Of all the guys in our league and those who frequent The Shop to keep things lively, one of my all-time favorites is Pops Watson. He’s our resident historian and despite his age, he doesn’t miss a trick.
Pops is old. Really old. When he was born the Dead Sea was merely sick. If things are slow around The Shop all I have to do is ask Pops a question like “Who does Odell Beckham remind you of, Pops?” and the next half hour of my day is a history lesson on the NFL.
Pops has a lot of sayings that he likes to use. Among them is one that kills me every time.
“Now it’s time for the old dog to come out from under the porch.”
What that means is that, while the NFL is a young man’s game, by midseason we pretty much have a good idea who are contenders and who will by scrapping it out to make headline news about 7 o’clock on the first Thursday in May when the draft takes place. Injuries have killed off some teams. A lack of talent has killed others. A coaching staff of the way out and players not always giving 100 percent happens.
In the end, every game counts the same in big scheme of things. But, for teams that are in the mix to make the playoffs, each game becomes more important and the difference between winning and losing gets more crucial.
It’s time for the big dogs to come out from under the porch – those veteran leaders who step up when the season is on the line and has the trust of his teammates that he can put the team on his back if necessary. For fantasy owners, the old dogs are ready to do what they do when their seasons are hanging in the balance.
We’ve already seen it happen this year. Remember back in September when it was questioned whether Tom Brady should be pulled as QB In New England? The big dog came out from under the porch and, if the season ended today, the Patriots would be the No. 1 seed.
With Pittsburgh on the brink of falling out of the playoff race at 3-3, Ben Roethlisberger decided to set fantasy league records. Pops has him. The only reason he played him in Week 8 was because his other QB was Colin Kaepernick. The only reason he played him this week was because how do bench a guy who just threw six touchdowns? He was rewarded with 12 touchdown passes in two weeks and we haven’t heard the end of it and likely won’t for a while. The old Big Ben dog came out from under the porch.
Coming off their eye-opening beat-down from the Patriots, you can bet Peyton Manning is going to take that out on Oakland and St. Louis over the next couple of weeks. The old dog is coming out from under the porch.
San Diego is on the brink of falling out of the playoff race completely. They have two of the oldest salty dogs in the NFL – Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers. When the old dogs were growling earlier in the season, the Chargers were electric. It’s time for the old dogs to come out from under the porch.
In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers sadly taught too many Wisconsin football fans how to spell “relax” – saying it like he had a couple of cocktails beforehand. The Packers won their next four games and got right back into position to get the job done again. The old dog (who learned from the ultimate old dog) came out from under the porch.
The Saints were sitting at 2-4 after six games and we being viewed as team on the brink of collapse. Behind Drew Brees, they’re now 4-4 and stand alone atop the NFC South and have a road win against Carolina – the only team modestly viewed as having a shot. With their next three games at home, the Saints are in the driver’s seat because, when they were on the ledge, the old dog came out from under the porch.
Seattle had never been below .500, but, at 4-3 with a chance to get back into a dominant position, the days leading up to the game, the main topic of discussion was that Marshawn Lynch, a pit bull of and an old dog was the subject of the conversation – saying this would be his last season in Seattle. He responded by bringing Beast Mode back to the conversation. The old dog came out from under the porch.
November is when old dogs are at their best. Their younger teammates haven’t been through as many wars and don’t have as many scars. One by one, the flickering hopes teams have for a postseason run die off. At that point, all bets are off. The fire in the eyes of the old dogs dies off. Until then, you better pack a lunch because it’s going to be a long day.
Brady. Steve Smith. Roethlisberger. Heath Miller. Reggie Wayne. Andre Johnson. Both Manning brothers. Tony Romo. Mark Witten. Calvin Johnson. Brandon Marshall. Jay Cutler. Matt Forte. Adrian Peterson (if allowed back). Greg Olsen. Brees. Marques Colston. Roddy White. Steven Jackson. Vincent Jackson. Jesse Jackson. Larry Fitzgerald. Carson Palmer. Anquan Boldin. Vernon Davis. Frank Gore. Lynch.
