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Pigskin Pigsplosion Week 1 NFL Preview: Fail Mary, from League Embarrassment to Opening Spectacle

PIGSPOLSION

Pigsplosion is back, but we’ll be running it on Thursdays since this Thursday Night Football thing does not seem to be going away. For this year’s Pigskin Pigsplosion, Ryan Glasspiegel will be joining Stephen Douglas and Jason Lisk to provide some thoughts.

Jason: Well, I think since Ryan is new here and he is also a Packers fan and they open up the season tonight, he should have the floor first. Any problem with that, Stephen?

Stephen: So this is what we’re doing now? Fine.

Jason: Oh, I didn’t send you the memo? I think you must have been watching Fast and the Furious with Spencer when we had the planning meeting.

Green Bay @ Seattle (-5.5)

Ryan: Since this game was announced, it’s been offensive to me that the NFL has been marketing it as the “Fail Mary” sequel. Seriously, they made a movie trailer for it and everything. That travesty in 2012 was the culmination of three weeks of games where the pacing and aesthetics were ruined by replacement referees, who were installed as a result of Roger Goodell and the NFL owners’ arrogant and misguided beliefs that their refs could be swiftly supplanted, literally by men off the street.

Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks

As a Packers fan, this aggravated me to no end. Watching and caring deeply about sports is such a silly construct in the first place — it honestly makes no sense if you try to boil it down rationally — but we do, for whatever reason, enter into that pact, and it can’t sustain if the games are illegitimate. For now, the NFL thrives not just in spite of, but even because of their constant PR nightmares. The Fail Mary revenge game taking front and center of the beginning of the league’s season, and being promoted as such with no shame, is a perfect example of that.

I plan on picking against Green Bay each week as an emotional hedge. Seahawks cover.

Jason: Well, that got heavy quickly. To honor that officiating fiasco, I am setting the over/under at 25 on penalty flags in this one as the Seahawks get punished for embarrassing Peyton Manning. The same will not be allowed against Sir Aaron. Packers

Stephen: Uh… Seahawks usually beat the shit out of everybody at home so. Seahawks

New Orleans (-3) @ Atlanta

Ryan: With all of these games, we’re more or less guessing. This is the case for most of the season, but it’s really true for the first few weeks before we’ve had a chance to see any of these teams play. The preseason is almost worthless for predictive purposes, unless teams suffer catastrophic injuries.

This line seems to imply that Vegas believes the Falcons’ going 4-12 last year was a blip on the radar, rather than being the first step in a downward slope that will cost Mike Smith his job and make us question what this all means for Matt Ryan’s LEGACY. Again, who really knows? Saints cover.

Atlanta Falcons v Buffalo Bills

Jason: Shhhh. [nudges Ryan, whispers to Stephen]. Clearly we all know what we are talking about and are making these picks by divine right, or something. Falcons.

Stephen: I don’t gamble so it doesn’t really matter to me either way. SAINTS

Minnesota @ St. Louis (-4)

Stephen: Now this is a football game! Last I heard every offensive player for the Rams got hurt which will make things difficult. On defense, they better be good after they toyed with our hearts with Michael Sam. Though, they are going against Adrian Peterson who is quite good. This is a tough one because of predictive purposes and what have you. VIKINGS

Adrian Peterson touchdown run against the Cowboys-a

Jason: Two teams that play in domes, the way football was intended to be played. [Oh wait, the Vikings are screwing that up now.] Vikings.

Ryan: Last week, I wrote a post reminiscing about the time Randy Moss (or somebody who sounded a whole hell of a lot like him) called a Nashville radio station to rip on Jeff Fisher, who I don’t think is as good of a coach as public perception and his salary would indicate:

His teams haven’t finished over .500 since 2008 (he took a year off in between Tennseee and St. Louis), or won a playoff game since early 2004. In 18+ years as a head coach, Fisher’s record is 156-137 in the regular season, and 5-6 in the playoffs.

Fisher, who purportedly chose to sign with the Rams based partly on personnel input, went into this year with a below average starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) coming off ACL surgery, backed up by a 34-year-old journeyman (Shaun Hill) who hasn’t started a game since the 2010 season. Drafting second and thirteenth overall, the team passed on Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater.

Only Sean Payton, Andy Reid, and presumably Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll have higher annual head coaching salaries than Fisher.

This probably isn’t going to be a game that occupies a lot of time on the Red Zone Channel. Vikings cover.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-6.5)

Jason: The Browns clearly don’t care about page views or ratings. Jim Nantz, who was originally supposed to be in Cleveland, will now be elsewhere. For shame. Browns. 

