The 2014 NFL schedule was released Tuesday, and I had planned on doing a column about which games would be the best on the lineup. But then I realized two things: 1) Somebody on this site will probably already be doing that, and 2) That’s not going to be as ruthless as me bagging on some of the other things that were going on in the league.
Thankfully, I never had to do that research. The reason for that is because week one in the NFL is just about as big of a joke as one can find anywhere. So without further ado, let’s take a look at just how weak week one is actually going to be.
Opening Night: Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) at Seattle Seahawks (13-3)
A while back, I said that I think it would be a good idea to simply go ahead and pit last year’s Super Bowl winner against the previous year’s winner. But by definition that would mean Seattle as the most recent winner would host the Baltimore Ravens, a lopsided game that I have no interest in seeing.
Instead, they’ve given us this soap opera of a matchup. At the risk of sounding like somebody who causes drama, it’s time for people to get over this. The whole “Fail Mary” thing was two years ago, it’s time to move the fuck on. It was one game, and we know it was the replacement refs who made the mistake, who were gone within 72 hours. Dragging this out to the first weekend of the 2014 is for the “Days of our Lives” viewing crowd, which doesn’t exist in the NFL’s fan base.
Grade: C- and that’s being generous. It’s opening night for crying out loud…
Sunday Afternoon 1PM Games New Orleans Saints (11-5) at Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
Although a key divisional matchup, it’s highly unlikely this game will have playoff implications unless Carolina has a shit year – which they very well might. (I’ll discuss that in a bit) The Atlanta Falcons flew under the radar right into the toaster due to the failure of the Redskins and the Texans (something else I’ll discuss shortly) but remember the Falcons alternate great years. So there’s a possibility that Atlanta could come out ripping and make this a game at home, but there’s also a possibility I could be beaten to death by a waterslide at the grocery store.
Grade: C+ if the Falcons are on, Solid D at best if they aren’t
Minnesota Vikings (5-10-1) at St. Louis Rams (7-9)
The Rams get my sympathies for the exact opposite reason that the Vikings don’t. St. Louis plays in an almost impossible division where even when they have a great year they are guaranteed to finish last. Minnesota is the flipside of that – they play in the sorriest cakewalk of a division in all of professional sports, have the best running back in the game, yet still managed to get cockwhipped every year to the point where it’s almost a hate crime. At least we won’t have to watch Jared Allen do his stupid sack dance in a Vikings costume this year, now that he’s playing for the Chicago Bears. That whole thing seems like it will be a huge disappointment when it comes to him actually getting into the pocket, which he probably won’t do unless he’s facing (wait for it…) The Minnesota Vikings. But the real question here is…How are you still awake?
Cleveland Browns (4-12) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
This one is marginally acceptable because it’s a divisional game, and I am honestly interested to see if either of these teams make the playoffs. But I lost a lot of respect for the Steelers after the Mike Tomlin incident, and I’m not exactly a huge fan of new Cleveland Browns coach Denis Leary. This one is kind of hovering around a middle ground tee-ball sort of game, it’s hard for me to go one way or the other. I hope the Browns win but I wouldn’t be disappointed if the game was cancelled or delayed due to some sort of electrical problem, something that’s been happening a lot lately…
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-12) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
I still can’t believe the Eagles finished last year with double digit wins, and I can’t imagine that this will happen even after this bowling pin opener. There’s absolutely no storyline here, and it’s not the first game of the week that is of that nature.
Grade: F+ but only because there is the possibility that the Eagles could lose.
Oakland Raiders (4-12) at New York Jets (8-8)
There IS a storyline here, but unfortunately for the league it’s a relatively boring one. Maurice Jones-Drew finally got out of Jacksonville, only to get signed by the Raiders and likely disappear into obscurity forever. And it wasn’t supposed to happen that way…After all, running backs are supposed to be shipped to MetLife Stadium to attend the Ladanian Tomlinson School of where Aging Backfielders go to Die. And New York wanted him too, so I’m not sure what happened here. Clearly it was a more attractive job, or was it? The point here (Even though technically there isn’t one) is that no realignment of position players could make this more interesting than the 17-16 shitfest it’s probably going to end up as. To quote Chris Tucker from the movie Friday “That’s why I’m like ‘Fuck Hector'”.
Grade: D- Cincinnati Bengals (11-5) at Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Another divisional game in the AFC North much like the Steelers and the Browns, which should be more interesting when you consider that one of these teams is a recent Super Bowl winner and the other makes the playoffs after winning the division almost every year. But in a way, it’s actually depressing as hell – The Bengals will go either 11-5 or 10-6 before Andy Dalton has his annual dick-eating performance in one of the first two rounds of the playoffs and then lose. The Ravens will get close to the playoffs but miss it, and then do something predictably stupid in the offseason from a front office standpoint. (Or just have Ray Rice basically the do same thing away from the building, it really doesn’t matter…)
Grade: B- but more credit given than probably should be
Buffalo Bills (6-10) at Chicago Bears (8-8) Living in Bears country, I can give you the rundown of how this will play out: In the week leading up to the game, everybody on Comcast Sports Chicago will be talking about how this matchup will be a challenge because of how improved the Bills will be. Then when gameday rolls around, the Bears will take a commanding lead in the first quarter and all of a sudden everybody in the bar will declare them on their way to 16-0. Then, Buffalo will slowly come back, but be just short in the end. Jay Cutler will give some ridiculously sorry and forgettable press conference, and then we’ll be left knowing even less than we did at noon before the game started. Sound enticing? Now you know why I go somewhere that has Sunday NFL ticket so I don’t have to watch this horseshit.
