“Six upcoming games that are of the utmost interest – TO ME.”
1. CHIEFS AT SAINTS
When you use the phrase, “the proud tradition of the Saints,” you are basically talking about the 21st century Saints. These Saints earned 5 post-season berths in 11 seasons and won a Super Bowl. But at 0-2, the 2012 Saints are starting to recall the 20th century Saints. The team is on the verge of going old school, and in that school, the Saints were the NFL’s class clowns, displaying a sustained level of ineptitude that has no equal in pro football history.
Losing seasons: 29
Winning seasons: 4
Double-digit loss seasons: 9
Double-digit win seasons: 3
Are we seeing a return of the Aints? How long before New Orleans fans start rummaging through their closets to find the shopping bags they once wore on their heads? Will Gumbo, the team’s sleepy, slobbering canine mascot, come out of retirement? Get a grip. The Saints have issues to be sure, but it’s hard to believe they would ever regress to the state in which they were the stars of the world’s longest follies film.
After 2 games, the Saints and Chiefs were tied for the league lead in points surrendered (last night’s game catapulted Carolina to the top of the charts for this dubious achievement), so their meeting promises to be a high-scoring affair. The Chiefs will keep matriculating the ball downfield, but I like the Saints to outscore KC.
VK Pick: Saints
2. JETS AT DOLPHINS
Here’s a game that pits the past two participants of HARD KNOCKS, so while you can always discuss gameday matchups, this game affords a rare opportunity to compare teams that were featured in the popular HBO/NFL Films co-production. To wit:
Funniest coach: Rex Ryan, Jets
Cutest wife of a player: Lauren Tannehill, Dolphins
Best “player gets cut” scene: Chad Johnson, Dolphins
Most ubiquitous cheerleaders: Dolphins
Most colorful asst. coach: Mike Westhoff, Jets
Best appearance by a Super Bowl QB: Tie: Joe Namath, Jets & Bob Griese, Dolphins
These were two really good versions of HARD KNOCKS, so it’s tough to pick a favorite one. But I say let’s go eat a goddam snack and think about it.
After a smashing season debut, the Jets offense faltered in Pittsburgh. Tim “Wildcat” Tebow has now officially appeared shirtless in more photos than Kate Middleton, but he has yet to catch a defense with its pants down. Miami’s Reggie Bush , who was used sparingly in HARD KNOCKS, has been the workhorse of the Dolphins’ offense. Bush is the NFL’s second leading rusher, and averages an impressive 6 yards a carry.
VK Pick: Dolphins
3. 49ERS AT VIKINGS
When Reggie and the Dolphins travel to San Francisco later this season, we’ll be able to see the NFL’s version of Bush v. Gore. Frank Gore is once again proving that he’s one of the game’s best running backs — and part of the great American Gore tradition. As a US senator and presidential candidate, Al Gore was always running for something. Frank Gore is always running the Wham play that can make defensive fronts look foolish. Recently deceased author Gore Vidal wrote the hit Broadway play, The Best Man, and Frank Gore is the best man on the 49ers’all-time rushing list. No one in franchise history has run for more yards. Not Roger Craig. Not Ricky Watters. Not Joe “The Jet” Perry. Nobody. In 1963, Leslie Gore was number one on the record charts with “It’s My Party”. If Frank Gore and the 49ers can maintain the excellence they’ve shown so far, they ‘re going to be throwing a championship party in February.
On Sunday, let’s go eat a goddam “Gore”-ton’s fish stick and watch the Niners chalk up a road win.
VK Pick: 49ers
4. BUCCANEERS AT COWBOYS
Last week, Bucs coach Greg Schiano officially became the 27,985th person in NFL history to cause Tom Coughlin to lose his temper. Coughlin, who always appears to be in a perpetual state of apoplexy, felt that Schiano violated an “unwritten” rule by having the Bucs rush hard against the Giants when they were in victory formation. Now, people of good conscience can argue whether Schiano should have done what he did. But I like the fact that the first year head coach attempted to liven up what is one of the dullest plays in pro football.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones agrees, but then, he might just be trying to make Tom Coughlin lose his temper. Doesn’t everybody?
Speaking of dull plays, the Cowboys ran a lot of them last week in Seattle.
That old saying, “You win some, you lose some” seems tailor-made for the inconsistent Cowboys. But a home game against 0-2 Tampa should be one of the “some” that Dallas wins this year.
VK Pick: Cowboys
5. TEXANS AT BRONCOS
The Broncos and Peyton Manning got a reality check last Monday night. Manning was intercepted 3 times in a 27-21 loss. If Peyton and his brother Eli were a team, they’d be tied with the Eagles for the league lead in interceptions with 6. Still, Peyton has to be included among any list of the NFL’s all-time great quarterbacks. But is he the all-time greatest? Tricky thing, history. Sure, you can talk Manning and Brady and Brees and RG III. But when picking the best you have to let your thoughts marinate a bit, survey the course of human events, and ask yourself, “am I too caught up in the way the game is played in the present day?” A case in point: viewers of 20/20 just cast their votes for “The Best TV Show of All-Time” for an upcoming episode. The winner: “I Love Lucy.” Personally, I would have chosen “Bonanza,” but that’s just me. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that the winner wasn’t a “great” show that’s still on the air. It wasn’t “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad” or “Two and a Half Men.” It was a show that premiered 60 years ago. By that logic, Norm Van Brocklin would be the number one quarterback of all time. Peyton Manning is still on the air.
The 2-0 Texans come in with a lot of swag, even though Matt Schaub has thrown for only one touchdown. Schaub is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but right now, he’s not even the best quarterback named Matt in the league. Ryan, Stafford, and Cassell all have thrown more scoring passes than Schaub. The Texans have the NFL’s top ranked defense, but at Mile High, Peyton will find a way.
VK Pick: Broncos
6. PACKERS AT SEAHAWKS
Marshawn Lynch is one of the game’s most punishing ball-carriers. Last week, he abused the Cowboys. Forget Lindsay and Amanda — when it comes to “hit and run,” there’s nobody better than Lynch. Yet several NFL defenders have said “Lynch doesn’t scare me – not when he’s wearing that new Seahawk uniform.” I’ll leave it to the folks at GQ to determine what kind of fashion statement the Seahawks are making with those new threads. But the larger question is: Will this be a “statement game” for Seattle? Beating the Pack would give Pete Carroll’s team a lot of legitimacy.
At 1-1, the Packers look sort of, you know, ordinary. Their vaunted offense is somewhere in the middle of the “points scored” list. Aaron Rodgers has yet to have a 300 yards passing game. I’ve got that Seahawks feeling.
VK Pick: Seahawks