Stephen: Ah, Cleveland. 

lebron-king-of-kings

STEELERS

Ryan: Pittsburgh is in that same category as Atlanta, where the quarterback and head coach have been successful in the past, but the team was crappy last year. There have been stories about a younger, rejuvenated Steelers defense – which tend to follow seasons in which the units were old and slow — but, again, you can never really tell the validity of offseason chatter like that until you see if the quicker new players gel on the big stage. Browns cover?

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia (-10.5)

Stephen: Despite going to bars with the NFL package on most Sundays, I don’t actually recall seeing a single Jaguars game last season. I have seen some highlights. And I think I remember a game in a near-monsoon from two years ago, but I don’t think I ever saw a live snap of a Jags game in 2013. I mean, they must have played games, right? That can’t bode well. For anyone. Especially Blake Bortles. EAGLES

lindsey-duke_blake bortles

Ryan: Philadelphia’s 10 wins came by an average of 14.5 points last season. (That number was helped by massive blowouts of the Bears and Raiders, and hurt in close wins over Arizona and Dallas.) Their M.O. in Chip Kelly’s first season was to handily beat bad teams.

Jacksonville has some pieces in place such that, for once, the foreseeable future doesn’t look like a bleak waste of time, but there will still be growing pains along the way. I think they’re going to be the type of team that is frisky late in the season, covering late underdog spreads. Not yet, though. Eagles cover.

Jason: Nick Foles’ lack of foot speed could be an issue in this one. Your thoughts? Jaguars.

Oakland @ NY Jets (-5)

Jason: I feel it was disrespectful for the league to schedule this Heidi Game rematch on the same week of the Fail Mary, but not because of that game, but because, well, have you seen these teams? Jets.

rex ryan angry jets

Stephen: I’m excited to see whether Chris Johnson starts with a big game or if he’ll struggle right off the bat. I’m rooting for whichever is more frustrating for Jets fans. RAIDERS

Ryan: Should the Jets be favored by that much over anybody? Raiders cover.

Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-2.5)

Stephen: A battle for AFC North supremacy! In week one? What did we do to please the schedule gods so? BENGALS

Ryan: This is my fourth NFL season of picking games every week, and I never, ever have a good feel for the Ravens. There’s no compelling reason for me to spend the next hour tabulating the numbers, but I can’t imagine I picked more than 40% of their games correctly.

This season will be a good litmus test for whether or not Joe Flacco’s six-year, $120 million contract (which was functionally a three-year, $62 million deal after you cut through the monopoly money bullshit) was a disaster, and if the team might look to replace him after this season. Based on the rest of his career, that month in the 2012-2013 playoffs where he morphed into Joe Montana remains one of the most improbable things I’ve seen in sports, along with Eli Manning doing that twice.

Joe Flacco will go from Lombardi to Oscar

The Bengals always seem to be a little bit better than people give them credit for. Andy Dalton gets pilloried for being mediocre, when the reality is that an alternative that exists that is actually much worse. Cincy covers.

Jason: I haven’t had a good feel for NFC games, games involving non-animal mascots, or where one of the teams was formerly coached by Norv Turner. Bengals.

Buffalo @ Chicago (-6.5)

Stephen: Unfortunately, I often watch football with Buffalo Bills fan(s). I’ll be damned if Jay Cutler is going to ruin my first week of NFL football. BILLS

Jason: As the number one Jay Cutler apologist, I am already preparing my excuses–”that went right through the receiver’s hands,” “he has so much confidence in his arm,” and “that defender was clearly wearing an invisible suit in violation of league rules.” Bears.

Ryan: I know it will drive our editor-in-chief and noted Jets fan Jason McIntyre absolutely bananas when Santonio Holmes ends up being a productive player and citizen for the Bears (who he’s fading) this year.

With everything that broke their way — Aaron Rodgers missing a bunch of time, the Lions imploding like an abandoned building, and getting stunningly good backup quarterback play from Josh McCown — it’s pretty miraculous that the Bears didn’t win the NFC North last year. They had some bad injury luck on defense, which was atrocious in the first place, and have patched some of those holes up this offseason, and it will be interesting to see if they’re the Super Bowl contenders that some expect. Bears cover.

Washington @ Houston (-2.5)

Ryan should have made a bet about how the Texans would do instead

Ryan: A few months ago, I made a bet with Uproxx Sports editor A. Isaac, which I meant to do a post on but never got around to it. The parameters are as follows: I say that RG3 will be in the top five of fantasy quarterbacks, in average weekly points on standard scoring (4 pts for pass TD, 6 for run TD, 1 pt every 25 yards of passing, 1 pt for 10 yards rushing, -2 for INT and lost fumbles), of QB’s who start 10 games or more. The bet is void if he doesn’t start 10 games.

