Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Musician's Sports Guide: NFL 2012-13 Week One

I suppose a brief introduction is required here. Those of you who read my blog (thanks, by the way) come here expecting to see reports from my live shows in Second Life and real life, or general musings about music, life, and random thoughts. But like most people, the gem of my life has many facets, and since I was a small child, I've always been a sports fan. While I enjoy a number of sports like basketball and hockey, professional football has always been my number one area of fandom.

As a result, I have participated in online sports discussions since the Internet became a reality. My main zone for sports talk is, strangely, Keyboard Magazine's Keyboard Corner forum, moderated by my old friend David Bryce. Dave, like me, is a person who gets a lot of enjoyment out of both music and football, and as the mod of that forum has made it clear from day one that NFL discussions are NOT off-topic. So, for over a decade, we've had all manner of football talk, pools, and other activities that relate to the NFL. Most people don't think that the stereotypical musician is at all interested in sports, but in my experience, that is anything but true. Perhaps there's some correlation between the intricate timing and precision of professional sports that have an analogy toward the performance of music. I don't know if this is true, but I do know that almost every person with whom I've been in bands or collaborated musically also are sports fans of some sort.

In any case, for several years, I've written a weekly column over there with the rather convoluted name of Tuesday Morning Keyboard Cornerback (get it? no? that's okay). Part of that column involves some analysis of the league in general, and I've decided this year to move that part to my blog so that more people, hopefully, can enjoy my thoughts in this regard.

Last bit of introduction: I'm an unashamed Oakland Raiders fan, but not a fanboy. I know when they suck and when they don't, and am happy to point it out as merited by the team's performance, or lack thereof. I tend to be biased against their competitors in the AFC West, so if I seem snarky about the Chiefs, Chargers, and Broncos, you aren't imagining it. So, all that having been said, let's dive into Week One.

Most people had high expectations that the NY Giants would beat Dallas handily in week one. They were all wrong; the Cowboys looked very strong against last year's champs. The Redskins, behind the performance of first round draft pick quarterback Robert Griffin III, suddenly seem like a possible contender in the division. And despite the Eagles' victory on Sunday, the fact that they had to work really hard to beat the Browns (with four picks on Vick) doesn't bode well in the competitive NFC East.

Some first round draft picks are overhyped. Not this guy. Photo via AP.

Here's another division that's tough to figure out. The expectation is that Green Bay will be a dominant team this year faltered a bit with an opening day loss to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota all grabbed wins on Sunday (though only Chicago's victory was a truly dominant one). I don't think any trends can be established yet in this division. I think you can expect young QB Matthew Stafford to be exceptional again for the Lions. Other than that, I have no idea.

It's been the Saints division for the taking for the last few years. However, with the intense distraction of the "Bountygate" investigation in the offseason, even with the suspensions overturned, this is not the team that we've recently known. Their loss on Sunday to the Skins (who were a 7-point underdog) might be a portent of the season to come. Meanwhile, the Falcons killed the Chiefs this week, and without reading too much into that, I'd say they may be the strongest team here. Kudos to Tampa Bay for beating Carolina unexpectedly.

For years, this division was the armpit of the NFL, with teams that couldn't seem to win under any circumstances unless they were playing each other. Last year certainly changed that with the newfound success of the 49ers. This year, Seattle has a promising young rookie QB (Russell Wilson) who will probably do well once he gets some more pro experience under his belt. I still wouldn't expect much from Arizona or St. Louis, but weird things can and do happen as the season progresses.

"I'm surprised that the Jets and Patriots both won in week one," said no one in recent memory. I have to say, I'm a grudging admirer of the Pats and their incredibly well-coached team. I want to hate them, but they're so genuinely good year-in and year-out that I have to admit that they deserve their success. Hats off to Buffalo's C.J. Spiller for leading the league in rushing in week one.

I'm really unhappy at the Steelers for losing to the Paytons- er, I mean the Broncos. But it was the Ravens who made it clear once again that this is their division to win or lose. That defense remains a nearly unstoppable force. The teams from Ohio seem about as good (if you can call it that) as they've been in recent years.

Here's a division that should very much resemble last year, with Houston being the only viable contender. Last year they were on a great run until a string of injuries killed their chances of a good post-season performance. Barring a repeat of that travesty, look for the Texans as one of the strongest teams in the AFC this season.

Last year, I made a joke that the entire AFC West would end up at 8-8. I didn't know that would nearly come true (the Chiefs went 7-9... close enough). None of these teams seemed that much better than the other, but this year, the Broncos have a seemingly healthy Payton Manning under center, and if he stays healthy and keeps performing like he did on Sunday against the Steelers, it's going to be a long season for us Raiders fans. Speaking of Oakland, it amazing how badly a team can get hurt when one special teams player gets injured. Who would have thought that the lack of a long snapper could affect the game as it did? Get well soon, Jon Condo.

Love it or hate it, get used to seeing Payton Manning in orange... and throwing touchdowns. Photo via AP.

See You Next Week!
I'll be doing this weekly analysis all season long, so feel free to chip in with your thoughts in the comments section.

1 comment:

Jess said...

Awesome post. Russell Wilson, baby! On Wisconsin, bichez! I, for one, hope to see a few Seahawk games this year besides every single Packer game I can possibly get my eyes on. Closest conference I'm to is NFC North of course, and I think your analysis is right on. I think it's going to be a tighter race there than we've had in years' past, which is exciting as a Packer fan. I'm going to look forward to your weekly posts, since I've managed to sign up for 5 leagues this year - 3 FF, 1 pick-em and 1 survival. Welcome back, NFL, oh how I've missed you so.