It’s that time of year again, folks. A time of unity and friendship and, dare I say, salvation. I time for all genders to become one. A time for all races to morph into a perfect beige. A time for all languages to translate into “joy.” A time for all religions to worship a leather god.
It’s football time in America, and when Jesus of Nazareth first appeared in the New Testament of the Bible, his prophetic words were “Peter, you run a buttonhook and I’ll hit Judas sailing deep over the top.” I’m pretty sure that was it.
Look at that awful form. You can’t arm tackle Jesus, kid. Jesus knows how to run through the trash.
The point is that there is nothing more universal, nothing the world can agree on more than the giddy anticipation of watching men who weigh 22 stone each colliding with the impact of a falling anvil-filled elevator careening into a runaway locomotive. Don’t believe me? Here are the facts:
Click on the image to make it go big
Hmmm. It appears that much of the world cherishes things like Jarts and Lawn Bowling and has yet to feast on the teat of goodness that is football. ‘Murican football. I mean look at these ‘football’ players pretending to look happy. Oh check us out! Not a blade of astroturf or cat scan of chronic traumatic encephalopathy anywhere.
These kids know nothing. You kids want to know what a real champion looks like? Someone who has risen to the highest pinnacle of the sport not once but twice? BAM.
That’s right. Two time Super Bowl MVP Eli Effing Manning. Suck it.
Football gets a bad rap, but if you study this chart I pulled from dubious unnamed sources, it’s pretty clear to me that the thing the world should be concerned about is women’s athletics.
So a quick refresher: what is American Football? If I had to sum it up with one picture it’d be this one:
Entertainment, folks. It’s morality free entertainment. Check your integrity at the door, fire up some encapsulated pig flesh and meet me at camera one because it’s TIME FOR FOOTBALL!
So what did we miss this summer? Not much really. There was a pretty big brouhaha around a scandal involving the Patriots where some pretty obvious lines were crossed and most people had a hard time letting it go. It wasn’t a big deal at all. I mean, come on!
I’m speaking of course of this:
I believe it was Napoleon who said “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.” In this case the ribbon was Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman. You’ll see him passed out in the background like a wine-sated hobo. That poor, poor girl.
That’s basically all that happened in the offseason. Pretty much. But let’s not look back, fellow lovers of the sport of kings! (That’s actually horse racing — did you guys see that we had a Triple Crown Winner?) Even the kick ass Pharoahs are American.
And in America, we play football the way it was meant to be played.
With our fucking HANDS.
So what is the 2015-2016 NFL going to look like? What teams have a chance at creating their own winning receiver who will be porked and exposed on social media? Whose banner will we be talking about come February?
Let’s start by recapping the hit HBO Show “Hard Knocks,” which annually follows around one crappy team and lets the average fan get a peek behind their shower curtain.
This year’s crappy team was the Houston Texans. Here’s what we learned.
Head coach Bill O’Brien is awesome, and is the first head coach to ever come out of the show with more respect than he came into it. In past years, coaches often came across as as ineffective or passive or a fraud or all of the above. O’Brien is the real deal. He’s foul-mouthed, self-effacing and capable.
J.J. Watt is an absolute freak of nature who has preposterously small calves. He’s also winning and charming and goddamn we should all love him so much but for some bizarre reason we have the suspicion that he’s too mindful of his press. I mean, how could you not love him? But something tells me not to love him. But I do, I do! But, I feel worried about it. But seriously, he’s awesome. Just flat out awesome. But he sorta feels like he knows he’s awesome. In closing, I really really like him. Kinda.
And then, of course, this.
All you need to know about this photograph is that this man exists and he’s a thing of everlasting, timeless beauty who kicked to a draw with gold medal winning soccer player Carli Lloyd.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know about Hard Knocks. The Texans may be the very first team to come out of it and not have a complete meltdown.
So what does it take to be a good NFL team? What does it take to compete? Well, it’s really a combination of a lot of things like scouting and drafting and your front office and how many dudes get injured. But there are ways to splay the wheat from the chaff. Here are all of the NFL teams.
Okay. Everyone has different opinions on this, and there are always exceptions to the rules, but here’s how it usually plays out. We have all of the teams, scattered all across the country. Every summer they pad their ranks with fresh, lively-eyed players anxious to make a name for themselves. It’s the Kingsmoot of Alpha Males, and with good cause. These are elite physical specimens, sculpted and crafted from the time they could walk.
