So, that Jay Cutler is pretty good, isn’t he? And he’s incredibly valuable to his team, so much so that the Bears find it extremely difficult to win without him. I read this in many different places this week, as Cutler returned to action to lead Chicago to a convincing win over the Vikings, stopping the Bears’ two-game losing streak. How did the media finally break the story of Cutler’s value? “Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the Bears are 27-9 with Jay Cutler at quarterback, 1-8 with anyone else,” wrote Gregg Easterbrook at ESPN. “In the last three years, in games Cutler both started and finished, the Bears are 26-9. In games Cutler either missed entirely or was knocked out because of an injury in the first half, the Bears are 1-8,” crowed Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk. “Jay Cutler… means everything in Chicago. No, seriously. Everything. Look it up,” said Don Banks of Sports Illustrated (sly devil, he). “I used to be a good QB in this league, and I’m smart and I know stuff and pay attention to me,” drawled Phil Simms, to no one in particular. On it went, numbers, numbers, numbers. Then I read this, from November 26, 2011, after Cutler went down with a broken thumb:
Having watched Chicago play several times this season, I understand how important Jay Cutler was to what they were doing on offence. I’ve heard a lot of talk this week about how he’s not the Bears’ best player on offence, and how they shouldn’t experience much of a drop-off with Caleb Hanie under center. Don’t believe it. I’ve watched Cutler, week after week, make throws that few other QBs, if any, could make. You just don’t move on from that.
And this, from December 8, 2011, discussing the Packers, then 12-0:
I thought that the Bears had the best shot to beat them, but that was before Jay Cutler’s injury.
Then I found more, from the same writer, from this season:
The Bears were playing some of the best football in the league last year when Jay Cutler broke his thumb… (09/05)
I feel like I’m the only one who can remember how well the Bears were playing last season up until Jay Cutler’s thumb injury… (09/13)
Just last week, this same guy wrote about Cutler, before the Bears hosted the Vikings, “He’d better keep his head up with Jared Allen on the field, because if Cutler gets hurt again, the Bears’ playoff chances may go the same way as last season.” Now, I’m not saying this guy’s a genius (he is), but he scooped the mainstream sports media by about a year, because he actually watches the games.
Meanwhile, in other Detroit Lions news not related to (or is it?) the possibly inevitable Ndamukong Suh game-related murder charge, boy that Jim Schwartz is one dumb SOB, isn’t he? Mere weeks after Falcons coach Mike Smith made the mistake of throwing a challenge flag on an automatically reviewable play (and thereby, as the rules state, incurring a 15-yard penalty and causing the play not to be reviewed at all), and only a year after Schwartz himself mocked Jim Harbaugh for making the same mistake, the Lions’ head coach threw a challenge flag after a Houston TD that obviously should not have counted. The subsequent non-review (again, according to the rules) proved disastrous, as the Lions went on to lose to the Texans in OT.
Naturally, the media lost its collective shit over this incident. There were numerous calls to have the rule changed, with some outlets opining that the league should not even wait until the season is over to do so. Naturally, my favourite reaction came from the Grand Poobah of NFL columnists, and apparently the Best Picks Column in the World’s chief whipping-boy, Peter King at Sports Illustrated. Petey devoted practically his entire Game Plan column (way more room than he devotes to coffee AND beer in his weekly MMQB column) this week to making an impassioned plea (including the always impressive mention of “an NFL source…ooooh!) to the league to stop the madness immediately and change this awful rule. The best part was this paragraph:
Here's my big problem with the system: Replay is on the books to correct obviously wrong calls. The Forsett touchdown run should have been reversed, clearly. The reason it wasn't is because of a ticky-tack rule that might have sounded good when it was written, but clearly doesn't work in principal. The NFL has to be embarrassed that some silly procedural rule made a mockery of a national TV game, which, of course, it did. The sentence doesn't fit the crime. You're throwing a jaywalker in jail for 18 months instead of giving him a $50 ticket.
Well, Mr. King, allow me to retort.
In his column, King admits that the rule regarding illegally-thrown challenge flags is on the books, and he explains in detail why the rule was made. Then he says that the rule “made a mockery of a national TV game.” (This from one of the chief apologists for the league during the replacement refs fiasco, until he wasn’t, and during a game where Ndamukong Suh intentionally kicked Texans QB Matt Schaub) King says that, “The Forsett touchdown run should have been reversed,” when what he should have written was that it “would” have been reversed, because the league has a mechanism in place to ensure that scoring plays get reviewed. The league didn’t throw the challenge flag; Schwartz did, and he admitted his mistake. It’s a rule that has already received publicity this season, that, as I mentioned previously, Schwartz was aware of enough to bust Jim Harbaugh’s balls last season, and that, according to Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt, officials “(tell) you before the game on turnovers and scoring plays you can’t throw the flag.” And, as for the jaywalking analogy, you shouldn’t make blanket statements like that. If a man runs across a busy highway, potentially risking his own life and causing an accident which could result in the deaths of others, well, if I’m the judge, I know which way I’m leaning, especially if I see evidence of him witnessing, and subsequently mocking, someone breaking the same law. I think that Peter King should avoid the amateur philosophy, and stick to football. Oh, and maybe watch some of the games, first.
Oh, and in the spirit of Columbo, just one more thing. During a Monday night game on October 8th, Texans LB Brian Cushing had his knee destroyed by a questionable, though legal block by the Jets Matt Slauson. Slauson was fined for the hit, Cushing had surgery and is out for the season, and the league is planning to review whether such blocks should be made illegal in order to protect players from injury. Peter King’s reaction to the situation, the day after and in the week following the Cushing injury: silence.
