Jul 032013

GiRIt has been a while since I penned one of these articles, and our summer has not been as active as I would have liked, but we have survived through a full season and off-season, and training camp is now just a couple of weeks away! There is still plenty more to write to get people caught up with their favorite teams and with current NFL news, but I thought I’d take a moment to bring you up to get our readers caught up on our current plans.

32 Previews
Yes, we still have more previews coming. We’ve made it through 13 teams so far and have 19 more to go, but the pace is slowing a bit as time has become an issue. The Rat is working on his dissertation proposal, and some work related projects, as well as getting ready for some time away, so the articles will resume shortly but at a slower pace. Keep checking back for your favorite team!

Time Away
The Rat and Rat’s Widow are heading off on a tropical holiday to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Let me tell you folks, the Rat is a lucky man, and I am looking forward to a week away where we can relax and re-charge our batteries. We’ll share a picture or two once we are there.

FILE:  Indianapolis Colts Fire Vice Chairman Bill PolianBill Polian is a &%$&%#% hypocritical moron
OK, perhaps this is a topic worthy of its won article, but I want to get this off my chest now. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an article about Aaron Hernandez, and interviewed the former Colts general manager for the piece. According to Polian, “There were questions there, which is why a guy of that talent lasted until the fourth round,” he said. The Colts  “never got that far” in their evaluation of the player. “We were not in the Hernandez business.”

Wow… isn’t Polian prescient? If only every general manager could predict that someone who has a history of marijuana use and fighting might escalate to murder… well, then that person would be a genius. Apparently Bill Polian is a genius.

So… Genius… maybe you can explain to the rest of the world why it is that you drafted Rae Carruth with your first round pick in the 1997 draft. That’s right… the same Rae Carruth who went on to hire a friend to murder his girlfriend (Cherica Adams) and their unborn child so that he would not have to pay child support. Adams spent a month in the hospital after being shot five times, and Carruth posted $3 million bond on the condition that he would turn himself in if Adams died. When she did die he then fled, and was found hiding in the trunk of a car in Tennessee.

At the time of the draft, Polian stated that Carruth was simply too good a talent to pass up, and the Panthers grabbed him up. So where was your Spidey Sense then, idiot? It’s not surprising to me that Polian would take a shot at the Patriots, given his former roles with the Bills (division opponent), Panthers, and Colts (conference rival). But maybe next time Polian should consider whether or not his own history drafting a troubled player should temper his comments about the decisions of other teams. Unfortunately, Polian’s desire for the spotlight seems to preclude any consideration of reason.

A note on Aaron Hernandez
Let’s sum up my feelings on Aaron Hernandez and the New England Patriots. First, Hernandez’ talent made him a steal in the fourth round, and none of his earlier behaviors suggested that the guy would become a(n) (alleged) murderer. In his three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez caught 175 regular season passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, which compares quite favorably to the three year career stats of Rae Carruth, who caught 62 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns, but I digress…

The Patriots took a calculated risk to select Hernandez, just as many teams take such risks in every draft and in every free agency period. If the Patriots are to be questioned at all, it is for signing Hernandez to a big money extension based solely on his word that he was a changed man. Patriots’ players are freely describing Hernandez as a loner with an angry streak who chose to hang around high school friends rather than spend time with his teammates. This also didn’t suggest that Hernandez would become a murderer, but raises questions as to why the Patriots felt he was worth a big money extension similar to the one given to Rob Gronkowski.

But to suggest that this situation speaks poorly of the Patriots’ organization is rubbish. When the news first broke that Hernandez was being investigated, Patriots’ brass got together and decided he would be released if he was charged with any crime; that is quite a statement when there is as much money at stake as there is in this case, but the Patriots felt the public relations perception was more important than the money. It took the Patriots only ninety minutes to push the paperwork through for his release on the day of his arrest, and the Patriots immediately offered a jersey exchange program so that parents would not have to explain why their children could not wear the jersey of their favorite player. It’s a small gesture to be sure, but one that the Patriots control, and which is in keeping with a conscientious organization. Hernandez may have made a mockery of the public perception of the Patriot Way, but the organization  proved it was bigger than any of its players. That’s all I can ask for as a fan.

Jan 302013

Just Shut 'Yer MouthIt’s been a while since I have felt the need to comment on some of the commentary coming from the mouths of current and former NFL players, but this Super Bowl week seems to provide endless opportunities for people stick their feet in their mouths. So let’s let at our most recent batch of guys who squawk first and think second, or third, or… ok, maybe not at all. And just so you’ve been warned, I’m not exactly feeling a lot of tolerance for some of this silliness.

Randy MossRandy Moss
I love Randy Moss as a player, and really enjoyed him as a member of the New England Patriots when he had his head on straight. The trouble with Randy is that he seems to be one very weird dude, if we judge by his antics on and off the field over the years, his bizarre video-pooping (there’s a term we don’t use every day) incident on MOSS-TV, and his ability to talk his way out of New England after reviving his troubled career.

But now Randy has made (and re-made) the claim that he believes that he is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Now, it’s great that Randy believes that, and he is certainly welcome to do so. But given his up and down career, the fact that his numbers come up short of Jerry Rice, and the fact that Moss has still not won (at least for a few more days) a championship, it seems to be a dubious claim at best. Yet Moss continues to make it.

“What I said is what I felt, and I don’t want to get into a shouting match with Jerry Rice or anybody,” Moss said on Wednesday. “It’s my personal opinion. (Rice) has the numbers but I don’t believe in numbers.”

So Moss doesn’t believe in numbers; he also doesn’t believe in rings.

“In today’s society, it’s how we measure athletes or teams — on rings,” Moss said. “I don’t base it that way. I changed the game. But I’m not trying to make it all about me.”

Not trying to make it about you? Now that would be news. OK Randy, so you have a claim, and no objective measure for backing it up. By that standard, Rex Ryan is the best head coach in the NFL too.

There can be no doubt that Moss is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, and that he had (past tense) the ability to completely take over a game. But it was only when he wanted to… when he felt like it. His own effort and lack of effort are what define his career, and he never put forth the effort that Rice put forth on a consistent basis and that made Rice better than everyone else. Randy is trying to write his legacy on how he wants people to remember him after he hangs up the cleats, and the legacy he is writing for himself is going to be a bit more generous than what will be written by others.

Like Jerry Rice, I wish Moss every bit of luck in getting his first ring this Sunday, but he needs to drop his silly claim of being the best ever.

Tim BrownTim Brown and Jerry Rice
Speaking of silly claims, how about the one made by Tim Brown, who is currently a nominee for the Professional Football Hall of Fame?

