the blink of an eye. Last week, the experts were rhapsodizing about the greatness of Jay Cutler. This week, they’ll be roasting the guy over an open spit.
The Jets scored on offense, defense and special teams, and my understanding is that these are the only possible ways to score in the NFL. Jeremy Kerley caught a touchdown from Sanchez and scored on a 68 yard punt return. Kerley also served as a reminder that in Jets history the three main Stooges have been accounted for – in addition to Kerley, you’ve got Larry Grantham and Mo Lewis. Too bad that Division II defensive standout Reggie Shemp never found a home with Gang Green.
The Steelers lost a tough one to the Broncos. Their running game gained just 75 yards in Denver, but it might fare better against a Jets defense that yielded nearly 200 yards to Buffalo.
I pick: Steelers
2. Cardinals at Patriots
If you watched our “”SoundFX” show on NFL Network the other night, you saw an NFL Films first – Devin McCourty of the Patriots and his identical twin Jason of the Titans became the first set of twins to be wired for sound at the same time.
We did try to get Earl and Myrl Goodwin of the Pottsville Maroons to wear wireless microphones back in 1928 but the publicity-averse Maroons rejected our request. It was just as well, as the audio equipment of that era was incredibly cumbersome.
14 sets of twins have played in the NFL, and Earl and Meryl were the only one to play for the same team. Which set of twins were the best? Never mind the Bullocks (Josh who, played for the Bears and Saints from 2005-2010, and Daniel, who was in the Lions den from 2006-2008), the Barbers – Tiki (Giants) and Ronde (Buccaneers) tower over all others and stand as the NFL’s twin peaks.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Why the heck is this guy babbling about a game that happened, you know, last week?” I can’t help it – I’ve always been fascinated by twins, especially any set of twins that has dated Hugh Hefner. Definitely on my personal all-time Top 10 of favorite movies: TWINS with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. I’m looking forward to the day when a set of conjoined twins play in the NFL.
The Cardinals are coming off a nail-biting win in which Seattle had a chance to score the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left, but whiffed on 6 chances inside the Arizona 15. Kevin Kolb did a nice job in relief of injured starter John Skelton, but the Cards were luckier than Heidi Klum’s bodyguard.
I pick: Patriots
3. Buccaneers at Giants
To help me with this one, I’m happy to welcome a guest picker — Clint Eastwood’s chair, whose impression of President Obama absolutely killed at the Republican National Convention held in Tampa. I’ve always been a huge Eastwood fan, and while I could never hope to duplicate his steely-eyed masculinity, I do know how to converse with empty chairs. I’ve been doing it for most of my adult life.
Me: Before we make our respective picks, let’s talk a little show business.
Chair: By all means.
Me: Is it true that Eastwood, who’s getting along in years, wanted to take the stage with Frank Sinatra, known as “The Chairman of the Board of Show Business,” only to discover that Sinatra has been dead since 1998?
Chair: Not true. Clint wanted an Obama impersonator, and what he said was, “I want to work with a chairman of some kind, and if I can’t have that, I’ll do this bit with a chair or a man. It makes no difference to me.” They might have approached that guy on “Iron Chef America,” but I got the job. I’m the only chair who does POTUS, so it wasn’t exactly a hard sell. Plus during my audition, I did my Eastwood impression for Clint — you know, “Go ahead, make my day.”
Me: Hey, you’ve got the guy down pat, and of course, the Obama impression was hilarious. You’re obviously an expert mimic. Any truth to the rumors that you’ll be one of the upcoming season’s new cast members on “Saturday Night Live?”
Chair: I can’t really comment on that. Let’s just say that the moment, we’re in the “courtship stage.”
Me: OK, are you ready to do some “chair-y pickin’?”
Chair: How’s about you let me handle the comedy?
Me: Sorry, I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants here.
Chair: I love it when people mention the seat of their pants – I’m a chair after all.
The Giants fell apart in Dallas last Wednesday night – a game, incidentally, that was moved from Thursday night to accommodate President Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
I pick: Giants
Chair picks (as Obama): I hope the Bucs win, but I’ve seen nothing to change my feeling that the Giants will win this one.
4. Broncos at Falcons
Peyton Manning is back, baby. After a year on the shelf, the guy has still got it – the perfect timing, the textbook delivery, and his uncanny ability to select a “go to” partner that he can work with time after time. Yes, that new Papa John’s “2 Million Pizzas Giveaway” ad demonstrates that Manning hasn’t lost a step as pro football’s busiest and most personable product pitchman. Manning and “Papa” are to endorsements what Manning and Marvin Harrison were to passing offense.
Oh, yeah, Manning also looked pretty great in leading Denver to a win over the Steelers. The Falcons boast Julio Jones, who tore it up against the Chiefs with 6 catches for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. TV’s talking heads say that Jones is a “beast,” (one of many such creatures in the NFL, if the experts are to be believed) and who can argue? But I like Manning to – in talking head parlance – “step up” in this battle between two fashionable Super Bowl picks.
I pick: Broncos
5. Vikings at Colts
In a 41-21 loss to the Bears, the Colts didn’t get much Luck for their buck. The number one pick in the 2012 draft was intercepted 3 times. Before the draft, Phil Simms said Luck “can’t make all the throws.” During pre-season, Ron Jaworski said Luck “can make all of the throws.” In completing 23 of 45 attempts for 309 yards and a touchdown, Luck made some of his throws. This week, Indy hopes that he can make most of his throws before progressing upwards. Historically speaking, the best Colts QB’s have not fared well when handed the starting job during their rookie season:
1956 Johnny Unitas 3-4
1973 Bert Jones 1-4
1998 Peyton Manning 3-13
In 2011, the Vikings went through their own rookie QB woes with Christian Ponder, whose name sounds like a scholarly journal devoted to theological thought and reflection. But last week, Ponder did a nice job in leading the Vikes to an OT win over Jacksonville.
I pick: Vikings
6. Lions at 49ers
Like Bill Walsh, Jim Harbaugh coached winning teams at Stanford, then turned pro – and turned the 49ers’ fading fortunes around. Other than that, there aren’t many similarities between the two head coaches. Walsh was one of the coolest customers to ever wear a headset, while the perpetually amped Harbaugh seems to be angling to replace Jason Stathem as the star of the next CRANK movie. Last year in Detroit, Harbaugh performed his own version of CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE when he got a tad carried away during his post-game celebration and got into a heated argument with Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
Harbaugh overdid it, but Schwartz overreacted. This Sunday, I don’t think Schwartz and Harbaugh will exhibit any signs of a bro-mance, but hopefully their post-game handshake will be gentlemanly
Whenever the Lions come to San Francisco, long-time 49er fans such as yours truly get to thinking about 1957, and one of the worst losses in San Francisco history.
The Niners and Lions had posted identical 8-4 records, but in an era before anyone had heard the phrase, “wild card,” only one team from the league’s two divisions could advance to the NFL Championship game. Thus, a special playoff game at Kezar Stadium. San Francisco held a 27-7 lead in the 3rd quarter. Then – poof – it vanished into thin air as the Lions reeled off 24 unanswered points and won the game, the division title, and eventually the NFL Championship. It was an el foldo of epic proportions. I wasn’t even around in 1957, and thinking about this game gets me really upset. It would take the 49ers nearly 25 years to recover. Although they got into sniffing distance of a Super Bowl during the early 70’s, they didn’t win their first NFL championship until 1981, when that unflappable Walsh chap was calling the shots.
The 1957 49ers had a lousy defense. The 2012 49ers have a very good one.
I pick: 49ers