NFL Preseason: Meaningful Carnage In Meaningless Games Edition
Well, the world keeps turning, wheel in the sky, flat circle, whatever you wish to say about the repetitive nature of life, and the same holds true for preseason football. We’ve had our egocentric rookie holdout, our heroic redemptive comeback, the standard veteran QB speed dating, the big free-agent-in-a-new-town drama. And then, last Saturday, I heard the sepulchral Fox injury music for the first time, when Ade Aruna left with a pretty horrific-looking knee injury.
I guess there is something to be said for predictability, if not necessarily milkmen or paperboys because those dopes should read the tea leaves and recognize dying industries. Its 2018, there’s a random mass shooting every week, stay the fuck off my porch! Sorry. Anyway, so far we have hit every beat in the NFL season story. Up next, a QB will get injured, probably concussed, minutes after a color guy notes that his team built their whole season around him. After that, a journeyman practice squad-level wide-out with an undiagnosed mental illness will get arrested, probably in Dallas, for trying to fuck a napkin dispenser at a Whataburger around 4:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. I can’t go any further without including spoiler alerts and this ain’t that type of column.
The Aruna thing is a damn shame, by the way. Aruna was born in Nigeria, didnt come to the U.S. until he was 16 years old, and wound up in the dirtball Midwest, which he compared to modern-day Nigeria. He played at NCAA powerhouse Tulane, and caught enough eyes at pro day that he eventually wound up running a 4.6 40 as a linebacker at the combine. I will spare you the similarly sad tales of Cedrick Lang and Johnny Stanton, both of whom were also carted off and were among the six Vikings injured in the game. Not sure who had a worse night, the injury music player or the injury cart driver, though presumably neither was left homeless with a broken back or forced to wear a talking monitoring device while pissing in soda bottles.
Thankfully, this madness has an expiration date. Sean McVey, currently 32 years old, the youngest head coach in modern NFL history, and last years Pro Football Writers of America Coach of the Year, openly questions the wisdom of having his starters play four meaningless full-contact games for no patent reason. Neither Todd Gurley nor Jared Goff will play a single down before the Rams first game on September 10. McVey isnt the only one. We’ve already discussed Jason Garretts disdain for the preseason, and you will note that neither Matt Nagy nor Mike Vrabel seem to have much interest in playing roulette with the ligaments of their skill guys either. If preseason participation keeps skewing according to the age of the respective coach, future training camps will eventually just be guys playing a bunch of Madden. And, if Hard Knocks is any indication, frequent trips to the local zoo. Always with the Goddamned zoo!
For a while, a major point of contention surrounding the CBA has involved owners pushing for an 18-game season, while the NFLPA pushed back, and railed against the entire concept of the preseason. Intelligent people are obviously on the side of the union here, given that half a year of football is probably enough in light of the toll it takes on the human body, and as per Deadspin shortening the preseason does very much seem like something the owners will be willing to cede ground on, in exchange for things they actually care about. I’m just not sure what obscenely rich people (and Mark Davis and his mom and 81 moderately-less-rich Wisconsinites) actually care about. Commute-ready mustard? Doormen who keep their mouths shut? Lord willing, we will all be obscenely rich and thus privy to this information by the end of the season.
I do always enjoy one element of preseason football, that being the oddball broadcast teams. A lot of national play-by-play guys are still doing baseball, and that’s a transitory job by nature anyway, so we occasionally get slapdash combinations of radio guys, people from other sports, and former players trying to get a color gig. So far, ESPN has paired Joe Tessitore with Jason Witten and Anthony Booger McFarland to what may charitably be called mixed results. I assume, as speculated here, that Witten is getting a look because Fox struck gold with Tony Romo, yet another corporate boardroom decision that makes total sense without three seconds of critical thinking. Hell, Greg Hardy played with both of those guys, why not give him a shot? Just kidding! What kind of idiot would attempt to monetize Greg Hardy in 2018?
By the way, I did notice that Bernie Kosar had a sideline gig with WEWS/ABC for at least one of the Browns preseason games. I am happy to report that he sounded fine. You might remember that over the past several years, Kosar was part of some concerning public appearances, went broke, seemingly twice, and eventually surrendered himself to treatment for what had to be an astronomical number of concussions if you watched 80s and 90s Browns football. Some of the methods seemed dubious, some less so, but that uncomfortable slurring was at no point audible during the broadcast that I saw. This is typically where the punchline goes, but I will type no such thing. Football is dangerous, and tears a lot of guys up. We watch with clear consciences because these guys have agency (even Kosar says he’d do it all again) and any effort made to get better, be it personal or in the service of making post game life better for the guys behind you, should be applauded.
That daughter of his though, shes fair game. Forget the moralistic crap. I, like every other sane person who doesn’t have a daughter, assert no judgment here. People watch porn, porn requires participants, you’re not hurting anybody so do your thing. But you can’t make mainstream headlines with *ahem* Sneaky Aerobics Instructor and then disappear! A certain website that one might consider to be a HUB of sorts for PORN ranks her at number 4724, yet another plunge from last months 3817. Unless shes gaming to be the Haley Joel Osment of pornography, she needs to at least make a sequel or something. What happened to the aerobics instructor? Is he or she still sneaky? HEY LOOK FOOTBALL!
Wait wait wait! Kind of! There were legitimate college games played on Saturday. Specifically, there were Mountain West, Conference USA, and HBCU games, with lines on all of them, even if national championship implications were probably not part of the conversation. Personally, I was too busy getting hosed by Nebraska State Athletic Commission officials who were too blind to see Angela Overkill Hills unacknowledged win over Cortney Casey to watch, but if you had action I hope you collected.