Just over a week ago the former Raiders’ wide receiver came out and said that former coach Bill Callahan intentionally altered the game plan in Super Bowl XXXVII to sabotage the Raiders’ chances of beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Callahan’s good friend Jon Gruden.

“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said. “And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . . It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

Brown later added, “I can’t say the man was incompetent because he was far from that. You only leave me with one other choice so I’ll have to go ahead and take the latter of those two choices.” The latter of the two choices of course being intentional sabotage.

What made the story even more stunning was the fact that Jerry Rice then got on board with the claim.

According to Rice, “For some reason — and I don’t know why — Bill Callahan did not like me. In a way, maybe because he didn’t like the Raiders he decided, ‘Maybe we should sabotage this a little bit and let Jon Gruden go out and win this one.’”

Now anyone who watches Jerry Rice on television knows that Jerry Rice thinks a great deal of himself, but this statement was simply way over the top. First, there is simply no way in the NFL that coaches and players who work as hard as they do to win games in the NFL and advance through the post-season are going to throw a game like the Super Bowl in order to make some bizarre point or let a friend win. Second, it seems far more likely that Callahan simply over thought the situation and altered the game plan so he could be less predictable in the Super Bowl and have a better chance to win. If Callahan seems guilty of anything, it would seem to be outwitting himself.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Brown later backtracked from his claim, stating he never made a suggestion that Callahan sabotaged the Super Bowl, but by then the damage, both to Brown’s credibility and to Rice’s, had already been done. The story has been dying a slow death over the past week, but both Brown and Rice made a miscalculation in spouting out fictional nonsense about something long since passed.

Ray LewisRay Lewis
Many people believe, myself included, that Ray Lewis is either a murderer or an accessory to two murders. We will never know the truth of the situation, given that Lewis plead to a lesser charge, that no one has ever been held criminally responsible for the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, and that important evidence in the case vanished. Lewis preempted a wrongful death civil finding by reaching a financial settlement after the filing of the suit.

But we do know this about Ray Lewis; the man is very likely an outright liar.

This week it was revealed that Lewis used a banned substance (IGF-1) to aid him in recovering from a torn triceps. According to Sports Illustrated, Lewis contacted a company owned by a former male stripper to obtain a deer-antler velvet extract after tearing his triceps in October. Mitch Ross, the owner of S.W.A.T.S, videotaped the phone call from Lewis. During the conversation, Lewis said to Ross, “Just pile me up and just send me everything you got, because I got to get back on this this week.”

Lewis has rebuked the claim and pointed to his history of negative drug tests, but there is currently no testing of players for IGF-1. The video evidence seems particularly damning. Lewis’ response to this? Why of course it’s to appeal to emotion and call the accusation a ‘trick of the devil.’

“That’s the trick of the devil,” Lewis said. “The trick of the devil is to kill, steal and destroy. That’s what he comes to do. He comes to distract you from everything you’re trying to do.”

Ross, however, is adamant that Lewis was using the substance. On ESPN Radio’s “VP and Russillo” show, Ross alleged that Lewis “used every product that I have.”

“Ray did what he had to do to get back on the field, that’s what he said,” Ross told Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo. “I’m not telling you he didn’t use anything. He got on a protocol, he absolutely certainly did… It was set up by me how to do it, and I even developed an armband for him to use at Day 7 to strengthen his triceps better… It sounds like he’s disputing it, I guess because he’s scared of Roger Goodell. Ray’s not the only athlete taking in the SWATS protocol.”

The report from SI is incredibly well documented, and Lewis is not the overt target of the article. The article also links IGF-1 to last year’s Alabama Crimson Tide team, and also notes Johnny Damon, Vijay Singh, and Shawne Merriman. In his interview on ESPN, Ross added Brett Favre, Carnell Williams, Heath Evans, and others to the list. You can read the article here.

Maybe the video is the trick of the devil, Ray. But I for one will believe a well-vetted report that is backed up by video evidence, particularly when compared to someone who is already convicted of interfering with a previous murder investigation. So I’m going with SI’s report, unless Ray Ray feels like producing a blood-spattered white suit to the police.

Marshall FaulkMarshall Faulk
Speaking of guys who need to shut the hell up…

Marshall Faulk was interviewed by Tom Curran of CSNNE.com and stated he still believes that the Patriots cheated the Rams out of a victory in Super Bowl XXXVI. Faulk said that he believes that the Patriots spied on the Rams’ walk-through practice the day before the game, and were able to respond to plays that the Rams had created for the Super Bowl. This is in conflict with the findings of the NFL, and Commissioner Goodell insisted there was no evidence that the Patriots obtained any information by spying on the walk-through.

“Am I over the loss? Yeah, I’m over the loss. But I’ll never be over being cheated out of the Super Bowl. That’s a different story. I can understand losing a Super Bowl, that’s fine . . . But how things happened and what took place. Obviously, the commissioner gets to handle things how he wants to handle them but if they wanted us to shut up about what happened, show us the tapes. Don’t burn ’em.”

“I understand Bill Belichick is a great coach,” said Faulk. “But No. 13 (Kurt Warner) will tell you. Mike Martz will tell you. We had some plays in the red zone that we hadn’t ran. I think we got to fourth down — we ran three plays that we hadn’t ran, that Mike drew up for that game… Bill’s a helluva coach… we hadn’t ran them the whole year, and the Patriots were ready for them.”

Whatever Faulk’s feelings about the way the Commissioner handled the investigation, the fact remains that Faulk’s accounting of the walk-through seem to be manufactured memories. John Czarnecki from Fox (thanks to Tom E. Curran for the reference) has indicated that the Rams did very little of actual preparation for the game, but were more focused on taking pictures. Further, the Boston Herald, who initially published the John Tomase report that the Patriots had taped the walk-through, retracted the story and issued an apology for running a false report.

Faulk is welcome to believe whatever he wants about the events of Super Bowl XXXVI. But his continued public insistence that he was cheated despite evidence to the contrary simply makes Faulk look like a sore loser.

UPDATE: Willie McGinest has the best response yet to Faulk’s rubbish: If we would have had inside information, the game would have been a blowout. Well said, Willie! My guess is that it’s going to be a little tense on the NFL Network set for the next few days!

Rat1SmallSite News

After the Super Bowl wraps up, we have a fairly aggressive schedule of off-season topics that we will be addressing. So just because the season is over doesn’t mean our writing is taking a break. In addition, we are now planning for some podcasts that will be taking place later in the spring. Twp topics we are looking at right now are free agent moves that take place in March and April, as well as looking at the long-term viability of the National Football League, given concerns over player safety. Our first podcasts will likely be facilitated conversations without listener calls, but we are certainly hoping that this approach will be successful and that we can eventually expand to live online broadcasts and listener calls. But for now it is one step at a time…. more to follow!

