Monday Morning Digest: Rams Have an Early Edge on the Rest of the NFL

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 24, 2018

Monday Morning Digest: Rams Have an Early Edge on the Rest of the NFL

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    In this week's overstuffed edition of Monday Morning Digest:

    • The Rams prove the preseason is meaningless

    • Carson Wentz returns and wonders where the rest of the Eagles went

    • Patrick Mahomes-Jimmy Garoppolo Part I turns from a Chiefs fireworks display into a 49ers tragedy

    • A rash of running back injuries leaves the Vikings, Jaguars and other teams vulnerable

    Drew Brees breaks records and ankles against the Falcons

    The Good Place writer Joe Mande dishes on what's in store for Blake Bortles' biggest fan this TV season

    ...and much more!

         

The Rams Have Rewritten the Rules of Being a Dream Team

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Rams were supposed to start off slowly this year. They rested everyone but the waterboys throughout the entire preseason. Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and most of the starting offensive veterans didn't play a single snap. And everyone knows preseason action is essential for establishing offensive timing and shaking off rust, right?

    In a week where the Vikings got sucker-punched for looking past the Bills and the Packers reverted to Aaron Rodgers-or-bust tactics with a busted Aaron Rodgers, in a league where most other contenders alternate between beating each other up and shooting themselves in the foot, the Rams improved to 3-0 and have now outscored their opponents 102-36.

    The Rams were supposed to be a clubhouse chemistry explosion waiting to happen. Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, the Aaron Donald holdout situation: They were portrayed coming into the season as a cross between a "dream team" and the Suicide Squad. (And everyone knows what happens to most "dream teams"—and what happened to the Suicide Squad movie.)

    After three weeks, the Raiders have split into pro-Gruden and anti-Gruden factions, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. That puts them one notch above the Steelers, who have seemingly split into 53 every-man-for-himself factions. The Patriots reportedly tried to trade Rob Gronkowski for the Eye of Agamotto to cast a spell of banishment against Alex Guerrero (or whatever). And all the while, there hasn't been a peep of discord from the Rams.

    The fact that they are dominating both sides of the ball is both a likely cause and result of the harmony.

    The Rams began rewriting the rules last year, when they hired the youngest head coach in league history and dared to become immediate contenders instead of embarking on an endless rebuild. But Goff and Sean McVay were still young last year, the roster was incomplete, and the franchise still had that musty paint-by-numbers Jeff Fisher smell. Plus, the Eagles were bucking conventional wisdom even harder.

    This year's Rams can run, pass, force fumbles, create big plays, prevent big plays, generate sacks, avoid sacks, block punts and even (mostly) avoid silly penalties. They're operating at peak capacity despite an offseason of collecting prickly personalities and a preseason spent exclusively avoiding injuries.

    The quickest way to excellence in the NFL is to challenge conservative thinking and find better ways of doing everything from converting third downs to acquiring talent to preparing for the season.

    The Rams found a way to get great players and keep them healthy and fresh, and it's working. Imagine that!

    The rest of the league may catch up. But the Rams have jumped out to a head start, and there's no reason to expect them to slow down anytime soon.

Game Spotlight: Chiefs 38, 49ers 27

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    What happened

    The first meeting between Brett Favre 2.0 and Tom Brady Jr. started as a mismatch and ended in possible tragedy for the 49ers.

    In the first half, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense once again played like a distilled tincture of the Kurt Warner Rams, all the best Marvel movies, liquified endorphins and absinthe, racking up 295 yards and 35 euphoria-inducing points.

    Then Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers began counterpunching late in the second quarter, when the Chiefs defense played like it got a contact high from being too close to the Chiefs offense. Garoppolo found wide-open receivers, fullbacks and tight ends to cut the Chiefs' lead to 35-24.

    But Garoppolo's pass protection collapsed late in a long fourth-quarter scoring drive. Garoppolo took back-to-back sacks before suffering a wicked blow from Steve Nelson while scrambling.

    Early reports indicate the team feared Garoppolo suffered an ACL tear on the play.

       

    What it means

    The Chiefs offense makes you want to abandon your family, lock yourself in a basement and do nothing but watch their tape on an endless loop until you blissfully collapse from unnoticed starvation. Defensive deficiencies aside, they're the best team in the AFC.

    But Garoppolo is the big story, of course. His season appears to be over after just three games in which he got little support from his offensive line and few big plays from his receiving corps (in contrast to Mahomes, who could count on receivers to rumble or race for yards after catches and for Travis Kelce to deliver one-handed receptions on 3rd-and-long).