The winner gets to choose an embarrassing jersey on eBay, valued at $50 or less, that the loser has to buy and wear all week. This wager was made before the preseason, and I regret it now, but I’m not going to renege. Washington covers.

RG3 slips after run against Giants-a

Jason: I think the loser should have to also wear shorts. So good luck finding a cool pair of shorts, young Glasspiegel. #shorts Texans.

Stephen: A. Isaac? I think his name is Andy. Anyway, let’s talk about J.J. Watt’s acting chops. His embarrassment and disappointment for the regulars on The League is tremendous. I just hope that Clowney getting quadruple-teamed and allowing Watt to get 46 sacks this season doesn’t make him stop appearing on The League. TEXANS

Tennessee @ Kansas City (-4.5)

Jason: There are lots of reasons to be concerned about Kansas City in this game: Dwayne Bowe is out, so no one is there to act as a decoy for Alex Smith’s dump off passes. The offensive line, already with Jon Asamoah and Branden Albert gone in free agency and Eric Fisher moving to left tackle, lost Donald Stephenson to suspension. The defense, when last seen, was blowing a huge playoff lead at Indianapolis. Last year’s game with Tennessee also continued the Chiefs’ defensive scoring prowess, with a bizarre touchdown on a muffed punt. That game was not easy. Titans.

Stephen: How many weeks until Ryan stops writing the extraneous “covers” after every pick? Probably fewer weeks than it takes for people to stop reporting the random “total” values of contracts. Did you know Alex Smith is getting $300 million guaranteed? TITANS

Ryan: Spending a week in Texas was a better time than any to pretend I was Rust Cohle, and drink Lone Star tallboys. Lone Star is pretty good, but I generally prefer PBR and High Life to whatever craft beers are making the rounds at the time. Tallboys, though, have always been an issue for me. I don’t drink beer fast enough to finish them before they go flat, so any extra value gleaned from the extra four ounces in the can is squandered by the fact that those final four ounces are flat and gross.

rust cohle

Basing this opinion on purely qualitative conjecture, I think the Chiefs will be this year’s “SCREW YOU GUYS, WE ARE STILL KIND OF GOOD SO STOP HATING” team. Kansas City covers.

New England (-4.5) @ Miami

Stephen: Why isn’t this – or any other 1pm game – a 4pm game? I know the US Open is going on, but come on. When the NFL sucks, it sucks hard. Anyway, I’m pretty excited for Tim Wright in New England. If he gets all Aaron Hernandez’s catches and Gronk has any further injury issues he could be awesome. At least that’s what I hope. Because I drafted him in fantasy football. PATRIOTS

Ryan: This tweet got me thinking:

If you’re not a Patriots fan, it would be at least mildly amusing to see Tom Brady get caught in a Molly/Adderall/whatever scandal in the next week or so, right? It was fascinating enough on Tuesday night when it was all going down with Welker — the suspension out of nowhere, the PFT Molly report, and the non-denial that eventually became a denial of knowledge of the drug’s existence and drink-spiking accusation — that would only be magnified times a thousand.

The Patriots were 12-4 last year, but half of their wins came by three points or less, and they lost to the Dolphins in Miami. Dolphins cover.

Jason: “Half of their wins came by three points or less” will go on Belichick’s tombstone. Okay, maybe an exaggeration, but Belichick is 30-17 in games decided by 3 points or less in the regular season in New England, and 60-34 in games decided by 7 or less. Dolphins.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay (PK)

Stephen: Really looking forward to seeing how Logan Mankins fits in with the Bucs because I picked him in fantasy. PANTHERS

Ryan: It will be very interesting to see when and if Roger Goodell’s new domestic violence policy is applied to Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted by a judge of choking his girlfriend and throwing her onto a couch full of assault weapons. Hardy has appealed for a jury trial, which wouldn’t take place until after this season. To what extent has Hardy been afforded due process?

This game will be a good litmus test for where both of these teams stand, and I’m planning on keeping a closer eye on it Sunday. Panthers cover.

