By: Shawn Davis
I wanted to start off by saying I have not abandoned my readers who were introduced to me because of how I write about the NFL. It’s my favorite sport but until today I haven’t been posting weekly columns, at all, during this great season (or putrid one, depending on your rooting interests) because moving across the United States was a bit more time-consuming than I thought it would be. Also, the cool factor of it all has finally worn off and I’m getting close to finding a real groove.
With that said I’m not sure I’m going to be able to pump out any new content until the playoffs begin. The last thing I ever want to do is mail-in a piece so I’d rather not put something out that I didn’t have time to give a respectable effort to. (I’m still getting around my new digs without a car because searching for one without being taken advantage of seems to be close to impossible, but that’s a story for a psychiatrist’s couch.)
As for this reading I have some observations about a few teams that I wanted to share; this is not a power ranking list:
Denver (9-1): Being that they employ the Defense That Keeps Drives Alive – my term so don’t try and take it – I’m not as ready as the media at-large to automatically put them in the upcoming Super Bowl that will, once and for all, ensure the most important game the NFL can offer is played under sensible weather conditions…in a warm weather city. There’s a lot to like about them but when Peyton Manning isn’t spotting his defense 14-20 point leads, which he has done gleefully thus far, they don’t feel as complete as they should. Even when the Broncos get up on teams I always have an uneasy feeling about the defense.
To see their fans in the flesh – Hello Denver! – is pretty cool because locals are proudly adorned in the orange-and-blue and you could see conversations run the gamut of ages. I’ve been in Costco and observed a woman in her sixties (I think) debate the merits – with a father and his teenage son – of having a great defense to help out the offense on days when they aren’t turning the lights on the scoreboard. Later in the deli section I observed a group of sorority sisters debating with a married couple about whether they blew their best chance at the title last year. (They did.)
They care, they really do. They seem loyal as well. It’s going to be sad when their team falls short again in a few months. (Calm down because I rooted OPENLY for them last year in this column. I’m no hater.) So I’m going to leave it to the wise words of the sweet woman in Costco, “My dear sweetheart, it’s too much Peyton and not enough else to help when the games get tight. The games get tight in December and January.”
Seattle (10-1): From Week 6 until Week 10 the Hawks received a good deal of scorn from the media by “escaping” with close wins against Tennessee, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. Why? Because they had to beat back an inferior opponent…by barely winning. What the hell is going on in sports that have turned the tide on just getting a win? Why does every win have to be a blowout? Did the NFL devolve into the farce that the NCAA attempts to perpetuate with the term “student-athlete” while cashing in on their athletic output? It takes a lot to get a win in professional sports and I’ve always admired the teams that consistently pull out the close ones.
By playing in hotly contested games the margin for error shrinks and the confidence level for the team left standing at the end increases exponentially. The Seahawks remain comfortable after a few three-and-outs, when their defense allows a touchdown or when the opposing PROFESSIONAL team has them in their sights and gives them their best effort. Cruising through a season without facing a true test and running over opponents all the way to the postseason doesn’t produce a well-rounded squad. It lends itself to molding a team of front-runners that find themselves full of questions and not enough answers when the other team on the field in the win-or-vacation games stares them straight in the face without blinking.
This team has balance in all three phases of football, as well as the coaching and the mindset to be a force whether the game is over early or a fight for any points that can be mustered. I like them a lot as the calendar turns to December.
New Orleans (9-2): I was worried that the Thursday night game against Atlanta would be one they would sleepwalk and find themselves in the same position that they were a few weeks ago against the Jets, losing a game they had no business giving away. It was close in Georgia but the Saints are making a believer out of this writer. Why?
Their defense is able to hold leads, get stops, and hand the ball back to Drew Brees. I’m IN on the Saints as the playoffs creep upon us. They’re looking good. (We’ll just ignore what New England did to them in the dome.)
New England (7-3): Wouldn’t this season, which has been so unpredictable; see Pittsburgh, New York (Giants), Atlanta, Houston and Kansas City for tangible proof of this, be just the one where Tom Brady wins another Super Bowl with an inexperienced and unreliable receiving group (because of injuries) while everyone else stares in disbelief?
(This scares me like you wouldn’t believe. To Boston sports fans: I think, no I know you are becoming as arrogant and chesty as New York Yankees “supporters”. In the last 8 years you have hoisted the championship trophy of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. Your teams have been excellent so you cannot keep saying your sports teams are bad. I know bad…I’m a Mets fan.)
After being hosed on the no-call down in Charlotte last week, I’m certain they will get every call in the book and the Defense That Keeps Drives Alive…will keep drives alive leading to a win for the home team.
Detroit (6-4): Are the Lions good? Can they be taken seriously? (Not if you watched them gag it away against a Steelers team that I don’t believe has forks in their backs.) Is Matthew Stafford a good quarterback? Or did he just hit the lottery by having the best receiver right now – and someone that’s looking like he might give Jerry Rice’s numbers a fight when he hangs up his cleats someday – in Calvin Johnson to throw to in triple coverage? One thing that’s clear to me when I watch them play is that they don’t seem to feature an offense that’s diagrammed and schemed to the detail of some upper echelon clubs; when they need anything to happen the ball is thrown to 81, regardless of the other jerseys around him. It’s a luxury other teams wish they had – and it’s also the cackle of hyenas lurking around the mountain.
Cincinnati (7-4): I’m not sure who they are…and I think the suits have the same question when they look at Andy Dalton. I like him but I’m not sure if management does, long-term.
(I’m running on fumes right now…I got to wrap this up respectably. C’mon, Mr. Davis!)
Indianapolis (7-3): The way this team manages to rally back makes for spectacular television and endless gushing over Andrew Luck but it also shines light on their ability to fall asleep during the first halves of games. I like that they’ve been able to come back. I don’t like that they have to keep doing it.
Remember how the football world almost universally praised the Colts when they acquired Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns? Well…you don’t hear much chatter in that regard anymore. The sentiment has turned the other way, almost entirely. Is that really, Richardson? The real one must be hidden inside a panic room of a member of the Dog Pound…right?
(I see the finish line…or is that my Jack In the Box Munchie Meal? Have any of you seen that thing? Whoa.)
The NFC East is uninspiring, the Steelers are going to find a way to make the playoffs and the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl…in the snow. You were all fooled by their 0-6 opening record it seems. They were doing that to get the national coverage off their backs. Why do you think the crazed NY writers, analysts and talking heads haven’t fired Tom Coughlin about eight times already? They know what’s going on with Big Blue. You don’t?
Lastly, I love you NYC. It’s just that my goals pulled me away for the immediate future. I hope to return you as complete and successful as I need to be.
Oh yeah nothing above was a prediction, it was the food. I think.