Jan 042013

GiRWow…more than a month since the last Rat’s Lair piece; where does the time go? I hope everyone reading this had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2013 is off too a fantastic start.

Since we last met, the regular season has wrapped up and we are now anticipating four highly entertaining games this Wildcard weekend. And while I have a moment, I wanted to catch our readers up on some site business and revisit our contributors 2012 predictions. So let’s get right into it.

New Contributor

I want to welcome DJ Crash as a new contributor to Gridiron Rats. We got to know DJC through our GiR fantasy football league this season and found out that he does some freelance writing work in another sport. When we learned of his interest in our site, we jumped right on it. To date he has written three previews of this weekend’s games with another still to come, and I think our readers will see that his writing is outstanding. We look forward to seeing much more from DJC as we gear up for the rest of the post-season and transition into the 2013 off-season.

Our 2012 Predictions

I have gone back and examined our 2012 regular season predictions, as I am a big believer in revisiting to see how well or how poorly we did. Like Gandhi, But Taller (LGBT) had the best regular season by far, missing team records by only 70 games (about 73% accuracy). Here’s how we ranked overall, comparing total wins by team by projected wins per team.

Like Gandhi, But Taller (LGBT) – 72.7% accurate (70 game difference)
GiR Consensus Picks – 71.1% accurate (74 game difference)
Reyno Island – 69.2% accurate (79 game difference)
Fat Jesus – 69.2% accurate (79 game difference)
Country Preacher – 68.8% accurate (80 game difference)
Ghost Rat – 66.8% accurate (85 game difference)
Brodrick Kincaid – 66.8% accurate (85 game difference)
Flip Stricland – 63.3% accurate (94 game difference)
Rat’s Widow – 60.6% accurate (101 game difference)

Our writer by writer breakdown can be viewed here.

For the post-season, half of our Super Bowl predictions are still on the board. LGBT is out with his call for a Dallas victory. Fat Jesus missed by calling for a Bears’ appearance. Country Preacher missed with his irrational love of the Philadelphia Eagles this season, while the Widow banked on a Super Bowl rematch from last season. this leaves Ghost Rat, Flip Stricland, Reyno Island, and Brodrick Kincaid in the running to correctly call the Super Bowl (in addition to our consensus pick). Our pre-season Super Bowl picks included:

Ghost Rat: New England over San Francisco
Flip Stricland: Houston over Green Bay
LGBT: Dallas over Houston
Reyno Island: San Francisco over Baltimore
Fat Jesus: Denver over Chicago
Brodrick Kincaid: San Francisco over Denver
Country Preacher: Baltimore over Philadelphia
Rat’s Widow: New England over New York Giants
Consensus Pick: San Francisco over New England

That’s all for now… enjoy the Wildcard weekend and we will see you back here with our recaps next week!

Nov 272012

It’s been a while since I have penned a Rat’s Lair piece. This has been more a function of lacking time than of lacking material.

As we enter Week 13 the stretch for the post-season is heating up, and we are down to a finite number of clubs battling it out over the last remaining spots. All of this, of course, is barring an absolute collapse by any of the leaders, and if this season has taught us anything it is that there are no givens in the NFL. Still, the AFC divisional races look close to decided, as do three of the four divisional races in the NFC. Chicago and Green Bay are battling it out in the North, but both are flawed squads right now fighting a battle of attrition. I don’t expect either to represent the conference in February.

Looking at Playoff Predictions

It’s fun to go back and look at what we said at the beginning of the season, both individually and as a site. Personally, I had the following seedings in each conference, which are followed by the actual current seeds in (parenthesis).

1. New England (Houston)
2. Denver (Baltimore)
3. Baltimore (New England)
4. Houston (Denver)
5. Buffalo (Indianapolis)
6. Tennessee (Pittsburgh)

1. San Francisco (Atlanta)
2. Green Bay (San Francisco)
3. New York Giants (Chicago)
4. New Orleans (New York Giants)
5. Chicago (Green Bay)
6. Philadelphia (Seattle)

In the AFC, I nailed the division winners (to date), but not the order, while crashing entirely on the wildcard teams. Both Buffalo and Tennessee showed me enough last season and in the off-season to lead me to think that they would both contend, but both have under-achieved, while Indy has surprised nearly everyone in making itself relevant so soon after the changing of the guard. Pittsburgh continues to hang on in the playoff race, but they are vulnerable. The Bengals might well overtake them if they keep playing the way that they are.

In the NFC, I again hit the division winners in New York and San Francisco (in all likelihood), and still expect the Packers to overcome the Bears, though I had both going to the playoffs. I knew Atlanta had the potential to take the South, but I got so used to Atlanta not performing to its potential that I just couldn’t bring myself to predict their rise; I have been burned before by the Falcons. The Eagles’ collapse is even worse than last season, and it is time to conclude that Andy Reid is never going to win it all in Philly. Seattle is barely hanging on, and I suspect that Tampa Bay could push them from their sixth spot.

So right now I look to be on track to have pegged eight of the twelve post-season teams, which seems no better and no worse with many of the “football experts” in the media. My pick for a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl is actually looking pretty good right now, though my championship games (New England v. Baltimore and San Francisco v Green Bay) are possible but not likely. I will endeavor to do better next season, of course, but feel pretty good about this for my first season putting this in the public eye.

Four our site picks this season, the seedings went as follows:

1. New England (Houston)
2. Houston (Baltimore)
3. Baltimore (New England)
4. Denver (Denver)
5. Pittsburgh (Indianapolis)
6. Buffalo (Pittsburgh

1. Green Bay (Atlanta)
2. San Francisco (San Francisco)
3. New York Giants (Chicago)
4. New Orleans (New York Giants)
5. Chicago (Green Bay)
6. Philadelphia (Seattle)

Once again, we got sucked in by Buffalo and Philadelphia, though our site pick of a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl is still within reach. Our championship games of New England v. Denver and San Francisco v. Green Bay are not looking likely, but again are still possible. None of us picked Indianapolis to win more than six games this season.

Stoopid Human Tricks
And now on to the stoopid (yes, I know it is spelled s-t-u-p-i-d) human tricks that I lured you in with…

1. Ndamukong Suh and Merton Hanks
Suh’s intentional kick of Matt Ryan in their Thanksgiving Day game was simply atrocious and unconscionable. Yes, football is a violent game, but intentionally kicking someone in the groin shouldn’t net a suspension? That was the decision of Merton Hanks, who serves as the NFL’s Vice President fr Football Operations. My guess is that this has less to do with Suh’s actions than it does with the fact that the NFL’s one game suspension of Ed Reed was overturned on appeal. The shot that Reed got suspended for was not more vicious than what he had delivered previously, but the suspensions was in the spirit of progressive discipline, or in this case a “lifetime achievement award” for Reed’s head-hunting. As a result, the NFL seems gun-shy and is trying to create decisions that are appeal proof, rather than simply making the right decision.