    If there's a cautionary tale here, it's to not drop $137.5 million on a young quarterback and then fill in the rest of the gaps in the offense later, because that quarterback may not survive until the rebuilding cavalry arrives. But 49ers fans don't want to hear cautionary tales just now.

       

    What's next

    The Chiefs visit the Broncos before facing the Jaguars and Patriots in a two-week stretch that may well decide the AFC. The 49ers will wait for MRI exam results and prepare to pick up the pieces.

Whiparound Week 3 Coverage

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    News, notes and insights from another wild NFL week.

    • There are two ways to approach the Patriots' Sunday night loss to the Lions and 1-2 start. We can either chuckle at all of the "Patriots are doomed" predictions from past Septembers and assume that this is just another hiccup, or we can look at a team with a makeshift wide receiver corps, one of the league's slowest defenses and obvious organizational tensions and admit that these are not the same old Patriots. Start with the premise that the Patriots are an ordinary-at-best team, and lots of other things start to make sense: the Jaguars' offensive explosion last week, the sudden improvement of a Lions team that looked ready to quit against the Jets in the opener, the relative ease with which the Giants beat a Texans team that played the Patriots close in Week 1, and so on. Based on current evidence, "Patriots are doomed" isn't the snarky, silly take; it's the "same old Patriots" take that needs justifying.

    • Josh Rosen made his Cardinals debut after Sam Bradford embarked on a three-turnover spree (two interceptions, one fumble) in a 16-14 Bears comeback victory. That makes the top four first-round quarterbacks likely starters entering Week 4, with Lamar Jackson limited to Wildcat duty because of Joe Flacco's competence. Bradford, Tyrod Taylor and Josh McCown will eat $30.6 million in cap space from their teams (plus over $2 million by the Bills for the already-traded AJ McCarron) to provide reassuring pats on the shoulder for the rest of the year if all goes well. But hey, veteran mentorship is invaluable, no matter the cost, right? Right?

    • Dak Prescott threw for just 168 yards despite the fact that the Cowboys trailed 17-3 at halftime and spent most of the game playing catch-up. Prescott has now thrown for more than 200 yards just twice in his last 11 starts. Assigning blame among Prescott, his Big 12 receiving corps and Jason Garrett's Ask Madden game plans is futile: Sunday's spate of sacks, tip-drill interceptions and step-out-of-bounds-before-catch miscues proved that it's all three—and that it will not get any better this year.

    • The Giants replaced right tackle Ereck Flowers with Chad Wheeler. J.J. Watt victimized Wheeler for three sacks, but the Giants' overall pass protection improved in a 27-22 win over the Texans, which says a lot about Flowers. In the office world, an incapable employee (a weak link whose shortcomings can easily be accounted for) is almost always better than an incompetent one (whose mistakes are more creative and less predictable). The Giants know what Wheeler cannot do, which makes him a step up from a guy who invented new weaknesses weekly.

    • The NFL called Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith a "textbook" case of roughing the passer. In fact, it's a textbook case on the NFL doubling down (or tripling down, since the officials called the same penalty on Matthews last week) on a poorly written, probably unenforceable rule instead of admitting that the new roughing-the-passer language is overzealous. In the coming weeks, you can look forward to: 1) Cam Newton absorbing hits far more vicious than anything Matthews has done this year without drawing a flag; 2) Officials developing sudden blindness/amnesia on knee hits and helmet shots while focusing on the Matthews-scented "burping" fouls; and 3) At least one touchdown after a quarterback spins after a hit by a timid defender trying to swaddle him with pillows instead of sacking him.

    Adrian Peterson rushed for two touchdowns for Washington, giving him 102 career rushing touchdowns and pushing him past Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander on the all-time rushing touchdown list. John Riggins (104), Jim Brown (106) and Walter Payton (110) are all within reach for Peterson this year. Emmitt Smith holds the all-time rushing touchdown record with 164. Some of you whippersnappers like to claim that Emmitt was overrated. Peterson has defied time and the laws of human aging three times and is still about six Pro Bowl seasons behind Emmitt's touchdown record. 'Nuff said.

Player Spotlight: Carson Wentz, Quarterback, Eagles

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    What happened

    Something was missing when Wentz made his first start since tearing his ACL in Week 13 last season.

    It wasn't the arm. Or the mobility. Or the daring to break the pocket for big plays or dive for first downs. Wentz demonstrated several times against the Colts he was close to peak capacity in all three of those categories.

