1. I think I'll let you digest a few notes about my preseason predictions:
a. Picked the Packers to beat the Broncos (with three road playoff wins to get there) in the Super Bowl, 33-30.
b. I know, I know. Peyton Manning has his arm attached by a single tendon and he's one hit from never throwing anything but a crust of bread to a robin again. But go back and see how he threw it against San Francisco eight days ago and tell me his arm stinks.
And I realize he's never been a January road warrior. But here's the point about picking Super Bowl champs, as I note in SI's preview issue: In the last 15 seasons, 10 teams have leaped from .500 or below one year to the Super Bowl the next. If you're going to pick the teams that seem most logical in August, you'll not get many Super Bowl matchups right. You're not getting many Super Bowl matchups right no matter what method you use, but I'm not much for picking two chalk teams.
c. And about Manning being my MVP and Comeback Player of the Year? Well, if the Broncos do what I say they're going to do ... duh.
d. I picked four new division champs (Chiefs, Bears, Falcons, Cowboys), and if history tells us anything, I wasn't outrageous enough. Not nearly.
e. Every year there's a last-to-first story. The Chiefs are mine, though it's a flimsy last to first, seeing as how they were a game out of first in the AFC West last year.
f. As for the Cowboys over the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East, two reasons: Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne.
g. As far as Brooks Reed being my Defensive Player of the Year: Connor Barwin and Reed, as the outside pass rushers in Wade Phillips' opportunistic 3-4, are going to meet at the quarterback early and often this season. Having J.J. Watt playing in front of him and Brian Cushing alongside him makes Reed (2.5 sacks in the playoff loss at Baltimore) a good candidate for a breakout season. (He said hopefully.)
h. How could I pick the Pack to lose five games if I like them so much? Tough slate. Open with two games as physical as they come (Niners then Bears on a short week), Drew Brees in Week 4, at Houston on a Sunday night in Week 6, at Detroit and the Giants back to back in November, Detroit and Chicago back to back in December.
i. Toughest five days in football, 2012: Seattle, with the Patriots at home Oct. 14, and at the Niners the following Thursday.
j. I did manage to please Cosmo Kramer in the preview issue. "O.K.,'' I wrote in the Super Bowl prediction story, "I've been seduced by the Peyton Manning kevorka.'' Joe Philbin's got Costanza, I've got Kramer.
k. I overlooked Chandler Jones and Quinton Coples and Whitney Mercilus and Morris Claiborne and Andre Branch to pick Bruce Irvin of Seattle as my Defensive Rookie of the Year. I hate being Mr. Obvious, but after watching Andrew Luck be more precocious in his rookie preseason than Peyton Manning was in his, it was hard to give the Offensive Rookie of the Year to anyone else.
2. I think this is my reaction to Allen Pinkett's moronic good-teams-need-criminals point last week, concerning Notre Dame being better off when it fields more guys who get in trouble on and off the field: Last season, the world champion Giants had zero players arrested. And the team New York met in the Super Bowl, the Patriots, had one -- Julian Edelman, for improper touching of a woman, a charge that was dismissed five weeks later. What a bunch of criminals on the two best teams in the football universe. What was that you were saying again, Allen?
3. I think Bill Belichick put it well Sunday when asked about the difficulty of letting veterans he likes and trusts go. So I'll just let him speak:
"It's the hardest part of the job. It's the hardest part of the job to take players that have played for you, won for you and players that have been with us since the spring, the whole offseason, done everything we asked them to do, worked hard, sweated, been banged up, kept going out there, kept playing, kept trying to do everything they could to make the team, to do what we asked them to do, to do it in a team-first attitude and fashion ... and to tell those players that they can't be a part of the team is very difficult.
"On the other hand, we all know when we get into this business that that's the way it's going to be. [As former coach] Jerry Glanville [used to say, the NFL stands for] 'Not For Long.' A lot of coaches, including myself, have been through that. A lot of players have been through that. It's a production business. There's not too many of us who have been in this game for very long that haven't experienced that in some form or fashion. It's part of the business.
"It's not a great, real happy day as a head coach when you have to give that news to any players. You could exchange the names but you're still affecting somebody's life and somebody's career and basically somebody who has worked hard and given all that they can to try to earn a spot on your team. It's disappointing for them and it's not fun to deliver that news.''
4. I think here's one good reason to never, ever, ever take any kind of surgery lightly: the case of Trent Richardson. Three weeks ago, those in the know totally, absolutely diminished the significance of Richardson having minor arthroscopic knee surgery. Now Richardson is very iffy for the Browns' opener Sunday, which is 31 days following what ESPN quoted a team source as saying was a "two-week deal'' for recovery. (I am in no way criticizing ESPN for the report, because it was clearly what everyone from the owner to the janitor at the Browns facility thought to be the case.)
