As the NFL once again experienced a torrential downpour of criticism from the likes of John Oliver, The Daily Show and South Park, a few teams were ducking disparagement drops and getting ready to play this Sunday.
And I say “a few” because roughly a quarter of the league was on a bye. Six teams sat out this weekend, something fantasy owners know all too well. Yet we weren’t all singing the Bye Week Blues; turns out, the NFL is still capable of delivering: Sunday brought the fall of an undefeated team, a savagely spiteful revenge game and a heroic comeback for the ages.
OK, there was some bad football, too. Let look at the Winners and Losers for Week 4.
Winner: Steve Smith Sr.
This was like the NFL equivalent of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” The Carolina Panthers and Steve Smith had a 13-year relationship before Smith was cut in a cold-blooded attempt to save some cash. Smith made sure to flaunt everything the Good Lord gave him on Sunday, catching seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns and throwing this amazing stiff arm.
Then, after the game, Smith had this to say about his old crew, “I’m 35 years old and I ran by those guys like they were schoolyard kids.” Take that, Mr. Duplicity.
Winner: J.J. “M.V.P.” Watt
Sometimes when the case is made for a defensive player to be considered for MVP, it feels like a forced narrative; something to spice up a dull NFL season. This is not one of those cases. On either count.
J. J. Watt is the rare defensive player that must be game-planned for as if he was an offensive player. Before yesterday’s game, Watt already had a blocked FG, a fumble recovery, two sacks, ten tackles and a touchdown reception. On Sunday, Watt added a mere nine hits on the quarterback and an 80-yard pick-six, giving him more touchdowns this season than Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. Oh, and the Texas surpassed their win total from last year, too. #JJ4MVP
Loser: Whoever Decided to Run This Play
Just how they drew it up. The Saints snuffed out any chance of a comeback against Dallas with this terribly telegraphed fake punt. Where to begin?
First off, the Saints were down by two touchdowns with 7 minutes remaining. Second, Drew Brees is still the Saints quarterback. Third, Travaris Cadet started going in motion hours before the snap, showing the world that it was indeed a fake punt. Fourth, the Cowboys lined up with nine people in coverage because, even before Cadet went in motion, the defense saw a fake punt coming from a mile away. Fifth, ah, fuck it. Dallas got the ball and scored, making it 38-17 and closing the door on any possibility of a patented fourth-quarter Cowboy collapse.
Loser: Chip Kelly
The offensive wizard sent to revolutionize the NFL was made to look like a random fan who was handed a headset on Sunday, and perhaps the 49ers aren’t sputtering like we thought.
San Francisco handled Kelly’s Eagles, limiting their offense to just 213 total yards – only 22 of which came on the ground. To be fair, Philly’s offensive line has a plethora of injuries, and Nick Foles did drive the team to the 1-yard line late, but that was the first time the Eagles crossed midfield all game. That’s inexcusable even for the Jaguars. With the loss, Philadelphia fell from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Winner: The Relaxed Aaron Rodgers
Last week’s befuddling loss to the Detroit Lions sent everyone in the state of Wisconsin into nuclear panic, and suddenly the Green Bay Packers’ offense was a below-average unit at best. Randall Cobb called the performance “embarrassing.” Though the skies appeared as dark as ever, Aaron Rodgers summoned his inner Frankie and delivered a message to Cheesehead Nation: “R-E-L-A-X.“
Then, he backed up his, uh, word, putting Chicago to sleep with 300 yards and 4 of the most chillaxed touchdown tosses you’ll ever see, excluding the one above that didn’t count. Go to bed, Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is your Ambien.
Loser: Pageant Pat McAfee
After a tremendous onside kick yesterday, Pat McAfee refused to act like he’s ever been there before. That’s a straight Miss Congeniality move, Pat. The Colts went on to win big against the Titans, but what I’ll remember from this game is McAfee perfecting his pageant wave.
Winner: Mike Glennon
It was like something out of a Hollywood movie most people wouldn’t care about: The hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers hadn’t won a game this season heading into Pittsburgh. Fate intervenes and injures Josh McCown’s thumb, clearing the way for All-American Hero Mike Glennon to take the helm. Spoiler Alert: Glennon did not disappoint. With only 40 seconds left, he marched the Bucs down the field and threw the game-winning touchdown to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds remaining. You know what they say.
Loser: The Premature Fox Broadcasting Crew
Speaking of which. I get it, Fox. There’s only 1:35 left and Tampa Bay is down by four points. I’d be tempted to run that graphic if the Bucs were down by four at the half. But we all learned a valuable lesson yesterday; you NEVER count out Mike Glennon.
Winner: The Detroit Lions
This week’s best celebration comes from Matthew Stafford, who fist-pumped his way to victory against the Jets. It was such a stupid/awesome move that it had to be applauded. Also, with yesterday’s win, the Lions have become the best team in the NFC North. I know it’s early but as unimpressive as the rest of the division looks, this just might be Matthew Stafford’s year to fist-pump into the playoffs.