NFL Week 1: It’s Even Too Hot To Play Tennis Edition

 

ImageNFL Week 1: It's Even Too Hot To Play Tennis Edition

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the NFL Administration.

I work for Commissioner Roger Goodell but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations. It was a very serious thwart vow. There were candles. We even wore robes!

Commissioner Goodell is facing a test to his Commissionergoodellship unlike any faced by a modern NFL leader.

Its not just the whole concussion thing looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided between intelligent people and the increasingly-willingly ignorant over a literal and demonstrably constitutional right to peacefully protest. Or even that his least favorite team might win the AFC east again because a fake doctor is hellbent feeding their QB infrared wood-chips or whatever.

The dilemma which he does not fully grasp is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations, even if they are too scared to eat the first slice of pizza.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the resistance of the baseball, hockey, or basketball jerks. I think I even got a voicemail from a soccer guy at some point, but I spiked it three seconds in and immediately blocked any emails from any .eu or .uk address. Go sing nursery rhymes and conk your neighbor over the head with a beer mug, mate. We want the American football administration to succeed and think that by fiddling with the same fundamental helmet design over and over and over again we have already made the NFL safer and more prosperous.

NFL Week 1: It's Even Too Hot To Play Tennis Edition

But we believe our first duty is to this league, and the Commissioner continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our NFL. That is why many Goodell appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our institutions while thwarting the commissioners more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the commissioners amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making. That is how Greg Hardy gets suspended for four games for beating his girlfriend until she thought she was going to die, and Jonathan Vilma misses an entire season for pooling cash bounties for legal hits. Although he was elected following the retirement of Paul Tagliabue, the commissioner shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by the league office. 34 players and coaches were suspended for non-drug offenses between 1925 and 2006. There have been 134 suspensions since Goodell became commissioner on September 1, 2006.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that DeMaurice Smith is the enemy of the people, Commissioner Goodell’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the league fails to capture: Chris Long, Michael Bennett, Connor Barwin, free beer if the Browns win a game, and more.

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But these successes have come despite not because of Mr. Goodell’s leadership style, which was severely compromised when he started his Dixieland jazz combo, often called Impetuous, Adversarial, Petty and Ineffective. I repeatedly asked why his name wasn’t part of the ensemble and never got a straight answer from banjo player Carl Adversarial.

From the league office to locker rooms and stadium fields, officials will privately admit their daily confusion as to what constitutes a penalty anymore. Lowering the head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent? Don’t linemen do that every play? They get in a stance and everything!

Meetings with Goodell veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back, like haranguing an interviewer for not using the NFL Mobile app and then not being able to get it to work.

There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next, a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by a meeting at which Goodell flip-flopped on what constitutes a catch, a major policy decision he’d changed for the 26th time only four minutes earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the league. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. Players with AIDS are denied media credentials and tickets, and warrant neither footnote nor photo on the website.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but fans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do whats right even when Roger Goodell won’t. The result is a two-track commissionership. And an almost un-listenable four-track demo from the recently-renamed Impetuous, Adversarial, Petty, Roger, and Ineffective.

Take foreign games: one would think that we should send headline franchises like the Patriots, Cowboys, and -for some reason – Raiders to go play in front of confused Londoners as a show of genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations. Perhaps with one-way tickets, ha ha! We league officials are so very funny.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the league keeps sending the Goddamn Jacksonville Jaguars! So the administration is operating on another track, apparently one where Europeans could find Jacksonville on a map, and where allies around the world prefer historically bad football and are punished accordingly.

In Mexico, however, the commissioner gave 77,000 people in Estadio Azteca Pats v. Raiders, which looked great at the time, and this year they get Rams v. Chiefs on Monday Night Football! One might think that Goodell was allying with a nation that hates our racist president, and that would have been awesome, but we all know how the commissioner reacts when he has a chance to stand up to Trump by now.

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This isn’t the work of the so-called No Fun League. Its the work of the official football league of the NFL brought to you by Castrol motor oil, Bridgestone tires, your Anheuser-Busch InBev beer of choice, USAA military bank or maybe insurance I think?, Ford (Built Ford Tough) and Pizza Hut (Baked Hut Tough).

