You Gotta to Pay the Troll Toll – Rex Ryan makes his return to New York this Thursday and man, oh man, is this going to be fun. Ever since he was fired from the Jets and landed in Buffalo, Rex has done his best to clutch the fading limelight that barely shines on the western half of the state. The blustery coach has done anything he can to bring attention to his new team. The honeymoon was great out of the gate with unknown Tyrod Taylor leading the charge for the Bills. Then the injury bug started mounting as did the losses. Players on the defense started to question their usage and high-priced free agent acquisition Percy Harvin started to become a distraction to the surprise of nobody but Rex.
Last week, the Bills got back into the win column and Harvin was placed on IR so all of the previous distractions will have to be on hold this week as Rex delves into the mother load of distractions: returning to the New York media. As he is wont to do, Rex has unsurprisingly selected former Jets linebacker IK Enekampli as his team captain for the week. IK is of course the player that knocked Geno Smith out of the lineup and found himself cut before being scooped up by the attention seeking Rex. Ryan has played coy with his obvious decision of his captain this week, proclaiming that his decision was “not a slap in anybody’s face.” The joke, of course, will be on Rex when IK gets a standing ovation from the Jets crowd.
You Must Protect This House– Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are enjoying an undefeated season thus far and with a less than difficult remaining schedule, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they stay that way. Obviously, a lot can happen between now and then with the health of this year’s MVP candidate the number one concern. There hasn’t been anything Cam can’t do this season and that extends to his desire to keep his home field homer friendly. Prior to the Panthers home match-up with the previously undefeated Packers, Cam was warming up on the field and noticed a large banner in yellow and green colors displaying “North Carolina Cheesehead.”
Cam not only knows the Panthers offensive playbook from front to back, he knows his team’s policy on opposing team fans hanging banners on the field and quickly disposed of the offending image. While the owner of the banner attempted to create a media brouhaha over the minor incident, Cam’s teammates have rallied to his defense to claim responsibility. Newton has elected to extend an offer of personally signed swag to the offended fan and one of the sillier stories of the year will hopefully soon be put to rest.
The Lion in the Sand– These are your daddy’s Lions, unfortunately. After the firing of offensive coordinator and scapegoat Joe Lombardi failed to yield immediate improvement, the Lions decided more drastic changes needed to be made. Lions’ owner Martha Ford had enough and opted to clean house mid-season and rid the team of the people in charge for creating this 1-7 disaster. In an odd twist of fate it was perhaps the good decision making that led to the ouster of team president Tim Leland and general manager Martin Mayhew. Hamstrung by the previous CBA, the pair were pigeonholed into extending large rookie contracts to their successful draft choices. The domino effect rolled down into the rest of the team and the lack of funds to retain other high-profile free agents. Not to suggest the pair were infallible as the choice to hire Jim Caldwell appears to have been a crucial mistake, one that ultimately cost them their jobs.
Get At Me Dog– The Raiders headed to Pittsburgh riding high after a huge victory at home over the Jets. The team was pumped up and ready to take it to the Steelers to show the world that the real Raiders were back. One player however took his pre-game preparation a bit too far as linebacker Ray Ray Armstrong elected to taunt a K-9 police service dog. Armstrong reportedly barked, lifted his shirt and pounded his chest while yelling at the female officer to send in the dog. To the surprise of the Raiders and Armstrong, this action is considered a felony in the state of Pennsylvania and the police have begun an investigation into the incident. While it does sound a bit ridiculous that the Allegheny Police Department seemingly should have better things to worry about, that by no means should excuse a professional athlete from attempting to incite an attack by what virtually is considered a police officer. There are far better ways to get yourself ready for a big game on the road.