Here’s a quick summation of how hard it is to become an NFL player:
And here’s a quick video of an average man, Rich Eisen of the NFL Network, compared to this year’s top draft prospects in the 40 yard dash.
It’s kind of astounding. Anyway, all these young fellers give their heart and soul to make an NFL squad and that electrifies each NFL fan base, because with this influx of new meat, fans of the teams can experience hope. They hope again. They hope anew. They hope the new players are good. They hope the coach and general manager have concocted the perfect elixir of talent. They hope no one gets hurt. They hope the bounces go their way.
That’s why this time of year, before a single ball is snapped, is the best time of year for certain fan bases. Because after this weekend, those fan bases will realize that they’re screwed.
But right now, hell - anything could happen! But it won’t. And here’s why.
Here are the teams again. All of them.
To win in the National Football League, you need a good quarterback. There are thirty two teams in the NFL and there aren’t enough good quarterbacks on the planet Earth to fill that need. There literally aren’t thirty two men on the planet who can do this job to a satisfactory level. That’s the hard, unfortunate truth. Let’s scratch off those teams who don’t have a good QB.
Okay. So three down. These three teams have bad quarterbacks. Now the next step is to eliminate any team that has this person as a quarterback:
No team with him on it will ever amount to anything. Sorry, Chicago.
Great. Now let’s remove the tier of teams that have middling, struggling, or rookie quarterbacks. It’s possible for a rookie to have a surprising year and lead a team to a championship, but since it basically never happens, let’s eliminate those teams.
So we’re down to 25 teams. And I’m being charitable, because some of these teams have young quarterbacks who look really good, but who are unproven. If I nixed those teams as well, this is what it would look like.
This is where it starts to hurt. This is where many people are beginning to craft eloquent responses to my arbitrary black X’s. If I were a fan of the Vikings, for example, I’d resent that X. And I get it, because I’ll shout this from the top of the hills: Teddy Bridgewater is the real deal.
And they have a great coach and a great running back and hopefully the defense is coming together. Could they duck out from behind that X? Sure. Possibly. But we’re playing the odds here and we’re guessing that Teddy is going to have some growing pains during his first season as a starter. Ditto for Derek Carr in Oakland and Blake Bortles in Jacksonville. They all look like pros, but young pros make mistakes and mistakes don’t win Super Bowls.
Just to make those people feel better I’m going to knock off a few more teams who just don’t have the pieces in place to make a run.
That’s what we have left. Thirteen teams who really have an actual chance at winning it all. That’s the sad truth, and I’m being a mensch in not nixing the Saints and Lions and Dolphins. The winner of Super Bowl 50 will more than likely be one of these teams. The hopeful thing, and the thing that would make this season exciting, is if a dark horse came from behind one of those X’s. It would mean a quarterback is playing out of their mind or a defense has come together in a way no one expected. It would be like the end of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
But, it’s not likely.
So who is the prohibitive favorite going into this season? Who looks like they can take home the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season? It’s impossible to say, but I want to introduce you to the greatest person in the universe. From the Indianapolis Colts. Tight End.
Did you see that, people? Dwayne Allen made a joke that Colbert stole his audience and when one of his interviewers didn’t get it, and pressed him, Dwayne Allen killed it. Timing. Presence. Likeability. If anyone tries to figure out Dwayne Allen’s Q-score he’s going to break the test like the new Tesla. If you don’t have a sister that you’re trying to wed to Dwayne Allen right this second you need to check yourself into rehab. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Dwayne Allen is a better human being than Abraham Lincoln, but I will say that he’s just as good as Abraham Lincoln. And he’s only 25. What did Abraham Lincoln do when he was 25? I’ll tell you: jack shit.
What. Ever. How many touchdowns did you catch in 1834? I’ll tell you: none. Zero. Zilch. Meanwhile Dwayne Allen was targeted in the red zone six times last season and he caught every single pass. That’s 100%. Perfection.
I’m sorry, was I talking to you? I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even talking to you. I mean, we can talk about your choice of Union commanders prior to Grant if you like. Should we talk about that?
