The Friday Clock-Watcher's Guide to NFL Week 6
It's been a long week at the office, and you've just about had it. You can't wait to get the hell out and start your weekend, and as a result, it's like the clock has been drenched in molasses.
To paraphrase the great Carrie Underwood, you've been waiting all week for the weekend and another NFL Sunday, and it's so tantalizingly close that you can't help but count down the seconds until it's closing time.
I'm here to tell you to relax and take a deep breath. Work will be over soon, and a Sunday slate of games full of splendor and wonderment is waiting to regale you.
So go ahead, help yourself get through the day and read the Friday clock-watcher's guide to NFL Week 6:
Being Josh Freeman
The game on Sunday between the Panthers and Vikings in Minnesota appears to be a relatively innocuous one.
Both teams are 1-3 and don't have the look of playoff squads.
But there's a very underrated aspect of this game which is going to be extraordinarily compelling: when the FOX cameras cut to new Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman on the sidelines.
See, Freeman was signed by the Vikings earlier in the week, and anyone who doesn't think he's going to start games this year in Minnesota needs to have his or her head examined. The Vikings rightly looked at their pu-pu platter of signal-callers, Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, and realized they needed an upgrade.
Cassel is expected to start on Sunday, as Ponder continues to nurse a rib injury, but he's not very good. Chances are, he'll make mistakes—a bunch of them.
And every time he does, pray that the cameras are turned to Freeman. With every strike thrown over a receiver's head, with every screen pass landing at the feet of a disgusted Adrian Peterson, Freeman will look better and better to Vikings coaches and fans.
And he's going to love it, even if he doesn't outwardly show it.
So forget about the game itself. The biggest draw of the Panthers/Vikings game will be the reactions of Freeman on the sideline.
That subplot alone should have you revved up for Sunday.
Matt Schaub and the Curious Case of the Pick-Six
I feel bad for Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Really, I do.
I know he's an NFL quarterback and has made millions of dollars in his career.
I don't care. I feel bad for him.
Last Sunday against the 49ers, Schaub threw a pick-six interception on his first pass attempt of the game, setting a new NFL record, as it was the fourth consecutive game in which he's thrown an interception that was returned for a touchdown by the opposing defense—an astounding statistic.
It's almost as if Texans fans aren't sure whether to be furious or impressed, like Ron Burgundy after Baxter ate the wheel of cheese in Anchorman: "I'm not even mad. That's amazing!"
On the sideline, Schaub looked like a beaten man. Just look at the picture above. He looks like someone just ran over his dog. The man is crushed.
I feel bad for him.
The difference between us and professional athletes? Our failures aren't broadcast for the entire nation to see. If you screw up your TPS report, people aren't calling talk-radio stations to vent about it. If you forget to include the french fries in someone's combo meal, you aren't going to get death threats on Twitter...unless that's one real hungry S.O.B. on the receiving end.
Schaub is failing in front of the entire country, is on the verge of losing his job and not only does everyone know it, he knows it too.
On Sunday, Schaub will start for the Texans when they host the Rams. If he throws another pick-six, his tenure as Houston's quarterback will likely come to a close. Every throw is critical. Every decision takes on great importance. So much is on the line.
I can't wait to watch.
Rubbernecking, NFL Style
I don't know about you, but I absolutely hate people who rubberneck.
You know the folks I'm talking about: the jerks who just HAVE to slow their cars down to crane their necks around to gawk at the scene of an accident, a broken down car, roadkill, whatever. Their insatiable need to satisfy their own curiosity causes problems for everyone else behind them.
Selfish pricks, every last one of them.
And I count myself among their ranks.
Seriously, who doesn't rubberneck? People love to watch the proverbial poop hit the proverbial fan. There isn't a person alive who can zip past a car crash and think, "I have no interest in seeing what happened, I'm just gonna keep going." It's not in our DNA as humans.
The NFL equivalent of a car crash will take place on Sunday in Seattle—and also in Denver but more on that later—when Tennessee and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick take on the Seahawks.
