Steelers and Falcons Soar, Luck’s Running Out in Indy and More

a. Free gambling advice: Never, ever, ever wager against Mike Tomlin coming off a blowout loss.

b. We’ll find out everything about the Falcons in the next two weeks, when they go to Denver and Seattle.

c. I hate Week 4 byes, and I’d really hate them if I were a player, because you’ll get to Week 8 needing a break, and the break will be a month in the rearview mirror.

d. I have no idea what constitutes pass interference.

e. If the over-under on games missed for Trevor Siemian (shoulder) is 1.5, I’m taking the under.

f. Minnesota is the biggest threat to my Green Bay-Pittsburgh Super Bowl pick.

g. Jenny Vrentas will have some quality words on the Raiders on Tuesday, but I will make this one point: I never thought I’d see the day when Oakland would win three straight 10 a.m. body-clock starts (at New Orleans, at Tennessee, at Baltimore) to begin a season—or at any point in a season, for that matter.

h. I have no idea why Rob Gronkowski is invisible, except that in Bill Belichick’s world the healthy guys play and contribute, so …

i. Presented Without Comment Dept.: Over the past 10 months, Case Keenum is 6-2 as a Rams’ starting quarterback, with just four interceptions.

j. I sometimes watch 27-year-old Andrew Luck and wonder if he’ll turn into David Carr or Tim Couch, the kind of quarterback who never reached his potential because he got battered so much.

k. Because I know I should have an opinion about another sellout game (83,764) at Wembley Stadium in the International Series, this is it: It’d be nice to see a game between two winning teams, or two storied teams.

2. I think the Football Story of the Week is a simple call. It’s fantastic. Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei writes one of the best stories I’ve ever read on the real life of a coach—an offensive coordinator (New England’s Josh McDaniels) who admits he’s flawed and does something about it. The story is so real. Congrats to Pompei for writing it, and to McDaniels for opening himself up so thoroughly.

3. I think this taunting thing has to get re-evaluated by the NFL. Like, now. Jags receiver Allen Robinson catches a tough pass over the middle, gets leveled by D’Qwell Jackson and gets up, fired up, and spins the ball on the ground. Because Jackson is in the area, Robinson gets an unsportsmanlike conduct foul—with the bonus being that one more such foul gets him tossed from the game. That shouldn’t be what the two-unsportsmanlike-conducts-and-you’re-out is about. Verbal abuse, verbal taunting, punching, kicking, illegal use of the helmet … those are fair game. But the simple, “Hey, I made a big catch and held onto the ball” spinning of the football absolutely was not what this rule was installed for last March. It will be up to the Competition Committee and VP of Officiating Dean Blandino to do something about that next offseason.

4. I think I’m sympathetic to the plight of anyone with a substance or addiction issue—Josh Gordon entered rehab the other day for an alcohol problem, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer—but enough is enough. I’d give Gordon every chance at rehab if I were the Browns, then wish him well for the rest of his life. He’s just too unreliable for a team trying to build a future.

5. I think I like Dirk Koetter, and I hope this is just growing pains for him as a head coach. But what an awful call he made in the fourth quarter against Denver. With 7:30 left in the game, and trailing 27-7, and with a fourth-and-six at the Denver 46, Koetter chose to punt. That is a ridiculous play call. How do you assume you’ll get the ball three times in the last six minutes (max) of the game?

6. I think I was sure it was over for the Saints midway through the fourth quarter at San Diego, staring at a 13-point deficit and not having the ball. But the Chargers handed them the game, with three turnovers in the last seven minutes. Give Drew Brees and his mates credit for never saying die. But that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly sunny in Louisiana. Brees is three months from his 38th birthday, with no great defensive playmakers, with more dead cap money than any team in football in 2017, and with this daunting slate coming out of the bye in 13 days—Carolina, at Chiefs, Seattle, at Niners, Denver, at Panthers. Not sure how the Saints can salvage a good season, despite the miracle of Sunday.

7. I think Andrew Brandt’s two-part series on the CBA at the halfway point should be required reading for all who cover, follow or love the NFL. Here is part one, and part two. Insightful points by the former NFL executive, not the least of which was this: “As one NFL owner said to me during the negotiations, ‘I said to Roger, You mean we give them less hitting in practice and we can get the money we want? Where do I sign?’ ” I still can’t find anyone who seriously thinks the NFL is pursuing or will lobby hard for an 18-game regular-season schedule. But we’ll see what the landscape is like in four years, when the negotiations for a new deal ought to be seriously underway.

8. I think I am hoping against hope that one of the best defensive players of his era—still only 28—doesn’t have a serious Achilles injury. San Francisco linebacker NaVorro Bowman was carted off the field against Dallas after grabbing his ankle area in obvious pain. Very good player, very good man, excellent leader, and overcame a horrific knee injury in the playoffs against Seattle in 2013 to come back nobly last year. I’m being selfish here; I know Bowman some and really appreciate the kind of person and player he is. I remember talking to him about the early retirement of Chris Borland, and Bowman saying how much he liked and respected Borland and his decision, and it had to be a personal decision from the heart; nothing remotely critical or judgmental. I really wish Bowman the best.

9. I think the Cardinals being 1-3, and Carson Palmer quite possibly out of a crucial game Thursday night in San Francisco, is the most impactful story of Week 4. Drew Stanton needing to win a vital division road game is not what Bruce Arians had in mind when Stanton became entrenched as Palmer’s backup. The Cards are in trouble.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Headline of the Year, from Friday’s New York Post: DENZEL WASHINGTON STRANGLES ARETHA FRANKLIN. Seems that a man named Denzel Washington of New York City had a disagreement with his mother, whose name is Aretha Franklin. And on the upper west side of Manhattan, he confronted her and throttled her, and how could the Post not have made this into a good story?

b. This Joe Girardi is a good person.

c. Pete Abraham’s story in the Boston Globe on the twilight of David Ortiz’s career, with stories from his last season, is something all beat writers in all sports should read. Sometimes, when you’re around the team you cover, you should just observe things and bank them. In midseason in New York, Ortiz went bat-crap on a couple of ball/strike calls, was still ticked after the game, and then, walking out of Yankee Stadium, Abraham observed Ortiz walk up to two New York City cops and tell them he loved them. Beat-writer gold, but not necessarily for the moment. Says so much about the baseball star, and the baseball writer.

d. Thanks for the memories, David Ortiz.

e. Nice to see the Dominican president, Danilo Medina, in the house at Fenway for Ortiz’s final regular-season game Sunday.

f. No idea who will win these playoffs. I’d like the Giants if they could hit.

g. Madison Bumgarner vs. Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday night at Citi Field. Nice matchup.

h. What the heck. World Series pick: Cleveland over Chicago. Seven games. Yes, Cleveland. This must mean the Browns are going to win the Super Bowl!

i. Craig Kimbrel’s a worry for Boston. Last four outings as closer: three innings, six walks, six earned runs. The leash will be short for him in the playoffs.

j. Coffeenerdness: Thanks for creating Italian Roast, God. The darker the better.

k. Winenerdness: Well, look what I found: Frog’s Leap Cabernet, on tap (yes, on tap) at The Ribbon, a restaurant on 72nd Street in Manhattan. That will be visited again.



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