    What was missing was Wentz's weapons.

    Playing without Alshon Jeffery, Jay Ajayi and others, the Eagles struggled to manufacture offense for most of the afternoon. But Wentz scrambled and distributed the ball just well enough to third-string running backs, rookie tight ends and waiver-wire receivers on a 17-play fourth-quarter drive to salvage—with the help of a late-game red-zone stop by the defense—a 20-16 Eagles win.

       

    What it means

    Wentz pressed at times to make big plays and looked a quarter-step slower than usual on some of his pocket escapes, finishing 25 of 37 for 255 yards and one touchdown with one interception, five sacks and a lost fumble. He wasn't quite the same Wentz who was a favorite to win the MVP award before getting hurt last season. But that was as much a factor of the rain and severe lack of complementary players than of any lingering injury effects. Wide receivers Nelson Agholor and (just back from the scrap heap) Jordan Matthews combined for just six catches and 45 yards as Wentz made chicken salad out of passes to the likes of Dallas Goedert and Wendell Smallwood.

    The Eagles now have two messy wins and one ugly loss, and the short-term injury prognosis at receiver doesn't look great. Wentz is going to have more games like Sunday's than he did last year. It may not be fun to watch, but several Super Bowl contenders (Vikings, Packers, Steelers) would be very happy with two messy wins and one ugly loss so far.

       

    What happens next

    Who is their quarterback? How are they doing it? Has anyone even watched them play? The Eagles open the 2-1 Titans mystery box next week.

    The Colts, who dropped to 1-2, open their AFC South schedule against a Texans team that fell to 0-3 on Sunday.

Game Spotlight: Saints 43, Falcons 37, OT

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    What happened

    • Drew Brees broke the all-time NFL completions record, formerly held by Brett Favre. Brees now has 6,326 career completions—a little less than half of them came Sunday. (Kidding! He was 39 of 49 for 396 yards and three touchdowns: another day at the office.)

    • Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley caught seven passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns, solving three Falcons problems (Julio Jones thinks the end zone is lava, Devonta Freeman is injured and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is a ninny) simultaneously by hauling in deep passes and bypassing the whole red-zone experience.

    • The Falcons solved their touchdown-constipation problem just as their defense succumbed to an injury rash. Brees juked defender Brian Poole with the world's slowest spin move for a seven-yard touchdown to help force overtime and then matriculated 80 yards down the field to seal a win with a one-yard sneak.

       

    What it means

    The NFC South is beginning to sort itself out:

    • The Buccaneers are either Greek gods who took human form to teach us the folly of our ways or a .500-caliber team on a short-term sugar rush. (Digest is still leaning toward the latter, but check back Tuesday morning.)

    • The Panthers are a good-but-flawed team prone to wild mood swings. (Imagine that.)

    • The Falcons have gobs of offensive talent but too many injuries on defense and a knack for self-destruction in big games. (Imagine that, as well.)

    • The Saints have a great offense and porous defense, just like they did from 2014 through Week 6 of last year and again in the playoffs.

    It's way too soon to declare even early winners in this four-way royal rumble. But if the Falcons don't get better at closing winnable games, it won't be long before we declare a loser.

       

    What's next

    The Falcons end a three-game homestand by hosting the pesky Bengals. The Saints visit the Giants, who will change right tackles about four times before they arrive.

Inside the Numbers: Running-Back-Injury-Crunch Edition

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Many of the NFL's top running backs were either out or limited in Week 3, causing crises for both real and fantasy teams. Here's a look at how the real ones coped with the injury rash:

    Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard touched the ball six times and scored a touchdown to cap the Bengals' opening drive and then touched the ball just 11 more times as the Cincinnati offense went on one of its pass-happy Andy Dalton turnover odysseys. No other Bengals running back got a touch in the team's 31-21 loss, so it was as if the Bengals replaced Joe Mixon in their offense with Dalton interceptions.

    Buffalo Bills: Chris Ivory broke a wide-open game even wider-opener by shaking loose during a Josh Allen scramble and rumbling 55 yards to set up a touchdown. Ivory finished with 20 carries for just 56 yards in relief of LeSean McCoy, but everything's easier when you're leading by 27 at halftime—something the Bills learned by doing instead of witnessing for once.

    Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck led the Colts in rushing with one 33-yard scramble, as rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines (11 combined carries for 37 yards) did little to offset the loss of Marlon Mack. The Colts are critically short on weapons right now and generated most of their offense from Eagles turnovers and penalties.

