Week 1: Stranger in a Strange Land

Stephen ThomasContributor ISeptember 12, 2010

Bieber hair
Bieber hairJim Rogash/Getty Images

Ah! The first Sunday of the NFL season is finally upon us! And you know what that means — no more hyper-analysis of preseason games that mean (and predict) absolutely zero.

To start the NFL season, I came up with a game plan to watch the games — do some work in the morning, tune in promptly at 11 a.m. for NFL Countdown on ESPN in hopes of gazing in the glory that is Chris Berman’s new mustache to watch “Inside the NFL” (thank god I remembered to DVR it), hit the gym for kickoff, and head over to Ray’s around 2 p.m.

Both Ray and I moved to Pittsburgh in during August — I live south of downtown and he lives west. What’s directly in between you ask, that I would choose to miss the first hour of football? Heinz Field during a Steelers’ home game.

While at the gym, I was in my glory — Patriots/Bengals game on one television, and a replay of the LOST series finale on the one next to it. Author’s note: Obviously I realize how much of a let down the LOST finale was. However, if pro football was never played again, the only way I’d notice would be through the abundance of whining statuses on Facebook. I keep one eye on the Patriots game because of my blind allegiance to Tom Brady. Note: Let’s face it — the guy was a backup his whole career in college, backup in the pros, came out of nowhere to lead the Pats to the AFC Championship game during the 2001 (post 9/11) season. Now all he does is play football and hang out with his supermodel wife. If you don’t like him, you’re a hater. Plain and simple. A quick touchdown is scored — Brady to Wes Welker. He takes his helmet off and is shown on the sideline. I think aloud: “Man, Justin Bieber has a helluva an arm.” Back to LOST. Anthony Cooper is in vegetable! He was in an airplane crash with John, and that’s why Locke’s in a wheelchair in the flash sideways. Note: No spoiler alerts for the LOST finale. If you didn’t watch it, and you cared enough to know about it, there’s no excuse that you haven’t seen it by now. Stephen Gostkowski buries a field goal for the Patriots — 10-0. I say goodbye to Jack, Sayid, and Frank Lepidus to hit a quick weight circuit and I’m off to Ray’s.

I arrive and get some updates — “Giants are winning, Pats’ game is over.” I lay on the couch as Ray bounces between the NFL Network, the Steelers/Falcons game, and the Pats game. I immediately become consumed with checking my fantasy players and my knockout pool. Despite the offensive slugfest (3-3) between the Falcons and Steelers, our conversation quickly turns to lunch. We decide halftime would be the best time to go out, as opposed to waiting for post-game traffic to vomit cars throughout the greater-Pittsburgh area.

After a run to McDonalds, we come back to see the score has erupted into a 6-6 deadlock. As Jeff Reed trots out to attempt another field goal, I blurt out, “Dennis Dixon is the most vital player to my fantasy team!” Note: My kicker is Jeff Reed, a purchase I thought to be rather sly during our auction.  Considering Dixon can’t get the Steelers into the end zone, I’m feeling better by the minute. Reed slices it.  Shocker.  So, we suffer through more mediocre football until the Steelers can finally pull it out in overtime.

Now it’s time for the main event — the Packers and the Eagles.  I’m excited because I think Kevin Kolb could have a good season, despite my affinity for Donavon McNabb. Note:  I have such faith in Kolb, I spent $5 on him in my auction so he can back up Joe Flacco. After a few snaps and a few shots under the helmet, I note, “He just looks like a Philadelphia guy.”  Ray piles on without missing a beat, “Yeah, I don’t like him either.”  Note: We’re both from northern New Jersey and Ray is a HUGE Giants fan. The more I look at him, the more I really start to dislike him just because of his face.  He looks like the kind of guy who’s more concerned with the image of being a quarterback than actually being a quarterback.  I immediately wish I was home so I could drop him from my fantasy team.  

The Packer defense are flying around (ugh, I know, a cliché!) and hitting everything that moves.  Most important thing I took away from the game — Clay Matthews (@ClayMatthews52) is an absolute monster.  The second most important thing I learned — I totally pissed away $5 on Kolb.

Fun thoughts from around the league:

  1. The Lions got COMPLETELY jobbed.  This is easily the worst call I’ve seen the entire season (please, no stupid comments.  Let’s assume, just for a second, I intentionally made a joke).  I suppose Calvin Johnson has to get up after catching a ball, dance, and then delicately hand the ball to the ref.  What makes this call worse is the fact that it was reviewed!  I suppose you can look at a play as many times as you want, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re looking for
  2. One of my (received as shocking) predictions for the season — the Seahawks blew out the Niners.  A few obvious statements — Matt Hasselbeck (@Hasselbeck), even though he’s pushing 35, and even though he’s coming off a pretty devastating injury in 2009, has two things that most of the league doesn’t — a system that fits him, and the brains to execute brilliantly.  Secondly, for the sexy pick of the 49ers winning the NFC West, I have two words for you — Alex Smith.  “You trust this guy to win the division?  I wouldn’t trust this guy DOING division!”
  3. I think the Bears can be a huge sleeper.  Last year, they were tearing teams apart before Brian Urlacher got hurt.  Now, Urlacher’s back and add Julius Peppers to the defense — look out!  If they still had Kyle Orton and not Jay Cutler, I would say this is a playoff team.
  4. Brett Favre is old.
  5. Okay, I wasted $65 in my auction on Adrian Peterson.  Favre didn’t complete a single pass in the third quarter.  Please tell me why the Vikings’ pass to run ratio was 3:2 in the game?
  6. Vince Young is now 28-11 as a starter in the NFL.
  7. Steve Spagnuolo is giving Andy Reid a run for his title of “Worst clock manager in the NFL.”
  8. Dear Bill Simmons (@Sportsguy33), I paid $1 for Rob Gronkowski (tight end, New England) in my auction.  Today’s stats — one catch, one yard for one touchdown.  I’ll take it!
  9. Clay Matthews just whacked Kevin Kolb again.


I want to make special note of my first weekend with the NFL Red Zone (@nflredzone).  Scott Hanson (@hansonscott) is absolutely brilliant.  I feel like I’m Marty McFly, Jr. in Back to the Future 2 — every time I blink, there’s a different game on.   I honestly think the channel isn’t authorized by anyone — Hanson is just hijacking signal, and we’re watching him change the channel.  If you don’t have the NFL Red Zone, call your cable provider and get it now  (Dear Scott, Please e-mail me for where to send my publicity check).


If you've got nothing better to do, you can follow Stephen on Twitter (@steve8771).  If you're looking for some entertainment, feel free to follow the Twitter users noted in the column.