2. Tank Carder and Ignorant NFL fans
Just like I bashed Brandon Spikes for an ignorant tweet, now the microscope moves to Tank Carder, the rookie linebacker for the Cleveland Browns. When someone posted a comment on his Twitter account that Carder didn’t like, he responded by tweeting that the person was a “faggot.” Smooth move, Tank. Tank then had the courage of his (misguided) convictions when he defended his remark by posting, “Haters gon hate cause that’s what they do, haters don’t give respect where it should be given so I’m done arguing with you fools.” Of course that only lasted until the Browns’ brass got to him. The tweet was removed and the next day Carder issued an apology, stating that he “did not in any way mean to offend anyone” and that the tweet doesn’t define him as a person. I take exception with the whole “didn’t mean to offend” nonsense, but I agree with Carder on this last point. I hope he will wake up to the fact that he is serving as a representative of a professional organization and league, and he should conduct himself accordingly. I will score a point to the Cleveland Browns franchise, who seemingly had the good sense to rein him in, which is more than the Patriots did with Spikes.

What gets me more riled up is the amount of ignorance in the NFL fan base in general (and society as a whole). In too many “comments” sections on too many sites, I kept reading that our society has become too “politically correct”, which in my view has become the popular way to defend indefensible comments and actions. As I have made clear previously, joking about an historically oppressed group only serves to reinforce the oppression and to normalize it. Moreover, many fans found that his need to issue an apology meant that the Browns had somehow violated Carder’s right to free speech. If you are one of the people who truly believes this, let me offer you a little lesson in civics. The First Amendment only applies to governmental suppression of speech. It does not apply to private companies, which the Cleveland Browns are. If the Browns did lean on Carder to apologize and to behave himself, then that is their right as a private entity, since Carder is a representative of that entity. And in this case there is none of the bogus claim that he was speaking as a private citizen. People are only following Carder as a function of his celebrity and his affiliation with a professional football franchise. Thus, his “right” to say what he wants on Twitter isn’t nearly as absolute as some people want to believe it. To those who say that isn’t fair, it’s life. Carder doesn’t have to play pro football, and doesn’t have to affiliate himself with the Cleveland Browns.

3. Brodrick Bunkley

On a similar note, the NFL will also not suspend Saints’ defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley for intentionally kicking 49ers’ offensive lineman Alex Boone in the head during their Week 12 showdown, won 31-21 by San Francisco.  This move was about as “punkish” as any we see in the NFL, and I suspect a very stiff fine is in order after Bunkley was penalized for unsportsmanline conduct and tossed from the game.  The play was described as being “uncharacteristic” of the seventh year pro, who has seen time with the Eagles, Broncos, and Saints.

4. Fireman Ed and New York Jets’ fans

On Thursday night, Fireman Ed, the famed Jets’ fan who has led Jets’ cheers and jeers for many years, left the game at halftime and deleted his Twitter account. But then Fireman Ed declared that he was calling it quits as an unofficial team mascot. Instead, Ed Anzalone will continue to attend games, but no longer dressed for the part, after too many run-ins with other New York Jets fans.

In a way, I can sympathize with Anzalone. It’s not pleasant to be a lightning rod for angry, drunken fans. If you don’t believe me, try wearing a Red Sox cap to Wrigley Field (what a bunch of crazy drunks… it’s not like we’re even rivals). But by going out after a beatdown by the hated Patriots, it only ends up making Anzalone look like a sore loser and a bad sport.

Still, let’s be honest that home field advantage is an interesting concept for the Jets. Yes, they can loudly spell the word J-E-T-S (but only if they are all working together on it), but let’s take a quick look at what the New York Jets faced as they went into the locker room at halftime last Thursday night:

That’s right… stay classy, Jets’ fans. My favorite two comments in that barrage were “Tebow, save us” and “Don’t even come out after halftime.” You know, Jets’ fans, if you want to be honest about how you feel, try chanting “Y-E-T-S! Yets! Yets! Yets!” for each kickoff. This fan base is about as fair weather as it gets, and demonstrates why the Giants will own New York/New Jersey for a long time to come.

That’s all for this edition.

Nov 022012

So what does a ghost rat do with a bye week?

Truth be told, this could be a pretty football free weekend at the Lair (gasp), as the Patriots have the bye, we only have two kids at home this weekend along with a growing Honey Do list and a need for some quiet time together. I am pretty sure I will grab a couple of games over the weekend, but not nearly with the intensity of an average Sunday in the fall.

So before we hit the actual weekend and I put the site out of my attentions for the next 36 hours or so, let’s catch up on some GiR news.

She Told Me So…

Last week we had 115 people vote in our poll regarding the MVP to date this season, and as I previously noted I was thrilled with the turnout. In the spirit of keep reasonable (i.e., low) expectations, I said to the Widow, “well that’s not going to be topped anytime soon.” She laughed and told me that the question this week was a good one, and we would break the new record this week. I guffawed.

Well… of course she was right. We surpassed the 115 mark within 24 hours and I’ve been eating crow since. As of this writing, we have settled out around 155 votes and I don’t expect it to go up much (if at all) by Monday. And while I sincerely and genuinely doubt that we will again top this mark in the coming weeks, I must simply pause and say, “you were right, dear.”

Speaking of numbers…

We actually passed the 6,000 visit mark last month, a third straight significant jump in our readership. Whether you are just here for one article, or if you are a repeat visitor, we welcome you here and hope you enjoy the site.

Content and Contributors

This is not our day job (wouldn’t that be nice…), so a fair criticism of our site right now is that it is pretty Patriots heavy, and we are not putting up a ton of content on a daily basis. All of our writers have day jobs, and it’s hard for people to be able to write up all of the great ideas that they have. That said, I am working with our contributors on a calendar of articles that we will be moving ahead with, and getting some assignments out for feature pieces.

I know what you’re thinking…. “Why, Ghost Rat… hw can I help?” Well first… thank you for asking. :-)  Second, we welcome your ideas about stories that you would like to see, and we welcome ‘you, our reader’… to become ‘you, our contributor’. If you want to write an article about your favorite team, player, event in the NFL, etc., please do send your ideas along. We are particularly interested in any of those out there who want to offer suggestions on starters/benchers in fantasy football, something we have been wanting to cover but haven’t yet gotten around to. If you are interested, please write me here.

That’s all for now – have a great weekend!

Oct 112012

Why do I have a feeling that this is going to be a recurring subject line in the Rat’s Lair?

