Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust: Where Did the Good Teams Go, Do You Trust This Man, and Bad Week for Underdog(s)

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I know it’s early, and based on my abysmal performance in Six Picks this weekend I have little room to criticize, but what the heck is up with the NFL this year?

Is anyone really ready to anoint the Chiefs and Rams the class of their respective conferences? Yes, they are the two remaining undefeated teams, but c’mon! Andy Reid teams never sustain their good starts, right?

And the Rams? Los Angeles didn’t even notice when the league stripped the city of their football team back in the ’90’s, yet somehow decided to reward their apathy with the return of not one, but two franchises? And now we are going to send one of those two to the Super Bowl?

There’s simply no way the football gods allow that.

So who do you like in the NFL? Not only are the good teams few and far between this season, there aren’t even interesting division races for a fan to pay attention to! Consider the following:

The NFC East is a total train wreck. The Washington Football Group had a golden opportunity to separate themselves from the pack last night, and were instead trounced by an overrated Saints team, who’s best attribute this year (besides Drew Brees — we all love Drew Brees) appears to be that they are scheduled to play everyone in the NFC East. The only noise you hear out of Philly right now is from fans asking one another in hushed tones “they can’t take back the Lombardi trophy, can they?” Not to mention I’m already being forced to walk back my “Giants as division champs” call, and the Cowboys are both bad and boring.

The NFC Central, you say? Yes, I’m increasingly enamored with the Bears defense, but I stand by my call that Mitch Trubisky ends up breaking hearts in the Windy City before this is all over. The Vikings were supposed to be really good this year, weren’t they? Didn’t they give Kirk Cousins an ownership share and like a gazillion dollars to play QB for them? Then the Bills (yes, the Bills) blew them out (yes, blew them out) at home (yes, at home). Next question. The Packers appear deeply flawed, and the Lions? Cue the laugh track.

The NFC South may be the closest we have to a good division, but the supposed best in class Falcons are 1-4 and were barely competitive against the Steelers this week. The Panthers? Only a 63-yard field goal saved them from a catastrophic loss at home to the punchless Giants and their statuesque, 80-something-year-old QB, Eli Manning. The Bucs wisely shut down Fitzmagic at the first sign of trouble, and presumably will now resume their annual trek to irrelevance with a 7-9-type of ledger. Who Dat? Sorry, but I just don’t think the Saints are that good, which may still be good enough this year.

The NFC West is plain awful. The Rams entered the year with six wins guaranteed thanks to that butt-ugly division schedule. Pencil them in for at least one playoff home game in January, just because everyone else is so bad.

What about the AFC?

We do have the Patriots, right? Well, yeah. And you can almost feel that universal smirk across the entirety of New England now that the Pats are back above .500. Let the gloating begin while the rest of us continue to hope that this is the year they come crashing back to earth. However (see the Rams), — six wins just by showing up against a weak division is a good jump start to a bye week come playoff time Belichick and the gang. And now that we can officially put the Fish back in the also-ran category after they didn’t show up the past two weeks, they can hold hands with the Jets and Bills while they all turn over their weekly lunch money to Brady and Gronk.

We’ve already mentioned the Chiefs. But the rest of the NFC West is another horror show. I keep wanting to label the Chargers as contenders, but then I remember how bad they looked against the Rams a few weeks ago and am forced to write them off. The Raiders and Broncos are nearly unwatchable at this point.

Which takes us to the AFC South. The Texans started the year 0-3 (including a Giants loss that wasn’t close) and barely squeaked by a terrible Cowboys team on Sunday. Yet I daresay they may be the class of the division. Come on, you really like and believe in the Titans? Uh huh. What about the Jaguars you say? Maybe…but can you rally around Blake Bortles after watching him the last two weeks?

Last chance — how about the NFC North? Well, it seems to me the Steelers are running on the fumes of the franchise’s sterling reputation, but I’m not ready to take them seriously on either side of the ball. The Browns are actually one of the more entertaining teams in the league to watch right now (did I actually just type that?), but a contender? Not this year. The Ravens were exposed as frauds in losing to division rivals each of the last two weeks. Which leaves us with the 4-1 Cincinnati Bengals. And this question:

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If you are a Bengals fan, do you trust this man? Are you truly ready to place Mr. Andy Dalton at the helm of your Super Bowl bandwagon? Didn’t think so. Pencil in the Bengals as the next team to come hurtling back to their true level of performance the way water always finds its own level.

And there it is. After five weeks of football, we only have the Chefs and the Lams and a bunch of 8-8’s and 7-9’s in the making. Then again, who am I to criticize? I just went 1-5 with my Six Picks (although I did best Lubbock Reece thanks to Sam the Man and the Jets domination of the Broncos in our LUCKY 7 game of the week), all of which teaches me an important lesson:

When in the business of serious NFL prognostication, never try to come up with a cute  angle (especially one featuring a long-forgotten cartoon super hero) that ends up with you needing the Raiders and Cowboys both to come up big for you in the same week.

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