Act II. Chapter I: In Her Eyes

It’s 10:30 pm, and I’m flying high above the mountains of British Columbia. I’ve spent the last few days far away from my hometown of Toronto, in sleepy Vancouver.

Sleepy might be the wrong word to use – apathetic? If the city seemed to care enough to be tranquil, I might even chase the fleeting thoughts I have to move there and leave my past behind.

As the clouds clear off and I stare down at the lights dotting sparingly across the abyss below, I wax philosophical about my actions back at the airport. Anything that will stop me from torturing myself at the hands of the blank page, I suppose.

*******

It started off as one of those nearly missed connections. I’ve got headphones in, aviators on. I’m delirious. It’s been one of those few business trips where everything goes perfectly and you manage to avoid every possible manifestation of Murphy’s Law despite being overdue for karmic justice of the most severe degree.

As I step off the escalator, one of those new country generic songs runs headfirst into the chorus – you know the ones, about young love, alcohol, and fucking in trucks – and I nearly stumble headlong into this girl.

I freeze and halfway adjust, just barely glancing into her shoulder and sending us both turning and facing each other, both apologizing before we can even pull the headphones out. For one long second, our worlds are just loud cacophonies of background music while we dramatically mouth apologies and pull our bags back on our shoulders. Then suddenly, with a loud *pop*, we both jolt back into the present.

“I’m s-so sorry”, I say, because apparently stumbling over just my feet isn’t enough.

“No, no! My fault,” she says, laughing.

She’s got a nice laugh, I can see it now. She’s actually really pretty, and she’s wearing a U of T hoodie. Score.

“You go to U of T?” The first question that I throw is supposed to sound innocent, but the smirk on my face gives me away and for a long second, it floats in the open space between us like a strand of smoke that might just disappear in the breeze.

Her eyes open a little wider, and she puts out a hand, nearly but not quite reaching across the distance. “Life Sci!” She says, and a shred of doubt tears through the BC sunshine. Life Sci at U of T is a program that I’m fairly sure they only offer because suicide rates aren’t high enough at campus to keep the Ivy League of the North status.

Good pitch number two – fastball down the middle.

I lay on my best smirk and say, “I don’t believe you. You seem way too happy to be in Life Sci at U of T. Which campus?”

There it is. Her eyes open wide, and her mouth changes from a half open smile to a real laugh. Strike two. “UTSG! You’re U of T?”

“Sort of. I’m from the high school version, UTSC? You know, same soul crushing academic pressure, same amount of power outlets as World War 2?” I laugh a little, but I see her smile fade off a little and her eyes shift down.

Alright, rein it in cowboy. Little too much sarcasm can be caustic.

But instead, she points out my shoes and looks up at me inquisitively. “Dress shoes and sweatpants?” This time it’s her turn to float the question.

I wind up. Pitch three – let’s go with the fastball again.

“Yeah, I’m a [REDACTED]. Just here on business – I flew in wearing a suit, didn’t want to make the same mistake again.” I shrug at the bag on my shoulder for added effect, but she’s not paying attention.

“A [REDACTED]? But aren’t you in UTS-“

“Yeah, recently graduated. I got lucky in the post grad job sweepstakes.”

The conversation lulls. She takes a step back and her head cocks to the side, half smiling, and I feel self conscious. Four years is a long time to be off the market, have I lost my touch? I’m starting to feel the same jitters that I do right before a big contract comes in. It’s nauseating to me that it’s the closest comparison I have.

Strike that. Let’s go with, it’s the same thrilling fear as that pulse between heartbeats when you’re staring down the sights of a rifle, lining up a perfect shot. Timing your breath so that you’ll pull the trigger right when you finish exhaling and your heartbeat slows just long enough to contemplate all the right and wrong in the world.

There, less nauseating. I think.

Suddenly, a warbling voice blares through the airport PA system, droning unintelligibly about a last departure. I can almost feel it cut through our conversation, and the moment is gone. She was about to say something, but instead looks briefly over her shoulder, biting her lip.

“Hey, I gotta run, but you’re from Toronto right?” She says, pulling out her phone. Her headphones fall off her ears, and I find myself much more curious about what she’s listening to. “What’s your name?”

This is that moment, where she’s asking your name – not because you’re meeting for the first time and she wants to avoid an awkward interaction later on, but because she wants to know what name to put in her phone.

“It’s – wait, you have blue eyes. They’re really nice eyes,” I can hear myself say.

She says something back, but I don’t hear it. The socially anxious part of my brain wonders if I’ve rudely re-inserted my headphones because she’s talking but all I can hear is the sizzle and pop of a new record. Her eyes are really blue. Like a light, almost baby blue. That’s my favourite colour. All at once, I can see myself in her eyes.

I’m just some stranger in the airport. Some stranger who said the right things at the right time and knew when to shut up and when to smile. But this girl knows nothing about me. In her eyes, I’m a nicely packaged item, to be pursued and perused. In her eyes, I’m a faint reminder of academic comfort, shown up on the doorstep of her home town. A welcome interloper in the apathy of carefree Vancouver.

She doesn’t know what came before this. She has no idea of what led to all this, and what the context of it all is. She thinks I’m wearing dress pants and sweatpants because I got a little lazy and I’ve got the style sense of a gnome. She doesn’t know the scheduling, the grueling exhaustion. Later, she’ll find out that I’m writing something and she might even want to read it, not understanding that I’ll trash it seven times over before I let anyone read it before it’s ready. She can’t possibly understand what it is that I’m after now because she never saw what I was aiming for before it all went wrong.

I don’t like her eyes.

“Sorry,” I say, interjecting in her sentence. I notice her hand is outstretched again, and I can almost feel the fingertips brushing my chest just a hair away. “Don’t live in Toronto anymore. Alberta now. Have a good one!” I quickly turn and plug the headphones back in, just in time to hear the starting raspy lines from Kenny Chesney’s Somewhere With You. 

If my face is calm, it’s only because I’ve gotten good at hiding facial cues for when I’ve just committed social harikari.

As I check the gate again, I hum along to the words that I’ve memorized over the course of a hundred nights. I’ve heard this song enough to carve the words into a tattoo, but this is the first time I’ve heard it and been able to actually relate to it. And here I am, somewhere without her.

Irony.

Apt.

*******

It’s 2:00 am. We’re touching down in Toronto soon, so I’m tapping away on this keyboard trying to finalize this before I use our arrival as a good reason to procrastinate further. Did I mention I had a few Long Islands at the airport bar before we left?

Ostensibly to help with writing. Now I’m thinking that all it did was contribute to my loud snoring around the 12:00 am mark.

I try to find some philosophical reason for why I didn’t give that girl my number. Why the idea of who I was in her eyes was so revolting to me. I guess there’s a lot of reasons. When I was unhappy, the idea of someone wanting to be a part of that was novel to me and a little alluring. It was someone seeing a hurricane and deciding that they weren’t scared and that they wanted to see what it felt like in the center of that storm.

Maybe that’s what the difference was. Her eyes were always like that. Curious in the face of pure insanity and bad decisions. A ferociousness that could match the tempest of a life gone awry and the strength to bring it back on course.

Too many writers always get it wrong – they focus on the colour. Her eyes swam in a sea of blue and dolphins jumped from pool to pool, deeper than the ice caps melting away into the ocean. A vivid, nearly effervescent green that mirrored Central Park at the first Spring bloom. All nonsense – it’s never the colour that gets you.

