There is something rotten in the state of the National Football League.
From a woeful lack of passing defense, to a bizarre focus of Tom Brady's hair, to a streak of harsh injuries to franchise players, there are some very alarming trends that should give any football fan cause for concern.
Here are the top 25 alarming trends of the 2011 NFL season (so far).
While few things are more exciting than watching a team make a second-half comeback (see Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, pretty much any team that has played the Minnesota Vikings), the victories also show that teams have really lost their ability to close things out.
Fortunately the number of big comebacks has been somewhat low so far early in the season. If these kind of games continue to pop up, cardiac and psychiatric wards are going to start to overflow.
So please, NFL teams: Hold on to your early leads. If not for yourselves, then at least for your incredibly frustrated fanbases.
Tom Brady got a haircut. Not a big deal.
However, if one were to look at the coverage, one would have to think it was Brady's mane that had thrown all those touchdown passes and seduced his wife, Gisele Bundchen.
So everbody, please return to covering Tom Brady the professional quarterback. Not Tom Brady the cover model/pitchman/person with hair.
Several NFL players, including Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson, currently face sanctions for crimes commited during the lockout.
Frankly, any suspension to these players would be greatly unjustified. These players were forced away from the league during the lockout. No contact with coaches, team medical staff for injuries or front offices. They were not treated like employees, ones that would be subject to the league's rules of conduct.
So even though Benson and others may have acted inappropriately, it seems outrageous the league can come back and attempt to try sanctions now. I hope that the current suspension for Benson and others will be rescinded shortly.
Hey Jamaal Charles, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and others...stop hurting yourselves out there. Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, one of the breakout offensive players of 2010, couldn't make it through Week 2 as he suffered a nasty ACL injury. Houston Texans running back Arian Foster has been in and out with injuries to his legs (for which fantasy players have not helped his recovery).
Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson may be out for a good while after he went out with a hamstring injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
(In latest news, it appears he will miss three weeks of action.)
It's one thing for fans and fantasy football general managers to lament about the loss of their top draft pick (or their high cost player in an auction draft), especially with the time and pride put into assembling rosters.
However, it's a completely different story for the league to prominently place a photo of an injured player on their site and to call fans to restart their seasons to make up for the current injuries.
In the case of Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal Charles, his picture was put on the league's website only hours after he announced his injuries would be season-ending.
Charles certainly can't restart his season. Neither can the Chiefs.
Frankly, while the league should engage fans in popular fantasy football games, ostracizing players in stunts like this is morally indefensible and completely unacceptable.
Yes, Madonna is a legend.
And yes, Madonna's outrageousness made it possible for current star Lady Gaga and the pop wardrobe clownery of today.
However, it's tough for me to be sold that Madonna is what NFL fans (or anybody) are hankering for to perform at this year's Super Bowl halftime show. Even among a scene of pop talent that is essentially following her lead from 20 years ago, her material/antics just seem dated and out of place.
Maybe I just don't know what the people want. I just figured it wasn't Madonna.
With everyone in a decent mood after the return from the lockout, I've been sort of disappointed by the lack of self-centered player statements.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick had a great start in critiquing referees for their calls about late hits.
We now have to get our outrageous statements from our Monday Night Football hypeman...("Are you ready for some outrage/A brand new Monday Night song?)
NFL players, go sit in a corner and think about what you've (not) said and done.
After a Week 1 blowout between the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, the early portion of the season's marquee Monday night matchups (and their nicknames) include:
Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos (Mile High Malaise)
St. Louis Rams vs. New York Giants (Zzzzzzz Bowl)
Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys (Field Goal Frenzy 2011)
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (The Curtis Painter Gave It a Good try Bowl)
After this stinker slate, the Monday night game gets its first strong matchup in pairing the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.
Am I ready for some (sparsely interesting matchups in) football? Sorta.
It's apparent the NFL's lockout did a number on many team's preparation, but it's inexcusable that passing numbers have been so high. Quarterbacks have had free reign on opposing defenses, much to the chagrin to purists looking for classic defensive play.`
The key stat: The four highest weeks of passing yardage in NFL history...are the first four weeks of this season.
Have we made it to the point in the season where NBC can slip matchups in and out for its Sunday night showdown? Apparantely not.
After a great Week 2 Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles matchup, we've seen some really stinker games including the Pittsburgh Steelers versus Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets versus Baltimore Ravens.
Color me unimpressed right now.
Watching the play of Kerry Collins and Curtis "Strokes of Genius" Painter have left Indianapolis Colts fan pining for the return of quarterback Peyton Manning.
The bad news: It doesn't look like he'll be ready in any way until the very end of the season at the earliest. Even if he can return, there would be no reason for Manning to return and risk further injury this season with the team's current abysmal record.
Get used to Painter, Colts fans. You'll be seeing a lot of him.
In what appears to be a protest against the ownership of the Cincinnati Bengals, fans have stopped showing up at Paul Brown Stadium.
The team has seen record low attendance totals, including last Sunday's contest. As the team made a dramatic comeback against the Buffalo Bills, the stadium was amazingly quiet.
No, this wasn't the team's fans quieting themselves for their team's drive. It was a record low number of fans at the stadium.
