All the news around the NFL yesterday didn’t have to do with Rob Gronkowski’s mystery comeback date, Darryl Richardson’s tweet about not starting, Donte’s name change from Whitner to Hitner, or the never-ending saga between Tampa Bay and Josh Freeman. (Sidenote: can they just cut him already? It’s obvious the two sides don’t want to be together and why would any team trade for Freeman when they know they could get him for free?) No, all the fuss was about a new book called League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth.
The interesting part to me wasn’t the claims made in the book that the NFL was on a mission to hold down concussion research. (We already know that whole situation is a debacle. They wouldn’t have paid out the settlement to the former players if they weren’t responsible.) The part that intrigued me the most was that ESPN was out there promoting the book on its website and radio station all day. This is the same ESPN that has a $15.2 billion dollar deal with the NFL to broadcast games. This is the same ESPN that gives you Tim Tebow overload and NFL Live in the middle of March because they know fans love consuming anything related to the league. They’re not going to get a call from Big Brother telling them to calm down on this? I know they’re supposed to be objective journalists, but that hasn’t always been the case.
Now before the NFL chases me and my column down, let’s go about our day.
Survivor Pick of the Week:
ATLANTA over N.Y. Jets
A few people didn’t respect the Browns last week and decided to take Cincinnati in their survivor pools. That didn’t work out well. It was a small amount of people, so there are plenty of other folks still alive after four weeks. This week’s choice is a team that’s close to a double-digit home favorite. The Falcons are looking to rebound after last week’s disappointing effort at home against the Patriots. I can tell you from my experience last week that it wasn’t the crowd’s fault. They were into the game although there’s definitely a lot of game production involving asking fans to “rise up” and doing the annoying “that’s another Atlanta FIRST DOWN” nonsense.
Despite the weak aspect of motivating fans to get energized, they will be after downing a few beers at happy hour on Monday. The Falcons offense also doesn’t look too bad despite the injuries to Roddy White and Steven Jackson. They’re finding some success running the ball, although the Jets should limit that, and Matt Ryan can’t throw to Julio Jones enough. Motivation will also not be a factor as the Falcons sit at 1-3 with their season on the line.
The Jets, meanwhile, are seeing their rookie quarterback combust in road games. Geno Smith has committed seven turnovers in his two road games so far and Atlanta’s home crowd will be the toughest road atmosphere Smith has faced all season. It won’t help that he’s missing his two top receivers, Stephen Hill and Santonio Homes, for this contest. The Jets’ solid defense can only do so much.
Your other alternatives this week are a little scary. It pains me to take the Rams, as bad as they’ve looked the last three weeks, even if they are playing the completely worthless Jaguars. Green Bay is favored by a touchdown at home against Detroit, but Detroit’s got plenty of firepower and a legit front four to chase Aaron Rodgers down. As bad as Matt Schaub is, you can’t say the 49ers have been dominant enough to lay out the Texans with ease.
Teams used: Indianapolis, New England, Seattle, and Denver
Thursday Night Pick:
CLEVELAND -3.5 over Buffalo
So much for the Browns tanking the season after trading Trent Richardson. They’ve won both games since his departure and are doing a terrible job trying to secure the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft. (Maybe they gave up once they saw some tape of Jacksonville.) Maybe all they needed was to insert Brian Hoyer at quarterback because he’s been able to generate more offense than Brandon Weeden ever did. The Browns’ defense is legit too, so now people are jumping on board the bandwagon.
The Bills aren’t bad themselves. They pulled off the upset last week against Baltimore due to an impressive defensive effort. Or maybe it was Joe Flacco showing he didn’t deserve the big contract in the offseason. I’ll go with the latter. I’ll always take the good defense with a bad offense over the good offense with a bad defense. And the Browns offense isn’t that bad. And C.J. Spiller may not play and Fred Jackson is banged up. And Joe Haden is going to shut down Stevie Johnson. What’s not to like?
Reggie’s pick: Cleveland
Last Week: 10-5-1