Typically hypocritical, I almost want to pull out my phone to make sure I describe hers correctly, as if I hadn’t just fallen asleep staring at them, swimming in the impossible thousands of pictures we shared over the years.

As if I wouldn’t know her eyes better than I know my own. Maybe that’s the anxiety in me firing off a final volley – I’ve accepted that perfection should never be a pre-requisite to love, especially not when it comes to loving yourself and being happy.

But when it comes to her, I stutter step and hesitate, crossing myself in strings of discord and anxiety. I want things to be perfect again. I want to reverse and correct the things that we did wrong, and tell her the story of how we fell apart as some kind of funny anecdote,”Honey you wouldn’t believe what happened to us in some horrific alternate timeline.”

What made her different wasn’t the colour. They were dark brown. Just like mine. What made them different was how wide her pupils always were. It didn’t matter – bright light or pitch dark, they were always dilated. Black pools of curiosity, almost as if she was trying to see all the happiness in the day before it slipped behind the veil of another night. The dark brown of her iris just hovering on the corners of her eyes, a dark eclipse.

They kept me alive, those eyes. Silver linings on the edge of a life that was nearly completely gone, that kept me swinging and ducking long after I was dead on my feet.

The choice to write here is intentional. The audience is long gone now, and there’s no more curious onlookers to see what comes next. I’m not sure what comes next either.

I’m here, with my eyes closed, finally playing the song I’ve been working on my entire life. This is happy. For the first time in my life, I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy with me.

When I open my eyes, I don’t know what I’ll see. Maybe an empty room, maybe more people than I’ve ever seen before.

All I know is that I hope that I’ll see those brown eyes, peering back from the darkness.

We’re touching down in Toronto now.

I’m home.

I can go out every night of the week, and go home with anybody I meet.
But it’s just a temporary high, ’cause every time I close my eyes,
I’m somewhere with you. 

Kenny Chesney, Somewhere With You

42-14

I know you saw the game, Annie. It was a display of sheer dominance by Alabama. I bet you were at the game too. I always think about what could have been whenever I see the Crimson Tide bowling over their competition. Makes me jealous, really. I got stuck on a dysfunctional team that plays with three downs and allows three players to be in motion pre-snap. Winning three BCS national titles seems a lot more awesome than riding the end of the bench on a bad team.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the guys and their company. They’re all a bunch of funny guys and some are really smart. Some were top recruits (that clearly got duped) and others were cast-offs from their high school teams. And then you have the walk-ons that haven’t a clue as to how to play football in the first place. While the teams I’ve played on throughout my post-secondary career have consistently missed the playoffs, Alabama has enjoyed the luxury of winning 3 BCS titles in their 4 appearances in the big game.

Thinking about that hotel room in Tuscaloosa makes me smile. We had our fun and learned a lot of things in that weekend. I think what makes me feel the most regret is all the talk about McCarron and his hot girlfriend. They’re already being called the “first couple of Alabama”. McCarron is officially Alabama royalty and earned his three championship rings. As for his girlfriend, I’ve heard that she’s a beauty queen. She also seemed pretty grounded. The regret sets in when I think about potentially being that same “it” couple.

Still, there are a million other variables that could’ve changed everything if I had actually gone to Alabama. For all we know, I could’ve been a huge flop and lost the position battle to some other recruit. But that’s another story for another day.

The Crimson Tide are taking home another BCS National Championship. But you know what stings most about it?

You’re an Alabama cheerleader living that crazy idea we hatched together five years ago in that little hotel room.

Let me tell you about owning a muscle car.

Let me just preface this by saying that the only thing that I would give up my car for is my girlfriend or a lemming army armed with tiny little bazookas and molotov cocktails. I’m not talking a small lemming army either, I’m talking, walk across the border and take a piss on the lawn of the White House with one hundred thousand lemmings behind me.

Last year, on New Year’s, I bought a Dodge Charger RT, brand spankin’ new, V8 engine that screams glory and hell fire and death to infidels. No seriously, you rev the engine and you can hear George W. Bush’s wet dreams.

But since that time, I’ve learned a lot that comes with driving a car like this. Mostly like…

1. You will ALWAYS be pulled over. Always. ALWAYS.

You know those hot girls who can’t step into the club without every rampaging chucklefuck within a seventy mile radius trying to talk to her, get up in her face, and grab her ass?

That’s now your car, and every single police officer who has a speed trap in your area who has spent the last year and a half pulling over shithead generic Japanese mundanemobiles realizes that there’s fresh meat on the market. Pretty soon, you can’t go five kilometers over the speed limit going past a trap without seeing flashing lights in the rearview, and then you end up having to entertain a conversation about every single possible traffic violation you could have possibly committed since you were born.

The truth is, when you drive a car like this, you’re a target. I’m okay with that – I’ve grown to accept the attention, it’s a compliment, not an insult. But that being said, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how you react at first. At first, you become that dude who pulls up beside cops at the light, windows fully down, blasting Nickelback like an air raid siren, singing sexually inappropriate lyrics at a middle aged police officer who really, just wants to get home without hearing you scream about pink thongs at him ever again.

2. Everyone wants to race you. EVERYONE.

Having a muscle car is a romantic, sexy thing – it’s that car in the movies that always wins the races, always gets the girl. And of course, everyone wants to be a part of that story, even if they’re the douchefucks in the movie that get left sucking dust a thousand miles behind your tail lights. But it’s never like a movie – see, what will happen is much more subtle and infuriating than that. You’ll be driving along, going an even 60 K, wind at your face and rock music playing happily, delirious with joy. And then some fucker is going to come flying past you, going 90. And he’ll suddenly slow down. You’ll notice him, and be like, meh. Then he’ll wait for you to catch up and do it again. Forget the fact that revving your engine would be enough to blow his little car right off the road and into a forgiving ditch. Fuck you if you’re not going to race him – he and his Civic are a team goddamnit, and he demands your begrudging respect as he continues to race you without your consent or participation, and pretty soon, you realize that you’re actually in the middle of a one man race between some dude and his ego who you’ve apparently offended by simply being alive.

3. People expect you to know everything about cars.

So in my un-expert opinion, there’s two kinds of talented people when it comes to cars. There’s the people who know the cars in and out, and can build and rebuild and take apart and rebuild a car quicker than God can rebuild a chapel for homeless infant puppies. Then there are the people of gifted reflexes and abilities to see the holes in traffic and the way that the road develops, those people who have a certain kinship with the road.

As you can probably tell, I didn’t buy my car because I have an overwhelming need to rub my ass against something with more power than a minor Saudi king. I’m one of the people who has had, and will always have an undying love of the road. There’s something about putting four wheels on asphalt and heading out into the unknown that is oddly unsettling. When I was going through the roughest point in my life, my friends tried their best to help me, but I was always an introvert – I needed to get through it on my own, and the best way for me to do that was to get out and drive, and just drive and drive and drive. I love the road, in a way not unlike an old pirate might love the sea, with an awed reverence for the things that I’ve seen, the places I’ve been and where I’ve yet to go.

But I don’t know fuck all about cars.

I found this out not too long after I walked into a car parts place with a clear store front that showed the front of my car, looking for someone that could do some vinyl work for my car. As I walk upto the counter, the dude behind it whistles and asks me what kind of engine it is. I reply politely, “5.7”. Before I can even open my mouth again to ask him a further question, he begins to go on a massive tirade, which may have very well been in a different language because I’m pretty sure half of what he said were less car parts and more so Iraqi slang terms for the word “vagina.”