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the league office of invoking mark Davis to raise some hell like his old man did with Rozelle, which would bypass a complex process for removing the commissioner. But it went about as you’d expect. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until one way or another its over. The bigger concern is not what Mr. Goodell has done to the game but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do. Because apparently anonymous op-eds permit the author to blame people for things they had nothing to do with.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter when he said people should not hold on to legacy positions just because their fathers were congressmen. That’s why I fired my useless daughter from blogging on my behalf during my presidential campaign, even though that was hardly an important job. Or a job, really. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the nepotism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of violence and greed in this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But Meghan McCain is on The Talk or The View or The Yammer or whatever, and Roger Goodell is still NFL commissioner, lodestars for other dumb rich kids with no discernible talent who want to be famous for nothing but probably aren’t Ray-J‘s type.

There is a quiet resistance within the NFL of people choosing to put football first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the field and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: insatiable consumers of great products like Castrol, Bridgestone, watery American beer, USAA somethingorother I think for Black Navy Vets maybe?, Ford (Built Ford Tough) and Pizza Hut (pizza not made by a creep descending into madness as we speak).

The writer is a senior official in the NFL administration.

WAIT WAIT… no I’m not. Goat is already mad at me for babying McCain last week and I’m afraid of getting a pay cut if you sue us!

WAIT WAIT… no I’m not. Goodell is a tool, parody is protected by fair use and HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!

But before we pick games, let me set forth the last of the mandates before the ball is live and the stakes are high. First off, you MUST shop for lines. Generally speaking, all of the picks in the column are based upon the Vegas Insider consensus line. Despite the link, I have no love – or hate – for Vegas Insider. I only use their lines in order to gauge the most widely-available line to everybody reading. But they also have a consensus row that gives the mode spread from 34 different books, which you can use as a reference to make sure you’re getting the best numbers. Oddsshark is also helpful, especially their computer sims, though their expert picks are usually shaky, three-sentence blurbs containing wisdom you could get from Covers randos.

Also, and with apologies for using a pop-internet phrase that probably doubles as the title of an auto-tuned R&B song used in headphone commercials, but do the work. There is a legitimate edge gained by even just a fundamental understanding of advanced stats. Football Outsiders is great for this, and a field guide to their most commonly-used metrics is here, but you at least need to learn DVOA, which stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. DVOA measures the success of a play compared to the league average of that play, but adjusted based upon the opponent, the score, down and distance, field position, score, and time remaining. Advanced stats aren’t exactly sexy, and many bright people argue that they are considerably more applicable to baseball, because baseball is essentially a series of solitary acts whereas football is played up close with 21 other human variables. That said, you should at the very least get a handle on DVOA, and I would personally recommend the $20 .pdf version of their almanac as well. Alright then, here we go.

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CINCINNATI +3 v. INDIANAPOLIS

We discussed the waning nature of Andrew Lucks health last week, and this game is probably going answer a lot of questions in the regard. Paul Guenther is gone and so the Bengals will no longer be based around a 4-3 double A gap blitz, but this may mean more pressure, not less. Teryl Austin ran aggressive defenses in Detroit and Geno Atkins, Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard are mean enough that we may see the true test of Lucks shoulder in week one.

Andy Dalton will be his usual passable self, not spectacular but not awful, and not awful may be enough for a lot of teams playing the Colts this year. AJ Green is still dangerous as his go-to guy and Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard give him will valves when he needs them. This is hardly a headliner game, and it will probably be not awful. Take the field goal and watch something else.

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SEATTLE +3 v. DENVER

Oh how the masses loved last years downfall of Seattle. No more Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman gone. Cliff Avril gone. Kam Chancellor (probably) gone. Now its a dreaded rebuilding year and they come in as dogs against a team that went 5-11 last year.

As dogs against a team that went 5-11 last year! I know I’m a man on an island here, but I just don’t get it. The theory is that Von Miller and the Denver defense will be back to shutdown form, but who will do all the scoring? Supposedly, the Broncos QB difficulties are solved because of the arrival of Case Keenum, but I will believe it when I see it. Keenum had a freakishly anomalous year last year, and his offenses averaged 21 points in the games that he started. That’s competent quarterbacking, not franchise-resurrecting quarterbacking. Conversely, Russell Wilson, though legendarily annoying, has done more with less than this and he has Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and Jaron Brown. Brandon Marshall also had an impressive preseason, enough to make the team and possibly give us a rare Brandon Marshall v. Brandon Marshall showdown. I know I’m alone. Keep the stakes down if you don’t trust me, but we shall see.

