Quick Snaps: NFL Week 6

Before diving into Week 6, a few simple words, Peter King style, about my local Starbucks barista. Yesterday morning, en route to some family apple picking, we stopped at a nearby Starbucks to grab a couple of caffeinated beverages. The barista, who we’ll call “Kim”, called out my wife’s grande vanilla latte but not my drink. A minute or so passed and Kim had yet to complete my order. When I asked her about the status of my pumpkin spiced latte she responded quite glibly by telling me that my drink was in her “queue” and that she would get to it soon. Excuse me? Your queue? Since when did Starbucks turn into a Netflix? I may be overreacting a bit here but I that’s just because I did not expect to hear such language at 9 in the morning. I was so perplexed by her choice of words that when Kim did finish my drink I had totally forgotten about having to wait a few extra minutes.

Quick Snaps

49ers 25 Lions 19 – Let’s start with what all fans, casual and hardcore alike will be talking about this morning and that is the head coach fight that could have been between the 49ers Jim Harbaugh and the Lions Jim Shwartz. Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, behold, it’s a thing of beauty. Personally, my favorites two parts are 1) when in his youthful exuberance, Harbaugh comes pretty darn close to starting a strip tease and 2) all the players standing around, jarring at one another with their helmets off. That would have been a perfect time for an Ndamukong Suh right hook.

Here’s hoping that today’s intrigue carries over into the first round of the playoffs when San Francisco, winner of the west, hosts Detroit, wild card.

Raiders 24 Browns 17 – With Jason Campbell out indefinitely due to a broken collarbone, who do the Raiders call upon to take over at QB? Kyle Boller, the current heir apparent, hasn’t been any good going back to his days in Baltimore when Brian Billick use to sing his praises. Last night, Sheftie tweeted how he thought David Garrard would be a perfect candidate to take over in the Bay. Here’s an idea, why not take a look at rookie Terrelle Pryor? Probably not enough experience/pocket presence for a team smack dab in the middle of an early playoff hunt. To bad Al Davis in no longer with us because I bet he would start Pryor over Boller in a nanosecond.

Falcons 31 Panthers 17 – It remains really silly of me to listen to advice when picking NFL football games. For instance, everyone, from Bill Simmons to Mike Florio, kept telling us that Cam Newton was the “king of backdoor covers” and that the Falcons will continue their early season swoon on Sunday when they host Carolina. I should have known that with so many knowledgeable football people on the Panthers (+4.5) that the correct thing to do was stick with my gut and take Atlanta to cover in what was a must win game. Unfortunately, I caved and now sit one game behind the lead in my weekly picks pool.

Patriots 20 Cowboys 16 – If there’s anything people can’t stand more than hearing about other people’s gambling woes, it’s hearing about other people’s fantasy woes. Which is why I don’t feel like wasting your time with how upset I am that I started Felix Jones at RB this week. It’s just that Jones is like a bad penny, every year round 5 rolls around and there he is, so full of promise and upside. Today against the Patriots, my fantasy frustration came to fruition once again as Jones rolled an ankle, leaving the game in the first quarter never to be heard from again.

view from Soldier Field courtesy of @annareadsbooks

 

The Most Important MRI in Chicago Sports History

Green Bay Packers 21 Chicago Bears 14: My favorite byproduct of the whole Jay Cutler “phantom” knee injury thing was all the war stories that fans and former players felt that they just had to share.  For instance, there was this classic reaction from Maurice Jones-Drew followed by a scathing assessment from former NFL lineman Mark Schlereth.

But, by far, my favorite reactions came from friends and family. For example, my brother in law: “You (Cutler) gotta play through the injury. I had terrible shin splints last year and all I did was get myself a new pair of shoes”.

From my friend J: “MCL’s are overrated. They don’t even surgically repair them anymore. You can play through the pain as long as you run straight ahead and avoid making any sudden movements”.

My favorite reaction came from my Dad: “You know back in my day, we didn’t even use to get water breaks.  Coaches would come around and give us salt tablets that were thought to keep us hydrated. The only reason I stopped playing football was because I couldn’t find a comfortable pair of contact lenses”.

So there you have it.  The votes have been tallied. Jay Cutler should have finished the game for the Chicago Bears. Now it could turn out that he will need major knee surgery this offseason, which I hope is not the case.  Regardless, it was really fascinating to watch the public turn on Cutler so quickly. Which reminds me, did you catch him trying to stay loose on the exercise bike? That’s exactly what I look like when my somebody asks me to do something that I have no interest in doing. Cutler didn’t exactly look like someone who was dying to get back in the game.  In this case, perception is everything.

view of Soldier Field courtesy of @reschcenter

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 New York Jets 19: Did you catch the Rex Ryan headset toss at the end of the game? He looked just like Clark Griswold when the 25000 imported Italian twinkle lights wouldn’t work properly.

I gotta tell you, and as I Patriots fan I can’t believe I’m saying this, I kind of like Rex Ryan’s confidence during the post game press conference.  Sure the Jets just lost the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row but, to his credit, he stood up to the podium and boldly predicted that his team was going to make it all the way to the Super Bowl next year.  Jets fans probably won’t take much solace in his pronouncement this morning but still, the guy doesn’t waiver from his message.

Now we prepare for two straight weeks of hypotheticals. If Ben Roethlisberger wins his third Super Bowl at the age of 28 is he as good a QB as Tom Brady? If Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers to victory in Dallas do the fine folks of Green Bay finally forget about the man named Favre? If Jay Cutler is on crutches will he still be allowed to crash the MTV Super Bowl bash?