Washington Redskins (3-13) at Houston Texans (2-14)
Gee…Whoopity shit…The Underachievement Bowl is here. Two teams that had astronomical expectations before the start of last season, only to pull the pin on the grenade inside the planetarium with all of the doors locked. The forthcoming “age of the mobile quarterback took a huge step backwards when after a few games it was apparent that Robert Griffin the Third was in fact Robert Griffin the Third. But that’s not to say that the age of guys like Matt Schaub succeeding was about to reign supreme. Within weeks everybody was panicking in Houston and the next thing you know it, they’re the worst team in the league. Which should pan out nicely for them, as the number one pick they should plan on using on Jadeveon Clowney will serve worthless when he blows out his ankle chasing RGIII on some pointless 2nd and 8 scramble. Of course I’m kidding, I’m sure Clowney will blow out his knee in 2-a-days.
Grade: H for “Heroin” because if you plan on watching this trash that’s what it’s going to feel like because you’ll be nodding off so much
Tennessee Titans (7-9) at Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Let’s cut the bullshit here: The Kansas City Chiefs making the playoffs this past year was the result of an incredibly soft AFC field. They started out well, fair enough, but everybody knew it was just a matter of time before that bubble burst. The Titans lost running back Chris Johnson to the Jets where he will likely be turned into a pewter statue, leaving them with a roster full of guys who can perform just as long as you promise them a pizza party after the game. Kansas City for the most part is a .500 team, and Tennessee is only close to being one because they play in the AFC South.
Grade: C- New England Patriots (12-4) at Miami Dolphins (8-8)
The Patriots may be in decline, but it’s still good television. But it’s not GREAT television, and the Pats do play well in Miami. I really hope that Miami misses the playoffs, and I would hope that the Patriots do as well, but it’s not possible to wish the entire AFC East out of the postseason altogether. I mean, it is but it’s not reasonable.
Sunday Afternoon 4:15PM Games
Carolina Panthers (12-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) This is a tale of two teams heading in separate directions, but it’s not what you think. There’s no way that the Panthers will finish even 11-5 or higher this year. It’s just not possible that they have two good seasons in a row with as undisciplined and confused as Cam Newton looks at times. And the Buccaneers have nowhere to go but up, as they can’t possibly get any worse. Either way this seems nauseating and I know I won’t be watching. Carolina’s defense will still be good but it’s doubtful they’ll have the offense to match. Grade: C-
San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Seeing as how the 49ers finished 12-4 and finished one play away from going to the Super Bowl and the Cowboys choked right when it counted most like they always do, it only makes perfect sense in Jerry Jones’ mind that the Cowboys would get to host this game. I mean why not? The Final Four looked so great on TV back in April, they’d be crazy not to have Joe Buck and Troy Aikman get the ball rolling on yet another disappointing Dallas Cowboys season in the middle of the afternoon. And that’s precisely why I’m a huge fan of this game. The Niners are going to kill them – they’re on a mission to take it out on somebody – and that’s why they aren’t playing Seattle week one. When that game goes down, those two teams are fighting, and the league knows that can’t happen against the the Seahawks week one. But for some reason, they will let it happen against the Cowboys and that’s totally fine with me. I’m all for this one.
Grade: A- Sunday Night Football: Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
Thank God. I was worried that Peyton Manning wasn’t going to be on television all of the time this year. But seriously, this is probably the best game of the week. I’m still waiting for news to break out of the Colts camp that Andrew Luck and Donald Sterling are hunting buddies or something awful, because I’m getting a little tired of hearing about the Colts. That being said they will make the Supr Bowl and the bad news is, it’ll probably happen at Denver’s expense right at the moment when we all have to admit that Peyton Manning finally can’t play anymore. If this game was half as entertaining as last yeara’s game was, it’ll be great and this is one of the few things the NFL got right this week.
Grade: B+ if Jim Irsay is clean, and a solid A if he shows up holding
Monday Night Football:
New York Giants (7-9) at Detroit Lions (7-9)
The first thing that you think of when you see that these two teams are opening up one of the most popular programs on cable television is probably “What did these two teams do last year to be deserve headlining Monday Night Football”? And that would be a fantastic question, because the answer is “nothing”. Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last year, and the Giants may have been the worst 7-9 team in history. But it’s not like the Lions were much better. The have two of the most powerful receivers in the league and they couldn’t get anything done at all. Matt Stafford is starting to make Dan Orlofsky look like Joey Harrington, which is a joke that I’m not sure works but it’s a joke nonetheless.
Grade: D flat. I realize that’s not a letter grade but it’s what this piece of shit is going to feel like so that’s what I’m rolling with San Diego Chargers (9-7) at Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
I have to say, the way the Arizona Cardinals played last year impressed the shit out of me. Had they been an AFC team, they’d have been in the postseason for sure. Although the San Diego Chargers made a late run and probably did deserve to be there, I also can’t stand them and I predict a serious return to irrelevance this year when the season starts. I do love that the Raiders aren’t playing on Monday night this year, but that doesn’t mean that I have to enjoy the game that’s in place of where they usually play.
Grade: D. That stands for “Doesn’t make a difference because nobody will be up to watch it anyway”
I’m aware that with the way the NFL season is set up that there has to be a fair share of crummy games, but this is the first year where I have been able to look at week one of the season and say “Goddamn, that’s awful…” Part of it’s a testament to how big football really is, but other parts of it are a byproduct of that and how Roger and Sons just say “You’ll watch it and you’ll like it” no matter what’s on. Either way, I think that the league can do a much better job in marquee weeks making sure the schedule is explosive as possible.