Jason: Everyone is down on Cam Newton and the Panthers. I actually think that the receiving group cannot be any worse than last year. His ribs are a concern. It’s probably more the defensive regression that could be a concern, especially if Hardy is suspended for any time. Tampa Bay is a team that I would literally believe anything about this year. They have many holes, but Gerald McCoy, Lovie Smith replacing the crazy Greg Schiano regime, a healthy Doug Martin, and those big receivers give them hope. Bucs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Oakland Raiders

San Francisco (-6) @ Dallas

Jason: Remember when a San Francisco vs. Dallas game used to mean something? (Clutches wistfully at Pearl Jam CD). Dallas.

Stephen: I remember that wistfully, Lisk. The 49ers were my favorite team growing up. When the Niners played the Cowboys I would sit on my 49ers blanket, leaning against my oversized 49ers pillow while drinking Coke from my 49ers mug. I didn’t make any of that up. COWBOYS

Ryan: As you’ve presumably heard by now, the Don Van Natta Jr. profile of Jerry Jones for ESPN the Magazine was fantastic. Everybody focused on the Adrian Peterson and Johnny Manziel stuff, but this was my favorite passage:

Dale Hansen, the WFAA sportscaster, recalls a famous story: He and Jones were drinking heavily in Austin one night and stumbled into a dance club at 2:30 a.m. when the bartender told them that last call had long passed. “Either you start servin’ drinks,” Jones said, “or I buy the bar and you’re the first son of a bitch I get rid of.” Ten minutes later, Jones tells Hansen, “Go to the bathroom.” Inside, Hansen discovered a bartender sitting behind a hastily assembled but fully stocked bar; Jones, Hansen and another 10 pals enjoyed mixed drinks until 5 a.m. Hansen was shipwrecked with a hangover until late the following afternoon. “Jones was on ‘Good Morning America’ at 7 a.m.,” Hansen says in awe.

The profile did the unthinkable for me, which is that I think I like and am rooting for Jerry Jones now. Though, the portrait of Jones the GM more or less confirms some of our beliefs, which is that he is probably spread too thin with the business aspect of the team to compete with the team architects, as Peter King would call them, who only give a shit about football.

This game will feature a lot of scoring. Cowboys cover.

Indianapolis @ Denver (-7)

Stephen: I came so close to quitting fantasy altogether this year. So close. Yet here I am telling you how Cody Latimer could benefit from Wes Welker’s love of designer drugs. Not to mention Brandon McManus about to benefit from Matt Prater loving beer. If Peyton Manning gets into heroin, expect a big season out of Brock Osweiler. BRONCOS

Jason: I’m glad I could design a draft that rekindled your love and brought you back to the (fake) sport. You’re welcome.

Oh, and Andre Caldwell was playing with the starters and Latimer caught all his passes from Osweiler. I think people are assuming it’s Latimer right away (maybe later in season if Welker never returns). Colts.

Ryan: Never pick against Peyton Manning in primetime before it gets cold outside. Broncos covers.

Snow Angels in Denver

NY Giants @ Detroit (-4.5)

Stephen: I’ve heard that both of these team suck so a 3-0 win would not cover this spread. GIANTS

Ryan: The Giants might go 4-12 this year. They seem really bad. Lions cover.

Jason: See, I’m not sure why the Giants are perceived as so much worse than, say, the Steelers, which I think they are. Both got off to horrific starts last year, and then won a majority of their games over the second half, but not enough to get in the playoffs. The pass defense–despite a ton of injuries–was very good. Jennings/Andre Williams is an upgrade over what was a disastrous running back situation. Eli had a horrible year. Giants.

Eli Manning Face

San Diego @ Arizona (-3)

Stephen: Anybody have any stories about towels or kids? CHARGERS

Ryan: My girlfriend replaced the towels in our bathroom last week, and they definitely look nicer. There’s no disputing that. However, the new towels are soft, and their bristles are ineffective. Eventually they absorb enough water and basically just stop working. It’s like trying to dry off with a blanket. To no avail, I’ve tried to lobby for my old towel to reclaim its rightful spot on the rack because its functionality is vastly more important to me than the aesthetics of our bathroom. Am I in the wrong?

Like the Ravens, I never, ever have any feel for the Chargers. During Philip Rivers’ tenure, they’ve capable of beating or losing to virtually anybody in the league on any given week. They might as well be a roulette wheel. Arizona covers?

Jason: Since we are in the “let’s share” time of our picks, it’s Lisk family story time. So my youngest son, who is 3, has some difficulty saying the first consonant sound of some words, and just omits them. Water becomes “Otter”, Drink becomes “Ink”, and so forth. So is it bad that I repeatedly ask him to say Grass and then laugh? This one’s not covered in the parenting handbook.

I thought it was topical since the Cardinals play on a grass surface inside a retractable roof stadium in the desert. Cardinals.

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