It gives me great pleasure to hand over control of the con to fellow Pats fan Andy, whose creative writing abilities are far greater than mine. Just like last year expect to see This and That touch on a wide variety of subjects throughout the NFL season.
The lack of real NFL Football over the last 212 days has dulled the senses and deadened the central nervous system. But today, something clicked into place. Adrenal glands and synapses that have been dormant since February are stirring back to life. All because it’s Football Season.
So, for the foreseeable future (or until February 3rd), we’re Back in Business. This and That world headquarters has been a beehive of activity, feverishly working around the clock for the last 45 minutes or so to bring you one fan’s take on what is happening around the NFL. As those of you who were among the seven or eight regular readers of this feature last year will recall, This and That may or may not appear on a semi-regular basis, whenever I can string together a handful of semi-coherent thoughts (which is a polite way of saying whenever I feel like it). Some of this stuff is even true, most of it I outright made up and the rest is the result of near hallucinatory ruminations of my fevered imagination.
So here goes …
1. Quick Quiz – What is the significance of the date December 24, 2000? Answer below.
2. Not so Fast – How can the addition of Mario Williams make the Bills a contender and yet the loss of the very same Mario Williams not affect the expectations of the Texans as legitimate contenders? Fans and pundits routinely overestimate the impact of a single player (exception: elite QBs). The Bills lost eight of their last nine after a promising 5-2 start. The abysmal finish was due to the mediocre play of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the lack of depth needed to withstand the inevitable injuries that every NFL team faces. Unless Fitzpatrick plays more consistently and the Bills have adequately addressed the depth issues, Mario Williams cannot single-handedly make the Buffalo Bills a contender.
3. Delusions of Grandeur – The jets entered the offseason with an aging defense and significant problems at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line. To address these pressing needs, the jets traded for The World’s Most Overhyped Athlete and drafted a defensive end who expressed an active disinterest in actually playing during preseason and even now steadfastly remains out of shape. According to the jets’ Coach Ryan, this looks to be the best jets team in recent memory. The Sporting Press loves Coach Ryan because loud, stupid and inept is surely more entertaining than buttoned down and successful.
4. Delusions of Adequacy – In Miami, the Dolphins may be getting a creeping sense of déjà vu as new head coach Joe Philbin seems eerily intent on reprising the ill-fated Cam Cameron era. Expect to see thousands of Dolphin fans at each home game disguised as empty orange seats.
5. A New Hope – The Patriots have pushed the restart button on defense. While the influx of young talent brings speed and athleticism, look for this group to struggle a bit early on as a lack of understanding of the system and general inexperience take their toll. The fortunes of the offense will turn on the team’s ability to mold a cohesive offensive line where the retirement of Matt Light, the absence of Brian Waters, the rawness of Nate Solder and the aching back of Sebastian Vollmer add up to a sizable number of question marks. Expect a heavy dose of shotgun draw plays and screen passes to keep the pass rush honest (and because Josh likes them). Two other thoughts: 1) better hope Brandon Lloyd and Brady click (and fast); 2) the offense will miss BJGE more than people think, especially inside the 5 yard line.
6. Cheap Shot – As usual, a backhanded compliment from Dan Shaughnessy who picks NE to go 16-0 and then lose to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Dan doesn’t really believe for one second that the Patriots will win 16 regular season game but prefers snark to thoughtful commentary. (An aside – last year Dan wrote that Adrian Gonzalez had rubbed people the wrong way in the Red Sox clubhouse because “nobody likes a know-it-all.” Pot … kettle … black …)
7. The Sultan of Tweet – Irsay Jr.’s bizarre twitter antics provide an unwelcome glimpse into the inner workings of his tortured psyche. The Colt owner’s misplaced sense of entitlement has him insulting his fans while claiming credit for all his team’s successes (“if u don’t like it buy ur own team and try to make the playoffs 9 seasons n a row n put together 7 straight 12 win seasons n a row as Owner!”) I don’t remember seeing any tweets about flushing $21 million down a sewer by signing his nerve damaged quarterback to a huge contract barely weeks after neck operation #3 (but before #4) and subsequently entering the next season with over $30 million of dead money on the cap. Irsay Jr. is a legacy member of the Billionaire Boys Club because his daddy left him the business. Sorry, that doesn’t make him a genius and neither does having teams bad enough to enable drafting Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
8. Gotta love the NFL Injury Report which lists Cowboy TE Jason Witten’s injury as “abdomen” in reference to his lacerated spleen. Hard to discern what some of the other purposefully vague listings might really mean but here is the beginning of what might eventually constitute a user’s guide:
- Foot (ingrown toenail, turf toe, sprain, fracture, terminal athlete’s foot, dismemberment)
- Abdomen (pulled groin muscle, abdominal tear, sports hernia, lacerated spleen, liver and/or kidney failure, genitalia severed by angry concubine of Antonio Cromartie)
- Head (cut self shaving, toothache, decapitation, missing eye, total psychotic breakdown)
You get the idea. Please feel free to add to the list.
Quiz answer – On Sunday, December 24, 2000, the New England Patriots lost to the Miami dolphins 27- 24. Since that date, the Patriots have not played a single game where they had already been eliminated from championship competition.
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