And as you stand there, in numb silence, trying to figure out a way to best extricate yourself from that situation, he gives you a conspiratorial little wink and proceeds to give you perhaps the toughest exam on every single part of your car and of every car in your make since 1502. Eventually, when both of you are fully aware of your horrifying ignorance with everything to do with car parts when you say, “I don’t know about that alternating carboration metallurbaration stuff, but I sure do like that fuckin’ spoiler”, and “Yeah, I’m going to super charge the fuck out of that car soon, as long as I find a cape big enough”, you’ll leave feeling like a jackass for disappointing someone you don’t even know.

4. The muscle car wars.

So my girlfriend didn’t really understand this when I told her, and I don’t really understand it myself. Well, I understand some of the history behind it, but I don’t understand it in the same way that I don’t understand that Barney was on crack cocaine the entire time that he was singing to me as a child. Not because I’m not capable of understanding it, but because I feel that it’s so astronomically stupid that I don’t want to know because it makes me feel better to not have that information in my head, kind of like an infectious tumor in my fucking nutsack. That’s what this argument is, a sperm attacking tumor, fucking up your precious boys.

The story goes like this – if you’ve got a muscle car, that must mean you’re a ___________ man, and that’s all you are. If you’ve got a Mustang, that means you’re a Ford man, and Ford men hate Chevy men more than they hate Al Qaeda. And if you’re Al Qaeda and you don’t hate anyone from America yet, then buy a Dodge and watch as you suddenly apparently are expected to passionately despise the very existence of every other muscle car on the face of the earth.

Now I can’t be like that. The first car I fell in love with was the Chevy Corvette, and that’s still my dream car. Since then, I’ve only ever loved one kind of car – big engine, big power, straightaway demons that fly like bats out of hell when you put them on a straight line, cars that power out of turns like they’re chasing the air itself.

I still remember the day that I saw the ZR1 in action. I don’t give a fuck who says what – that car is majesty on wheels, grace on pistons, sex in vehicle form. I wanted that car when I saw it. I wanted to conquer corners, dominate asphalt, ragefuck the very air itself. 

That’s why I love muscle cars – they’re built for speed, no qualms or backing down, no excuses. Just straight up speed, and brutal raw speed at that. So how could I get angry when I found out that there was a 1000 hp Mustang out there? You want to know what my first thought was when I found that out?

“I wonder if my car can do that.”

The truth is, speed is a universal language. Anybody can fall in love with it, and it’s a car that’s made for the driver, someone who wants to put those four wheels on the pavement and just drive.

5. Fuckknuckles who think that a muscle car is a ticket for sex. 

Instead, I see a constant, enduring line of cockstraps and penisgarglers commenting on how “how much pussy I must get.” Why yes sir, there has been a large number of cats that have been padding through the general area around my place of residence recently. Not only that, this car attracts so much pussy that the cats themselves are mating with bats to produce catbats with wings so that they can throw themselves at me with reckless winged abandon. I’m actually scooping cats off my stoop with a shovel, and beating them away with hands filled with more cats. There’s so much pussy that I don’t know what to do with them all.

Truthfully, the reason this annoys me is because it’s by and large the most common problem on this whole list. It’s understandable – you walk into a movie theater, and you’re blown away when the only character in Fast Five who doesn’t fit the bill for a casting call for Brokeback Mountain 2 is driving an American muscle car and has muscles on top of his muscles on top of his muscles. In fact, we’re programmed from a young age, as boys, to equate muscles with sex. It’s stuck in our brain – if we have good bodies, women will like us, because really, if we have nice bodies and women don’t like us, it means that we’re horrible jackasses with not a single possible redeeming factor other than the ability to move our pecs without touching them.

Likewise, we’re taught from a young age that muscle cars spell sex. Think about it – you’re a young, impressionable boy and you walk into a movie theater and the main character is driving a raging angry muscle car. The average movie is what, 120 minutes or so? Two hours? How long does it take the hot girl in the movie and the main character to bone? If recent movies are any indication, they’re boning in the car, on the car and on the ground outside the car by the five minute mark. That means, as a young, shitheaded kid, you’re taught that within ten minutes tops of presenting your car to the general area of any area with a large amount of females, every woman within visual distance of their car should instantly cream their panties and throw them at your car. Every single fucking movie representation of muscle cars winds up like a softcore porno with less soft Latino music and more Metallica screaming.

That’s the problem. So when I meet some new dude who’s been a wrist jockey for the past few months, and he sees my car, you can practically see the cogs in his brain turning as he stares at me accusingly, as if I’m beating the women away from my dick right there in front of him, with my dick. Let me be the one to fuck this mindset up for good then – this doesn’t happen. Do I get stared at? Yes. But do I get approached? Once every two or three months maybe. Do I get a girl who just straight up comes onto me with the force of a small sex tornado? No. NO.

NO.

That doesn’t happen in real life. It takes time to build a relationship and have a healthy sexual relationship that doesn’t involve an immediate paralyzing fear of commitment issues for me anyway, what the fuck would I do with a horde of women?

I’d rather have the fucking lemmings.

Letter for you.

Hi Anne,

I thought I’d ask you how you’ve been doing. In light of recent events in the world, I thought it was time I contacted you. I hope you’ve been well and that you’ve been keeping up with the football world.

It was around this time five years ago that we met. Winter was winter back then, haha. “Winter” now is just cold temperatures and constant and unforgiving winds. Where’s the snow? I remember you telling me how much you didn’t like snow. Seeing as you’re from California, I understand that. Snow and winter both are a love-hate kind of thing for me. It’s cold out, winds can legitimately hurt you (well, not seriously hurt you, but bite at you), you get your pants wet (and socks and feet and hair if you’re not wearing a toque) and it’s hard to get anywhere. Still, we had our fun, didn’t we?

When I really think about it, everything we used to do was always “undercover”. Nobody knew that we were into each other, let alone even knew each other. I even had a girlfriend at the time, hah. It felt so good because it was all a secret.

Fast forward to late-February. I guess everybody knew about us by then, huh? Your dad even knew. That didn’t really work out in my favour, but I didn’t care. I got my first and only American recruiting letter that month and you were ecstatic. It was awesome. Although all of that was happening, I had to also find out that we weren’t going to prom together. It was kind of bittersweet, but I learned to deal with it anyway. I was way too excited to take my first recruiting trip (and even more excited to be alone in another country with you).

That trip was great fun and I still remember it like yesterday. Sure, we didn’t really explore the city, but that’s when I really found out that it was time to grow up. Drunken arguments are never fun, but sometimes you actually learn something from them.

Next thing I knew, it was June. It was prom and we weren’t what we used to be. We were never boyfriend and girlfriend because I couldn’t commit to that. Maybe I was lying to myself because I wanted to trick myself into thinking I was being a good boyfriend to my actual girlfriend. Whatever the reason was, it was stupid. We were hardly friends and practically never spoke to one another during prom. Then came the afterparty and of course, liquid confidence brought us back together.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I regret a lot of things. You’re definitely one of the biggest regrets. Remember the basement? We sat there in our drunken happiness just enjoying each other’s company. I can’t even lie, it was great to have you under my arm again. And at that point, I didn’t have a girlfriend anymore either. Even though I was drunk, that memory is so vivid in my mind. Then again, maybe alcohol enhanced the memory itself and it probably didn’t go as smoothly as I remember it did. Who knows, haha.

