5 Things We Learned: The Refs are Back, Jack Edition!

Let’s get right into another wild week of lessons we learned in Week 4 of the NFL.

1) Your ‘favorite’ zebra-striped officials are back and better than the same as ever. One week removed from being screwed over by a blatantly obvious bad call by the refs on Monday Night Football, the Green Bay Packers found themselves benefitting from blatant bad calls in their games vs. New Orleans. A key fumble by Darren Sproles went the way of the Packers, despite replay showing otherwise. If refs aren’t getting calls right with replay, we’re in trouble going forward.

If you watched any games this weekend, compare the reactions the fans gave the refs at the beginning with the jeers they received towards the end. The officiating wasn’t top-notch, but I am willing to cut them slack…they were rusty.

2) Tony Romo is never going to turn the corner. Every season, all the experts tell us that this is Romo’s year to breakout and show the world that he is one of the elite quarterback’s in the NFL…and then he steps on the field and has a game like he did Monday night vs. Chicago. It’s the type of game that makes you scratch your head and wonder why Jerry Jones and Co. are actually considering giving an extension to this guy.

I’m sure Tony is a stand-up guy off the field, but on the field he’s a sit down guy, as in all he usually does is throw picks in crunch time and goes back to sitting down on the bench. Romo played in his Super Bowl opening night when Dallas took on the Giants. The Cowboys actually haven’t looked that good since Week 1 too.

3) If the New Orleans Saints keep this up, Sean Payton should be a unanimous choice for Coach of the Year. This is coming from the same school of thought that Peyton should’ve won MVP last season because of his team’s abysmal performance all season long. The Saints should be able to go out and win games in spite of the absence of their head coach. This should be firing them up if anything.

The complete opposite is occurring though. They are playing well enough to keep their fans hopes alive until the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The play-calling doesn’t appear to be different from the naked eye. Drew Brees is doing the same thing he did last season: Brees drops back, checks his reads, throws a strike to (insert Saints wide receiver here), and then repeat; it’s like the cycles on a washing machine. For a man that is making 40 million dollars this season, Brees should have his team in a complete “us against the world” mentality, thus using Bountygate as bulletin-board material. Instead, they look more “woe is me.”

4) A quarter of the way through this NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals look better than people expected. Regardless of whether or not the Cardinals beat the Rams this evening, they have looked solid throughout the first four weeks of the season.

No one can use the excuse that they haven’t played anybody good because it would be dishonest to say so. The Cardinals handed the New England Patriots a loss at Gillette, a feat not many teams have accomplished during the Brady/Belichick era. On top of that, they convincingly beat down the Philadelphia Eagles at home. Their other two wins have come against the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins, the latter of which has one of the stingiest run defenses in this early season.

I’m not saying they are Super Bowl contenders just yet. Looking ahead, the Cardinals could very well be undefeated going into their match-up vs. San Francisco in three weeks. Not that NFL teams will admit to looking that far ahead, but I am sure the Cardinals understand that game will be their measuring stick for how where they rank amongst the class of the NFC.

5) The beef between Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is over…and by over I mean it was never really much of a ‘beef’ to begin with. Leave it to major sports outlets (mainly ESPN), to overhype something that never had much air under it.

Tupac and Biggie had a beef. Magic and Bird had a beef. Jay-Z and Nas had a beef. I could go on, but you get the point: those were actual feuds between two individuals who just did not get along. Osi and LeSean exchanged comments about each other through Twitter of all places. That alone is by no means an outlet that people will take you mildly serious on.

Kudos to them both though for providing the media, and both Giants and Eagles fans, entertainment to get us through the week leading up to the rivalry games these past two seasons.

#BookIt

-Brian Hartline is gone in every fantasy league you are in.

-Mr. Hartline is going to disappoint you big time this weekend coming off that monster game vs. a relatively sound Cardinals secondary. Cincy will be ready!

-Tebow will be starting for the Jets by/if not before Thanksgiving

-CJ2K is NOT back, and Sunday vs. Minnesota will show that his overdue 100-yard rushing performance was a fluke.

-RG3 WILL run away with the Rookie of the Year award, literally.