Regular readers will recall that a couple of months ago (August 15 to be exact), I went after Chad Johnson, Robert Griffin III, and Mohamed Massaquoi for stupid things that each had said/done. Johnson was coming off the head-butting incident with his wife, Griffin had uttered the word “retarded” in a post-game conference, and Massaquoi decided Pat Shurmer is too old to be cool. Had Massaquoi gone after Shumrmer’s coaching abilities, I might have agreed with him, but he was picking on Shurmer for being too old to get “Twiter.”

Which brings us to today’s column, and my assertion that maybe some players should not be allowed to use Twitter.

Let me start with a disclaimer, before Patriots’ fans start sounding off. I have been a Patriots’ fan far longer than most of you have been alive. I was born in 1963 and became a Patriots’ fan in 1975. That means I have been religiously following the Patriots for 37 of my 49 years. I suffered through all of the dark times with the team and the fans in the 1970s, watched our team reach the Super Bowl in the 1980s only to get blown out by the Bears, and then to return a decade later and lose what was a winnable Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers. I watched as Bill Parcells threw his fit and went the Jets, and then endured three years of Pete Carroll being a nice guy but an ineffective head coach before Bill Belichick took the reins and turned everything around. He was the person who helped Robert Kraft realize the dream he had when purchasing the team, and the Patriots’ have enjoyed nearly unparalleled success during the Belichick era.

So for those of you who may disagree with what I am about to write, you should probably resist the urge to call me a “bandwagon fan” or otherwise impugn my loyalty to the organization. I am as loyal to the laundry as anyone is, but when I see players acting stupidly, I will call it out. And when those players are Patriots, I will take personal offense, because that is not what the Patriots’ organization is known for, nor what it expects from its players and coaches.

With that said, let’s move on to our not-so-illustrious winner of the newly named Just Shut ‘Yer Mouth Award.

Brandon Spikes, New England Patriots

To offer some back story, last year Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski was engaged in a conversation with his brother Chris via Twitter. At one point in the conversation, Gronk referred to something his brother had said as “that’s so gay”, a not uncommon insult in our society. I (and presumably others) tweeted back to Gronk that the use of the term wasn’t cool, and I noted it did not represent the Patriots well. Gronk did not respond to me personally, but did immediately remove the tweet and end the discussion. I must admit I was a little ticked at Gronk, but was also willing to chalk it up to Gronk being young and not completely understanding how his words mattered. Yes, it was a conversation with his brother, but he was choosing to have it in a forum he knew was being viewed by many thousands of people. Bad choice, but Gronk learned, and I have never seen another tweet like that from him again; he got it.

Enter Brandon Spikes. Yesterday he thought he was being funny when he posted the following tweet:

I’m homophobic just like I’m arachnophobic.I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders but I’d still scream if I found one in my bathtub !

On the whole, this comment is not necessarily an anti-gay slur, but it certainly suggests a particular perspective on the part of Mr. Spikes. I should note that while Spikes is known to be a fiercely-hitting linebacker for the Pats, he is widely regarded off the field as a nice guy and gentleman. He is also a frequent jokester on Twitter, and many of his jokes are considered funny but offensive. But judging from some of his other tweets, I also know him to be socially aware, whether he is posting on it being national Stop Bullying Month, or noting inappropriate comments of a legislator in Arkansas on the issue of slavery. My point is that Spikes isn’t stupid. I can appreciate that he thinks (as he later wrote) that this was just a joke, but perhaps Spikes can begin to appreciate that the subject matter of the joke was wholly unnecessary.

Some of the responses to his tweet were very direct.
From Tyler Taake:

Gay jokes, how clever…remember you are a rode model for kids around the world. October is also anti-bullying month.

From Alden Morris:

Your homophobic jokes make me as a New England Patriots fan for most of my life ashamed. I hope the Patriots suspend you.


Its a game that represents a product of integrity making homophobic jokes as a professional is a disgrace to that product.

My own tweet to Spikes was direct but not insulting:

Really dude? Love you as a player, but kill the joke-telling. (Note: Here is a screen shot of the Tweet, captured after Spikes protected his account)

My point in making that comment was to get Spikes to consider whether or not the joke that he thought was funny really needed to be told in the Twitter environment.

Spikes’ reaction to my tweet suggested otherwise:

Bite me!!

Bite me? Really?

My response…

Gronk at least had the good sense to learn from tweeting about gays. Check in with him about that.

Predictably, many of the tweets were highly supportive of Spikes’ ability to make that comment and to not conform to the “pc” agenda, and those of us who were critical must be “haters”. But let’s look at the quality of that crowd, shall we?

One direct reply to me came from Brad (BradGeez23):

shu up you gay rat

Wow… how can you argue with logic like that?

Here’s news for you, Mr. Spikes; if that is the quality of the person you are being defended by in this instance, you might want to reconsider the company you keep, or at least the content of the messages that you post in a public forum.

This incident just confirms my belief that the NFL is not ready for gay players to “come out” in a public way, despite the hopeful and well-intentioned wishes of Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe. There is not only open hostility and judgment in NFL locker rooms and among the fan base, but also the equally destructive under current of joking that either reinforces intolerance or that reinforces the idea that it’s ok to joke publicly about a subordinated group of people in our society.

For those who see this as an issue of free speech, yes Mr. Spikes has the right to say what he thinks and believes. But what most people fail to point out after making a free speech claim is that Mr. Spikes also has to now face the consequences of his communication. And telling that joke, as a public representative of the New England Patriots, invites an entirely different level of scrutiny and accountability than if the same joke was tweeted by a private citizen speaking on his or her own behalf and without a visible affiliation to his or her employer. Freedom to speak does not equal freedom to speak without consequences.

To be clear, though not that it matters, I don’t have a personal stake in this fight. I am not gay and have no idea what it means to be gay. But being committed to a world that is socially just means fighting for what is what is right for all in society, not just for those who benefit from privilege. I don’t have to have a personal stake in this to speak out publicly when I perceive that a public figure (which Mr. Spikes is) is using his public profile as a representative of a professional organization to communicate a poor joke about gays. Mr. Spikes, I ask you to substitute the words “black guys” for “homosexuals”, put the words in a tweet from a white guy, and ask yourself how you would feel.

It is my intent to communicate this article both to Mr. Spikes and to the Patriots’ organization. It is my hope that Mr. Spikes will reconsider whether or not this comment was consistent with his representation of the New England Patriots’ organization, and that he will correct his course on this unfortunate event. I would hope that Mr. Spikes would do this on his own rather than at the behest of the organization, but in any event I believe Mr. Spikes owes an apology not only for the comment, but for his reaction to the fans who took him to task. I am also extending a direct and personal offer to Mr. Spikes to respond on this site, without editing of any kind, so that he can broadcast any message that he would like to convey. I will update this post if he chooses to do so.