Say It Ain’t So Joe – The NFL trade deadline came and went as it usually does without any major moves being made. This is usually one of the very few boring times of the year. There’s always some very loose rumors of a major trade but with all of the complexities that go into building a team financially and on the football field, trades in the NFL are rightfully rare. Ones that involve a perennial Pro-Bowl offensive left tackle are even more rare than that, but it sounds like we were ‘this-close’ from having Joe Thomas leaving the only home in the NFL he has known in the Cleveland Browns. If the proposed trade would have gone through, Thomas would have left the forlorn franchise and headed to the first place Broncos in a move that would have sent shockwaves throughout the NFL. Once the deadline passed, Thomas appeared to play it up to the fans declaring that he would have been heartbroken to leave despite several reports indicating that not only did Thomas ask for the team to explore trade options, he went as far as to attempt to negotiate more guaranteed money into his current contract to sweeten his end of the deal. Thomas and his agent have predictably gone on the offensive to dispel these reports and reconfirm their devotion to the hapless Browns. Playing both sides of the trade fences is an art form, one that Thomas and his agent Peter Schaeffer have appeared to master.
1. New England Patriots (8-0), last week 1: Maybe the loss of Dion Lewis slows down the Pats pursuit of perfection
2. Cincinnati Bengals (8-0), last week 3: The Bengals cruise to Houston on Monday night looking to go 9-0.
3. Denver Broncos (7-1), last week 2: I resisted raising them in my rankings until last week and look what happened.
4. Carolina Panthers (8-0), last week 6: After looking at their remaining schedule, Carolina may have a real shot at an undefeated season.
5. Arizona Cardinals (6-2), last week 5: The Cardinals come out of the bye with a prime-time matchup with their division foes.
6. Green Bay Packers (6-2), last week 4: What this team needs is to play a division game. Oh, hello Lions.
7. Minnesota Vikings (6-2), last week 10: Minny heads out west to play the Raiders most likely without their field general.
8. New York Jets (5-3), last week 8: They won, but this team feels like they are on the ropes and Rex comes to town with a haymaker.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4), last week 9: It sure was nice to have Ben back. Now we wait for him to return again.
10. St. Louis Rams (4-4), last week 11: You can win by throwing the ball all over the place or by having a solid defense and run game. The Rams have the latter.
11. Atlanta Falcons (6-3), last week 7: The wheels are coming off the bus after a disastrous loss against Blaine Gabbert.
12. Seattle Seahawks (4-4), last week 12: Let’s see which Seahawks team emerges after the bye.
13. Indianapolis Colts (4-5), last week 13: The Colts had a statement win against the Broncos but now have to turn back to Hasselbeck for the near future.
14. Buffalo Bills (4-4), last week 14: Last week was a glimpse of what this team can do when healthy but staying healthy remains their biggest challenge.
15. Oakland Raiders (4-4), last week 15: Oakland missed a big opportunity to capitalize on their burgeoning success.
16. New York Giants (5-4), last week 16: The G-Men handled their business in Tampa but get a much bigger test this week against the Patriots.
17. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4), last week 18: The bye did the Eagles offense well but now the trick is to play consistently.
18. New Orleans Saints (4-5), last week 19: The Saints are playing exciting football thanks to their offense and unfortunately their defense.
19. Chicago Bears (3-5), last week 20: After catching his game-winning TD on Monday night, Zach Miller left the stadium in his Delorean.
20. Miami Dolphins (3-5), last week 17: After a minor blip, the Dolphins are once again heading in the wrong direction.
21. Dallas Cowboys (2-6), last week 21: By the time Romo returns it might not matter.
22. Washington (3-5), last week 22: We will always have garbage time.
23. San Diego Chargers (2-7), last week 23: Amazingly, the Chargers lost even more players to injuries this week.
24. Baltimore Ravens (2-6), last week 24: Life without Steve Smith is going to be very tough.
25. Cleveland Browns (2-7), last week 25: Life as a Browns fan is very tough.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5), last week 26: The Bucs had a letdown at home last week and now get ready for a slightly easier NFC East opponent.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (3-5), last week 27: After two wins and a bye, the Chiefs are ready for Peyton and company.
28. Houston Texans (3-5), last week 28: Houston is charged with handing the Bengals their first loss of the year by going on the road on Monday night.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6), last week 29: The Jags had a chance against the Jets but came up short.
30. Tennessee Titans (2-6), last week 30: A new coach and the return of Mariota put the Titans back in the win column for the first time since Week 1.
31. San Francisco 49ers (3-6), last week 31: The Gabbert era is upon us, just as Kaepernick feared.
32. Detroit Lions (1-7), last week 32: The last man standing is the unmovable object known as Jim Caldwell.