Fitzpatrick is a living, breathing turnover machine. The Seahawks defense is going to annihilate the Titans offense. It's going to be brutal. It's going to be unforgiving. It's going to be a bloodbath.
It's going to be must-watch television.
When the Seahawks defense takes the field, it's going to be like watching an accident: You know you shouldn't look, but you just can't take your eyes off it.
So on Sunday, don't hate yourself for rubbernecking when you the watch Titans/Seahawks.
After all, everyone else will be doing it.
Crossfit vs. the Hoodie
Are you the kind of guy who doesn't care much about his physical appearance? Do you not worry about your outfit? Are you content to walk around everywhere in a hooded sweatshirt?
Or, are you the type of dude who works out 24/7, grunting all the while, and lets the entire world know about your intense fitness regimen, even if no one don't asks?
If you fall squarely in one of those camps, Sunday's game between the Saints and Patriots in New England is more than just a football game. It's a statement about life.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Saints head coach Sean Payton are both amazing at their jobs, but their styles couldn't be more different.
Belichick very much projects the "every-man" air, wearing a hoodie and looking like he'd rather lose to the Jets than substitute brown rice for white in his Chipotle burrito bowl.
Conversely, Payton is a fitness freak, championing "Crossfit" and always looking yoked up, like he does 100 push-ups before every interview.
Are you on Team Belichick and want to tell every gym rat who carries around a gallon of water and a notepad to go to hell?
Or are you on Team Payton, rolling your eyes every time you see some schmuck wandering the streets with a hoodie and a bowl haircut?
Either way, Sunday's game is for you.
This Week in Gambling (AKA: Don't Bet on the Jaguars)
Last week, I gave you two choices for your survivor pool.
One (the Rams over the Jaguars) was awesome. This was the game I chose. I survived.
One (the Falcons over the Jets) was not so awesome. If you picked this game, you lost.
The lesson: Make your own decisions and stop blaming me for your mistakes, people.
This week, there are a few viable options. If you haven't used the Broncos, stop reading this right now, go select them and come back. I'll wait.
You're back? Good.
The other options are Seattle over Tennessee, San Francisco over Arizona and Kansas City over Oakland. I already used the Seahawks (when they made mincemeat of Jacksonville), so they're out. I feel better about the 49ers, as the plucky Raiders could make a game of it in Arrowhead, so I'm rolling with San Francisco.
If you select any team other than the one's I've stated, you're doing it wrong.
Now, onto gambling.
History was made earlier this week with the release of the Jaguars/Broncos point spread. Denver was installed as a 28-point favorite, the largest spread in NFL history.
I know what you're thinking: Twenty-eight is a LOT of points.
And you know what? You're right. It is.
Chad Henne will start for the Jaguars, and unlike batterymate Blaine Gabbert, he's not totally horrendous at playing quarterback. Plus, if Denver goes up big, quarterback Peyton Manning might be pulled, leaving Jacksonville a better chance to come back and backdoor-cover the spread.
Those are all fair arguments.
But damn it, don't you dare put one cent of your hard-earned, American money on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Don't you dare.
You either bet the Broncos or don't bet at all. Those are your choices. Denver is the best team in the league and has scored over 50 points in each of its last two games. It scored 51 last Sunday against Dallas. By contrast, the Jaguars have scored 51 points all season.
Don't you dare bet the Jaguars. Don't you dare.
Now, remember when I told you that the Chargers/Raiders game last week would be the easiest contest to wager on all season? I was right. The line moved a full two points in favor of San Diego, making it a six-point favorite by kickoff.
The Raiders won by 10.
The lesson, as always: Go against the public whenever possible.
In that vein, I urge you to closely watch the lines for these three games: Eagles/Bucs, Saints/Patriots and Redskins/Cowboys. There should be major movement for all three of these spreads, and when there is, regardless of what you think will happen, go the other way.
The fountain at the Bellagio was built with money from morons who think they have the NFL figured out. Always remember that.