I should’ve kissed you. I should’ve taken a chance on you. I should’ve taken your advice and tried my luck in America. But I didn’t and here I am. We aren’t even friends anymore. I don’t know what happened to you or where you go for school. For all I even know, you might have moved back to the U.S. for school. I miss you a lot, but I suppose this letter probably tells you that more than anything.

My life’s good. I’m a semester away from graduating my undergrad. I’ve been dating my current girlfriend for the past 3 years and she’s awesome. I think you’d really like her too. I’ve finally got a car of my own (well, not really…my parents paid for it and everything is under their names, haha). After we stopped talking, everything football-related for me went downhill. I separated my right shoulder twice, dislocated my right shoulder once, my right knee has bone spurs in the cap, my ankles have been turned a hundred times more than I would have liked and to top it all off, my final year of eligibility went to waste after tearing my LCL in my right knee during a try-out (I got cut and had to try-out for the team again…long story). So, in summation, the whole right side of my body has aged a good 20 years, haha.

I often wonder how you’re doing and have flashbacks of our conversations sometimes. They’re some of my favourite memories, you know that? I remember the ideas you used to hatch about me playing in the NCAA and us going to school together. We even had plans to try and live together after undergrad and let life take over from there. I guess it’s too bad I was too chicken to take that shot with you. I feel like I’ve been missing out big time, but there isn’t a thing I can do. Even though I miss you  loads, I don’t think I’d do anything to change where I am now. I hope you feel the same way.

Here’s to hoping we run into each other sometime soon. I’d really like for you to meet my girlfriend and to catch up on everything. Life’s too short to keep quiet and I know that you know why I’m writing you. I don’t want to wind up in the same situation as some other people have.

P.S. I also hope that you still do your stupid Harry Potter thing and rub your head scar. If it burns, you’re thinking of me.😉 All jokes aside, I hope that scar has healed up and I bet it’s hardly visible now, haha.

just a quick thought.

Naturally, I’m stuck at school writing an essay I don’t actually care about. So what do I do when I go on break? I look up news. Er, sorta. I kinda bounce all over the place. And of course, I wind up looking up the latest NFL news. I had to write this somewhere, so here I am.

The choice has been made – Colin Kaepernick has again been named the starting quarterback for the 49ers this week. QB Alex Smith is perfectly healthy and has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion two weeks ago. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has left the door wide open in terms of the future and who will continue to start, but I personally think that’s more to create the illusion that they’re giving a fair chance to both quarterbacks.

Now, Smith hasn’t done anything to lose his job. That’s a fact. But let’s be real here, everybody has seen what he has been able to offer for the last seven or so years. Sure, he had a lot of coaches come and go and Jim Harbaugh has been his first solid and stable coach in a long time. I just really think he had one good year and that’s about all. Alex Smith will forever be a game-managing quarterback like Trent Dilfer to me. The thing I like about him is that he is being honest about his demotion – he told the media that “it sucks”. He isn’t taking it laying down, but he isn’t causing a scene either. I like that.

In the end, Colin Kaepernick is the more dynamic threat. Maybe the 49ers head office was tired of seeing Alex play the way he usually does and finally assembled a good team around him. What did that lead to? The NFC Championship game. Who won that game? The New York Giants. That game was the 49ers to lose and they definitely lost it. It wasn’t entirely Alex Smith’s fault (yeah Kyle Williams, I’m talking about you), but too often he made short passes instead of really taking any shots down the field. When a defense knows that you wouldn’t dare throw deep, they can focus on keeping the first level and underneath coverage tight with maybe one guy covering the deep zones of the field. This was the case during the NFC Championship game and the Giants capitalized (they would go on to win the game and eventually the Super Bowl thereafter). At least Kaepernick makes use of the new weapons the 49ers have acquired since that game. WR Randy Moss is respected and known as one of the all-time great deep receiving threats to have put on pads. When he isn’t involved in an offense, he is notorious for becoming complacent and even immature (look up his tenure with the Raiders, Titans and second stint with the Vikings). WR Michael Crabtree was once deemed a diva, but has actually been pretty productive for the 49ers. Throwing it short to him is an okay idea, but he seems better suited running deeper routes rather than relying on him to constantly create yards after his catch. I won’t even mention Kyle Williams because I think that he needs to be given the boot by front office. A.J. Jekins and Mario Manningham (who helped the Giants to beat the 49ers last year in the NFC Championship) are both great underneath receivers but the latter is better suited on deeper routes. He’s got the speed to do it and has the body control and concentration to do it (look up his Super Bowl catch against the Patriots last year and you’ll see why I say that).

Now, this whole situation is proof of how important it is to build a good team. The current incarnation of the 49ers is one that revolves around a good defense and strong running game. Their offensive line is one that blocks well and run blocks even better. Once head office was able to put this team together and pulled in Jim Harbaugh to coach the them, Smith suddenly had a good year. Sure, he might complete 70% of his passes and have a passer rating of above 100 (highest rating possible is 153, I believe), but those are benchmarks of a game-managing quarterback with a strong run game behind him. And an awesome defense too.

This whole case sounds exactly like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Trent Dilfer was the starting quarterback and had 2000-yard rusher Jamal Lewis behind him. Yeah, when’s the last time you saw a 2000-yard rusher in the NFL? Anyway, the Ravens also had their vaunted defense that was led by Ray Lewis in his prime.

Sidebar: The eerie part about all of this is that LB Patrick Willis moves and acts almost exactly like Ray Lewis does. Put their game tapes side by side and you’ll see. They even wear the same number.

Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs weren’t in the picture yet, but the Ravens were highly capable of stopping many offenses dead in their tracks. Trent’s only job was to make the right decisions (which were often check-downs) and to properly handle the ball during exchanges between himself, the center, and the running back/fullback. If you ever happen to look up any footage of former head coach Brian Billick during that Super Bowl game, you’ll see how often he wished that Trent would make the right decisions and handle the ball properly. Alex Smith and the current San Francisco 49ers remind me a lot of that 2000 Baltimore Ravens team.

Now, I’m not trying to insult Alex Smith. He’s in the NFL and I’m not. That’s a huge accomplishment for any athlete. I respect that he’s been able to stay in the league for as long as he has and hope that he finds his peace somehow. I hear the Jets could use a quarterback…and so could the Cardinals…and so could Jacksonville…and Buffalo (well, not really)…

I know this isn’t well-structured, I was just writing whatever came to mind. Back I go to writing about collective bargaining rights!

why it’s important to have a good quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are starting Colin Kaepernick in today’s game. Regular starter Alex Smith is being benched and not for health reasons. It also didn’t help that TE Vernon Davis was glowing about Kaepernick’s passes after their last game.

People wonder why this decision is made. Well, let’s be real here: Alex Smith was never that good anyway. Kaepernick has that “rocket arm” that so many people look for in QBs nowadays. He is also very athletic and I believe I have written about it before. Alex Smith is a savvy vet, sure. But the last time any team won with a quarterback that wasn’t a very prolific passer was in 2000. The Baltimore Ravens won that Super Bowl with their defense, not with Trent Dilfer’s arm and passing.

