NFL:Round 2 Predictions and a Hall of Fame Debate
My apologies to readers who have no interest whatsoever in the NFL....but this is playoff time, and without hockey...well, let's just say I'm fairly immersed in football right about now.
1. First off, my predictions for the upcoming weekend. In keeping with the recent trend, and with a nod toward my post about parity....I've decided to pick all upsets this week. That's right, you heard me. I feel empowered by my correct Minnesota prediciton, and am going with all the away teams this weekend. Let me break it down quickly for you:
Jets and Steelers: Both teams play a similar style of football, which is great defense combined with emphasis on the running game and a good QB who isn't called on to throw very much. The last game between these two was a defensive battle...with a few field goals thrown in. The Jets have the "they think we can't do it" thing in their favor, as far as the mental game goes, and they lost last time so they'll be looking for revenge. Mostly, I don't think you can honestly tell me they have no chance. So I'm picking the Jets. (Added bonus for me: if the Jets win, and the Colts win, then Indy would have the AFC Championship in their home dome!)
Rams and Falcons: Again, can anyone tell me with a straight face that the Rams have no chance to win? Didn't think so. Both teams are dome teams. Atlanta might have a better defense, but that defense was fairly bipolar this year, giving up 8 running TDs to the freaking Chiefs. Michael Vick is a great player, and he certainly could make huge plays at the right time to help his team win, but St. Louis has a far superior overall offensive attack. Multiple receivers who get it done, two running backs that are above average, and Bulger is a much better passer than Vick. So, I go with the Rams.
Colts and Pats: Cannot pick against my Colts, but even if you aren't a Colts fan, I have to believe their chances look good to you. You don't honestly believe that Belichek or the Pats or the Big Games have a voodoo-curse hold over Peyton, do you? Sure, weather will be different than the dome. Sure, Pats have won the recent big contests between these two. But.....the Pats are depleted from injury in a major way: their secondary. Don't forget that the Colts moved the ball with ease in the season's opener, and only lost by turning over the ball three times in the red zone. Don't forget that one guru coach is splitting time with the Pats and Touchdown Jesus, while another guru coach is interviewing for new jobs in Cleveland. Don't forget that Manning is currently playing like no QB in history. This one should be the one upset most can agree has a chance. (personal note from my Colts-fan side: This is the year, baby! Just like the Monkees, I'm a believer.)
Eagles and Vikings: Picking the Vikes here is like picking them to win outdoors in Green Bay after losing both regular season games....oh wait....that already happened. No reason for me to see that they can't make a game of it. They have more recieving weapons than the Eagles, and Culpepper is every bit as good a player as McNabb. One team has Moss, and the other has an absence of T.O. Sure, the Eagles play pretty outstanding defense, and that alone could tilt the game in their favor. But don't forget they haven't really played their starters for 30-plus days. How do you spell 'rust'? E-A-G-L-E-S. I'm going with the Vikings. It's not any less believable than their chances of victory last week were.
2. Now, on to another point: the Hall of Fame. I heard a very interesting debate on the Zone's morning sports show today about the NFL Hall of Fame. It started with the discussion on Michael Irvin, and whether or not he was a lock to get in this year. Wychek (sp?) kept saying you have to judge the player for what he did on the field, not off of it. Of course, we remember Irvin for the oft-busted coke-head that he was, and there was some light debate over whether that would or should hurt his Hall chances. But over and over again they kept saying you cannot judge his off-field antics. According to these guys you have to ignore that stuff and look only at the stats and playing ability.
I have a few problems with that. One, baseball's Hall clearly looks at both areas, or they wouldn't be keeping Pete Rose out of the Hall. Most baseball players are happy with that decision, and believe that despite Rose's accomplishments...he should be barred from the Hall. So, should a sport's Hall of Fame be honoring on-field success or all-around personalities? I think both. I mean, these great athletes are the ambassadors of the game, right? Why do you want a degenerate gambler or a raving cocaine-hound representing the best and brightest of your sport? If the NFL wants to crack down on silly endzone celebrations and drug habits and drunk-driving arrests of its players (which they do) then why do they want to ignore all that stuff when honoring players forever in the Hall? If it matters now, while they're playing, then it matters later on, after they've retired.
Do I think Lawrence Taylor is one of the greatest defensive players ever? Absolutely. Do I think he's one of the most despicable human beings ever? Even more so. Kids go to the Hall and see film and pictures and stats of the game's greatest....and they choose their idols. Stop honoring people who you spent a career fining and suspending.
I think if the NFL made some sort of standard of behavior as a stipulation for entry into the Hall that it would quickly and powerfully put an end to fake moonings, drunk drivings, weed binges, and all the other various arrests and indiscretions that currently plague the league. They seem relatively adamant that a certain quality of behavior is expected for active players, right? Why does that all change when a man retires? Really want to stop the Mosses and Owenses and Littles and Williamses from committing crimes and acting like bratty kids? Let them know that this behavior will keep them out of the Hall of Fame, and I bet you the stat-and-stardom hungry players would walk the straight and narrow.
I also think the Hall is technically the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not just the NFL Hall of fame....so there may be no direct action the NFL could take along the lines of the one I suggest. But this is an interesting debate nonetheless. Why do we fine Moss for something like a fake mooning and propose a four-game suspension for Ricky Williams' drugs if we aren't going to even blink at that stuff when deciding whether or not to honor them forever? It just looks like a glaring double standard to me.
Why does time erase in our memory the terrible deeds more than the incredible plays? To me the reverse is true. Every time I see Michael Irvin giving commentary I am reminded of his drugged out days, and I often make a comment about it out loud. My first thought isn't "Boy, he played great and won some Super Bowls" but is instead "How does a coke-head get a tv-analyst job?" But apparently I'm in the minority. Or at least the writers and analysts and former players have an opposite ability from mine...one that allows them to ignore childish and criminal behavior in favor of remembering a great catch. Just downright silly to me.
But that's just me. Maybe you disagree.