NFL Watch List Week 3
Two weeks into the 2015–16 NFL season, nine teams are 2-0 and nine teams are 0-2 (which means, if you’re keeping score at home, that 14 teams are 1-1). For fans of either a 2-0 team or an 0-2 team, here are some interesting numbers to ponder: During the past 25 years, 63 percent of teams that started the season 2-0 made the playoffs. On the other hand, since 2009, only two of 45 teams that began the season 0-2 have qualified for the postseason.
That sudden jolt you just felt was millions of Seahawks fans flinching up in the Pacific Northwest.
Speaking of flinching, do you think NFL brass recoiled a bit last week when Frontline published this astounding article reporting the latest figures from the nation’s leading researchers on traumatic head injury? Brace yourself, Commissioner Goodell: “Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University have now identified the degenerative disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in 96 percent of NFL players they’ve examined.”
As you probably know, CTE is a progressive degenerative brain disease caused by repeated trauma to the head. There’s no cure, and CTE causes depression, memory loss, behavior changes (short fuse, aggression), and, in some cases, motor disturbance (trouble with balance and gait). And 96 percent of NFL vets tested by the leading brain bank in the nation tested positive for it.
That’s incredible and devastating, yet the most remarkable thing about the report may have been the muted response it received. Sure, the news lit up Twitter—but not too brightly—and it generated a spate of articles in response, but then it pretty much faded away with the news cycle.
Imagine if the nation’s leading scientists on the subject found that 96 percent of NFL veterans they tested had something seriously wrong with their dicks as a result of playing football. Picture, for a moment, NFL players hearing that the game was all but certain to render their dicks progressively useless in retirement. The entire league would retire overnight.
But hey, these are just the players’ brains we’re talking about!
Onto this week’s games:
Thursday, September 24
Washington (1-1) at NY Giants (0-2)
The Giants are the early contenders for the league’s Humanitarian Award, having generously given away their first two games, to Dallas and Atlanta. Their NFC East rivals Washington, despite demoting former franchise QB Robert Griffin III to the inactive list, showed signs of life in Week 2, riding rookie running back Matt Jones’s 123 yards rushing and two TDs to a 24–10 win over St. Louis.
Sunday, September 27
Dallas (2-0) at Atlanta (2-0)
The week’s only meeting between unbeaten teams is a little deceptive—especially where the visitors are concerned. Yes, the Cowboys are undefeated after two weeks, but now they’ve lost starting QB Tony Romo to a broken clavicle and No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant to a broken foot. Can ginger Brandon Weeden, a former pro baseball player, get the job done in Romo’s place?
Oakland (1-1) at Cleveland (1-1)
Cleveland’s much-maligned young QB Johnny Manziel got the start last week against Tennessee and showed that he might just be able to play in the NFL after all, throwing for touchdown passes of 60 and 50 yards and leading his team to a 28–14 win. The Browns promptly rewarded him with a return to the bench in Week 3. Oh, Cleveland, don’t ever change.
Philadelphia (0-2) at NY Jets (2-0)
These two teams have defied expectations so far in the young season: The Eagles, of whom much was expected after coach Chip Kelly outfitted his offense to his liking, have sputtered out of the gate, while the Jets, despite saying goodbye to defense-minded coach Rex Ryan, have played ferocious defense, forcing ten turnovers and outscoring opponents 51–17 while winning their first two.
Monday, September 28
Kansas City (1-1) at Green Bay (2-0)
Did you see Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ postgame interview last week? In a subtle (or not-so-subtle) dig at bible-thumping Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, who had credited “God” with Seattle’s remarkable comeback win in last year’s NFC Championship Game, Rodgers said, “I guess God was a Packers fan today.” That was good stuff. Rodgers and the Pack will look to go 3-0 against a Chiefs team that should be 2-0—they coughed up a seven-point lead in the final minute against Denver last week.