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Snarking Around the NFL: Week 9

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Sometimes, teams around the NFL play well and make the snark hard for me. This was not one of those weeks.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Detroit Lions
In an effort to make the game more fair, the league has now mandated that Antonio Brown must make all catches while standing on his head.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

That rhythmic banging you hear is one of three things: the drums of fate drawing perilously close to floundering teams like the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants; the lock-step marching of the NFL’s legal minions seeking the latest in litigation to make the game of football less fun; or the slow, steady smacking of my forehead against my desk after watching Week-9’s action.

It might be a combination of the three.

Countdown List of the Week: Top Three Moments That Broke Your Brain in Week 9

3) Raiders TE Lee Smith got the worst unnecessary roughness flag. Ever.

It’s not that tight ends can’t get called for unnecessary roughness. They can, if they do something that warrants it. But Smith did...this...

OAK’s Lee Smith got flagged for THIS?!

2) Panthers QB Cam Newton tried to explain the team trading Kelvin Benjamin by comparing them to the Titanic.

This is not a joke. I so wish it was. Okay, I don’t, because this is comedy gold and it makes writing this weekly column easy. Newton said, and I quote: “yeah, we just lost a great player. But nevertheless, you know, the Titanic still has to go.”

Considering the Panthers have mostly been winning despite their best efforts this year, comparing this team’s offense to an allegedly unsinkable boat that hit an iceberg and sunk on its maiden voyage may not have been an accident so much as it was a Freudian Slip.

1) The Atlanta Falcons blew an early lead.

Okay, that one didn’t break your brain. In fact, it’s become so common that it probably lulled you to sleep. I’m reaching the point now where I suspect teams are actually game-planning to allow the Falcons to jump out to a lead of 10 or more points. Then, they’ll have the Falcons right where they want them.

Meme Tweets of the Week

It’s much easier than Tebowing. #JuliOMG

There’s a lot of talk around the NFL about whether the best receiver is Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown or Atlanta’s Julio Jones. The debate has raged for several years, with Jones’ supporters often pointing out that he sometimes makes similar moves to Brown despite being considerably larger.. There’s some merit to the argument, but it’s impossible to argue with Brown’s otherworldly stats despite the lack of draft pedigree.

There’s definitely something Jones is better at now than Brown, though, without a doubt:

Julio Jones had a bad drop

The Burfict tweet at the Burfict Time. #TwoFeetAreBetterThanOne

It’s a few weeks late, I admit, but there was no way I was passing this up. Burfict has been a lot of things for the Bengals: elite linebacker, less-than-elite linebacker, kicker, destroyer of playoff victories so certain that the team travel agent was already booking flights for the following week...(yeah, Burfict had some help from Pacman Jones, but I’m willing to overlook that for effect right now).

The only real shame with this meme is that it so callously ignores the best kicker in NFL history:

Antonio Brown destroys P Spencer Lanning

Say it ain’t so, A.J.! #HeWasTheirLastGoodMan

You were just showing Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey some love and appreciation, right A.J. Green?

Right?

Dang it.

Winless Teams Watch

The San Francisco 49ers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9, and it was about as predictable as you would expect. No, it’s not that the Cardinals are so much better than the 49ers. It’s simply that the 49ers have become so adept at losing that winning just feels wrong and dirty.

Of course, the Cleveland Browns have been there for a long time. They don’t call Cleveland the Factory of Sadness and The Mistake by the Lake for nothing. Losing has actually become a type of art for the Browns, which they elevated to new heights this past week by losing a trade because they were so busy celebrating that they actually did something right they forgot to file the paperwork before the trade deadline.

They then proceeded to lose to the Bye Week, 31-7.

Awesome Stat of the Week

The Steelers have not allowed an opening-drive touchdown since week 16 of the 2015 season. That’s 25 games ago, and it’s the longest active streak in the NFL, according to Steelers PR guy Dom Rinelli.

It’s hard to overstate how important that stat actually is. Preventing early points is one way to make winning a game easier. Kudos to an oft-maligned defense for keeping opponents out of the end zone early in games so well for so long.

Of course, like almost any streak, now that it’s been brought to light, it will come to a quick and spectacular end, much like the countless “he hasn’t thrown an interception in his last eight gazillion attempts” comments from play-by-play announcers that are immediately followed by interceptions on the next three drives.

Random Thoughts

  • Is Jameis Winston okay? And I don’t mean physically, because we know he’s injured. But what was with that whole finger-licking, that’s-a-W thing he did for a pregame speech Sunday? Even his teammates were caught totally off-guard by his strange behavior. No snark here — I’m seriously wondering if the pressure is getting to him. It would explain his rapid regression from rising star last season to poor decisions and the flying of wounded ducks this season. It’s worth digging into further.
  • The writers of Days of Our Lives couldn’t have created something so melodramatic and absurd as the Ezekiel Elliott case. The NFL has, however, probably shot themselves in the foot with it. By Elliott pushing the matter in the courts, he’s essentially letting judges draw a very clear box around the powers of commissioner Roger Goodell. The process started with Deflategate, and Elliott’s legal team is basically finishing it. I have virtually no expectation that the league’s suspension will hold, based on one simple premise: allowing one man to dole out punishment on a player based merely on allegations of wrong-doing that never even became actual charges (sound familiar, Steeler Nation?) makes the NFL player-conduct policy completely subjective and left to the interpretation of one man, and one man alone. Yes, the NFL Players’ Association screwed up big by allowing that sort of language to be written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the first place, but allowing someone to punish an employee (or contractor) based on unproven evidence can easily be viewed as bias, favoritism or discrimination, and puts the league on a very slippery legal slope.
  • Week 9 is right up there as one of the worst weeks of football this season. Maybe in recent memory. Nine of 12 games were decided by at least 10 points, and six of the winners of those games scored at least 28 points. The closest of those games — Arizona at San Francisco — featured quarterbacks Drew Stanton and C.J. Beathard, with the two combining to complete less than 50 percent of the passes they threw (39 of 81). That’s the kind of football that makes you want to dig out your eyeballs with a bottle opener.

And, Finally...

The league continued with its head-scratching disciplinary actions in Week 9. Of the seven players who were involved in fights, only one — Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans — got suspended.

It seems, from the way it was explained, that Evans was suspended because he was not ejected during the game, so the suspension is to “even things out” a little. If that’s the case, the NFL is opening themselves up to even more litigation in the U.S. court system. Just because officials screwed up the in-game response doesn’t mean they should single out players differently for what amounts to the same overall actions. Every one of them — the instigators and those who responded — should have been suspended for a game.

This simply sends the message that you won’t be suspended for throwing a punch, as long as you were ejected from the game. Look for people to start throwing punches once games have been effectively decided, going forward. Ejection means no suspension, right? So do it at the end of a game and get ejected for a few minutes, and apparently the league will just wipe the slate clean! Horrible, horrible job on this ridiculously mixed message from the NFL.