Hangover: Shot at (Im)perfection

Hey, 1972 Dolphins, are you shaking yet? Matt Ryan and the Falcons are on a quest for perfection. Jeff Gross/Getty Images

We are only three weeks into the 2012 NFL season, yet only five teams still have a shot at a perfect record. Let’s take a look at the contenders and break down their chances.

Houston Texans (3-0)

The Texans’ upcoming games are Tennessee at home and the Jets on the road. Assuming they win both of those, they’ll be 5-0 heading into the toughest stretch of their schedule: the Packers and Ravens back-to-back at home. If they get through that, the only remaining potential stumbling blocks are games at the Lions and at the Patriots -- although both of those teams are 1-2 and therefore bordering on being embarrassments to all who know them.

Can they do it? Possibly. The Texans are a balanced team that also has the ability to make big plays when they’re needed. It’s a long season, though. Even the best teams can suffer a letdown. The Texans need something to play for that will inspire them week after week. They need to play in memory of Matt Schaub’s lost ear chunk.

Arizona Cardinals (3-0)

Arizona might have the easiest remaining schedule of the undefeated teams. The Cardinals play the Dolphins, Jets and Bills next, which means we could live in a world in which the Arizona Cardinals are 6-0. (Hashtag: 2012EndTimes.) Weeks 8-11 will be make-or-break for the Cardinals, with games against the 49ers, Packers and Falcons. But they’ve already beaten the Patriots and Eagles back-to-back, so who are we to doubt them?

Can they do it? What? Are you serious? No. It’s the Cardinals. It’s more likely they go 3-13.

Atlanta Falcons (3-0)

Here’s the rest of their schedule: Panthers, Redskins, Raiders, Eagles, Cowboys, Saints, Cardinals, Buccaneers, Saints again, Panthers again, Giants at home, Lions, Buccaneers again. They may be favored in every game.

Can they do it? It’s not out of the question. Mercury Morris had better start brushing up his bitter old man act.

New Orleans Saints (0-3)

The Saints have games against the Packers and Chargers coming up and then a bye. Sitting at 0-5 with free times on their hands, they may completely give up, allowing them to get steamrolled during a late-season schedule that includes the 49ers, Giants and Falcons twice.

Can they do it? Probably not. Drew Brees was sounding all determined to win after the game. That’s disappointing. If the Saints had a real coach, he no doubt would pull Brees aside and tell him to go for history instead of fighting and clawing just to get to 8-8 or 9-7.

Cleveland Browns (0-3)

The Browns will breeze to 0-6 off their upcoming losses to the Ravens, Giants and Bengals. Then they’ll have a big test against the Colts with draft position on the line. After that there is a late-season stretch against the Raiders, Chiefs and Redskins, all with the potential to outfail the Browns on any given Sunday. Believe it or not, 0-16 won’t be easy.

Can they do it? No. That late-season stretch will probably do them in, plus Brandon Weeden will turn 29 for Week 6 -- the prime age for an NFL quarterback. So he’s due a decent game or two before his skills start to decline. The Browns probably will finish 2-14, but at least their fans will have hope for the future. There’s always next year for 0-16.

Quote of the Week

"Can someone please tell these f---ing zebras foot locker called and they’re needed Back at work !!!! "

Brandon Spikes, LB, Patriots, via Twitter

You have to agree 100 percent with Spikes here. It is a breaking point. We simply cannot take another replacement ref/Foot Locker employee joke. Enough is enough!

Quote of the Week, Part 2

“I thought after Noah’s Ark & the great flood, God said he wouldn’t punish us again..well how do u explain what happen 2nite ?!”

Spikes, also via Twitter

Spikes raises an interesting and powerful theological discussion: How could an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God allow replacement officials? Perhaps the Biblical passage he refers to can provide some insight.

In Genesis 8:21, it says: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” But four verses earlier in Genesis 8:17 we find: “Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you -- the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground -- so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.” Every living creature. So even the “f---ing zebras” that Spikes refers to. We have our answer.

Stat of the Week


At 1-2, the Patriots are under .500 for the first time since they started the 2003 season at 0-1 -- a period of 145 games. Ahhh! Panic! PANIC!

That 2003 team finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl.

Oh. Whoops. Just let me put out a few small fires I started here and we’ll get on with the rest of the column. OK. Moving along ...

Misleading Stat of the Week


The Redskins are 1-2. With Rex Grossman under center, they opened the 2011 season 3-1. The Broncos are 1-2. In Tim Tebow’s first three starts last season they were 2-1. Clearly, these franchises are going in the wrong direction with RG3 and Peyton Manning!