I was in Detroit for the preseason opener the day after the 'scope to remove some cartilage from Richardson's left knee, and no one thought there was a chance this loomed as a big thing. Richardson has yet to practice with the Browns. He was spied on a stationary bike at practice Saturday, not yet ready for the practice field, and coach Pat Shurmur said he was close to being able to practice with the team. Maybe he plays the opener against Philadelphia, maybe he doesn't.
Moral of the story: When a guy has an arthroscopic procedure, and every report says it's absolutely nothing, and the player will be back in two or three weeks, you should say, "We'll see.''
5. I think I read with amusement the other day when wideout Mike Wallace reported to the Steelers that he had no regrets over his long holdout. Oh really? No regrets? You mean other than playing for $2.7 million this year instead of for a long-term deal in the $10 million a year range, risking getting no long-term deal when he let Antonio Brown get the relatively big money from Pittsburgh a month ago? Wallace could -- and probably will -- end up earning in the neighborhood of $8 million a year somewhere, but he probably has two times in his career to strike while the iron's hot. This season was one of them, and it still might happen. But one major injury and everything's in flux.
6. I think I had a similar reaction to the end of Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout on Sunday -- with not a dime of profit in it for Jones-Drew and maybe a huge penalty with the Jags' ability to fine him heavily if they wish. "I have no regrets,'' said Jones-Drew. That's right. Worked out exactly the way he wanted. Missed five-plus weeks with a new coaching staff. Never met the head coach until a week before the opener. Made zero progress toward a new contract. Lost, most likely, his ability to start the first game of the season. A perfect ending!
7. I think I got a kick out of Daniel Thomas, the Miami running back, complaining about his portrayal on Hard Knocks the other day. He told the Miami Herald he was embarrassed because he'd never gotten in trouble before with the team. But these truths are true: Thomas was late for two team functions, one team flight and one workout. What, Daniel, you didn't know your team was going to be on a national program with TV cameras taping everything in sight?
And for those who think the Dolphins aren't doing themselves any favors by putting scenes of the coach getting angry at players on TV ... hey, you knew it was coming before training camp started. The players can either like it or not, but they'd better adjust to it if they want to be on the team and don't want to be embarrassed.
8. I think if I had to guess who starts opening day for the Redskins at running back, I'm looking at Mike Shanahan's Olandis Gary-ian history, and I see him playing sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris for nearly the entire first half of the third preseason game, and I see Morris rush for 7.6 yards a carry in the game, and I say: I'd probably go with Morris.
9. I think it's a big game and all, but there are 15 more, and if I were Dallas, I'd err on the side of caution and keep Jason Witten on the sidelines for another 11 days.
10. I think these are my non-pro football thoughts of the week:
a. I don't know Bill O'Brien, but I have very high regard for him. I feel for him. However, he's going to end up with an ulcer, or worse, if he takes what will be a long string of losses as hard as he took his first.
b. Not saying Oregon's helmets lead the nation in weirdness or anything, but there aren't any mirrors left in Eugene.
c. First six games of West Coast Trip For What Used To Be The Red Sox: Opponents six wins, Sox none. Opponents 54 runs, Sox 15.
d. I don't blame Bobby Valentine (much), and I don't know who could have managed this menagerie. But after the Alfredo Aceves nonsense Saturday night in Oakland, how does Bobby V hang on?
e. The Padres and Red Sox have the same (62-73) record.
f. The A's and Yankees have the same (76-57) record.
g. Phil Hughes must drive the Yankees nuts.
h. AGone! A walkoff!
i. Pitt loses to Youngstown State at home by 14 and Maryland beats William & Mary 7-6 in College Park and Penn State loses to Ohio by 10 at home and Syracuse loses to Northwestern, which built a 22-point lead at Syracuse and won by a point. Sounds like a heck of a year for those Eastern (and I'm borrowing Maryland here) powers.
j. Could we please not have another labor stoppage in hockey? Please? The game's too good. I don't want to miss a season, or even part of one.
k. I had some family in for a visit over the weekend and we rewatched much of the first season of Veep. Must say it was better the second time around. Great, great characters.
l. Overall, I liked The Newsroom, but among its flaws was the maddening and constant shoving "relationships'' down our throats. I mean, tell me one news network at which one of the lowest-level producer types -- during a break in the newscast on election night -- would hustle over to the anchor and tell the most important person at the network that he shouldn't be bringing all his girlfriends into the newsroom to show off to his former girlfriend. It's like some 25-year-old kid one level up from the intern at NBC telling Brian Williams on election night, between reports from the Romney and Obama camps, about how he should handle his love life. The absurdity is absurd times 12.
m. Coffeenerdness: Great coffee order at Starbucks in midtown Manhattan the other day. "Six shots of espresso in a grande cup, with a couple of pumps of hazelnut.'' That's one tired sugar-monger.
n. Beernerdness: Have to hand it to the Yankees, having Goose Island IPA at the downstairs bar behind home plate. Very, very nice.
o. Good luck at Penn State this year, Emily Kaplan ... and at Marquette, Tess Quinlan. And please, don't be in too much of a hurry to graduate. I still like my job.
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