Seahawks at Bears
That Jay Cutler, he’s pretty good (just ask anybody), but he’s going to have a difficult time finding his favourite target Brandon Marshall this week, since the league hasn’t been able to keep those two tweakers in the ‘hawks secondary out of this game. LB Lance Briggs and CB Charles Tillman are playing, which will help all involved in the Chicago effort tremendously. Winner: Bears
Vikings at Packers
The Packers are an extremely troubling team right now. Aaron Rodgers and his talented receiving corps make any Green Bay game a possible blowout, but the team’s suspect offensive line and injury-riddled defence are becoming increasingly more difficult to overcome. This pick is less about what I think, and more about the fact that I just can’t pick against the best QB in the NFL at home against a division rival. Winner: Packers
Texans at Titans
No doubt the Texans enjoyed their mini-bye after playing two overtime games in four days last week. Amazingly enough, they pulled out wins in those, looking less like the losers and also-rans of seasons past and more like a battle-tested group of veterans. Even if Houston’s defence has difficulty making up for its missing injured players this week, they still should be able to outscore a Titans team that has a generous defence, and which is probably starting to wake up to the possibility that Jake Locker may not be the long-term answer at QB. Winner: Texans
Patriots at Dolphins
This is a bad matchup for this particular Dolphins team. Miami’s offence thrives on the running game, and playing mistake-free football, but it is going against a Pats’ defence that stuffs the run and loves to force turnovers (having Aqib Talib patrolling the secondary for the Pats must make the other AFC contenders sag a little). New England’s offence is what it is, which lately means translates into lots of points. Winner: Patriots
Jaguars at Bills
As recently as last week, I would have had a difficult time imagining picking the Jags, especially on the road. However, since Chad Henne was forced into starting duties at QB, the Jags’ offence has perked up; Henne threw for over 300 yards and 4 TDs while scaring the crap out of the Texans two weeks back, then followed that up with a victory over the Titans. Bills’ RB CJ Spiller continues his electrifying play, and he should find ample room to work his magic this week as well. I just like the way the Jags have come alive, and I think that they can do just enough to squeak one out. Winner: Jaguars
Colts at Lions
Keep your heads on a swivel, Colts. There's a very dangerous man in your midst, he will hurt you (and lie about it later), and he can't control himself. Matt Stafford should have a big day against the Colts’ secondary. Ditto Andrew Luck, Lions’ secondary. High-scoring game here, for sure. Winner: Lions
Panthers at Chiefs
I have no pick for this game.
Butt-Sanchez. Asschez. Asschize. Crackchez. Quarterbutt. Tackled by a behind behind the line of scrimmage. Running a buttleg play. Crackback-buttcrack block. “End ZONE! I said End ZONE!” Oh Mark Sanchez, don’t ever leave us. Fortunately for the Jets, the Cards stink. Oh, and no more Fireman Ed, even after I paid tribute to him last week. Now there’s a real asshole. Winner: Jets
49ers at Rams
San Fran is playing too well right now, particularly since Colin Kaepernick took over at QB after Jim Harbaugh hit Alex Smith with a blackjack in the parking lot after practice two weeks ago. Speaking of Kaepernick, check out this article by a delightful curmudgeon who longs for those halcyon days when life was simpler and QBs weren’t quite so… how shall I put this… not white. Of course, he’s not a racist. He’s not. No, really. Just ask him. Please, ask him. Winner: 49ers
Buccaneers at Broncos
As always, I expect a spirited effort from the Bucs in this one, but the Broncos’ pass rush will drive Josh Freeman into a Rocky Mountain High-Anxiety attack, and Peyton Manning and his Mile High-flying offence will feast on the Bucs’ secondary (Did I really just write that?). Winner: Broncos
Bengals at Chargers
After years of watching Philip Rivers yell and sneer like a humongous dickhead, watching him make the face he’s been making for the past couple of seasons has given me reams of pleasure. My wife says he looks like he peed his pants, which has led to endless plays on his surname and continued glee. As long as Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith continue their exploration into finding new and more gut-wrenching ways to screw up the team, then I see no end to my enjoying old drippy-drawers scowling on the sideline. Oh, and the Bengals’ offence has caught fire at the right time. I hope they keep it up. They’re fun to watch when things are clicking. Winner: Bengals
Browns at Raiders
The Browns have been playing some tough football of late, while the Raiders’ defence has resembled a field of turnstiles. In spite of that, and because I’ve heard rumours of a possible McFadden sighting this week (he was drinking lattes with Bigfoot, who wouldn’t even stand out in the Black Hole), I’m betting (but not really) that the home team will make a stand this week. Winner: Raiders
Steelers at Ravens
It’s simple, really. As much as I don’t believe in this Ravens team, the Steelers can’t beat them without Ben Roethlisberger. Time to start shopping for a better backup QB, Pittsburgh. For next year. Winner: Ravens
Eagles at Cowboys
The Eagles are done, and they know it. The Cowboys still have hope, and are a long-shot to make the playoffs. Past Philly teams would have seen this game as an opportunity to spoil the chances of a bitter rival, but this edition of the Eagles isn’t particularly overflowing in the character department. Winner: Cowboys
Giants at Washington
The Giants made a huge statement last week in thumping the Packers, that being that they are still the champs, and that they can beat any team, any time. Ask the 49ers. I know what RGIII is capable of, but how do you pick against the New York Giants right now? Of course I say this knowing that they could just as easily stink up the joint on any given week, too, just to make me look bad. Winner: Giants