Do the following statements sound familiar to you?
“Hey, barkeep, can you put the Jaguars-Texans game on this television? While you are at it, put Patriots-Bills on that one, Panthers-Bengals on that one, NASCAR on the one by the window, and HGTV on the one over the jukebox so my girlfriend can watch her scrapbooking program.”
If you or someone you love often asks bartenders to customize his football viewing experience, that person may be suffering from OCSD: Obsessive Compulsive Satellite Disorder. Such individuals cannot distinguish between a public tavern and their own living rooms, and they are incapable of realizing that bartenders have more important things to do than fiddle with remote controls (like, for example, pouring beverages for thirsty sportswriters).
There are a variety of treatments for OCSD. Patients can learn the Satellite Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to watch the games I cannot change, the courage to change the games I can (like fourth quarter blowouts), and the wisdom to not ask a bunch of guys in black biker gear to turn off a Raiders game.” Tavern owners can help by pre-labeling each television with the game it will show, and by training servers to “just say no” to OSCD sufferers with unreasonable demands.
But an OCSD sufferer’s buddies are his first line of support. Friends don’t let friends incur channel-changing related beatdowns. On a Sunday like this one, filled with interesting games, it’s important to limit OCSD behavior. Find a good seat where you can watch multiple games. Pick a bar that has 300 televisions. Or just buy your own satellite and stay the heck home. You can make a difference.
Games you will watch
Rams at Chargers: Forgive St. Louis sports fans if they have been a little too distracted by the exploits of Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen to pay much attention to their football team. But the Rams gained ground by standing still during their bye week. Not only did the Seahawks lose on Sunday, but they lost Matt Hasselbeck for a few weeks. The Cardinals sunk even further into oblivion, eliminating some of the divisional competition. The Rams proved that they could take the Seahawks to the wall two weeks ago, and their Week 10 rematch could have playoff implications.
The playoff talk is built upon the assumption that the Rams can at least split with their AFC West opponents over the next two weeks. That’s a tall order. By the time they host the Chiefs, Trent Green could be back under center. And this week they face the success-allergic Chargers. Just when we’re ready to crown them as the best team in the AFC, Marty Schottenheimer’s troops find a new and creative way to lose.
The Chargers will play without several key members of their front seven this week. Shawne Merriman will play while his suspension is appealed, but fellow linebacker Shaun Phillips is out with a calf injury. Defensive end Igor Olshansky just had knee surgery and is out for a few weeks. Steve Foley, of course, is lost for the season. The Chargers had depth along the front seven at the start of the year, but they are really testing their depth. If they cannot mount a pass rush, Torry Holt and company will parboil their secondary, especially if players like safety Marlon McCree continue the “tackling optional” policy they introduced in Kansas City.
But all of the talk about the Chargers defense ignores how good their offense has become. The Chargers rank fourth in the league in offensive DVOA and third in points scored. A few turnovers marred an otherwise solid performance last week, but the Chargers have just five giveaways on the season and usually take care of the ball. The Chargers will be able to pile up points against an average Rams defense. They may be overvalued as 10-point favorites, but they’ll prevail.
Colts at Broncos: Regular Rundown readers are familiar with the phenomenon we call AFC Rock Paper Scissors. The Patriots always beat the Colts. The Broncos always beat the Patriots. And the Colts always beat the Broncos. It’s such an easy little trend that it’s tempting to skip the actual game analysis and just wait to see who plays whom in the postseason. But since the Colts are traveling to Denver and New England the next two weeks, straining the limits of the RPS theory, we had better take a closer look at the matchups.
Last week we wrote that the Colts’ run defense was a critical weakness, so a run-oriented team like the Broncos (or the Redskins) should theoretically have an advantage against them. But we oversimplified a bit: the undersized Colts have a hard time stopping power runs up the middle, but they are effective when opponents attack the perimeter. On outside runs, ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis can shed blocks and disrupt plays while the linebackers attack downhill. The Broncos, a stretch-running team, will learn what the Redskins discovered last week: if you keep trying to attack the edge, the Colts will dump your running back for some losses.
Tatum Bell will play a key role against the Colts.
Take away Tatum Bell and the running game, and the Broncos have no way to move the ball. Jake Plummer’s problems this season have been well documented, but it’s not like Plummer is missing lots of wide-open receivers as they streak down the field. Rod Smith appears to have turned 36 all at once. Javon Walker is still getting his feet wet. Tight ends? What tight ends? The Broncos miss all of those “fringe” players who were dumped in the off-season: Mike Anderson, Ashley Lelie, and even Jeb Putzier. The defense has been tremendous, but this is their biggest test of the year. They won’t hold the Colts to a single-digit score, and the Broncos will once again be held to 17 or fewer points on offense.
The Broncos typically have an ace up their sleeve in late October: Old Man Winter often plays his exhibition games in Denver. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Mr. Winter is hanging out with his peer group (Marv Levy and Ralph Wilson) in Buffalo: forecasts call for Sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s in Denver all weekend. The injury report is a wash: the Colts will miss defenders Montae Reagor and Mike Doss, but the Broncos offense will be even weaker without left tackle Matt Lepsis.
