NECESSARY ROUGHNESS: THE RETURN OF THE RAIDERS, AND OTHER WEEK 5 ACTION
The NFL lost one of its all-time greats last week as long-time Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis slipped this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible… in other words, he died. Every sports journalist from here to Hoboken immediately began lamenting his passing and glorifying his life in a way completely appropriate for such a luminary figure. His countless accomplishments included hiring the league’s first African-American head coach and being inducted to the NFL Hall of Fame. The only problem with this picture is that most of these journalists kissing Al’s dead ass were the same ones who have mercilessly cracked on him for being a senile old coot who needed to give up the reins a long time ago. Even I had been guilty of the occasional irresponsible tweet, and it occurred to me that so much attention has been paid to blaming Al Davis for the Raider’s post-2002 blues that nobody remembers all of the amazing things Al Davis did for not only the Raiders but for the entire NFL. So in a sense Mr. Davis’ death has been the perfect chance to flip the script and remind everybody who the Raiders (and Al Davis) really are (were).
And after the Raiders wild 25-20 win over the Houston Texans, I am happy to say that the Raiders are who we thought they were, and who they haven’t been for the past nine years or so — the bad guys of the NFL with a team to back it. I mean, think of a league without the Raiders. Isn’t it a dull and dreary place? Only the Cowboys inspire the level of fandom that the Raiders do, so without them you have only the Cowboys and doesn’t that make you want to puke? On a personal note, as a Redskins fan, it’s great to see Jason Campbell smiling. He didn’t do a lot of that around Washington, but he always gave it his all. I really wish we hadn’t traded him! The only thing that would have made the Raiders’ day better would have been a win at home, but now the stage is set for an emotional homecoming as the Raiders take on a struggling Cleveland team next week at O.co. Coliseum.
Somebody who wasn’t smiling was Michael Vick as the Philly flame-out continued. Proclaiming “the dream team is dead” isn’t going to do it. Self-anointed praise is generally bullshit, and in this case there is simply no doubt. The Eagles lost again, falling to 1-4, and at this point Washington is the team to beat in the NFC East. Even though I am a Skins fan that should give you an idea of just how lousy that division is.
In Denver, a horrible 1-3 start put the pressure squarely on Kyle Orton’s shoulders to reverse the team’s failing fortunes, especially as college phenom and first round draft pick Tim Tebow was waiting in the wings. Matched against the 3-1 San Diego Chargers, Orton crumbled to the occasion and was finally benched, clearing the way for Tim Tebow to launch a furious comeback, which fell just short of beating the San Diego Chargers, 29-24. Look for Tebow to start when the Broncos come out of their bye week, and look for Denver to start winning some games. And not to be outdone by their fellow Californians, the San Francisco 49’s punished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 48-3 trouncing.
The Tennessee Titans are still paying for dancing on that “Terrible Towel” a couple of seasons back, and the Steelers are looking more like the AFC champs that they are, as Big Ben threw five TD passes in the Steelers’ 38-17 domination of the Titans. And though it doesn’t seem like they are getting much press for their efforts, The New Orleans Saints are 4-1, surviving a close one against the Carolina Panthers who have to be considered a dangerous team behind quarterback Cam Newton. Drew Brees is playing at the highest level we have seen him at since the Saints won the Super Bowl two years back, and the Saints are marching (wow… my first sports cliché).
The 800-lb gorilla in the room is Aaron RODGERS and the Green Bay Packers, who after a sluggish start put down the Atlanta Falcons 25-14. The Packers and the Detroit Lions are the only unbeaten teams in the league, and seeing as they are both in the same division (the NORTH one), that’s bound to change for one of them.
Elsewhere around the league, Kansas City kept the Colts winless, who, despite their record and the absence of Peyton Manning are still playing with pride. The Giants lost a sloppy one to the Seahawks, who also looked crappy. Sanchez and the Jets continued to blow it as they went down to the Patriots, who played in their old uniforms (I LOVE that helmet decal of the pissed-off looking patriot about to hike the ball) and showed a vastly improved defensive effort. The Vikings finally got a win, behind a combined super-human effort from Adrian Peterson and a not-disastrous Donavan McNabb — Vikes over the Cards, 34-10. And finally the Bengals improved to 3-2 over the Jaguars, 30-20, in the battle of the teams named after vicious cats.
On one final note, Marv Albert is back, surfacing on the NFL Today this past weekend. We can only assume he still loves double-man threesomes and biting, and he still has one of the best voices in sports. Plus his name is Marv. Welcome back, Marv, and this is why he was gone.
– Dave Brockie