    Philadelphia Eagles: Wendell Smallwood rushed 10 times for 56 yards and the game-winning touchdown against the Colts with Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles injured. Banged-up Ajayi-backup Corey Clement added 56 rushing yards. Clements' punt returns were a bobbly adventure in relief of Sproles, but Doug Pederson's commitment to the run kept the Eagles offense viable while the defense and passing games sorted themselves out.

    Atlanta Falcons: Tevin Coleman (15 carries, 33 yards) wasn't as capable in relief of Devonta Freeman as he usually is. But that didn't matter because Calvin Ridley went ham for three receiving touchdowns. (But that didn't matter, either, because Drew Brees went Brees in the fourth quarter and overtime.)

    Jacksonville Jaguars: T.J. Yeldon rushed just seven times for 44 yards in Leonard Fournette's absence, with backup Corey Grant adding six carries for 11 yards. Yeldon was stopped on a 3rd-and-short, and Grant failed to convert on a fake punt, but the Jaguars' biggest issue in their 9-6 loss to the Titans was a pass-happy game plan with zero big-play sizzle. It's as if they watched Blake Bortles pick apart the Patriots last week and decided "This is our identity now!" It's not and never should be.

    Minnesota Vikings: Vikings running backs carried the ball just four—four!—times for 12 yards in their 27-6 loss to the Bills. It's hard to tell if Dalvin Cook's absence made a difference. A pair of Kirk Cousins fumbles helped the Bills build a 17-0 early lead, the Vikings held the ball for just 9:05 in the first half, and the running game was out the window once it became clear that the Bills were going Old Dominion/Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on the poor Vikings.

Awards Digest

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Defensive Player of the Week: Lots of great choices this week, including some Hall of Famers (Earl Thomas, J.J. Watt) having big games. But Digest's favorite Dolphin, Xavien Howard, gets the nod for a pair of interceptions, one of them in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Howard covered Amari Cooper for most of the day, holding Cooper to just two short catches, which is bound to be the topic of some passive-aggressive Jon Gruden press conference remarks this week.

    Offensive Line of the Week: The Rams netted 521 yards of offense, including 171 rushing yards. The Chargers sacked Jared Goff just once and often left him with all day to scan the field. There were a few ill-timed penalties, but otherwise it was an outstanding day for (left-to-right) Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan, Austin Blythe and Rob Havenstein.

    Special Teamers of the Week: Cory Littleton blocked Drew Kaser's punt, temporarily knocking the Chargers punter out of the game. Blake Countess recovered the ball in the end zone for a Rams touchdown. The Chargers made it look good on the scoreboard but never really recovered after that.

    Mystery Touch of the Week, Part I: Colts center Ryan Kelly is officially credited with a negative-four-yard receptions after catching a deflected pass in the first quarter. Andrew Luck completed 10 passes for just 35 yards in the first half against the Eagles, but that will happen when you complete passes to centers.

    Mystery Touch of the Week, Part II: Saints all-purpose backup quarterback and return man Taysom Hill got a handful of Wildcat snaps and rushed three times for 39 yards—35 of those on one 3rd-and-short option. Note how easily the Saints incorporate Hill into an offense designed for Drew Freakin' Brees while the Ravens continue to outsmart themselves trying to find touches for Lamar Jackson.

    Mystery Play of the Week: The 49ers ran a play in which Jimmy Garoppolo handed off to fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who then option-pitched to Matt Breida. The play netted 13 yards, so Kyle Shanahan may resort to calling it 10 times per game with Garoppolo hurt.

    Mystery Play of the Week II: Keenan Allen's end-around option pass didn't go as planned. Allen stood in the "pocket" after taking a pitch, couldn't find any receivers and assumed the Jay Cutler posture—body language most of us reserve for when the person ahead of us in the grocery line asks for a price check on kumquats. Allen then gave up and slid to the ground for a big loss. Cutler couldn't have done it better himself. 

    Fantasy Leech of the Week: The Saints managed to score 43 points without a single Alvin Kamara or Michael Thomas touchdown, thanks to Drew Brees' two rushing touchdowns, a short reception by Ted Ginn Jr. and some vintage leechery by backup receiver Cameron Meredith and fullback Zach Line.

    Meaningless Fantasy Touchdown of the Week: Deshaun Watson connected with Lamar Miller for a four-yard touchdown pass in the waning seconds of what ended as a 27-22 Texans loss to the Giants, saving the day for fantasy teams relying on Watson or (because of the RB1 injury crisis) Miller, and pushing the final score past the over to boot. No bad team makes it look good in the end quite like Bill O'Brien's Texans!