Kaepernick played extremely well against the Chicago Bears last week. If you know anything about football, you should know that’s an impressive defense to play against. It could’ve been beginner’s luck. We’ll find out today – the 49ers are visitng the Superdome in Louisiana. The Saints are not a good defensive team, but they do feature an explosive offense. Kaepernick should continue to start, regardless of his performance today, in my opinion. He’s the guy to keep because 1. he’s still young; 2. he’s economically friendly (salary-wise); 3. he’s a better threat than Alex Smith ever has been; 4. he is essentially the future face of the franchise; and 5. he’s got the trust of his teammates already.

The one thing I don’t like about this whole situation is how head coach Jim Harbaugh has been handling every quarterback question in his tenure thus far. When they scouted Peyton Manning, he was adamant that they were just having a few conversations and never actually wanted to pursue him. C’mon, seriously? After that, Alex Smith felt offended and had to be reassured a million times that he is “the quarterback that they wanted the whole time”. Now that Kaepernick has shown up, Harbaugh has again ditched his support for Smith. C’mon coach, that’s not cool. But again, do what you have to do. There’s a reason he’s the head coach and a bunch of critics aren’t.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is injured. Byron Leftwich broke ribs while replacing Roethlisberger in last weeks’ game. Third-string QB Charlie Batch is making his the start today. How that will go, nobody knows.

The Steelers have suffered many injuries this season. The injuries have affected both sides of the ball. SS Troy Polamolu has only recently returned to practice, LB James Harrison has had trouble staying healthy all season, DT Willie Colon has had back problems, OT David DeCastro went down early in the season with a nasty knee injury against the Buffalo Bills (I believe he injured both his ACL and MCL in the same knee) and WRs Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery are also out. That’s quite a few impact players gone.

The Steelers are usually a playoff-guaranteed team. Even though it’s been said every year for the last three years, the Steelers are finally beginning to actually look old and slow. Then again, when they have all their key players, they look pretty good. There is some hope for a playoff appearance though: The Steelers recently signed WR Plaxico Burress to help out their struggling red zone offense. Burress makes his return to Pittsburgh and will definitely help out their offense if they can feed him the ball. But another problem is Burress’ attitude. They let him leave Pittsburgh before because of his diva attitude and I definitely feel like that attitude will show up while the Steelers are without Big Ben.

Chicago Bears

QB Jason Campbell started last week against the San Francisco 49ers and we all know how that went. Campbell, to me, is the same as Alex Smith. He’s good enough to hold a seven point lead over a team, but he’s not a prolific passer or a great decision-maker. Regular starting QB Jay Cutler was held out of the last game due to a concussion.

The Bears have always had a formidable defense, but this season, they are an awesome defense. They lead the league in turnovers and in forcing turnovers. They have a linebacking corps that is a savvy group and still features Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach. Their secondary features CB Charles Tillman and FS Chris Conte and both help to produce turnovers and even force them. Their DL still features DEs Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. This team has such a chemistry together, it’s awesome to watch them play.

Their offense has almost never matched their defense. That changed when the Bears traded for WR Brandon Marshall this off-season. QB Jay Cutler and Marshall have history together. Just google what they were able to do together in Denver before Cutler was shipped out and Tebow was drafted. Finally, the two have been brought back together and has instantly impacted the offensive dynamic in Chicago. Now RB Matt Forte isn’t being completely abused on offense (by abused, I mean used for every single snap and play) and can breathe all while still being productive. With Cutler out last week, Marshall had a quiet game (21 yards and 1 TD). Cutler is coming back this week and will help to keep the Bears in the playoff race. At 7-3, they should be able to keep themselves in the hunt.

Kansas City Chiefs

There’s nothing that can be said here. The Chiefs are the prime example as to why a good quarterback is so important. With a very capable offense that features lightning and thunder in RBs Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis and big-time playmaker WR Dwayne Bowe, you should be able to score at least 21 in every game. QB Matt Cassel needs to go. QB Brady Quinn is interesting, but is no better than Cassel. The Chiefs need a quarterback.

Playing quarterback isn’t a big deal – being good at playing quarterback is a big deal. It is the most famous position in football so it obviously receives a lot of media attention when a team struggles at that position.

NFL – General Observations and Some Expectations

This is really late. But I thought I had to put something up.

New England Patriots 

Bill Belichick has apparently been obsessed with finding the perfect mis-match tight ends since his first coaching opportunity with the Cleveland Browns. Now he has four very capable and proven tight ends on his roster. Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe, Kellen Winslow and the injured Jake Ballard are all on New England’s roster. Why did I bring this up? Well for one, Hernandez suffered a high ankle sprain during Week 2 (and it looked kinda bad). People have begun making odd assumptions and begun to freak out because the Patriots are 1-1. Sure, they haven’t been scoring as much as they normally do, but they’ll be back. As for WR Wes Welker, I’m sure he’ll come back to catching passes and scoring. Some people think that he is intentionally being passed up in the passing game (heh) because of the contract negotiations that took place this summer. This is definitely not the case. Has anybody ever heard of WR Julian Edelman? He’s essentially a younger version of Wes Welker. Maybe he isn’t as capable, but Bill Belichick believes that he merits more time on the field. He has been slowly working his way up the depth chart. Sure, maybe the Pats are thinking about trading Welker or maybe they’re thinking about letting him walk after his tag expires this year. We’ll never know. This week, the Pats get a rematch with the Baltimore Ravens. I expect it to be close and for the Ravens to take it all.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are looking for revenge. There isn’t much more to write here. After the bitter AFC Championship loss, I expect the Ravens to come out and for the stars to align. Even though they don’t have star OLB/DE Terrell Suggs, their front seven is still one to be feared. Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw has been filling in decently. MLB Ray Lewis is still one of the most vicious defenders in the game. FS Ed Reed is still the ball hawk. And it also doesn’t hurt that the Ravens offense is finally better than decent. For once, the Ravens are not a team built around defense. They are now a team with a good defense and with an offense that can score. The only problem here is that WR Torrey Smith has suffered a personal loss today. His younger brother passed away in an automotive accident and is unsure of whether or not he will play today. My condolences go out to the Smith family. It’s never good to hear about anybody experiencing any loss of any sort. Hopefully the Ravens can go out there and win this one for Torrey (and if Torrey does play, I hope he can go out there and win it for his brother).

San Francisco 49ers

Okay, so the 49ers have definitely made the biggest turnaround in recent memory. This doesn’t mean that they’re out of the woods just yet though. They are – in the end – a team built to harass offenses and protect leads. Their identity is not that of an offensive juggernaut. You want an offensive juggernaut? Go look at the Patriots, Saints, Packers and (in theory) Eagles. This 49ers team is built around the defensive front seven. And who is responsible for this huge turnaround? None other than head coach Jim Harbaugh. He came from coaching Stanford University (and yes, he did coach Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener) and had been offered the 49ers head coaching job. Boy, has that paid off. Harbaugh doesn’t have any fancy schemes nor is he an offensive/defensive genius of any sort. What Harbaugh has brought is confidence. Some point to the development of Alex Smith, but I can’t frankly see any. Alex Smith has eerily similar stats to his head coach, Jim Harbaugh. For those of you that didn’t know, Harbaugh was the starting quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts during the mid-1990’s before Peyton Manning was drafted. What’s different? Smith doesn’t throw an interception on every play anymore, but he almost never throws deep balls. He does take an unusually high amount of sacks as well. In the end, the 49ers are not an offensive juggernaut, but they’re pretty good on that side of the ball.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have been in a downward spiral since 2009. Brett Favre finally retired (after one more season that did not go well). The receiving corps is okay at best (Sidney Rice ran to Seattle…but he has never been the #1 receiver that everybody thought he could be). The defense needs some serious help. And the final nail in the coffin was Adrian Peterson tearing both his ACL and MCL towards the end of last season. Now he’s back. They are slowly giving him more and more carries. But as a Vikings fan, I get really nervous when I see him on the field and see him taking tackles. 2012 has been okay for the Vikings thus far. QB Christian Ponder is now a sophomore and is making better decisions. He also put on some muscle and he is taking hits without folding. Today, they will face the 49ers. They most likely won’t win the game, but you never really know what will happen in the NFL. The redeeming factors for the Vikings are the following: Ponder leads the league in completion percentage (that’s a sign of growth), the Vikings run defense is 7th in the league (sorry Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James) and finally, the Vikings defense AND offense is excellent in the red zone. Maybe they’ll keep the game close.