Week 4’s recipient of the McKayla is Not Impressed award goes to the New England Patriots. Let’s not run amuck declaring the Patriots offense is back and here to stay after they hung 52 points on the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday. The Jets hung 48 on them for crying out loud! If you didn’t expect the Patriots to go out and do the same thing, then I would question your football knowledge big time. The Bills are about as good on defense as the Phoenix Suns, and what is that saying? Absolutely nothing!

I reiterate, on behalf of NFL fans around the world: No one is impressed that the New England Patriots did something that was on par with an accomplishment that the New York Jets achieved in their season-opener vs. the Buffalo Bills.

With that said, if the Patriots come out and put on an offensive clinic against the Denver Broncos, then we can start saying the Patriots have found their offensive mojo once again.

Editor’s Update: The Cardinals may still have their San Francisco game circled, but they will not be undefeated going into it.

5 Things We Learned: The Seattle Screwjob Edition

1) If players can be flagged for throwing the ball at fellow players, then coaches should be reprimanded for throwing the game. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, you should be ashamed of yourself. Schwartz took full blame for the loss after the game (which he should), but that doesn’t change the fact that it was arguably one of the dumbest play-calls on fourth down since Belichick went for it deep in his own territory versus the Colts.

“I was getting ready to call timeout,” said Schwartz after the game, who said the play was an attempt to draw the Titans offside. Jim, we are still waiting for you to call that timeout. Quarterback Shaun Hill telegraphed that QB Sneak the moment he broke the huddle.

It was fourth-and-1. All Schwartz had to do was send Jason Hanson, who was 4/4 on the day, out for the 24-yard field goal, thus displaying trust in his defense to get one more stop. Sounds too easy right?! It’s a move like that which makes a player on the defense start to question the coach’s play-calling on the offensive side of the ball.

Then there is Miami Dolphins first-year head coach Joe Philbin. Joe, is there any conclusive evidence to suggest that icing the kicker actually works? Because if there is, I am dying to get my hands on that data. It’s bad enough coach Philbin believes if a coach calls for time the moment before the place-holder asks for the ball to be snapped, the kicker will miss the ensuing field goal. What makes this even more of a face-palm moment is the Dolphins were able to successfully block the kick!

Coach Philbin, I get it. You’re a superstitious individual. I am too. When the Giants were getting steam-rolled in the first half of their week 2 game vs Tampa Bay, I found myself scratching my head a lot. Then, at half time, my friend’s sister texted me and implored that the four of us switch seats for the second half. Nothing else seemed to be working at the time, so we did switch. And what do you know, the Giants came roaring back to win on the shoulders of a career-day from quarterback Eli Manning.

Did I actually believe I had any impact on the Giants performance in the second half? In the moment, of course I did, but in reality the answer is no. Did Philbin really believe his timeout call was going to ice Nick Folk? As Timbaland and Nelly Furtado would say, “Nope. Didn’t think so.”

2) Panic should ensue in New Orleans right about…NOW!

You’re the New Orleans Saints and you’re 0-2 going into week 3. You’re down on yourselves for the disappointing start to the season (as you should be.) But then the football gods hear your sorrows, and they give you the gift of the Kansas City Chiefs at home. What more could you ask for?! To the credit of the Saints, it has taken monster performances from their 3 previous opponents to keep them winless:

-Robert Griffin, III threw for 320 yards and 2 scores, with the addition of 42 rushing yards on the side for good measure.

-Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers, as a team, rushed for 219 total yards on 41 carries.

-Jamaal Charles gutted the Saints defense for 233 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Needless to say, to beat the Saints, a team needs to have at least one player with a breakout game. They’re not getting blown out. The Saints simply aren’t closing out games, as this past Sunday’s overtime performance displayed. Blame the lack of coach Sean Payton’s missing presence on the sidelines all you want, but the reality is the Saints look flat, and even more so, beatable. If anything, the absence of Payton should inspire them and bring out more passion in their game, and yet, the opposite is occurring. More often than not, when something/someone is taken from you, you will do whatever it takes to retrieve it. Maybe the Saints don’t want it bad enough.