The RPS theory prevails this week, which is a mixed blessing for Colts fans who see the dreaded Patriots on the horizon (yes, we know, the Colts won last year). Oh, and Steelers fans shouldn’t feel left out: they can play the RPS game, too. Steelers beat everybody. Including themselves.
Falcons at Bengals: The men’s magazine GQ is about to publish its list of the 16 “coolest” sports heroes ever, and Michael Vick makes the list, along with Joe Namath, Willie Mays, John McEnroe, and Magic Johnson. Apparently, the criterion included awesome threads and a rep as a cell phone-shuffling ladies man. Championship rings were optional, at least in Vick’s case.
If the GQ spread was Vick’s greatest accomplishment of the week, then this game would be buried among the Nutshells. But Vick had his best game ever as a passer last week, and not a moment too soon. Two weeks ago, Falcons coordinators Greg Knapp and Ed Donatell almost pulled a Buddy Ryan vs. Kevin Gilbride, owner Arthur Blank called a Jim Mora-less coaches meeting, and the dirty little secret that Knapp is frustrated with Vick’s slow development became dirty little common knowledge.
The unpredictable Falcons face the equally unpredictable Bengals, whose high-powered offense, slowed by injuries along the line, has scored just 53 points in three games. Despite the slow start, there’s no friction between coordinator Bob Bratkowski and the team’s offensive stars. “Bratkowski — I love you! Thank you! That was a great call,” Chad Johnson said after Bratkowski ordered a bomb to Johnson to set up a game-winning score.
Keep talking like that, Chad, and GQ will make you one of the coolest athletes of the millennium. Actually, they are probably scared off by the orange hair. No pick in this game: these two teams have burnt us in the past few weeks, so we’re waiting until we see more.
Games you should watch
Seahawks at Chiefs: With Matt Hasselbeck injured, Seneca Wallace is now the Seahawks quarterback. Wallace left college as a “slash” player in the mold of Antwaan Randle El or the Jets’ Brad Smith, but a funny thing happened on his way to the slot: the former Iowa State star stuck as a quarterback. He has thrown 52 passes in his four-year career, 27 of them in mop up duty, 25 of them last week. He’s fast and creative with the ball, but he’s also vertically challenged: Wallace measures 5? 11? using the wishful thinking ruler, and he weighs as much as Walter Jones’ average meal.
With Matt Hasselbeck shelved, Seneca Wallace takes over.
Wallace’s job is to prevent a catastrophe and maybe win a few games while Hasselbeck heals. Even if Wallace plays well in Kansas City, the Seahawks will have a hard time escaping with a win. Their offense has suffered all of the injuries, but their defense has also been a disappointment. Opponents have noticed that the Seahawks bite on every misdirection play that a coach can dream up, and the Chiefs have a playbook full of screens, counters, and reverses. Larry Johnson, who is still picking little bits of Marlon McCree out of his facemask, should enjoy his second straight big game against a team that has forgotten its tackling fundamentals.
Trent Green might be back in a week or two, just in time for a stretch that includes the Dolphins and Raiders. Don’t write the Chiefs off just yet. Nor the Seahawks, for that matter: even with guys named “Seneca” and “Maurice” starting, they can finish 10-6 in an easy division.
Patriots at Vikings: The Vikings unveiled a tricky Mewelde Moore-to-Jermaine Wiggins halfback pass for a touchdown last week, just hours after the Chargers surprised the Chiefs with a LaDainian Tomlinson-to-Brandon Manumaleuna touchdown throw. Bill Belichick saw the plays and now has a case of genius envy. He spent much of the week down in the lab with his offensive assistants concocting a Laurence Maroney to Mike Vrabel shovel pass, to be followed by a Matt Cassell drop kick.
The Vikings’ crafty offense was showcased in all of the highlight reels, but their defense has spurred their surprising 4-2 start. Kevin Williams and the front four provide a solid pass rush, and E.J. Henderson has finally developed into a fine all-purpose linebacker. The Vikings give up too many passing yards, but they have a knack for scoring points with their defense. “That’s pretty much been the mentality around here: that we’re trying to put up points,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said after Williams scored the Vikings’ fourth defensive touchdown of the season.
The problem with defensive touchdowns is that you cannot rely on them. The Patriots have turned the ball over just six times all year, so the Vikings cannot count on their defense to do much of the scoring. They also cannot count on the Patriots to rely solely on their rushing attack. Tom Brady finally figured out who Doug Gabriel, Reche Caldwell, and Chad Jackson were against Buffalo, completing nine passes to his trio of new receivers, including two touchdown throws. “All the guys are working hard,” Brady said. “Everyone is part of the passing game.”
If the Patriots have repaired their biggest offensive problem, then the rest of the AFC is in trouble. So are the Vikings, who aren’t good enough to ring up back-to-back upsets just yet.