They’re all old dogs. With their futures hanging in the balance – both good and bad – it’s time for the old dogs to come out from under the porch.
- Frank Gore, where have you gone? On Oct. 5, he rushed 19 times for 107 yards and was averaging almost five yards a carry. Over his last three games, he has rushed just 39 times for 107 yards and has fallen off the fantasy radar. The Niners need that old dog to come out from under the porch soon or pass the ball off to Carlos Hyde.
- Andre Ellington hasn’t had any 100-yard games yet, but he’s getting closer and quietly becoming a fantasy must-play. He has carried 20 or more times in each of the last three games and is proving to be an increasingly important piece in the high-flying Cardinals offense as a runner/receiver.
- At their midway point of the season, the Broncos receivers are on pace for some huge years. Emmanuel Sanders is on pace to catch 114 passes for 1,570 yards and eight TDs. Demaryius Thomas is on pace for 108 receptions for almost 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns and Orange Julius is on pace for 20 TDs. The hits just keep on coming for Denver. Rocky Mountain High!
- Cleveland is becoming relevant for the first time in a long time and, had they not lost to hapless Jaguars, they would be sitting at 6-2 right now and in first place in the AFC North. But, with just three home games in the second half of the season, the Browns may end up lamenting that loss to Jacksonville.
- With his streak of 100-yard games being broken, DeMarco Murray is no longer on pace to set the all-time rushing record – he’s on pace for 2,014 yards – showing just how daunting a pace Eric Dickerson set.
- Don’t sleep on the Chiefs. They’ve won five of their last six games, haven’t allowed more than 26 points in any game this year and, over their last six games, have allowed 15, 14, 22, 20, 7 and 10 points.
- Not to be outdone, Miami has won three straight, allowing just 27 points in their last three games and outscoring the Bears, Jaguars and Chargers 91-27.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. A Dumpsite In New Jersey – The expectation that the Jets are going to stink out the joint that once was a Jersey landfill is begrudgingly accepted. Giants fans are a different animal. Few quarterbacks look as outwardly dumbfounded as Eli when things go bad. Things have gone bad and he looks like a child who can’t figure out a magic trick. Indy showed the rest of the league that you don’t have to run to win. You pass five times to set up the run. It’s going to be a long holiday season in the Big Apple.
9. How Low Can You Go? – I’ve always enjoyed the Steelers-Ravens rivalry because their games are always hard-hitting, typically mean something and I don’t have a dog in the fight since I’m not loyal to either team. On Sunday night, I didn’t so much become a fan of the Steelers as a non-fan of the Ravens. When Terrell Suggs to a shot at a defenseless LeGarrette Bount, it was sickening. For careers that are fragile enough it is within the rules of the game, taking a cheap shot to the back of a players legs shouldn’t just be something that draws a fine, it should draw a suspension.
8. Boston TD Party – Just when it looked like Denver was preparing to pull away from the pack in the AFC and open up a two-game lead over the next closest competitor, the Broncos went into New England and were dominated by the Patriots. There’s no shame in losing to a quality team, but the Broncos got beat badly in all three phases of the game and, as things currently stand, the Patriots are the top-seeded team and, with a win in hand over Denver, have every tie-breaker edge they’re going to need. While it’s clear Denver has the ability to run the table and win it all, a humbling defeat like the suffered at the hands of the Patriots is troubling to say the least.
7. The Baby Has His Mallett – Since when is Ryan Mallett viewed as a starting NFL quarterback? After taking to social media (like so many idiots before him), he claimed on Twitter that he’s ready to start, basically throwing starter Ryan Fitzpatrick under the bus following a loss that dropped the Texans to 4-5. If Mallett had shown the coaching staff anything in the way of being a viable starter over Fitzpatrick, they would have made the change. The guy dropped deep on his draft weekend because of outside issues much like the locker room-dividing tweet he sent out that put himself ahead of his team. Hopefully it will help keep him on the bench…where many think he belongs.
