Only a quarter of the NFL regular season has passed. But I give up. There, I said it. This stupid sport has stopped making any sense. As I type this, Christian Ponder has a higher quarterback rating than Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and both Manning brothers. The heretofore sucky Arizona Cardinals have more wins than the Saints, Steelers and Patriots combined. The Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles sit atop their division despite being led by, well, Michael Vick. I can just about understand all of this. Just. But then I saw it.
Sports fans cheering the referee.
Because superheroes don’t always make an effort with their appearance
No seriously, at their first game back referees and officials were greeted with standing ovations and those huge welcome signs I had always assumed were reserved for tacky wedding proposals. Obviously, most NFL fans were overjoyed to see the labour dispute between the league and the referees’ union end. Business could be pushed back to the sideline, the referees could return to the field, and their replacements could be banished to whichever circle of Hell in which they belong (my money’s on number eight, Fraud). And so this peace shall forever remain, because… Oh wait, they made a crucial mistake on their third day back?
All is right again.
Something else has caught my attention; Tim Tebow has not caught my attention. Seriously, New York Jets, if you are going to endure the media circus that surrounds Tebow anywhere he goes, use him for something. In this context (where you are a team paying a famous quarterback millions every year), letting him throw the ball once in four games does not constitute something. And it’s not like your starter Mark Sanchez has been playing so well this year. Or the year before that. Or the year before that. Or the year before… well you get the idea.
On behalf of myself, and anyone with a basic understanding of the rules of American football, I would like to apologise to the Arizona Cardinals. We all thought you were bad. And we were right. But then you started winning towards the end of last season, and we looked over it. Narrowly beating out Seattle didn’t change our opinions of you (although in our defence, they’re Seattle). Even claiming a rare win away against the New England Patriots was seen a fluke. But you have won an astonishing 11 of your last 13 games, and eight straight at home (a feat not bettered since 1925). Your defence has provided numerous game-changing interceptions, and Patrick Peterson is again a rare talent for your special teams. And Kevin Kolb leads your offence with such, such… Actually, I think the Cardinals are a bad team after all.
My newfound respect is instead awarded to those who would otherwise deserve it least; men who wear purple. The Minnesota Vikings are currently 3-1 and leading their division, as they resemble a playoff-calibre team more and more every the week. Similarly the Ravens have lost Terrell Suggs, arguably the league’s best pass rusher, to injury, and yet also sit joint-top of their division. Joe Flacco (third in NFL passing yards) has been compensating for his defence, when for virtually his entire career it has been the other way around. It’s still far too early to envision either of these teams making the Super Bowl, but with so many of the early favourites underperforming, it certainly can’t be ruled out.
Speaking of which, the Houston Texans will sail into the postseason. They have more wins than every other team in their division combined, all while scoring the second most points and conceding the fewest points in the league. Oh, and they have the best record in their conference, so there’s that. But how could they be playing so well without Mario Williams? Well, because Mario Williams has been dreadful, with just 1.5 sacks to his name over the first four games. Having just signed a $100 million dollar contract with the Buffalo Bills, he probably doesn’t even care at this point. The Bills love to give gargantuan contracts to underperforming players anyway. Right, Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Last and definitely least, we come to the New Orleans Saints. “Breesus” might still be under centre, but without Sean Payton calling the shots for the defence, poor old Drew is steering a rudderless ship. This is a defence which is allowing a league-worst 463.2 yards per game, and yet later this season will be asked to perform in tough games versus the Chargers, Broncos, the 4-0 Falcons twice, the 49ers and the Giants. Last season we asked who would dominate the NFC South, the Falcons or the Saints. This season, there is no question whatsoever.