Mr. Spikes is young and still has lessons to learn about being a public figure, and for that I am willing to extend my forgiveness as a fan if he can accept responsibility for his actions. If not, Mr. Spikes will simply serve as an unfortunate confirmation of stereotypes that exist about professional athletes. I hope that Mr. Spikes recognizes this choice and acts accordingly.

UPDATE (10/12/12) – Michael David Smith at Pro Football Talk has weighed in on this matter as well. Good article.

Oct 102012

One thing that has amused me since the start of this blog is the use of search terminology used to find this website. Many are very team specific, some are perverse, and others are just flat out funny. Over the past month, some of my personal favorites have been “why do saints fans wear rats”, “tony romo rat”, “ben roethlisberger is tebow minus jesus”, “why didn’t mark sanchez wear pink for breast cancer awareness”, and “broncos failure pictures”. It might be interesting to know the sources of why these search terms were used, but then again it might be pretty scary.

Anyway, I thought it would be at least a little entertaining to bring you the top ten search terms (by frequency) used to find this site over just the past month. Enjoy!

Top Ten Search Terms

#10: Seahawks Uniforms

Apparently most people find the ‘Hawks new unis pretty hideous, judging by the number of hits and the terms attached to these words. Danny Boy hit the nail on the head with his look at NFL fashion, or lack thereof.

#9: Football Widow

If there is a claim to fame for Gridiron Rats, it is that we have the best football widow on the internet. I love the fact that Rat’s Widow is (shhhh) willing to learn about the game, and that she has found a way to weave important social commentary into her posts about the NFL. This term is used every couple of days, so I know there are football widows out there looking for a kindred spirit. I think you found one here.

#8: NFL Breast Cancer Awareness/Wear Pink

A number of people have been looking for information on why the NFL players and coaches have been sporting the color pink, and why the NFL has chosen this cause. I hope you found your answer in this excellent article by Rat’s Widow.

#7: Gridiron Rats

I have to admit that this term surprised me a bit. Yes, that is our name, and yes, our readership has been increasing over the past month and a half, but I was surprised to see the frequent use of this search term. My guess is that someone (maybe… Country Preacher, perhaps?) just hasn’t bookmarked the site and finds it through Google. But whatever… it showed up on a regular basis.

#6: Dick Butkus

So I have no idea why so many of you are searching for Dick Butkus, but it is a frequently used term, often combined with “knee” and the number of searches really surprised me. Are there big Butkus fans out there? Did I miss something new about his knee? Danny Boy gets credit for putting this one on the map.

#5: Rob Gronkowski

The Summer of Gronk may be over, but the fixation continues. The monster tight end is having another good season despite playing through some heavy pain, and little sprinkles of news about Gronk and his gal-pal porn star bubble up now and again to make life interesting.  The nude spread for ESPN probably didn’t hurt any either.

#4: Patriots-Ravens Field Goal/Kick was good/Kick was wide

The kick that provided the Ravens’ victory over the Patriots was big news for the week that followed, but continues to be a source of traffic as people want to see close-ups and video of the kick. Glad to oblige.

#3: NFL Officials Lockout/Replacement Officials/Roger Goodell

There was a fair amount of rage regarding NFL officiating during  the officials’ lockout, as shown by some of the words attached to this search, with the word “suck” being the most publishable. Fans were not happy, and the topic dominated conversation on many NFL-related sites.

#2 NFL Boycott

Also in regard to the officials’ lockout, it seems that fans were looking for an organized effort through which to be able to send a message to the league about their dissatisfaction with the officiating situation. These terms were coming in before GiR announced our planned boycott of the NFL Network, which thankfully was averted by the settlement that was reached by the two sides. I sincerely doubt that we would have made much of a dent, but the lack of a settlement would no doubt have led to broader calls to boycott the NFL and its advertisers.

and the winner is…..

#1: Rex Ryan/Jets’ Coach

This has been the most frequently used search term to find this site, and I have no reason why. When I Google Rex Ryan it takes many pages to find a reference to our site, and the same holds true fr photos of Rex Ryan. Yet the hits are continual, occurring multiple times each day. Granted, we have had plenty to say about Sexy Rexy and his team, but no more so than any other football blog. In any event, Rex Ryan was a runaway winner, with more than twice the use of any other search terms. Thanks, Rex!

GiR Notes

I want to thank all of the Jets’ fans for coming over to read the site and take our poll this past week. As I noted in the poll results, I actually prefer it when the Jets are a good team, but that simply is not the case right now. While it is early enough in the season to be correctable and they fought hard against the Texans, they don’t execute well on offense or consistently enough on defense, and their play calling leaves a little something to be desired.

Similarly, I want to thank all of the Packers fans who have visited site over the next few days as a result of Country Preacher’s article. Yes folks, he really is a Packers’ fan. But he is right that the team is not executing particularly well right now, and not playing like a team. This is a difficult thing for Packers’ fans so recently after a Super Bowl championship, but the truth is there is something wrong in Wisconsin. It began last year with a lame playoff performance against the Giants, and they haven’t quite been the same since. Again, it is early in the season and very correctable, but the Preacher’s warning to the Packers’ faithful is a good one.

Finally, I have had some helpful dialogue with Seahawks fans who think I am vastly under-rating their team. I have had some good back and forth with some of their fans and have learned more about their squad, having only watched about a game and a half of their action so far. I was not, as some said, trying to determine the game based on statistics, but those stats do show some trends after five games. The Seahawks run well but are not a good passing team, and a rookie quarterback will have problems against a Bill Belichick team. The Patriots can defend the run well and have been better this season at preventing big plays, with some exceptions. On the other side, the Seahawks defense is the best in the league at present, and they have played teams with the potential (Cowboys, Panthers, Packers) to be explosive, but each of those teams is struggling. The Patriots have been really coming together on offense, and the Seahawks have yet to see an offense like this. As I said in my prediction, I can see Seattle keeping New England under 30 points, but scoring to keep pace is going to be a problem for the home team. None the less, I have found their fan base to be very knowledgeable, and I appreciate the feedback that I have been getting. I welcome one of their fans (or any opponent of the Patriots this season) to write a counter piece to my preview and prediction.

That’s all for now!

Sep 262012

So it looks like the real NFL officials are coming back to work…

Am I too into this sport that I actually felt my blood pressure drop when I heard Chris Mortensen on ESPN this morning? Maybe, maybe not. I know I felt my blood pressure rise on Sunday night when phantom call after phantom call penalized the Patriots and turned the hole they had dug for themselves even deeper. But then Monday night took the cake when I watched the replacement officials quite literally hand a game to the Seattle Seahawks. So thank you to the Green Bay Packers for taking one for the league and for the fans, because it would appear that the nightmare scenario of the replacement refs giving a game away was what it took to prompt the NFL to come to an agreement.

