Note: If you came looking for fantasy football recommendations, I don’t have anything for you. This season, Football Fantasy! here at Field Gulls will offer a recurring daydream considering the weekly football schedule from a perspective of entertaining narratives and wished-for results across the non-Seattle Seahawks landscape. Here, we welcome storylines and silliness to topple other interests from week to week as we deliver the lowdown on the rest of the league from the land of make believe. For more detailed explanation of the picks, look here.
Last week the picks were genuinely bad for the first time, but the games on Sunday were also legitimately screwy. The Cincinnati Bengals scored three first half touchdowns after managing three total field goals in the previous two games. The Baltimore Ravens fielded the best defense after two weeks of all time, then went out to London and gave up 44 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The undefeated AFC favorites the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed 84 net passing yards to the Chicago Bears—and lost. The Buffalo Bills clobbered the Denver Broncos! The New England Patriots nearly lost at home for the second time! The Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets … won football games! Then this happened:
Easily the saddest thing I’ve ever watched in my life. pic.twitter.com/m7o1D2YXtO— Detroit Moments (@DetroitMoments) September 28, 2017
As everybody knows these outcomes were distorted and misdirected by the anarchist spirit known only as Unity—a well-meaning but distracting field nymph magically transported from stadium to stadium to run loose on turf untying shoelaces, pulling down hip pads, inflating and deflating balls like a menace. To contest these rampantly upside down results, this week’s Football Fantasy! will be written under protest. All-protest! All the time!
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
This will be the tiebreaking game (unless they tie) in the storied Packers-Bears rivalry that currently stands at a level 93-93-6 since 1921, which you will definitely hear about during the program. (The tie will remain unbroken until at least November 12 when the two squads meet again at Soldier Field.)
However, since 2000, Green Bay has dominated its NFC North cousins 24-11, including the playoff win that launched Aaron Rodgers’ only Super Bowl appearance after the 2010 season—and it was only more one-sided during the Mike Holmgren era, when Chicago won just two of 14 meetings and lost 10 straight, but that also goes to show how much better the Bears did during their first 75 years to still be square.
The odd rub that helps keep the halo of acrimony between these franchises from neutralizing then, and thus keeps them scheduled at least once yearly in primetime for the 12th straight season (fact!) despite our yawns and eye rolls, is that in night TV games Chicago has actually held its own against the Packers: The record is again an even 5-5 in the last 10 such encounters when all attention is on this game. Despite fielding the weaker side almost every season, the Bears really do seem to show up for these tilts.
Rodgers is 14-4 lifetime against Chicago, but all four losses are in Monday or Thursday games. That’s what’s weirder still: The Bears have only one victory in the last six Sunday Night Football appearances versus Green Bay, so the fat of their primetime success has come in the off-calendar showcases like this one. They’ve even split the last four such visits to Lambeau Field (where the broadcasters tend to situate these spectacles for extra helpings of Midwestern mawkishness).
With that being said, I still don’t blame you if you refuse to watch in protest against the NFL annually shoving these teams down our throats.
My choice: Bears
Sharp pick: Green Bay (-7)
New Orleans Saints vs Miami Dolphins (in London)
The anticomedy act performing under the name Jay Cutler Playing Pro Quarterback returns to England this week for the first time since 2011 (a classic horseshoes marathon when Culter and Josh Freeman posted 468 net passing yards on 87 combined dropbacks). Cutler ought to find an easier time moving the ball against the Saints defense than he did against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that day—or the Jets last week for that matter, when the Dolphins managed an abysmal 3.6 ANY/A or just five yards straight up per pass attempt on 44 tries.
Cruel irony:— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 26, 2017
Offseason was all "Jay Cutler knows Gase's system."
Regular season and the Dolphins run a basic, limited passing game. pic.twitter.com/N5XHUgYg6L
Regardless of how these organizations honor the British royal anthem before kickoff, another such routine could constitute aggravated resumption of the American rebellion that’s been in détente for more than 200 years, cuing a riot at Wembley. As an act of bilateral unity Miami should say it sent Cutler in as a demonstration against privatization policies that enabled the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, and then make sure the foreign press doesn’t ask a single follow-up question.
My choice: Dolphins
Sharp pick: New Orleans (-3)
Buffalo Bills at Atlanta Falcons
As the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC and defending conference champion, a win against the AFC East-leading Bills would be protest action against the statistical models that still place Atlanta behind several one-loss teams thanks to its close calls against Chicago and Detroit. (Don’t tell anyone but those appraisals are accurate.)
My choice: Bills
Sharp pick: Buffalo (+8)
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Ben Roethlisberger was so sad that his teammates had to stay in the tunnel last week during the national anthem that he organized a quiet candlelight vigil by himself, in his home, tirelessly protesting against the oncoming sleep that has plagued him since childhood. “I can’t stand that all my life there comes a time when I have to lie down in the dark, not standing for the flag, because in my heart I know lying down makes a mockery of those who serve and protect our country, current and past, especially the ones that made the ultimate sacrifice. Because they can’t stand anymore, you know, and I want to be standing. And I just can’t stand that they can’t stand and I couldn’t stand. Then in the tunnel or later at night, when I felt sleepy.”
Roethlisberger continued: “It’s not fair. I’m here to raise awareness about people dealing with this silent scourge, this nightly oppression of sleep. The American people need to learn how often Roethlisbergers have to deal with this injustice.” Upon being told that everyone on earth has to sleep, Roethlisberger revealed that there’s a Raven who stands still in a tree every night outside the window in his bedroom. “He seems to be able to stand there on the branch no matter how dark and drowsy-dreamy it gets. I guess you never heard of night privilege.”