6. A Not-So-Beautiful Mind – Daniel Snyder has never been accused of being an intelligent football evaluator and owner. He overpays veteran players past their prime. He hires and fires coaches almost at whim and pays them off to go away. But, his decision to push the return of Robert Griffin III was yet another short-sighted move that is putting him in the meddlesome crowd with the likes of Jerry Jones. The Redskins have their bye this week and, holding RG3 out for one more game not only would have given him more time to get his sharpness back and, more importantly, give his dislocated ankle more time to heal. While Griffin didn’t have a horrible game, the whole idea was to win the game against a team they felt they could dominate. They didn’t and Snyder put his franchise QB at unnecessary risk.
5. Newton Bomb – After getting off to a 2-0 start, the Panthers have gone 1-5-1 and are close to falling out of sight in the less-than-stellar NFC South race. For those who saw last Thursday’s game, not only did Cam Newton have another miserable outing, but, whether just his outward demeanor or not, he looked almost disinterested. When star quarterbacks struggle, they either get fiery to prove their leadership or sulk and cash checks. When the Panthers were riding high, Newton was happy and looked like a leader. Now he looks like he’s ready to fold like a card table.
4. Vick’s Cough Drops – On a day when Mark Sanchez helped lead his team to a victory, the Jets downward spiral seems to be simply picking up speed. Michael Vick got the start and, while he wasn’t awful – he had a passer rating of 105 because he completed 21 of 28 passes, but they were all of the short variety, which is nothing new. In the 84 passes he has attempted this season, they have covered just 396 yards. Good quarterbacks get that on one game, not three. Employees at the Jets headquarters have started saving boxes for when Rex Ryan gets fired. Unless he can show he can get more than his current 4.7 yard average per attempt, Vick may be following Rex out the door.
3. Jonestown No Longer Drinking the Kool Aid – Eight days ago, Dallas was large and in charge in the NFC. The Cowboys had the best record in NFL and it was looking as if, barring a classic Romo-inspired collapse, the Cowboys had their best chance in a long time to get back to the Super Bowl. In the span of six days, not only did the Cowboys lose to Washington and Arizona – both at home – but they fell out of first place in their division and have the fourth best record in the NFC. With lingering questions about the long-term health of Romo with his back injury, what looked eight days ago to be a juggernaut now has all the makings of yet another Cowboys downturn.
2. Stay Classy San Diego – When the Chargers won in Week 2 against Seattle, it raised some eyebrows. When they rolled off four more wins and were at 5-1, they were ahead of Denver in their division race and having all the looks of making a playoff return. But things have taken a hard turn in the wrong direction. A three-point loss at home to the Chiefs dropped them out of first place. A 14-point loss a week later at Denver dropped them two in the loss column behind the Broncos. But Sunday’s 37-0 dismantling at Miami was a devastating blow that not only has dropped them out of the running for the division title, but they’re now third in the division and there are now nine teams in the AFC that have a better record. Things go badly quickly in the NFL and nobody has learned that more than the Chargers.
1. The Gold Rush Drying Up – After dropping early games to the Bears and Cardinals, people were asking what was wrong with the 49ers? They were told to be patient because things would turn around. They won three straight games and, at 4-2, looked to have their season back on track. But, after getting hammered 42-17 by the Broncos and losing 13-10 to the Rams at home, San Francisco is now at 4-4, three games behind Arizona with a loss in hand and looking more and more likely to be left behind at playoff time. Their two games with Seattle were thought to be games that determine who wins the NFC West. Now it appears one of them will have to sweep both games just to make the playoffs, because either the Eagles, Cowboys, Lions or Packers are going to have an epic collapse to get caught by a team at 4-4 at the midway point of the season.