This Week's Horrible Fantasy Team That Crushed Your Team

Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings -- 21-for-35, 198 yards, 2 TD, 33 rushing yards, TD

Andre Brown, RB, Giants -- 130 total yards, 2 TD

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions -- 134 total yards, TD

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts -- 4 catches, 113 yards, TD

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars -- 1 catch, 80 yards, TD

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings -- 5 catches, 36 yards, 2 TD

Photos of the Week

“This is the worst book I’ve ever read.”

“All we can do is laugh, right?”

“Why am I always surprised by this?”

“I’m getting too old for this ####.”

“Schiano told me to do it! I promise!”

“What’s this? A double handshake? Are you mocking me?”

“Guys! God is talking to me through my helmet again!”

“Maybe the fire is scaring people away.”

“We’ll be together forever or until they win a Super Bowl, whichever is longest.”

“Why is it a football if you use your hands? Whoa. I just blew my mind. Jeah.”

“Is this for me? My, you shouldn’t have. I’m blushing!”

“I am overjoyed by this victory.”


“Yes! We got him good! He’s terrible.”

“Why am I always surprised by this?”

“I may have a lot to learn as a ref, but I can do a great Manning face.”

“We’re playing like a bunch of horse’s necks out there.”

“Don’t worry. The refs will sort this out.”

Press Conference Questions Someone Should Have Asked

Mike Tomlin: “Did you by any chance unleash hell this week?”

Bill Belichick: “You were unable to stop that ref from running down the field. Would any of your defensive players have been able to stop him?”

Jim Harbaugh: “Why didn’t you use your last 15 timeouts?”

Reader Twitter Question of the Week

As far as I know, Titus Young Jr. has not yet suited up for the Lions. He is only a month old, but as soon as he is able to crawl, no doubt he’ll earn a spot on Detroit’s defense. (Baby-based awful defense ZING!)

What Young Sr. is doing is building a Young Family brand. He’s letting us know that there are more Youngs on the way. Personally, I plan to wait for the next edition. I’ve heard good things about the the Titus Young Sr., but the Titus Young Jr. probably will be bigger and faster and might even have front- and rear-facing cameras.

ELITE Quarterback of the Week: Matt Ryan

Is Matt Ryan ELITE?

The evidence for him: The Falcons are 3-0, Ryan has a 114.0 passer rating and you can’t spell MATTERS without MATT.

The evidence against him: Ryan is 0-3 in playoff games and you can’t spell MATTERY (something that secretes pus) without MATT.

Five Things I Think You Think We All Think

1. One definite positive occurred this week in regard to the replacement officials: We probably don’t have to worry about any of them posting pictures of themselves in Saints gear anytime soon. Really one of the only things more humiliating than wearing an NFL referee’s outfit right now would be a Saints jersey.

2. The NFL’s new overtime format was on display three times Sunday: Saints-Chiefs, Lions-Titans and Jets-Dolphins. The old overtime format was flawed, but if the new one forces us to watch more of the Saints, Chiefs, Lions, Titans, Jets and Dolphins? Hmm. The older one might have been better.

Overtime football of that quality is like getting a gift certificate to a terrible buffet restaurant.

“Hey, want to join me at an all-you-can-eat place for dinner tonight? My treat!”

“Sure. Where are we going?”

“Steve’s House of Liverwurst and Brussels Sprouts.”

“You know what? I just remembered I am on a diet of not eating any food.”

3. Weekly comparison of Chris Johnson’s 45 rushing yards on the season to one of the following: 1) that of a quarterback or receiver with more; 2) something of equal or greater distance that is generally thought of as small; 3) the large numbers in his contract.

Is Chris Johnson not good at the football or what?

4. LeSean McCoy ran the ball just 13 times in Philadelphia’s loss to the Cardinals. Here’s Andy Reid after the game: “Obviously, we thought that we could throw the ball and do a better job in that area. In hindsight, it would have been OK to run the ball a little more." I can’t tell a man what to put on his tombstone, but Andy Reid should put that on his tombstone.

5. If Roger Goodell wants to minimize the impact of the replacement officials and continue to cut down on player injuries, there is one easy solution: Shorten the games. Shorten them to one quarter played under the new overtime system. With defense legislated out of the NFL, the first three-plus quarters of most NFL games are completely pointless anyway. Games are now just constant scoring with the outcome decided by whichever team gets the ball last. Unless a team has a completely incompetent quarterback -- and most teams now feature quarterbacks in the ELITE discussion! -- carving up an opposing defense in a two-minute drill is not much of a challenge.

So let’s make the games 15 minutes max, with most games ending after one or two possessions. We’ll keep all the excitement of close finishes and also drastically reduce player injuries and referee meddling. Best of all: “60 Minutes” might occasionally start on time.

This temporary furor among NFL fans over the replacement officials is nothing compared to the cane-shaking rage of 35 million grandparents having to wait an extra 20 minutes for Morley Safer.