Atlanta Falcons

After two weeks and two serious beatdowns, the Falcons look like they’re for real this season. Then again, they look like they’re for real every regular season. I personally have somewhat stopped caring about how the Falcons fare in the regular season. They are solid and should make the playoffs barring any injuries or any major implosion (cause y’know, they almost always wind up in the playoffs). I’m interested in how they will fare in this years playoffs (if they make it). But I suppose I do have to make an observation anyway. What’s new with the Falcons? Their (new) offensive co-ordinator Dick Koetter has installed a scheme that involves deep shots towards the end zone. QB Matt Ryan is loving it and WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White are loving it too. They were formerly a power running team, but when you have two awesome pass-catching talents in White and Jones, you shouldn’t be using them just to throw crack blocks and play decoy. RB Michael Turner will still get his carries, but he has been more than accepting of the new identity of the team. Their defense is still solid and their secondary suffered a huge loss. CB Brent Grimes tore his Achilles tendon in Week 1. If you don’t know where that is, it is the soft muscle/tissue directly behind your ankle. It should feel like a tube. Imagine tearing that. You can’t walk after that. That, my friends, is a painful and very serious injury. That will definitely hurt the Falcons secondary, but they did trade for CB Asante Samuel during the off-season. Still, Asante isn’t the complete corner that Grimes is. We’ll see how it all plays out…because their secondary picked off QB Peyton Manning three times during Week 2. Maybe they’ll be okay after all.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers look…re-charged. Heh. Anyway, QB Philip Rivers is making smarter decisions and not letting mistakes get to him. Though their passing game has suffered due to the loss of WR Vincent Jackson (left via free agency and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), they seem to be doing okay. TE Antonio Gates is seemingly healthy once again. Yes, we’re talking about the same Antonio Gates that is the prototype for the current wave of huge pass-catching and capable-blocking tight ends (yeah, sorry Pats fans. Gates was the first modern-era TE that could do both well, not Hernandez and not Gronk). He’s jumping and catching and his foot seems okay. Their defense seems to be doing okay as well. The only problem San Diego has is in the running game. Ryan Mathews is apparently coming back for Week 3. But after suffering a broken collarbone, you’d think that the coaching staff would bring him back slowly. I expect the Week 3 match-up with the Falcons to be a shoot-out.

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning and the $95+ million contract kind of paid off. I definitely would not say it paid off just yet. I would definitely pay that kind of money for Peyton Manning though. But after a Week 2 performance that featured 4 turnovers in just the first quarter, there were many telling signs of Peyton’s slow decline. We could call the three interceptions by Peyton aberrations. We could even say that his receivers were to blame. But let’s be real here, two of those interceptions were just bad decisions on his part. His arm strength definitely is not the same (YouTube the clip of a deep seem route being run by WR Eric Decker and see how underthrown that ball is). Peyton’s arm strength might not be the same, but his intelligence is still intact. He is still the same quarterback mentally, but – in giving credit to the Atlanta Falcons defense – he was constantly under pressure during the Week 2 match-up. As a QB, the first few reads you have to make is to read the safety once you have received the snap. Watch the tape of the Week 2 game and you’ll see how many times he tried to force the ball into windows that hardly existed. But in the end, Peyton is Peyton. It has only been two weeks. He still needs to generate a better rapport with his receiving corps and his team as a whole. He’ll be back. Three picks? He’ll be back for Week 3…but he plays the tough Houston Texans defense next.

Houston Texans

Houston is rolling. Sure, they had two inferior opponents during Weeks 1 and 2, but they are still a very, very good team. Their offense has no problems with QB Matt Schaub at the helm, RB Arian Foster running through and around defenders, WR’s Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter and TE Owen Daniels catching passes. What’s more impressive is that the Texans have yet to commit a turnover. It’s not like the Denver Broncos defense has a penchant for making that happen anyway. Furthermore, the Texans defense is dirty. There’s no other way to describe them. When I say dirty, I don’t mean it in a negative connotation either. They just have so many ways to create pressure up front and up the middle. And yes, pressure up the middle is kryptonite to Peyton Manning. I fully expect DE’s J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith and LB’s Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing to force Manning into some bad decisions today. We’ll see how it unfolds, especially considering that this game will be played in Denver. That thin air is an advantage more than people know.

New York Jets

The Jets are 1-1. So, which team are we going to see during Week 3? The team that dropped 40+ points on the Bills or the team that could only muster one TD in Week 2? Well, we definitely won’t see the team from Week 1. That game was given to them by the uninspired Bills. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to try too hard and the Bills secondary just looked lazy. In Week 3, they have the Miami Dolphins. I do believe that they will win this game, to be honest. But when it comes to general observations, I will go ahead and say that their defense is not elite. Sure, they have CBs Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, but what else is there? I see them as a very middling defense due to their front seven. I’m not insulting them in any way, but I mean to point out that they have not improved since their 2009 season. The “Ground and Pound” game doesn’t exist, either. You want “Ground and Pound”? Put Tebow in at RB. He’d be 50 times better than Shonn Greene. And Tim Tebow as your PP on special teams? Come on, Jets. I know you can figure out a better use for Tebow.

Miami Dolphins

For some reason, the Dolphins are the #1 run defense in the league. Who would’ve guessed it? Anyway, the Dolphins offense is still raw. QB Ryan Tannehill is at the helm and it’s not like he has any legitimate receiving threats. The man needs help if Miami wants him to look good. I don’t have much to say about this team because they need help everywhere. I don’t expect them to sustain the #1 run defense. The only redeeming quality (or person, rather) is RB Reggie Bush. He seemingly is returning to his dominant college form. This is a good thing for the Dolphins, but I expect the Jets to win this game.

Washington Redskins

So, the ‘Skins are 1-1. They handled the Saints and they could’ve beaten the Rams. Robert Griffin III is showing why the Redskins were right for trading nearly everything (including the kitchen sink) to acquire the #2 overall pick in the 2012 Draft. He is, in my eyes, Cam Newton 2.0. The only difference is that Griffin III is smaller and seemingly makes smarter decisions in the passing game. The addition or WR Pierre Garcon during the off-season didn’t hurt either. The only problem I have with the Redskins is that they do not have a true #1 option at WR. Garcon is a good receiver, but nothing more than a #2 receiver to me unless he breaks out. Their defense is going to struggle a bit after losing LB Brian Orakpo to a torn pectoral muscle. And yes, that injury is a season-ending injury. But wait, that’s not all! They also lost DE Adam Carriker to a torn quadriceps muscle. Yeow. Try walking after tearing that (the quads are located within your thigh). And the only other observation I have is that RGIII seems like a tough guy, but he’s already complaining about dirty play. It’s true that Jeff Fisher is viewed as the coach that encourages dirty play, but this is the professional league. It’s bound to happen, but you should roll with the punches rather than complaining to the media right away. RGIII is still impressing me as a rookie and I feel like he can lead the Redskins past the Bengals today…but that feeling isn’t as strong as the Cincinnati defense. Something else of note: RGIII has scored quite a few rushing TDs. Aaaaand the forever revolving door of running backs continues to turn in Washington…RB Alfred Morris seems to be leading the depth chart in Washington. But if there’s anything that is guaranteed for running backs in Mike Shanahan’s system is that they will be replaced if they have a bad or ineffective game.

