In our weekly NFL picks column, we predict the outcome of the games, as well as the presidential election, and Tim Tebow's political career. We also discover a song about the Tennessee Titans and talk about the evolution, or devolution, of NFL offenses.
We’ve talked about this before, but it seems that there are a lot more good quarterbacks than there used to be, and the good quarterbacks there are are a lot better. It’s made the game a lot more fun for fans; NFL football has always been pretty watchable, but there used to be days (specifically when the Bears played the Jets) when turning on a game felt like chewing sand. But now quarterbacks are thriving, and watching your favorite team never feels like doing homework, unless your favorite team is the Chiefs, in which case, I’m sorry.
Why has this happened? It’s not like there weren’t any good quarterbacks five years ago and a random influx of talent at the position has made the game entertaining. It’s more likely that a bunch of once-creaky offenses have revived themselves. For a time, teams had legendarily thick playbooks that changed year-to-year, and skill players had to deal with it. Worst-case but predictable scenarios had guys like Alex Smith effectively studying the LSATs one season, the MCATs the next, the GMATs after that, depending on who was the 49ers offensive coordinator. Then the quarterbacks would take a test every week, on the run, being chased by a bunch of 300-pound maniacs and trying not to get concussed. Is there any wonder offenses lost a step?
One reason why football doesn’t suck now is because some teams have been moving away from these terribly complex and granular passing systems to varying incarnations of hurry-up and spread offenses. Depending on the week’s matchups, the NFL now looks like a mix of Texas Tech under Mike Leach, the Oilers with Warren Moon, and Doug Flutie-at-his-best CFL. It’s incredible to watch. Of course, those systems are not actually simple—Giants receivers basically react to coverage, which is difficult, and the 49ers do a lot of fancy sweeps and end-arounds—or particularly new: the Erhardt-Perkins system, which is kind of what the Patriots and a lot of other teams go off, was used in Pittsburgh in the 90s. But it’s a breath of fresh air. It seems like teams are learning the lessons of Peyton Manning’s Colts teams: You don’t need a million plays, just a few good ones.
Teams now use hurry-up offenses—no huddle, fewer plays to pick from, and lining up as quickly as they can—and overload on good tight ends, small slot wideouts, and super-talnted offensive linemen. The idea—which a bunch of elite college teams, notably Oregon have advanced—is to keep defenses off-guard and a couple crucial seconds behind.
One example of this shift is Washington. The Redskins used to have a notorious 700-page playbook when they were terrible. Now, in the Robert Griffin III era, they rely on options and plays that rely on the quarterback’s judgment, not his memorization skills. And that’s a lot of fun to watch.
Kansas City (+7.5) at San Diego
It’s easy to criticize wide receivers for dropping passes or quarterbacks for missing throws, but a lot of times offensive linemen suck and they don’t get noticed by the general public. Take Jeromey Clary, for instance. The San Diego right tackle is terrible. He is just a big ol’ mound of garbage out there and guys run right past him. Last week, he did his regular thing and let his pass rusher through, then when Philip Rivers tried to throw the ball away, Jeromey caught the ball way behind the line of scrimmage instead of batting it down, costing his team eight yards for no reason. He did literally everything wrong on the play, and Philip Rivers can be seen going “No no no, what are you dooooooooing??!” during the disaster:
Still, the Chargers are playing the Chiefs, who are so shitty, people write think pieces about how bad they are.
PICK: San Diego
Miami (-2.5) at Indianapolis
You ever think that maybe the offensive linemen on Miami are jealous of the O-line players from Indianapolis? Not because they like auto racing or whatever, but I bet it gets annoying being a super fat guy in Florida and sweating all the time in the club and stuff. And then you have to go to the beach and everyone looks at you and you’re like, “I’m supposed to look like this. It’s my job.”
Buffalo (+10.5) at Houston
And we are back with another installment of BEHIND THE STATS, breaking down the game in terms a non-expert can understand. This installment of BEHIND THE STATS: Houston is awesome, Buffalo is terrible, and it’s not crawfish season yet, so if you’re tailgating, stick to ribs.
Denver (-4) at Cincinnati
These two teams always make me think of candy corn. I’m not sure why. Maybe because it’s Halloween and they incorporate a lot more orange in their uniforms than most teams? Maybe it’s because watching the Bengals makes me taste chalk, just like candy corn.
Baltimore (-3.5) at Cleveland
Want to see something more entertaining than what’s sure to be a defense-dominated, turnover-filled game? It’s sort of related to the Browns (via Jon Bois):
Detroit (-3.5) at Jacksonville
So you know how the NFL has played one game a year in London because it seems like a funny thing to do? Well, they recently announced that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be playing four “home” games in London, in order to “sell Jacksonville to the world.” No shit. Jacksonville is the least popular team in the NFL, so I guess the hope is that the Brits will get attached to the team because they like terrible crap like cricket and chip butties. This is like when you have a really ugly, depressed friend and you try to set him up with pretty much anyone in hopes that he will cheer up. Something tells me that if England doesn’t like good football, they really won’t like the Jags.
Arizona (+11) at Green Bay
Question for all the girls reading this column: This girl I know keeps telling me I look like Aaron Rodgers. OK, that’s not really a question. I just wanted to brag to y’all that I do actually look like Aaron Rodgers, even though I don’t weigh like 250 pounds—I bet I could, though, if I lived in Green Bay and just housed cheese all day.
PICK: Green Bay
Hey, the Titans are bad right now, but they used to be good and they’re pretty popular… I wonder if there are any good songs about the team, especially given the rich musical history of their state. Let’s google around a bit and…
Huh. That was a song about the Titans, all right.
Carolina (+3) at Washington
You know, some things are more important than football. And out of respect for those things, I’m not going to talk about football here. Plus, I don't know anything about this game.
PICK: Obama wins the election
Minnesota (+5) at Seattle
These franchises have had some success in the past and are both decent this year, but usually the media pretty much ignores them thanks to that EAST COAST MEDIA BIAS. “Hey, let’s write another article about why the Jets aren’t any good this season! Oh, the Vikings are a top five team in the NFC and Seattle has a great defense and a promising young quarterback? Ehhh, I don’t think anyone lives in those cities. Let’s ignore ‘em.”
Tampa Bay (+1) at Oakland
On the other hand, the media is right to ignore these teams. I just barfed all over my keyboard thinking about this game.
PICK: Oakland, or maybe they’ll just cancel this one
Pittsburgh (+3.5) at New York Giants
Tim Tebow is going to be elected to office at some point. He’s a good looking extremely evangelical Christian with name recognition who’s popular in Florida; he could be president if they decide that his being born in the Philippines isn’t a problem. But what about another New York quarterback—could Eli Manning be a politician? He’s pretty popular, and look at him survey the damage from the hurricane:
Dallas (+4) at Atlanta
Atlanta is pretty good but not that good, they’ll lose sometime. Maybe it'll be this week if the Cowboys aren't terrible the way they sometimes are. I'm sorry, it's been a long day, I can't think of anything else to say about this one.
Philadelphia (+3) at New Orleans
The Eagles are bad. Their defense is lousy. Andy Reid is talking about benching Michael Vick for Nick Foles, who—haha, oh man, you want to see a fairly underwhelming highlight reel set to the Hives? Here you go. But New Orleans has a defense that is frightened of loud noises and bees, and Drew Brees has traded his laser-cannon of an arm for a regular cannon. This game is going to be like that quote from The Wire when Prez says, “No one wins, one side just loses more slowly.” OH SHIT WAS THAT A METAPHOR FOR THE WAR ON DRUGS?!
Previous week's record: 7-6-1
Overall record: 60-53-5