Barring a major change in fortune, it looks like the team's long-running blackout streak will carry on for a while.
If there's anything more frustrating for fans to watch than stupid plays. There have been plenty to start the season.
In addition to the shockingly poor thinking of Victor "I gave myself up on the play" Cruz, the biggest offender so far has been Ronnie Brown. Stuffed up at the line, the Philadelphia Eagles running back attempted what appeared to be a backwards pass.
The ball, falling to the ground, was labeled a fumble and was recovered by the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners would end up winning the game by a single point.
Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton may not always make the best plays, but the demand for Tim Tebow has been ridiculous.
While Tebow had a tremendous college career and is a hugely marketable name, he is clearly not the starter that will improve the team's chances. At least not right now.
What bothers me most is the tease.
"Look at Tim Tebow lining up behind Orton!"
"Look at Tim Tebow lining up wide!?!"
My message to Broncos head coach John Fox: Stop it. You have no plans on starting Tebow. That's fine (he's not fully developed yet). But don't jerk fans around. Don't pull in NFL Redzone viewers for a Tim Tebow "appearance." Just leave him on the bench like every other backup.
Or trade him.
The exciting free agent signings of the Philadelphia Eagles drew plenty of praise (and criticism) from fans across the league. Vince Young, signed to backup Michael Vick, went as far to call the Eagles a "Dream Team."
However, the first few weeks have exposed some major weaknesses in the Eagles roster. Vick has proven himself vulnerable behind a shaky offensive line, and a lackluster linebacker corps has been dominated all season long.
At 1-3, the Eagles have plenty of thinking (and maybe some free agent moves) to do. They're certainly not out of the running in any sense, but their margin of error gets smaller every week with sloppy play and ineffective closing of games.
Few things are more depressing than hearing fanbases already talking of abandoning their season in order to have a shot of landing Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck.
It just seems way too early.
With that said, the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts, both 0-4, have the clear inside track on a potential franchise quarterback of the future (apologies to Christian Ponder).
What are you doing Reggie Bush? You just got traded for a Pizza Hut pizza. They didn't even talk about breadsticks or wings or a bottle of soda. You sold yourself short man.
No matter what talent is amassed in a NFL offense, the effect will be minimal without a steady offensive line. However, many teams have seen their lines go by the wayside, with sack numbers through the roof in the first four weeks.
Through four weeks, there are already 12 teams that have allowed over 10 sacks (the St. Louis Rams lead the league allowing 19 sacks).
Definitely something to go back to the drawing board for.
With the Tennesee Titans offense shifting to a more pass-oriented attack with newly signed Matt Hasselbeck, superstar running back Chris Johnson has seen his output go down dramatically.
Johnson, who has run for over 1,200 yards in each of his first three seasons, has seen his yards per carry average fall to a dismal 2.9 yards (last season he was at 4.3 yards per carry).
Johnson ran for his first 100-yard game of the season Sunday in the Titans' blowout win over the Cleveland Browns (he finished with 101 rushing yards).
With kickoffs moving from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, many NFL fans worried that exciting special teams returns would be taken out of the game.
Leave it to returners like Devin Hester (or Ted Ginn Jr.) to show that big returns are always in the cards, and that teams that ignore the return do so at their own peril.
How could I have benched both Michael Vick and Cam Newton last week? That doesn't make any sense! Dang you, Ryan Fitzpatrick. You totally blew it for me with your stinkfest against the Bengals. You blew it!
Two fantastic special teams play in the first four weeks have been ruined by unbelievably stupid penalties. First, a major fakeout punt return by the Chicago Bears was taken off the board by a holding penalty on the other side of the field.
This week, the Houston Texans left seven points on the board after a field goal block touchdown was taken away by a silly block in the back penalty. To the kicker. Who was 15 yards away from ball carrier Jonathan Joseph.
"Why...why would you do that?"
I think we'd all like to know the answer to that question Daniel Manning.
Seeing announcer Gus Johnson leave NFL broadcasts to focus on college coverage was a huge disappointment for many fans, including myself. However, Johnson made his return to calling NFL games this past Sunday, calling the stinker matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs.
I don't think I'm the only one here who thinks his talents are being grossly under-used. Please put Johnson in for some better games.
Playing quarterback in the NFL isn't supposed to be easy, which is why I've been alarmed at how smoothly rookies Cam Newton and Andy Dalton have transitioned to the pro game.
Yes, they have both made some ugly mistakes in their first few games, but it's incredible that they've both managed to keep their teams competitive in games. Dalton led his Cincinnati Bengals to an exciting comeback over the Buffalo Bills, while Newton has kept his Carolina Panthers in games while throwing stats like few other quarterbacks ever.
Clearly there are great futures for both of these quarterbacks.
The biggest surprise so far are the teams that have risen to the top of the standings. The Rex Grossman-led Washington Redskins leading the NFC East? The rebuilding San Francisco 49ers leading a weaker than usual NFC West? The Detroit Lions undefeated? The Buffalo Bills tied for the lead in the AFC East?
If this alarming trend of surprise teams continues, the only thing that can be guaranteed is a very fun NFL season.