In that vein, this week I wanted to look at a couple of props that I think might be promising this year. If you’re new, feel free to check out last years piece that breaks this stuff down, but the short version goes like this: prop refers to betting on anything other than the final outcome of a game, and future refers to a bet on a game in which we don’t yet know which teams are playing. So betting on win totals, or who will throw the most touchdown passes or rack up the most rushing yards is a prop bet. Betting on who will win the Super Bowl, the NFC Championship, and/or the NFC North Division Title is a future bet. Today we are going to cover prop bets, with an emphasis on season win totals, because my favorite prop of this year is:
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS UNDER 7 WINS
I think Andrew Luck is a good person. He may look like a mid-transition werewolf but hes a voracious reader, was funny on Parks and Rec, and is an honest-to-God architectural engineer. Its just that at this point, he probably should be an honest-to-God architectural engineer. Luck tore his labrum in 2015, played through it until he lacerated his kidney and tore multiple muscle pulls in his abdomen in week eleven of 2016, and hasn’t played a regular-season down during the Trump administration. His first postoperative throw happened in June of this year.
Even if you are willing to accept the suspect assertion that his right upper extremity does not have the consistency of a pretzel, Luck has stated that he will not undergo any further surgeries and his rehab course was a wandering menagerie of Dutch clinics and start-stop processes. Put bluntly, there is some question as to whether or not he even wants to play football anymore. And who can blame him? Do you know what architectural engineers who are not world famous make?
Even if Luck were to stay healthy – and that’s a HUGE *covers face, stifles laughter* – new head coach Frank Reich has never been a head coach, new offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni has never been an OC, and new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has never been a DC in the NFL. If Luck goes down, the QB will be Jacoby Brissett, who has looked middling at best during the preseason, or Phillip Walker, who the Colts have already waived and demoted to the practice squad since arriving undrafted from Temple. If Luck stays healthy, he will throw to T.Y. Hilton and no one else you have ever heard of, and hand off to Marlon Mack or Robert Turlin. This is a rebuilding team, and short of an extreme hypothetical like a Bridgewater trade, a good value at +140.
LAMAR JACKSON OVER 0.5 STARTS
In the sense that there are any feel-good draft stories anymore, Lamar Jackson was one of them. In these times where we all watched greasy memorabilia dealers and *sigh* blood relatives attempt to sabotage Todd Gurley and Laremy Tunsil, respectively, it felt good to see the Ravens take Jackson and his cereal-mascot suit with the 32nd and last pick of the first round.
Jackson already appears to be something of a fan favorite in Baltimore, as evinced by the crowds at home games against the Bears and Rams. He’s an easy guy to like, too, keeping charitable ties to both South Florida and Louisville, and showing loyalty by making the probably disastrous decision to let his mother act as his agent.
Joe Flacco is very likeable, too, especially if you’re a DB playing against him. Flacco finished his tenth season last year with a 46.0 QBR, his lowest since his rookie year in 2008. America still had a housing market and Robert Downey Jr. seemed a curious choice to play Iron Man. Since then, hes played the role seven more times and Flacco has thrown 186 TD’s against 118 interceptions.
Flacco isn’t bad, per se, but he is old, and expensive, and the new rookie tight ends drafted alongside Jackson wont be enough to drag him back to the status he used to enjoy, wherein the bleating idiots on sports radio would drag out endless is-he-elite debates to the thrill of no one, not even Flacco’s own father. Be it due to injury, a slow start, or yet another .500 season leading to a week 17 game where they toss him in just to please the diehards, I think Lamar Jackson will find a way to start one game in 2018.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS UNDER 9.5 WINS
I’m still getting used to saying Los Angeles Chargers. I grew up saying L.A. Rams so that’s not a huge deal. The desperate apologists who handwave owner relocations – a group comprised of the owners themselves, band-wagoners, and finance knobs who want to put season tickets on the firm card so they have somewhere to park their kids while they go nail their personal trainer – will note that the Chargers originally played in L.A., but that was for one season in 1960, and I’m nowhere near that old. Elsewise I would probably have an AOL email address and this column would be distributed via 78 RPM gramophone disc.
I will give them this: they have the personnel. Rivers has to be motivated, as he joined the team in 2004 and had started every game since 2006. Who knows, his over-the-top Christianity may have played a hand in keeping him so healthy, but Jesus himself had his issues in his mid-30s and Rivers is, according to the modern Gregorian calendar, 36. Bosa is a beast, obviously, and Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin make up a world class receiving corps.
But ten games? The Chargers haven’t won more than nine games since 2009. Corner Jason Verrett and tight end Hunter Henry are out for the year, again. There is of course a bit of a shuffle going on in the AFC West, but subtracting the Broncos, the Chargers still get the Raiders and Chiefs twice, and one could argue that Patrick Mahomes could actually wind up being an upgrade over Alex Smith. As I type this there are Khalil Mack rumors popping all over Twitter, but I think Derek Carr can at least drag the Raiders to a divisional split with or without him. The Chargers will play the Rams, Seahawks, and Steelers on the road, and the surging 49ers, the Titans and Ravens thanks to their 9-7 finish. Take the under and enjoy the absurd reality of watching a home team get booed in a soccer stadium in what is allegedly their hometown.
Every day we draw closer, and our old familiar friends are waiting just around the bend! That Cowboys/Cards game we correctly predicted last week was a national network broadcast, which means the season is damn near upon us. The college kids play next weekend, we can shore up some futures, then we hit the ground running because all bets are on!