Now, the Saints have to travel up north to take on the very pissed off Green Bay Packers. This game may very well determine if the Saints can make one final push to turn their season around, or if they should start scouting for their top 10 pick in next season’s NFL draft. According to nfl.com, since 1990, only 5 NFL teams have started the season 0-3 and still made the playoffs. With the depth that is in the NFC this season, the Saints would need to play near perfect football, and need a lot of teams to fall off immediately.

3) It is time to cut ties with Chris Johnson on your fantasy team. I take this learned lesson especially personal because I was one of those fantasy players who felt Chris Johnson’s holdout two season’s ago would not stop him from being a 1500-yard rusher in 2011, at the minimum. Boy was I wrong. Fast forward to this past August and there I was, like many of you, sitting there with a second round pick and thinking, “I have to take him here.” Now together, we are all face-palming the decision to have drafted him at all.

Through three games, Chris Johnson is averaging a mere 1.4 yards per carry. Per espn.com and the Elias Sports Bureau, among those who have the minimum 6.25 per game to qualify, Johnson ranks dead last at number 51. As I have stated in previous weeks, this is the year of the backup running back, and there are plenty of players out there who can amass the measly eight fantasy points he has put up thus far. Drop him now, while there are still valuable players on the waiver wire, because he is done.

4) Goodell Logic. I certainly can’t take credit for the name of this (shout-out to WFAN’s Evan Roberts), but I definitely subscribe to this theory that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell approves moves that make you scratch your head. In this case, the weekly Thursday night football game, which every team plays in at some point during the regular season.

Goodell Logic allowed the Baltimore Ravens to play in the prime-time game on Sunday night, only to have them play once again this Thursday evening vs the Cleveland Browns. That makes no sense whatsoever. Regardless of who they are playing, teams should not have to play a football game on 3 days rest. Nothing good can come of that, except the NFL making more money by having people tune into its network channel every Thursday.

Sadly, nothing will be brought to the table to end this until players start to get injured because of these short turn-around weeks. Be on the lookout though, because Goodell Logic is bound to punish your favorite team at some point this season.

5) The Sunday night game featuring the Ravens and Patriots may have been the worst officiated game this season…until we all witnessed the screwjob that was Seattle vs. Green Bay.

No need to rehash what has already been beaten into the ground over the last 48 hours. The officiating of those two nationally televised games was abysmal! The final play should not have been ruled a touchdown at all. It was clear as day (apparently not if you were on the field and wearing stripes it wasn’t) that Golden Tate did not have possession, simultaneous possession, anything, and yet the refs still ruled in favor of the Seahawks.
I really want to believe professional sports are never rigged, Tim Donaghy aside, but then officials blow calls like that and it makes me wonder if Roger Goodell runs the NFL, or if Vince McMahon and the writers at WWE are the ones calling the shots. The ending to the football game delivered from a ratings perspective, something Vince McMahon has seen the WWE excel at. Fact is, when the conclusion of Monday Night Raw seems less fixed than the outcome of a professional football, we as a fan base, and as a culture, have failed ourselves.

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-The New York Jets are done. You know the rest of your season is bleak when one of the backup running backs is being converted into cornerback.

-Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback in Philly as long as he healthy. Head coach Andy Reid wasn’t fooling anyone when he told reporters that Vick was their quarterback for now. What are his other options?

-The blown call in Monday night’s game changed the landscape of the NFC playoff picture. Just wait.

-If the Saints lose on Sunday, they are not making the playoffs. If the Saints win on Sunday, they are not making the playoffs.

-Rob Gronkowski will not be as effective as last season until: A) Aaron Hernandez returns B) Josh McDaniels actually figures out what he is doing with that offense…whichever happens first.

In Week 3, McKayla is certainly not impressed with the Green Bay Packers. This is truly meant for guard T.J. Lang and cornerback M.D. Jennings. Had the two of you done your jobs just a tiny bit better, your team would not have been on the wrong side of a horrendous call.

Mr. Lang, had your offensive line had a pulse in the first half, the game would not have had to come down to the final Hail Mary. Mr. Jennings, all you had to do was swat the football down, up, to the left; any direction your heart so desired. That is football 101. Instead you chose to go for your individual defensive player fantasy points and be a hero to your own team. McKayla is not impressed, and neither is anyone that witnessed you selfishly catch the ball on that last play.