That’s what I thought. So shut your piehole while I’m talking about the Colts.
Sir W! Holy shitballs! How are you, you old fucker?
You bet your sweet ass I have. You sticking around for a while?
Lincoln’s no bumpkin dude. He may not have the core strength, sick ups and god-given ability to set the edge of a Dwayne Allen, but he’s commonly regarded as one of the greatest leaders of all time. His face is carved into a mountain!
What? No, he’s just like sitting there looking smart. And whatever, grandpa. You don’t read Instagram, you poser.
What the? You have a problem with Borneo? Are you racist against the um…Borneoian people?
Of course I do, you elitist fartbag.
Um their main export is…
No! I know…they have this in Borneo. Suck it!
That orangutan is from Borneo, dude. You said one fact, I gave you one fact. That dude is indigenous to Borneo. Now get your fuckin shinebox.
I’m sorry, Sir W, but would you mind shutting the hell up? I was trying to give people an overview of the upcoming season here.
Wow. I never said I was an expert, dude. I’m merely saying that there’s a bit of smoke and mirrors at the beginning, that’s all. And I was saying that I love the Colts this season. Not just for Dwayne Allen, who probably could cure cancer if he had the time, but also for possibly the best storyline of the offseason:
Two superstar level talents.
One a running back, one a wide receiver.
Attended college together years ago.
Drafted to different NFL teams.
Now in the twilight of their NFL careers.
They called each other and said…
Time is running out for us.
Let’s pick a contender to sign with.
Let’s give it one more shot.
And together they picked…
Frank Gore, a long time San Francisco Forty-Niner…
…and Andre Johnson, a long time Houston Texan…
…both decided to join the Colts and make one final push for greatness. Neither of them has ever won a Super Bowl and this may be their last chance. In Indianapolis, they join the most amazing young quarterback in the league, Andrew Luck.
Yes! That’s really the thing, Abe. It feels like something is coming together. You have kind of a perfect balance of young promise and veteran leadership. Frank Gore recently called Andrew Luck a “football god.” Luck is powerful and fast and athletic and singularly focused and just kind of in a class by himself this season. With all due respect to Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP who just lost his top receiver, this really feels like the season where Andrew Luck steps up, past a bevvy of football legends like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and takes the Iron Throne for himself.
Well, yeah, because they have a horrible defense that can’t stop the run. And they have great receivers. So when the time came in the off-season to bring in players to help the team, the donkey in charge…
…brought in…another receiver.
That’s exactly what we all said.
So the main storyline this season will be whether Dwayne Allen, Andrew Luck, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson can overcome the deficiencies of their defense, coaching staff and front office to grind through to the Super Bowl.
It’s anyone’s guess, dude. It’ll be fun to watch for sure. In my experience, teams that go the distance can do two things really well: play defense and run the ball. And those teams usually have a good enough quarterback behind center to keep the opposing defense honest.
So, if that’s the case, then here are the teams who legitimately have a shot at a Super Bowl this year:
It’s the same four teams you always see. The Ravens. The Patriots. The Broncos. The Seahawks. And I left Philly and Arizona in because Chip Kelly and Bruce Arians are two of the top three coaches in the league and they have the ability to work some magic. The Packers should really be in there too but I’m not sold on that defense. More likely than not, they’ll be there at the end. They’re perennial contenders.
For those of you who don’t give a hoot about football, drop back in February to see how wrong I was. For those of you who intend to follow the Colts as they slowly march toward victory or heartbreak, I give you this: a bearded pig, also native to Borneo.
So, yeah. I know a lot about Borneo. Now.
This season will feature some amazing plays, some crushing injuries and some gripping human interest stories. We’re going to laugh, we’re going to cry, and we’re going to wonder where the season went in a few short months.
The Sundays in the NFL are a battlefield, and as Napoleon once said, “The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.”
Who will that winner be?
Or this man?
Or this man?
Or this man?
It’s going to be fun watching it all play out. The spectacle begins tonight. 8:30 Eastern. The New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers. Should be a good one.
Good luck to all American Football fans everywhere, regardless of my preemptive X’s. May your ACLs remain intact, your players take cabs home from bars and may your fair catches never be bobbled.
Sir W and I will see all of you next week.