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BUFFALO v. BALTIMORE -7

I’ve seen those Bills Mafia videos, with the backyard wrestling and the parking lot sex. You could tell me that a majority of that fanbase kicks puppies while denying the Holocaust and I would believe you. But Jesus, even I don’t think their team deserves blame for the Oklahoma City bombing.

This line opened at +3 and ballooned to +7, perhaps because they ended a playoff drought and came within seven of ending the fairy tale story of Bort Bibles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then again, having seen those people I’m guessing they were too drunk to remember that the Bills stumbled backward into the playoffs at 9-7 (in last years AFC East) in part due to Andy Dalton, who just might purchase the most inadvisable summer home in the history of the world.

Fans blacking out is one thing, we all do that. I have only a faint recollection of what I wrote five paragraphs ago. Did Ray-J have sex with Meghan McCain or something? Anyway, the coaches and administration are supposed to stay off of the sauce. And yet, these goons run Tyrod Taylor out of town, and name Nathan Peterman their starter. Yes that Nathan Peterman, the guy they left out on the field to die after throwing five INTs in one half last year.

I don’t know, maybe this is all a plan to get Josh Allen into the mix while reserving the fan-base as a scapegoat if it doesn’t work out. But Baltimore, declining or otherwise, is still coached by the non-oddball Harbaugh, the one who can field a competent defense, and I’m sure Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, and C.J. Mosley will be happy to welcome Mr. Peterman into his new role.

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WASHINGTON (EVEN) v. ARIZONA

Remember when Alex Smith made us all that money in the early weeks of last season? Lets hope he can do it again. Of note, this game is also currently available at Washington +1, but this is not going to be a one-point slug-fest. Its a bit early to start messing with teasers and the like, but you may as well take them straight up at even money if you’re going to take them at all.

I certainly expect Washington’s wheels to fall off, probably before the first frost, but this is a very winnable game for them. Bruce Arians is gone, and Carson Palmer is off to join his brother in a booth somewhere, and is replaced by Sam Bradford, probably getting his last shot in the league as long as his body holds up.

Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, probably the best three guys on the Washington defense, are all up front. So long as they have one guy – or two guys – to cover Larry Fitzgerald in the rushed interim that Bradford will have to work with, they should be fine. On the other side, Smith gets to throw to Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed, not as enticing as last years options in KC, but Tyrann Mathieu is no longer there to cover them either. And hey, speaking of last shots, Washington signed up to squeeze the last drops of football out of Adrian Peterson. If hes going to be at all effective, it will be in these early games.

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Finally, at last, its time to feed the animals, myself included. There is of course an honest-to-God football game set to be played at 8:20 p.m. tonight. As was the case last year, I’m too scared of the line to make an official pick, with the fancy bold type and the big photo and all. Philly opened at a 4-point favorite, and that was whittled down to 2.5 by Tuesday night. Maybe the general public is in love with Matty Ice despite his continual denial that his nickname is a cheap beer gag, because God forbid any QB disclose anything even remotely fun or relatable. Maybe those Chik-Fil-A crackers swung the line with their $6.6 billion dollars, earned through good ol American bootstrap grease and not, as some have alleged, by sticking their fathers head in the fryer. Regardless, both teams are just too good to bank on two to four points in either direction.

That said, theres a game on! I’m watching, you’re watching, everybody’s watching. Thursday night, network TV, and you know damn well theyre gonna break out an A-lister to sing the national anthem. In light of the league buckling over the anthem thing I figured they would hire a Black singer for the sake of optics, so I Googled it, and sure enough, its gonna be Shawn Mendes. Then I Googled Shawn Mendes. That is the least Shawn Mendes-looking guy Ive ever seen! AND HES CANADIAN! What the hell?

Anyway, were all watching, so I’m going with the under at 45. Philly had the fourth ranked defense last season and Atlanta had the ninth. Remember, this was last years NFC Divisional Playoff, where both teams combined for 25. I get that Nick Foles is probably auditioning for the league in these early games, but I love the young Falcons four-man front. They don’t blitz a lot, but they bring pressure, and I don’t see Foles lighting up the scoreboard if he has to run in circles half the night.

That’s it gang! Football is back! We are back! I’ve got the braun, you’ve got the brains

 

GOOD LUCK!

About J.J. Duquesne

J.J. is an attorney in New York City. He loves NFL Football...a LOT.