The Secrets (and Spoilers!) of TV's Most Famous Jaguars Superfan

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    Courtesy NBC/Universal

    Critically acclaimed NBC comedy The Good Place returns for its third season Thursday. The show follows a quartet of misfits, including Blake Bortles-obsessed Jaguars mega-fan Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto, above with co-star Jameela Jamil) through a twisted afterlife in which neither "the Good Place" nor "the Bad Place" are quite what they seem.

    The bumbling Jason's infatuation with the Jaguars—he shouts "Bortles!" the way a paratrooper might shout "Geronimo!"—has become one of the show's funniest gags. But will the success of Bortles and the Jaguars impact either Jason or the universe of The Good Place in Season 3?

    Writer Joe Mande spent a few minutes with Digest dishing the dirt.

       

    Digest: How big a part of The Good Place will Jason's Jaguars fandom be this season?

    Mande: I've been told not to reveal any spoilers. But I can say that they are back on earth—that's common knowledge from the Season 2 finale. So we're going to see his fandom in real time. It does play a role. It becomes an issue for him, personally: trying to juggle his life and trying to catch the Jaguars game.

       

    Digest: Bringing the characters back to life at the end of Season 2 must have rebooted earth's timeline. That's not what made our real-world Jaguars suddenly good, is it?

    Mande: All I will say is that we had to figure out, time-wise, if after he got rebooted the Jaguars were bad or good. One of the hardest things was trying to place the reboot into the real life of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Way too much time was spent in the writer's room trying to figure that exact problem out. It gave everyone a headache. It came down to: for that to happen, it had to take place on a Sunday, but they played Monday night that week. It got really intense. That's when we had to pull back and say, "It's just a show."

       

    Digest: What was your contingency plan if the Jaguars won the Super Bowl last year? It would have been hard to have a running Bortles gag if Bortles was the Super Bowl MVP.

    Mande: The Jaguars were very cool. They let me and Manny Jacinto come to their home playoff game. NBC gave me an HD camera, and I was madly trying to get footage. We took a water taxi to the stadium. We had Manny eat a blue cheeseburger. I had him propose to a cheerleader on the field before the game started. It was really funny stuff. I can't say whether or not we'll use it.

    After they won that game, it's all me and Manny were talking about: What if we get to go to the Super Bowl with the Jaguars? I would have been Kevin Hart trying to talk my way on to the podium.

       

    Digest: How early in the creation of Jason did he become a Jacksonville native and a Jaguars fan?

    Mande: Developing Season 1, all that we knew was that he was an imposter pretending to be a Buddhist monk. So we discussed what would be the opposite of a Buddhist monk. Obviously, the opposite would be someone from Florida. So we pitched a wannabe Steve Aoki from Florida. I had just done stand-up in Jacksonville and was fascinated by how weird Jacksonville is, so I said, "This guy has to be from Jacksonville."

    I'm a huge Minnesota Timberwolves fan, so I know what it's like to be super-optimistic about a doomed franchise. I'm still a huge Ricky Rubio head, so my Ricky Rubio fandom is the precursor to Jason's Bortles obsession.

       

    Digest: But you can't make a rallying cry out of "Rubio!" the way you can with "Bortles!"

    Mande: Bortles is a perfect comedy word: the combination of clunky consonants and long O's. There's something about the B's and R's and T's. It's just a ridiculous word.

       

    Digest: Series creator Michael Schur said in Rolling Stone that Jason's fandom is a commentary on human nature: how we become fiercely loyal to whoever is wearing the right jersey.

    Mande: I think if you look closely at the chart [used to score moral points on the show], being a Browns fan lost points. [Correction: Loyalty to the Browns is worth +53.83 points.] We talk a lot about tribalism on the show. Being a fan of any sports team is just overt tribalism. There's no real sense to it.

       

    Digest: That doesn't mean that all diehard football fans are headed to the Bad Place, does it?

    Mande: There is something about sports that makes you hopeful but is almost never rewarded unless you're a Patriots fan. Being a devoted sports fan is like a version of the Bad Place.

Digest Sportsbook

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Your weekly look at this week's trends and next week's lines.