The antisleep crusade is the latest in a litany of causes taken up over the years by the radicalized Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh quarterback has previously staged successful protests against motorcycle helmet laws, the concept of consent in sexual intercourse, and the very placement of the goal line during Super Bowl XL. Roethlisberger said invited teammate Alejandro Villanueva to his vigil, but Villanueva preferred to make his own demonstration separately.
My choice: Ravens
Sharp pick: Pittsburgh (-3)
Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The state of Ohio is collaboratively 0-6, which is an affront to the long legacy of football in that territory from Canton to Youngstown and Massillon to, um, Oberlin. In protest of this stain, the two professional squads will play another football game.
My choice: Bengals
Sharp pick: Cleveland (+3)
The Rams have an NFL-best 107 points scored, after breaking 40 twice already in the first three games. That’s quite a feat considering it took till the sixth game of 2016 for L.A. to hang that many on the board—and then the Rams scored more than 10 points only three times the rest of that season. If Jared Goff’s offense can score even one touchdown in Dallas, it will be more than halfway to last year’s total of 224 points.
It’s just the first few pictures from the new post-Jeff Fisher world order. But what we’ve seen speaks for itself. Take to the streets if you hope to resist, but one thing is clear: There is no stopping Sean McVay. And I for one welcome our new NFC West overlords.
My choice: Rams
Sharp pick: Dallas (-6.5)
How do you protest the flag when both teams already wear red white and blue?
My choice: Titans
Sharp pick: Tennessee (-1.5)
Watching Matthew Stafford talk about the negated Lions touchdown in the video clip above reminds me of Al Gore as president pro tem of the Senate in 2001 refusing to hear election protests by the Congressional Black Caucus without another senator’s objection—
STAFFORD: “Those guys were defending the goal line just like we were trying to score.” “Guys were, what were we, six inches short of it?” “It’s NFL football.”
GORE: “The chair must remind members that … no debate is allowed in the joint session.” “Is the objection signed by a senator?” “The chair will advise that the rules do care”
It’s not taking a political side to laugh at the sadness of a man who lost straining to support the very rules that did him in. It’s just human comedy!
My choice: Lions
Sharp pick: n/a (no line)
Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots
Tom Brady made a protest demonstration during the anthem before Cam Newton did.
My choice: Panthers
Sharp pick: Carolina (+9)
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets
In the moments after Jacksonville owner Shahid Kahn took the field in England to join his team’s demonstration during the U.S. anthem—the first owner to do so, and also after Khan had several times mentioned he would be okay with his team bringing into the Jags’ flailing quarterback competition the man who started the whole protest commotion—it seemed likelier than ever that free agent Colin Kaepernick might find a job soon.
Then Blake Bortles voiced his dissent with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the previously-stingy Baltimore defense. However, Bortles owes much of that haul to Jacksonville’s own defense turning the ball over on the Ravens’ 32-, 28- and 2-yard lines. We mentioned last week Bortles’ eerie efficiency inside the red zone—it’s traveling from one 15 to the other that gives him trouble. Well you know who else succeeded with a phenomenal defense and has excellent figures close to the goal line?
My choice: Jaguars
Sharp pick: Jacksonville (-3)
If Arizona’s head coach doesn’t like all the free speech in America, why doesn’t he go start his own nation? What’s that you say? His name is WHAT? (No wonder he’s always blushing.)
My choice: 49ers
Sharp pick: Arizona (-7)
Carson Wentz is so inaccurate he can’t even connect on a vow he made to pay Philadelphia’s kicker his own exorbitant game check without bouncing the pass. Wentz muttered the promise halfheartedly to a teammate as Jake Elliott lined up the literal last second long shot, but NFL microphones captured and replayed the sound byte after Elliott the 61-yard walk off field goal. At first Wentz balked but now says he will give the money to a charity of Elliott’s choosing.
It’s a good thing Elliott gets to choose, because last time Wentz had a chance to make a public charity offer he technically violated the spirit of the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” initiative in 2016. The then-rookie wrote a bible verse and “AO1” on his sneakers, standing for Wentz’s personal motto “Audience of One”. But the slogan didn’t represent any actual charitable organization or awareness campaign, as the league defined causes acceptable for the event, until Wentz officially filed to create his foundation in July. In a way, that made Wentz’s designed cleats at the time in defiance of the official uniform code.
My choice: Chargers
Sharp pick: Philadelphia (+1.5)
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By now you know New York owner John Mara didn’t care for Odell Beckham’s artful demonstration after scoring a touchdown against the Eagles last week, but someone should tell Mara that Beckham was just trying to show solidarity with the Giants’ leaky offensive line.
My choice: Giants
Sharp pick: Tampa Bay (-3)
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Raiders right guard Kelechi Osemele, who is ethnically Igbo even though he was raised in Houston, might harness the wave of protest movements to challenge the Nigerian government who haven’t released or announced the fate of Igbo separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu since soldiers kidnapped him in a raid two weeks ago. Unfortunately for Ahtyba Rubin or Adam Gotsis or whoever in Denver’s defensive front has to face up the 6-foot-5 340-pound Osemele Sunday, the time-honored Igbo protest method is “sitting on a man”.
My choice: Raiders
Sharp pick: Oakland (+2.5)
Keep an eye on Washington’s third best by DVOA defense, powered by its swiftly developing front three and pass rushing linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith …
Redskins' defense is starting to look like one of those things that takes over the league and everyone wonders how the heck it happened. https://t.co/LusyQaQlts— Doug Farrar (@BR_DougFarrar) September 27, 2017
… as you remember October in 2017 teams called the Redskins and the Chiefs will play each other on national television in the United States and it won’t even be close to the biggest controversy around football this weekend.
My choice: Chiefs
Sharp pick: Washington (+7)
On the year:
My choices (straight up): 16-28 (4-11 last week)
Sharp picks (against the spread): 23-20 (5-9 last week)