It’s always questionable to draw broad trends from just a few weeks of early-season action, but fuck that—we’re looking at the best crop of young quarterbacks we’ve ever seen. Or at least if you’ve been watching football regularly for the past half-decade or so, it feels that way. Rookie playcallers like Andrew Luck and the concussed Robert Griffin III are legitimate good ball-throwing guys, of course, but there are plenty of good second-year QBs as well, like Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, and Cam Newton (assuming Cam gets his groove back at some point). If you expand the definition of “young” to include “drafted in the past five years,” you can include Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Joe Flacco on the list of young QBs who don’t seem too bad at the moment.
It’s a little bit hard to take in. Six years ago, Jon Kitna, a forgettable at best game manager for an abhorrent Lions team (he's now a high school math teacher in Tacoma) was near the top half of the league in QB rating, and Damon Huard, about whom the less is said the better, was second. If you want to go deeper than QB rating, which is a lousy stat, you can look at FootballOutsiders’ QB ranks from that year. Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are at the top, but then you’ve got dudes like Tony Romo, Marc Bulger, and Chad fucking Pennington in the top ten. Rex Grossman was a Super Bowl quarterback back then. Being an NFL quarterback seemed to be like managing the Yankees in the 80s—too hard for anyone to do.
Then things changed. Stricter rules on quarterback hits (or, if you prefer, castrating the pass rush) helped protect the precious pigskin heavers and spread offenses began to proliferate, especially after the ‘07 Patriots had a perfect regular season while ignoring boring garbage like running and defense. Last year, there were three guys who passed for more than 5,000 yards—before then, there were only two, and before 2008, there was only one. And now that there are a bunch of young guns who can play the position, there’ll be a lot more in the future. Which is good. Ignore the purists who bitch about change—remember when football was just 22 guys punching each other in the mud?
Pittsburgh (-6) at Tennessee
Speaking of a bunch of guys punching each other in the mud, that would be more entertaining than this game, which features a dirty team led by a rape bro matched against the Titans, who, if you exclude their miracle victory against the Lions, have lost four games by an average of 24 points. Yikes.
PICK: Pittsburgh, but I hope they lose
Cincinnati (-1.5) at Cleveland
Look, I know the Browns haven’t won a game, but they’re actually not bad—they’ve played everyone pretty close, and Brandon Weeden isn’t terrible. Check out this throw:
The Browns are like that friend you have who was really smart in college, but keeps getting fired from shit jobs. You said you wanted to write screenplays, Kyle, so just do it. Stop wasting your time getting high with those messed-up kids. Can’t wait until he and the Browns get it together.
Indianapolis (+3.5) at New York Jets
Going with my heart on this one, not my head. I really, really want Andrew Luck to outplay Mark Sanchez so badly that all those big Jersey dudes who root for the Jets literally barf with rage.
Kansas City (+4) at Tampa Bay
Haha, just kidding, this game isn’t happening! Can you imagine how depressing this matchup would be? I mean, Matt Cassel is hurt, so Brady Quinn would play. It would be horrible to watch.
PICK: Tampa Bay
Oakland (+9) at Atlanta
Today I saw chocolate-chip cream cheese at the deli. That’s gross. If you want to eat like a cinnamon-raisin bagel with chocolate-chip cream cheese, just eat a fucking donut. Bagels aren’t supposed to be dessert. Also, the chocolate-chip cream cheese looked like mashed-up poop. What made me think of that? Oh yeah, the Raiders look like mashed-up poop too.
Dallas (+3.5) at Baltimore
This game confuses me. Baltimore seems better, but I think that’s because they have those purple uniforms and yell a lot—if you go by advanced stats, the Cowboys have a better defense this year. And Tony Romo and Joe Flacco are both quarterbacks who are good and bad at the same time. Like unobserved quantum particles occupying superpositions. Oh wow. What are we talking about? I’m so high right now, guys.
Detroit (+4) at Philadelphia
What would a lion fighting an eagle look like in the real world?
Oh yeah. Fuckin’ hella badass. U-S-A! U-S-A!
St. Louis (+3.5) at Miami
We like to idealize sports as being a never-ending collection of memorable moments, but sometimes there are games in early October between the Dolphins and the Rams that make you question whether it’s even worth turning on the channel, let alone going to work every day to pay the cable bill.
New England (-3.5) at Seattle
The Seahawks’ stadium is this gaudy giant echo-chamber that gives the team an actual home-field advantage, and their defense is legit. On the other hand, Russell Wilson plays quarterback like a dude playing Madden with the difficulty set too high: Shit, the only passes I can complete are short hooks, better keep doing that—oh crap, I can’t find a receiver open run oh no I’m not fast enough. I am flabbergasted that the Patriots aren’t even given a touchdown here.
PICK: New England
Buffalo (+4.5) at Arizona
I’ll go on record here saying that with Al Davis dead, Ralph Wilson is the most stylish owner in the sport. Look at him rock this yellow jacket:
OK, maybe not “stylish.” Still, dude is 93. What are you going to be doing when you’re 93? Digging in the dirt with your cyborg claw while being whipped by the super-intelligent dogs who have taken over, that’s what.
Minnesota (+2) at Washington
RGIII got a concussion last week because he didn’t slide fast enough—he’ll probably play Sunday because he’s a warrior, and the economics of the NFL require him to be one. Minnesota isn’t bad, but on the road against a decent Redskins team? Actually I don’t know. This’ll be a fun one.
NY Giants (+6.5) at San Francisco
Niners and Giants games in the early 90s were the league’s calling card, like Sox-Yanks for MLB up until this year or Peyton-Brady during the Bush era. And now this is a marquee matchup again—these are two of the best five teams in the NFC, easy. Which is cool because their jerseys contrast pretty well:
Green Bay (+3.5) at Houston
God, is Green Bay even good at all? They’ve struggled against Seattle, New Orleans, and Indianapolis. You’d think that with their offense they’d be able to beat pretty much anyone, but they’ve looked pretty flat. The Texans are one of the best teams in the league now, but they’ve got to lose sometime, right? Maybe Sunday will be the day.
PICK: Green Bay
Denver (+1.5) at San Diego
Thinking about a life involving either of these teams makes me sad. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe it’s because I keep thinking of Peyton Manning as a guy with a horrific neck injury and not a premium quarterback, maybe it’s because the Chargers annoyingly straddle the line between mediocre and good. Even though this’ll be an air show with lots of touchdowns, it’ll have bad effects, like eating ice cream for dinner or sleeping with someone who works at a pet store.
Previous week's record: 5-9
Overall record: 36-38-3