Roger Goodell and the owners who refused to compromise with the officials should be ashamed of themselves. Not so much because the lockout took place, but because they knew a lockout was coming and did nothing… absolutely nothing… to prepare for it. Instead of preparing to use Division I officials months in advance, the league sat on its collective ass until the arrival of the lockout, and then filled the gaps with people who had actually been dismissed from the Lingerie Football League for being poor officials, as well as high school and low level college officials. Such a failure to prepare is unacceptable for people that are running a multi-billion dollar industry. And the NFL will wear a big smile on its collective face and act like the league did the right thing for the game, when in actuality they did nearly everything wrong. And no one will be held accountable.

For those with short memories, the 2011 season was nearly destroyed because the NFL allowed its lawyers to posture and posture and posture with the players, playing a PR game instead of negotiating in good faith. Only when Robert Kraft and a few others stepped in (and kicked the attorneys out) was progress made and an agreement reached. It took the efforts of reasonable people to get a deal done in 2011, and I don’t consider Roger Goodell to be one of those reasonable people. While I had previously been a fan of Goodell’s “get tough on player misconduct” approach, even that has not been done in an even handed and consistent way, and the recent striking down of Goodells’ bounty sanctions against several players indicate that he is not one to follow proper protocol or overly worry about due process. While I am convinced that the Saints did something wrong in terms of payment for injury, I am equally convinced that Goodell botched the process and de-legitimized the league’s response to very serious misconduct.

To paint with a broad brush, my recent impression of Roger Goodell is that he is a power-hungry dictator who approaches all matters with a “my way or the highway” approach. And while Goodell excels at bleeding every dollar of profit that he can for the NFL, he is inept at forming relationships, partnerships, and acting as a true ambassador of the game. To try and be fair to Goodell, he is exactly the type of executive that many of the owners wanted, and he was hired to manage in the way that he is. I have no doubt that owner confidence in Goodell is still high. But player confidence and fan confidence in the Commissioner have seemingly been eroding for some time, and Goodell’s willingness to sit idly by while the integrity of the game was laid waste for these past three weeks – all for the purpose of breaking the referee’s union – calls into question Goodell’s true commitment to player safety and his fitness to serve as the NFL Commissioner. It was Roger Goodell’s agenda, not the agenda of the owners, to improve officiating, and the net result of Goodell’s actions will be no significantly improved officiating while sacrificing three weeks of an NFL season to sub-standard… no… piss poor officiating. It is my hope that Commissioner Goodelll’s actions, and worse his inaction in preparing for a lockout, will lose enough of the confidence of league owners to push for his resignation. I won’t hold my breath waiting for it, but I do have a birthday coming up…

Side Notes:

– Another long-held grudge against the NFL’s business practices… In 2004, EA signed an exclusive license through 2009 with the NFL and the NFLPA to give the company the exclusive rights to use the NFL’s teams, stadiums, and players in a video game. This exclusive license prevents other official NFL video games. The deal, reportedly worth $300 million and later extended to 2013, has been widely criticized as it created a monopoly for NFL gaming and squashed competitive NFL game platforms. To make matters worse, since Madden ’08, EA Sports has not bothered to release a pc version of the game due to lower sales than platforms such as XBox, PS3, and Wii, computer gamers have been without an NFL product to enjoy. The league could care less, and EA Sports has no plans to reverse course. Thus, those of us who have high-performing pc systems with superior graphics who enjoyed the strategy of NFL football are left to want. It’s no wonder that I haven’t bought an EA product in five years.

– Thanks to all of the new visitors we have had to the site during the officials’ lockout. Our site hits have soared, particularly as we called for a boycott on October 4th, which will be off if they get the deal done later today or tomorrow. I rather suspect that it will get done after the Monday night debacle. Anyway, we had no desire for glory in calling for the boycott, but if we have a platform to help fans mobilize, then we should use it if the game we love is being negatively impacted. Thanks to those of you who assisted with our boycott preparations, most notably our Twitter followers and Mike at Patriots Life. We’re not sure yet, but it looks like we’ll go back to being a sleepy little NFL fan blog… and we are just fine with that!

Sep 162012

Greetings and welcome back to Gridiron Rats (GiR). We have had a wonderful week of traffic on GiR and have welcomed back a writer to the site. Cankles (formerly using the handle Ed Werder) wrote our piece on the Packers – Bears rivalry, and it is nice to see him back on the site now that his work life is settling down a little bit. Although we have been advertising pretty heavily on Facebook to drive traffic to the site, the real surge in readership came when we started posting articles on Reddit. Prior to now I had never used that site much, but once I started subscribing to the feeds (known as sub-reddits) on the site and unsubscribing from the ones that they automatically set, I have now come to appreciate why the site is referred to as the front page of the internet. You can usually find us in the /r/nfl area or in whichever team I am posting an article on.

Some quick items:

* We had our house-warming/wedding party last night, with about 65 of our closest friends showing up and having a great time. The destruction that ensued was epic.  :-)  We did a lot of cleaning afterwards last night, but there is party shrapnel nearly everywhere, though no major disasters. Needless to say, after this article goes up it is back to cleaning until the games start at Noon. No live blog of the game today, though I am once again wearing the silver #54 Bruschi jersey for the game.

* I am looking forward to the Week Two activity and seeing what upsets will be in the making today. Blogging will pick back up after the first set of games, with a post on game results and a follow-up on the Patriots-Cardinals game.

* I hope that our readers like the variety of pieces we have been posting to date, and I invite our readers to offer suggestions for both story ideas and for future polls. Once again, I will remind our readers that they are welcome to submit articles for our consideration; we are glad to post well-written pieces that you are willing to share.

* The GiR bumper stickers are here and I am sending them out to those people who have requested them. I have a limited supply of the stickers, but am glad to send them along for free to people upon request while my current stock exists. Eventually we will be selling these along with GiR shirts, but for now we just want to share the love. You can see the bumper sticker here. If you’d like one, just send your name and address to girghostrat@gmail.com.

* As I noted, we have enjoyed a banner week and a banner month in terms or our traffic thanks to viewer from Reddit. As of September 15, we had already passed the number of page visits that we had for the entire month of August, which had been our busiest month in our four months of existence. I will be posting our user stats in our advertising section just so people can get a sense of what our readership numbers look like. We are not even close to being competitive with more established NFL blogs, but truthfully that was never really the intent. The point of this endeavor was to have fun (which we are doing) and the fact that we have developed a readership base outside of our family and friends is very rewarding and validating. It seems like some folks out there like this site, and we are glad that you do. Please keep coming back, and we will keep working to improve this site. As of this morning, we only have 74 followers on Twitter (@GridironRats), but we have 444 followers on Facebook. Please do join us at http://www.facebook.com/GridironRats and “Like” our page, and follow us on Twitter if you tweet.

