Necessary Roughness, Week 2: Are the Bills the Best Team in the AFC East?
What a week for the NFL! On Monday the sports pundits were chattering about grown men hitting women, and by Sunday the talk had shifted to grown men hitting children. It’s hard to believe that at only Week 2 in the season we have so much off-the-field drama detracting from the exciting action on the field.
While much of the focus has been on the NFL’s disciplinary policy and reactionary decisions in the wake of public scrutiny, I tend to look at a much larger picture here. Certainly, the NFL has increasingly become a case study on crime and punishment, and perhaps even failed institutional leadership, but I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by nitpicking the should’ves, could’ves, and would’ves of Roger Goodell and the NFL brass. It doesn’t take a philosophy major to break down the obtusity of a player being suspended for half a season for failing a drug test, while another player knocks his fiance unconscious and only receives a two-game suspension. The NFL got it wrong. They know they got it wrong. And in my estimation, they are making strides to correct their errors in judgement. If that means the current leadership steps down to let more competent people take over the reigns, then so be it.
But the criticism of the NFL, while valid, has just been beaten to death in my opinion. It’s time for us to start talking about the real problem. Domestic violence is not an NFL issue, it’s a cultural epidemic. Professional athletes aren’t the only people who beat their fiancés, threaten to kill their girlfriends, and physically abuse their children. This is a problem that spans all ethnicities, classes, religions, and occupations. It’s a problem that is cyclical, with evidence showing that when children are exposed to this type of violence at a young age, they are more likely to act in a similar manner as they grow older, ultimately passing the behavior on to subsequent generations. Almost always, violence begets violence. I don’t want to speak to what sort of punishment these players deserve for the acts they have engaged in, because quite frankly, I have no idea what an appropriate suspension/ban/sentence should be. But I do know that they all need help to fix whatever it is in their brain that makes them tick in a way that produces these violent outbursts. My hope is that Ray Rice gets the counseling and rehabilitation needed so that he doesn’t expose his young child to that type of household turmoil, and that he lives the rest of his days without ever laying a harmful hand on a female again. My hope is that Adrian Peterson is sternly educated on what is and isn’t appropriate discipline for a young child, and acts accordingly henceforth. I hope his child recovers from his injuries, both physical and emotional, and commits to never inflicting physical harm upon anybody, for any reason. My hope is that Greg Hardy is made aware that making death threats to a woman while in a house full of firearms is far beyond the scope of what we as a society would consider to be reasonable behavior. And finally my hope is that through all of this public outrage, we as a culture make a conscious effort to re-sensitize ourselves to domestic violence and the victims left in its wake.
Okay, now on to the fun stuff. Let’s take a look at a few games from yesterday that really jumped out at me:
Ravens/Steelers: After barely pulling out a squeaker at home against the Browns last week, I started questioning my prediction of the Steelers winning the AFC North. This week further cemented my concern. Justin Forsett and Bernard Pierce ran all over that sluggish Pittsburgh defense, and Big Ben and company could never get anything going on offense, some of that problem being attributed to three turnovers. I was impressed with Baltimore, bouncing back after a tough Week 1 loss to the Bengals and decisively winning this divisional rivalry.
Bengals/Falcons: My eyes are telling me that the Bengals are the real deal, folks. They run the ball extremely well with former Tarheel Giovanni Bernard, and Andy Dalton is playing with a lot of confidence and efficiency thus far in the season. And I’m loving the defense: they pressure the quarterback and they force turnovers. Atlanta, on the other hand, came back down to Earth after the dramatic Week 1 win against the Saints. Matt Ryan struggled against that wily Bengals defense, throwing three picks and only completing a shade over 50% of his passes.
Browns/Saints: Last week I mentioned that the Browns’ tough loss to the Steelers was a moral victory, a reminder that they have some great talent and even without a proven QB under center, they can still compete in this league. Well, I think they built upon last week, and they beat a Saints team that many people thought would be in the Super Bowl hunt this year. Brian Hoyer showed great poise throughout the day, particularly on that game-winning drive, and he is not only proving to me that he is the best QB on the team, but he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback and one hell of a leader. Kudos to him and the Cleveland Browns. The Saints, however, are in trouble. Starting the season 0-2 does not bode well for a team expecting to make a deep playoff run. This defense can’t stop anybody when it counts, and when they aren’t playing in the Superdome they are a totally different team.
Bills/Dolphins: After a surprising and impressive win against the Patriots last week, I thought Miami was a team to be reckoned with, and I still think they have a good team. But are the Bills the best team in the AFC East? Based on the first two weeks, one could certainly make that argument. In Week 1 they beat a good Bears team that just convincingly beat the 49ers, and yesterday they opened up the proverbial can ‘o whoopass on Miami. C.J. Spiller had an unbelievable 100+ yard kickoff return for a TD while EJ Manuel may not be blowing up the stat lines but is taking care of the ball and leading a balanced offensive attack.
Redskins/Jags: I hope RG3’s injury is not as bad as it looked (yuck!) and that he returns to good health as soon as possible. But as I’ve been saying since preseason, if the Redskins want a pocket passer at the helm, then Kirk Cousins gives them the best chance of winning football games. Granted, they were playing a fairly depleted Jacksonville team, but Kirk Cousins came in there and ran the offense to perfection. With an efficient passing attack and Alfred Morris carrying the load running the ball, the Redskins looked like a legit team this week.
Cowboys/Titans: This one is painful, and I can actually taste a little vomit in my mouth as I write this. After I lambasted the Cowboys in last week’s column, I would be an
￼asshole if I didn’t give them props for their performance yesterday. Tony Romo bounced back from a woeful Week 1 and threw ZERO interceptions yesterday. And I don’t know what got into DeMarco Murray, but he looked like Emmet Smith out there, running for 169 yards and a touchdown. I’ve got to give it to the Cowboys, they looked good. They showed a lot of heart coming off of a demoralizing loss last week, and while I still think they are bad team they proved that every dog has his day. How’s that for a backhanded compliment?
Panthers/Lions: Not much needs to be said here. The Panthers are the greatest team in the history of sports.
Tonight on the Monday night slate we have a good one! Philly at Indy. I think this is an interesting matchup, and we could potentially have a high scoring affair. Last week, Indy was not able to get much pressure on Peyton Manning, and that trend will likely continue as long as Robert Mathis isn’t on the field. Nick Foles should have plenty of time to make decisions in the pocket, and I expect Philly to put a lot of points on the board. Indy is at home, and Andrew Luck and company are looking to atone for a subpar performance last week. Luck will likely throw for a ton of yards, and if he can do that without turning the ball over, I think the Colts pull this one out in a relatively close game, 30-24.
I hope y’all had a great weekend and stuffed copious amounts of food with not a lick of nutritional value down your gullet. Enjoy the game tonight, and I’ll be back next week again to spout off a litany of amateur analysis. Until then… sports!