                

    Backdoor cover lovers

    There's no better feeling than being up 43.5 points against the spread at halftime. That's where bettors who took the Bills +16.5 (in anticipation of a late-game backdoor cover) found themselves at about 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. In the late games, anyone who took the Cardinals +9.5 enjoyed a 20.5-point halftime cushion and had nothing to fear when the Bears squeaked into the lead late in the game.

    The Bills open +10.5 at Green Bay next week, which means the house doesn't have much faith in them. The public may think otherwise after it digests the Bills' blowout and Packers' loss. If you like big road dogs, lock in the Bills early, before that line starts moving.

                 

    Lines on the move

    The Titans-Jaguars line moved from the -6.5 range to about -10 on Sunday morning, with news that Blaine Gabbert would start over Marcus Mariota driving the shift. But it's hard to cover a 10-point spread when you only score six points.

    The Jaguars open -9 hosting the Jets, who are coming off two tough losses and a quasi-bye. Until we determine which Jaguars offense is the real deal, be wary of them when favored by more than a field goal. And be wary of the Titans in general, because they are 2-1 and no one knows how.

           

    Monday Night action: Steelers (+1) at Buccaneers

    The Steelers and Bucs have met just 10 times in NFL history, with the Steelers 8-2 in the all-time series. The last meeting was in 2014, when Mike Glennon hit Vincent Jackson for a game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown.

    History is little help in this matchup, leaving our hearts seeking more 75-yard Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdowns while our heads tell us that neither contender-slaying Fitzmagic nor the Steelers locker room civil war is a sustainable trend. Digest is going with the heart and taking the Buccaneers, a hot team at home in a near pick 'em. Make the Steelers prove they're the team they claim to be, not the team they looked like in the first two weeks, before you give them benefit of the doubt.

            

    Distant early warning

    The Raiders are opening in the -2.5 range at home against the Browns. The Baker Mayfield Browns are not the Tyrod Taylor Browns, folks. But the Jon Gruden Raiders are exactly what you think they are: a team that plays just well enough to get beat every week.

         

    (Future lines via OddsShark.)

Point Counterpoint

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    Issues, answers, etc.

               

    Maroon 5 will perform the Super Bowl halftime show.

    Point: The NFL really has its finger on the pulse of the "People who still listen to bands your sister-in-law kinda liked 10 years ago" demographic.

    Counterpoint: It's a shame the NFL didn't use the Atlanta Super Bowl as the catalyst for a halftime Outkast reunion. Or a halftime R.E.M. reunion. Or an Arrested Development reunion. Wait...Arrested Development is still touring in Australia, but we're stuck listening to Maroon 5 like a bunch of chumps? Oh well, at least the NFL didn't try to resurrect the Allman Brothers.

           

    Thursday night's Browns-Jets game had 10.3 million viewers in the final six minutes, making it the most-watched Thursday night game in three years.

    Point: It's almost as if fans don't slump into the couch for three hours watching any old sporting event anymore, but instead surf multiple media and tune in when social networking tells them something unique or important is happening. Hmmm...nah, ratings are failing because of politics or whatever.

    Counterpoint: Half of those 10.3 million viewers expected those light beer coolers to gain sentience when the Browns won and start shouting "exterminate." The other half were TV hot-takers hoping to find something to criticize Baker Mayfield about.

           

    NFL Experience in Times Square to close after just 10 months.

    Point: Who would have thought that tourists with thousands of other options would be reluctant to plunk down $37 per head to see Cirque du Soleil perform an artistic interpretation of a fourth preseason game?

    Counterpoint: Many of the Cirque du Soleil acrobats and contortionists laid off by the closing will be rehired by the NFL to twist themselves into knots explaining the league's roughing-the-passer policy.

            

    Eric Dickerson leads a group demanding a lifetime salary and health care for NFL Hall of Famers.

    Point: How can society sleep at night knowing that we haven't guaranteed Ray Lewis' income in perpetuity?

    Counterpoint: Dickerson plans to expand his initiative to help other retirees once he and his Hall of Famers are taken care of. If you want to know the secret to how this plan works, send Digest a check for $1,000 and we'll share it with you!

             

    A New Jersey sportsbook decides to pay out $82,000 to a bettor after accidentally giving +75000 live odds last week on the Broncos making a game-winning field goal.

    Point: It was an obvious glitch. The +75000 odds were supposed to be on the Vikings making a game-winning field goal.

    Counterpoint: The book initially tried not to pay out, but it reversed course after speaking to New Jersey gambling regulators (and drowning in negative publicity). See, this is what happens when you entrust sports gambling to greedy American corporate interests instead of leaving it in the safe, honest hands of organized crime.