Lots to think about and with two weeks to go until Super Bowl XLV, plenty of time to figure it all out.

view of Heinz Field courtesy of @RedBullNASCAR

Punching Tickets To Arlington Texas

CHICAGO (+3.5) over Green Bay: My cousin Bert is a Chicago native, currently enjoying his junior year at the University of Wisconsin. For Sunday’s NFC Championship game, he has chosen to return home to Chicago. Reason being, Madison, between all of the Leinenkugel and cheese curds, is going to be a very difficult place for any Bears fan to watch the game. My question to Bert, aren’t there an equal number of Chicago and Green Bay fans on the UDub campus? Gotta be close right? Madison is full of “flatlanders” and “coasties”. In fact, if you were to take an informal poll, which NFL jersey is most represented on the Wisconsin campus: Aaron Rodgers, Brian Urlacher, or Ron Dayne?

I like the Bears in this game because I respect the way they went out and played the Packers hard in Week 17, even after they had already locked up the #2 seed and a first round bye. Of course, Aaron Rodgers is currently playing quarterback like Neo “knowing” Kung Fu, so there’s a pretty good chance the Packers win by double digits.

PITTSBURGH (-3.5) over NY Jets: It has been awfully quiet in Florham Park, NJ this week.  I don’t care how much they “respect” the Steelers, I think the Jets are a better, albeit more unbearable, football team when they talk.  I have no statistical evidence to support this claim but it seems to me that their roster – Bart Scott, Antonio Cromartie, Rex Ryan – is full of players/coaches that feed off media attention.

Speaking of unnecessary media attention, if I have to hear one more time about how the Empire State Building is currently lit up in green and white lights to show support for the Jets I am going to throw up in my mouth.  We get it, New York is behind their football team.  Even more infuriating, did you hear about the story where the Jets charter plane was given permission to “fly by” the Empire State Building on their return trip home from Foxboro last Sunday? How is this legal? Mayor Bloomberg, when you are finished digging out Astoria, Queens from all that snow we had in late December, how about you investigate the flight controllers who allowed the Jets plane to buzz Manhattan? (Note: I’m not still bitter about the Patriots losing last weekend. Not bothered at all.)

view from outside Heinz Field courtesy of @albyoxenreiter

The Long New England Winter Just Got a Little Longer

With the loss by my New England Patriots, this playoff recap was about as tough to write as any previous post. Alas, I’m a professional and I know most of you kind souls out there don’t care for a single second that Mark Sanchez will be taking his A Night At The Roxbury routine to Pittsburgh next weekend.

Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Baltimore Ravens 24: Catch the ball Housh!!!! Catch the ball Anquan!!! Help your young quarterback out. Granted Joe Flacco wasn’t playing all that well either but those drops by his two best receivers went a long way towards determining the final outcome of the game.  Give credit to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers who just continue to find ways to win playoff games. Are you aware that Roethlisberger is two wins a way from his 3rd Super Bowl victory?  Personal life aside, guy is a beast of a QB who usually comes through in the clutch. (View of Heinz Field courtesy of @trixietraci)

Green Bay Packers 48 Atlanta Falcons 21: I think it’s safe to say that Aaron Rodgers is playing himself on to a Wheaties box. That was until the folks over at ProFootballTalk mentioned some pretty damning video regarding Rodgers snubbing a cancer patient looking for an autograph.  Not the most inspiring footage.  Luckily, Clay Matthews was there to save the the day for the Packers, but for Rodgers, the damage may already be done.  As a professional athlete, airports must be a claustrophobic nightmare with pimple faced face fans climbing the walls just to catch a glimpse of their gridiron heroes.  But, as PFT points out, this was not your typical fan and Aaron Rodgers should have had the decency to take a quick moment to sign an autograph for a person who was clearly battling something much more devastating than a Cover 2 defense. (View of Georgia Dome courtesy of @Brian_Chrispigna)

Chicago Bears 35 Seattle Seahawks 24: So much for the momentum. In the immortal words of Denny Green, the Seahawks “are who we thought they were”. Not much suspense in this one, except for those gamblers who took Seattle at +10 and were hoping Pete Carroll went for the 2 point conversion on that last TD. The future isn’t all that promising for the Hawks fans who are probably hoping for a disastrous 2011 campaign if only to have a chance at drafting Andrew Luck. The Bears, and their fans, have got to relish being 3 point underdogs at home against the Packers in the NFC Championship game.

New York Jets 28 New England Patriots 21: And it wasn’t even that close.  As a Patriot fan, what can I say?  Rex Ryan outcoached Bill Belichick.  Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady. Done and done. The team of destiny rolls on to the AFC Championship Game. I do wonder what sort of sophomoric barb the Jets will use to get under the skin of their opponent this week. Will they emasculate Troy Polamalu for having long hair? Do they say something derogatory about all the middle class iron workers who populate the Heinz Field stands? Or dare they go as far as to challenge the authority of Pittsburgh head coach Darnell Jefferson? One thing’s for certain, the New York media market is going to be alive with energy this week and I am going to do my best to maintain complete radio silence. (View of Gillette Stadium courtesy of @RyanFox25Sports)

Soldier Field Turns Into a Real Life Snow Globe

As a Patriot fan, I couldn’t ask for much more. New England goes to Chicago and destroys the NFC North leading Bears 36-7 while back east, Miami surprises the Jets by a final score of 10-6.  The Pats have now clinched an AFC playoff berth and lead the AFC East by two with only three games remaining in the regular season.

Watching the blizzard unfold in Soldier Field today was a lot like flying through space on the Millennium Falcon.  (Star Wars note: I always wondered how it was possible that they never crashed into a planet or star while in hyperdrive.) This view comes from Laura, a Patriot fan who flew out to Chicago for the game and will not by traveling home disappointed. Different story for my wife’s family, who are from Chicago and have supported the Bears since before George Halas.

So Chicago, Bears still the favorites to win the NFC North or is today a harbinger for things to come? Share your views.