Sep 102012

It was really nice to have football back on my television this weekend after a seven month wait. Football season has taken on a new meaning for me with the invention of Gridiron Rats, as I live blogged the Patriots game while doing my best to stay on top of the other action (thank you, DirecTV). Here are some of my early take-aways from Week One, with Monday night games still on the way.

1. The officiating was not good. There were many blunders in the 49ers-Packers game, and in the Broncos-Steelers contest last night. Some were benign, like misplacing the two minute warning in the Broncos’ game, while others were rather impactful. Tennessee fans in particular might be upset today that Jake Locker got hurt on a play that should have been blown dead and likely would have been with regular officials. Peyton Manning also got burned by the officials on a play that was vintage Peyton and should have worked to his advantage. He quick-snapped the Steelers, who had players still rotating off of the field. With regular officials that would have resulted in a free play and a penalty, but the replacement officials didn’t see it. I guess Peyton has to dumb his game down until the replacement officials can catch up. And there was a particularly bad call over a fourth timeout in the Seattle-Arizona game that was not only wrong, but then explained incorrectly. In any event, Mike Pereira can make a living off of criticizing the new officials, and anyone with the NFL who says that the replacement officials are adequate should probably be drug tested.

2. The Jets shocked everyone yesterday by scoring 20 points in the second quarter on their way to a 48-28 blowout win over the Bills. this tells us two things; that the Jets offense isn’t as bad as it looked in the pre-season, and that the Bills’ defense isn’t nearly as good as advertised. Clearly, Mark Sanchez needed a game like this to keep the boo-birds at bay and the cries for Tebow at a minimum. Yet in every silver lining, the Jets manage to find (or create) a dark cloud. After the game, linebacker Bart Scott teed off on the media, calling for a “media mutiny”.  When approached by a reporter, Scott opened up.

“You guys treat us like we’re a (bleeping) joke,” Scott said. “You all want us to feed your papers, but then you all talk (bleep) about us. So why would I want to give you all quotes to sell papers with if you all treat us like (bleep)? That doesn’t make sense. You all talk stuff about us, and then when we win you flip the story. You all win either way. I’m just going to be quiet.”

Where do I begin with Scott? First off, genius, I am pretty sure you mean “boycott” and not “mutiny”. I will refrain from commenting on his Southern Illinois University education, as someone very close to me holds a degree from that school, and I do happen to believe that it offers an outstanding education. Perhaps Scott slept through any classes in high school or college that might have included any vocabulary terms. And his frustration about the Jets’ being treated like a circus rings hollow with me. Why? The Jets act like a circus, which is ultimately what led to them being treated like one by the media.  This is the dark side of life with Rex Ryan, and Scott just doesn’t seem to comprehend that the New York Jets ARE a circus, even by New York media standards. Finally, on Scott’s final point that he will just keep quiet… from his mouth to God’s ears, my friend… can’t wait!

3. It’s going to be a long season and we have only seen Week One, but after yesterday I am absolutely convinced (as I was throughout the pre-season) that the Patriots’ defense is far more improved than that of the Packers. I realize that Jones and Hightower are only one game in, and that teams will learn to scheme against them, but with players like Wilfork, Mayo, Cunningham, Spikes, and McCourty on the field, there are plenty of players to make big plays. The Patriots suffocated Chris Johnson and look to have one of the league’s best run defenses. They might still give up a lot of yards, but I suspect there will be a lot of garbage time passing yards once again as the Patriots establish early leads and force teams to  throw, throw, and throw. The Packers were the fashionable Super Bowl pick this year with the rationale that an improved defense would be enough to vault them to another crown, but it’s the Patriots defense that looks far more improved, at least at this point of the year…. there’s a long way to go.

4. Speaking of the Patriots, I am of the opinion that Wes Welker is on his way out of Foxboro, and sooner rather than later. I noted yesterday that he was a non-factor in the game, catching only three passes for 14 yards. What I didn’t realize yesterday was that he was schemed out of the game, splitting his snaps with Julian Edelman, who caught one pass for seven yards. But it is the addition of the promising young slot receiver Greg Salas likely means that the Patriots are probably sitting by the telephone, waiting for a good offer to unload an amazing player who made the mistake of making his contract dispute public, a major no-no in Bill Belichick’s world. It’s entirely possible that this is a one game anomaly as a result of a scheme developed for the Titans,  but I’ve seen the Patriots make enough surprising moves over the years to know that when you fall out of favor in New England. you find yourself wearing new laundry in short order. We’ll see what happens as the season progresses and the trade deadline gets closer.

5. Speaking of sitting by the telephone, I suspect the Patriots and Brian Waters will want to work out their contract differences this week. While the Pats’ offensive line had an outstanding game yesterday, depth looks to be an issue, as Connolly got hurt during the course of the game. Waters’ return would help shore up the front five.

6. Because I live-blogged the Patriots-Titans game yesterday, I actually found myself far more focused on collecting data about the game rather than on cheering for my team. Don’t get me wrong, I still cheered, but did so with a far more objective lens than I normally would. I think that was reflected in what I recorded yesterday, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide. By the way, thanks to my three readers yesterday! For everyone else, check out the blog and see if you’ll visit me when I do it again.

7. Finally, maybe it’s just his change of laundry, but why do I suddenly like Peyton Manning a whole lot more than I used to? I couldn’t stand the man when he was with the Colts, and when the Colts they were certainly a much tougher rival than the Jets. Part of it is that he came off (to me) as an oaf who could put up stats but couldn’t win the big game, especially not against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That changed the year the Colts won the Super Bowl, but even that was due to a monumental collapse on the part of the Patriots’ defense in the AFC Championship Game. Part of my disdain also goes to his father Archie, who I despise for acting like the ultimate helicopter parent in forcing Eli’s trade from San Diego to New York. Yet strangely I have never disliked Eli, even though his Giants have twice beaten us in the Super Bowl. But last night I admired his performance in returning from a year off of football to lead the Broncos to a dramatic win over the Steelers. Part of it is my disdain for the Steelers and for their quarterback, who I suspect is devoid of character. But a large part of it was the perspective that Manning portrayed in the post-game interview, where he seemed to be far more mature than the Manning I used to loathe, and who had a greater humility than I have ever seen him display. I made the comment to Rat’s Widow as we watched, and I suddenly found myself liking the guy after all of these years. I’m sure I’ll feel differently in Week Five when the Broncos visit Foxboro, and I am not sure if this says more about me or more about Peyton, but it was nice to appreciate his work last night and not root for him to lose.

See you next time!