Cincinnati Bengals

With a few key losses on each side of the ball, the Bengals have been up and down at best. But I expect them to bounce back today against the Redskins. Their offense is in the capable hands of Andy Dalton and the #1 WR A.J. Green is still a serious threat to any defense. Without LB Brian Orakpo and DE Adam Carriker, the Redskins will have a tough time generating pressure. I have nothing more to say about the Bengals other than that they could use some help in the running game. Otherwise, they’re going to be okay. The secondary and defense as a whole is still a good one. Their offense is going to be better than decent. I expect them to win today.

New York Giants

For some reason, people thought that the Panthers would find a way to win in Week 3 VS the Giants. It didn’t happen. The Giants, led by Eli Manning, completed a very nice and well-executed comeback. Eli, just like his brother Peyton, threw three interceptions in Week 2. What’s the difference though? Eli threw for 500 yards after that and won the game. What really surprised me were the performances of 2009 draftees in Week 3. WR Ramses Barden and RB Andre Brown came up big time for their team. They both replaced Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw, respectively. WR Victor Cruz was solid, but the performance of Barden and Brown stole the show. Depth is important for every team in every sport and it seems like the Giants might be okay. Something else of note: Did anybody see the Buccaneers rush the G-Men’s kneeling formation at the end of their game in Week 2? I didn’t like it…Coughlin and the Giants were being sportsman-like by kneeling the clock out and opposing HC Greg Shiano decided that he would try for a fumble. But really? Take the loss for what it is, don’t place other people in harm’s way when they are trying to be good sports.

Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl, huh? When a team makes a guarantee for a Super Bowl, the team is usually one that is good. I can’t say this is the case for the Panthers. Confidence is one thing, but announcing that you’re Super Bowl bound after a 6-10 season is a bit odd. C Ryan Kalil was the man that predicted a Super Bowl for his team and to the credit of the whole organization, they are standing by him and wearing shirts that say “Back Ryan Up”. So I commend the team and organization for aiming for the ultimate prize in pro football, but the Panthers still need time to grow together. They also need more weapons on the offensive side of the ball. They also need help in their secondary. Has anybody noticed this is a theme of some sort? Goes to show you how important corners and safeties are nowadays. And here we are with everybody saying that safeties are an obsolete position. Anyway, the Panthers lost their Week 3 match-up with the Giants. And boy, it was never close. The Super Bowl champs showed the Super Bowl hopefuls what an elite team really looks like. Back to the drawing board for the Panthers…Something of note: I get that RB Jonathan Stewart is decent, but why hasn’t HC Ron Rivera used RB Mike Tolbert more often? They paid him during the off-season and yet they mostly use him as a FB. Make use of his abilities and let the man run the ball.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers lost (and lost badly) to the 49ers in Week 1. But they stung the Chicago Bears in Week 2. So, are the Packers still elite? Of course they are. The only knock I have on them is that maybe they have grown complacent and are satisfied with their success. QB Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best – if not the best QB – in the league. The Packers offense should find its rhythm again. The only problem they have is their defense…what happened to the defense that was so instrumental in their Super Bowl win? Something of note: The Green Bay running game is still trash. I don’t care if they have Cedric Benson, they can’t seem to run block for their life. Sure, they can protect their passer well, but you also need to be able to run block. Benson has never been one to rip off long runs on his own. Today they will face the Seattle Seahawks…and their defense is pretty solid. They should be able to stuff the run and keep the passing game under wraps. Then again, this is Green Bay we’re talking about. We’ll see how it unfolds. I expect the Seattle defense to keep the game somewhat close…it just depends on how their offense fares.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are doing well. Let’s be honest here: Nobody thought that they would be. When RB Marshawn Lynch got arrested this summer, everybody thought that he would be suspended. But he wasn’t. And that was good news for his team. The Seakhawks also seem to have found a good QB in the diminutive Russell Wilson. Even though I feel like Matt Flynn should be starting, you can’t say a bad thing about Wilson. He’s operating and running the offense well. The running game is solid with Marshawn Lynch leading the pack and with the muscle-with-legs Robert Turbin following close behind. Their defense is actually pretty good too. They face Green Bay today and I expect that the Seattle defense will muffle the passing game a little bit. We’ll see how the Seattle offense fares.

Tennessee Titans

Speaking of terrible running games, what happened to Chris Johnson? The man affectionately known as CJ2K has struggled to run (this is a complete understatement) not only this year, but last year as well. He has publicly come out and said that he is only as good as his offensive line. This is completely true, but the media is portraying that statement as a selfish one. CJ2K went on to say that he also needs to improve and that the relationship between his O-line and him must grow together in order to get back to running effectively. So Johnson isn’t selfish or stupid. He knows some of the blame falls on him. But the running game isn’t the only problem in Tennessee…the passing game doesn’t exist. Jake Locker is the starting QB and he is struggling hard. Last year, when CJ2K wasn’t running well, the Titans were still able to win games with Matt Hasselbeck as their starter. Today they have the Detroit Lions. I completely expect the Lions to win this one.

Detroit Lions

So, is the Madden Curse for real? Maybe. Maybe the whole league has just wisened up to the offensive scheme and weapon that is WR Calvin Johnson. Megatron – as he is known – has also struggled this season. But you know what? It’s only been two weeks. I shouldn’t even be dissecting each team right now. But if you have read this far, then I think you deserve a medal. Anyway, the Lions are finding their way back in terms of offense. Their only problem is their secondary. Their defensive line is definitely the deepest in the league (sorry, NYG). Their DB’s are a problem though. If Jake Locker could throw, I would say that the Titans would be okay today. But Jake Locker can’t throw. He will be dealing with lots of pressure today thanks to the DL of the Lions. Aside from that, I can’t really say I have any complaints about the Lions.

Kansas City Chiefs

Where do you even begin with the Chiefs? Their offense looks awesome on paper (aside from QB Matt Cassel). They’ve got a varied two-headed running game anchored by RB Jamal Charles and RB/FB hybrid Peyton Hillis. Their running game can be described as thunder and lightning because that’s exactly what it is. Hillis will rumble through the tackles while Charles is far too fast to be caught. Their passing game is anchored by WR’s Dwayne Bowe, Dexter McCluster and the ever-physical Steve Breaston. They even have a very capable of tight ends in Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki. Their offense looks great on paper, but a QB is essential to making an offense run. Unfortunately, Matt Cassel just hasn’t been able to figure it out just yet. The Chiefs defense is still solid with LB’s Tamba Hali and Justin Houston holding it down. Their secondary is still great with FS Eric Berry and CB’s Stanford Routt and Brandon Flowers sticking to any receiving threats they see. I really hope that the Chiefs find a way to pull it all together because they can be an exciting team. Unfortunately, they play the Saints today. Drew Brees and his 0-2 Saints are looking to win a game and this is one of the easiest opportunities they will have at doing exactly that.

New Orleans Saints

I won’t write about the bounty scandal. Everybody’s heard far too much about it and it is over. The only thing I will mention is that the Saints seem like they are lost without HC Sean Payton. They are still capable of scoring in huge bunches and quickly. Aside from that, I can’t make any further observations because so many of their key players are missing due to suspension. I expect them to beat the Chiefs today.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are solid as always. The only problem they have is with their running game and the loss of David DeCastro. They also have two key injuries to their defense – LB James Harrison and SS Troy Polamalu. There isn’t anything more to say here. I expect them to take care of the Raiders today.

Oakland Raiders

They need help on the offensive side of the ball. Somebody needs to get QB Carson Palmer to gel with his receivers. Their running game is solid with RB Darren McFadden and FB Marcel Reese. Hell, even rookie RB Taiwan Jones is doing well. But their passing game needs help. They have many young talents such as WR’s Darius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford. They could use some help at TE. Their defense could also use some help. It hurts to say that because I’ve been a Raiders fan for as long as I can remember. Well, they’re more my dad’s team than mine, but they were still one of my first loves in terms of sports. Couldn’t turn my eyes away from the silver and black…but nowadays, I find that I can’t bear to watch them. Pittsburgh should win the Week 3 match-up with them.

Buffalo Bills

C.J. Spiller leads the league in rushing. He has been waiting for this opportunity since he has been drafted. Unfortunately, his opportunity came at a serious loss for the Bills. Well, not that serious considering how Spiller has been performing. RB Fred Jackson is out with a strained LCL. That’s painful. Sure, you might have never heard of the LCL because you’ve probably only ever heard of the ACL and the MCL. I have personally torn my LCL (which happened during this past summer) and it is not fun. I’m sure Fred Jackson is proud of Spiller though. Jackson is described as the “big brother” of the team. But to be honest, the Bills offense is in shambles aside from their running game. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to find his rhythm. Even though they suffered a loss in the passing game (WR David Nelson is out for the season with a torn ACL), Fitz still has very viable weapons in WR’s Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham and Donald Jones. Hell, you could even stick the enigmatic QB/RB/WR Brad Smith in there and he would be helpful to the offense, no matter what capacity they use him. Their defense is inconsistent. They should be at least pretty good because their defense features sack artist extraordinaire Mario Williams, pressure men/pass rushing duo of Marcell Darius and Chris Kelsay and the ever-solid DT Kyle Williams. Their secondary has enjoyed the pleasant surprise that is CB Stephon Gilmore, but let’s hope that his penchant for finding trouble off the field never decides to kick in. CB Leonis McKelvin and FS Jairus Byrd are both still solid players. They still have Nick Barnett at OLB. But the Bills need help. Consider their game against the Cleveland Browns today a wash. You can pick whomever you want and we’ll see if they win. I want the Bills to win it though.

Cleveland Browns

Help is needed everywhere. Well, that’s not entirely true. Their defense is pretty good and it features LB’s D’Qwell Jackson, Scott Fujita and physical CB Joe Haden. But the problem here is that Joe Haden is suspended. Scott Fujita had a whirlwind of a summer thanks for the bounty scandal that followed him from New Orleans. On the offensive side of the ball, QB Brandon Weeden is still getting used to the pro-level. RB Trent Richardson came from Alabama and was the most NFL-ready running back since Adrian Peterson. We have yet to see him truly display his ability. Aside from that, their receiving corps still needs some help. I feel like they might be able to win their game against the Bills today, but I haven’t a clue as to how they’ll fare today.

St. Louis Rams

I can’t say much. QB Sam Bradford has potential, but he was drafted in 2009. He should have at least shown some flashes of potential and greatness by now, but he hasn’t been surrounded by any solid contributors other than RB Steven Jackson. This isn’t his fault at all. The Rams organization needs to do something about that, but they certainly don’t seem interested. Go figure. They most likely won’t be able to keep the game close VS the Chicago Bears today.

Chicago Bears

QB Jay Cutler needs to learn how to be patient. He also needs to learn to throw to receivers that aren’t named Brandon Marshall. Sure, they’re great friends and enjoyed awesome success when they both played in Denver, but he has other options on this team. WR’s Devin Hester (touted as the greatest return man in NFL history) and Alshon Jeffrey are both highly capable. Throw them the ball. It’s okay to pass to other people. Their defense is still fairly good, but MLB Brian Urlacher looks like he’s on his way out. DE Julius Peppers is also getting up there in terms of age. OLB Lance Briggs is also getting a bit old. If the Bears need help anywhere, it’s on the defensive side of the ball. I expect them to beat the Rams today.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Whatever you do, Dallas, don’t kneel. The Bucs look solid on both sides of the ball, except for their linebacking corps. And their defensive line. Okay, so their offense is the only part of the team that looks totally solid. Their secondary looks great and has played great. But their front seven needs help. QB Josh Freeman has learned to be patient again and hopes to put last season behind him. WR Vincent Jackson is quite the player and TE Dallas Clark is a great security blanket to help bail Freeman out. The running game looks like it’s in good hands with RB Doug Martin starting and RB/FB LeGarrette Blount backing him up. I feel like the Bucs will keep today’s game close with the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are solid. If only they could get it done. There is nothing more to say here other than their offensive line needs to come back. They have suffered too many injuries on their O-line and that has limited the abilities of RB’s DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. Their receiving corps is one of the best and WR Kevin Ogletree has been a pleasant surprise. Their defense is still pretty good. Let’s get it together, Tony Romo. If Jerry Jones says it’s time to win a title, it means it’s time to win a title. I see them winning today’s game VS the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Philadelphia Eagles

On paper, they are still one of the best teams out there. After a fairly bad season in 2011 (finished 8-8), the “Dream Team” looks to finally be putting it all together. The only beef I have with them is that QB Michael Vick gets nearly no protection. Plus, he never slides. Dude, slide. You don’t want to get injured again, do you? Last thing: Stop winning by 1 point. Being 2-0 is cool, but being 2-0 and winning BOTH games by 1 point is not.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are 2-0. Yup. QB John Skelton is injured, but QB Kevin Kolb has been able to find ways to move the ball up the field. Arizona needs help on both sides of the ball, but the offense needs it far more than their defense does. At least their defense is capable. Their offense definitely isn’t (with the exception of WR Larry Fitzgerald). I expect the Eagles to take this game in today’s Bird Fight. Heh.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags look like they’ll be okay (offensively speaking). QB Blaine Gabbert seems more confident than he was last year. RB Maurice Jones-Drew is arguably the best back in the game right now and after a lengthy hold-out, he is back on the field. WR Justin Blackmon has made good on his promise to stay out of trouble off the field and has rewarded the Jaguars for taking him in the first round of this year’s draft. The defense definitely needs help. Today’s game VS the Indianapolis Colts is much like the Bills/Browns game. I’ll give the edge to the Jags today because the Colts are missing a few key defensive players due to injury.

Indianapolis Colts

QB Andrew Luck is learning the hard way. Just like QB Peyton Manning did. I’m not worried though. The only place the Colts need help is on the defensive side of the ball. Well, they need help at running back too. And wide receiver. TE Coby Fleener is a decent tight end, but they could use some depth too. With some key players missing on the defensive side of the ball (OLB’s/DE’s Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are both inactive today), I expect the Jags to be able to run their way to a win today.