Larry the Mailman hit The Shop Monday morning – late as usual and looking forward to the Columbus Day postal holiday next Monday – and dropped some inadvertent dime that had the crowd buzzing all afternoon.
The Shop was doing decent bidness at the moment Larry took his time to stroll in. He blamed early bird Christmas catalogs for his delay. Nobody bought it. But, he uttered a phrase in passing that made Monday one of the best days The Shop has seen in some time. I personally took the money bag to the bank. It was big.
Larry commented that this might be the earliest the 1972 Dolphins popped the corks on the champagne. He was right. It is the earliest.
But, the can of whoop-ass that opened spread quickly. I had no idea it would become a happening, but it created a stir the likes of which we haven’t seen since Slippery Mike hooked up with Lightning Ronnie’s sister and put the entire neighborhood on Def-Con 5 for a week.
The difference of opinion about the ’72 Dolphins ran both ends of the spectrum. To some, it’s a proud tradition being the only team in modern NFL history to go an entire season unbeaten and untied. To others, it’s a slap in the face to the teams of the current era – celebrating their failure at trying to achieve what they did. At The Shop there were two armed camps on the topic, even Tommy Pants made a point to let everyone know he had his hand on his knife.
Nothing will ever take away from what that Dolphins team was accomplished. They will always be the first even if another comes along that realizes in-season perfection. But, the topic became a talker that spread like acne on a greasy teenager.
It seems like every year there are a handful of teams that get out of the gate fast, get some early separation and, for a while anyway, get people talking about the potential of a perfect year and putting the ’72 Dolphins on notice. Five weeks into the 2014 season, a whopping 25 teams have either two or three wins and only four teams have just one loss and two of them (Dallas and Arizona) didn’t make the playoffs last year. Old school Miami has nothing to worry about. From the fantasy football side of things, the biggest problem you run into is that, if you drafted players from the top teams and they have their division wrapped up early, they don’t push their banged up guys too hard and give them more rest than they ordinarily do because they know they’re heading to the postseason where they need them at full strength.
This year, that doesn’t look like it will be a problem. While there likely will be a few teams that end up pulling away from the pack in their division, there isn’t a truly dominant team in the NFL like the Dolphins were in ’72, the Bears were in ’85 or the Patriots were in ’07. There are some elite teams – Seattle and Denver to name a couple – but this has the makings of one of the best NFL seasons and, in turn, best fantasy seasons in recent memory.
The surviving members of the ’72 Dolphins popped their corks Oct. 5 – the earliest they’ve ever been able to do that. Good for them. But, for the short-term, it would seem that we’re in for a wild season in which no team is immune from getting beat and no lead is safe. As long as I’m heading to the bank with a fat money bag, keep the parity comin’, fellas.
- Mike the Bookie took a bath Sunday night when he took bets from the boys in The Shop on the Bengals-Patriots game. You don’t like Bill Belichick when he’s salty and making him a home dog definitely made him salty. What were the odds-makers thinking? We all cashed in Monday and the Dolphins weren’t the only ones popping corks.
- With their bye week over and Montee Ball on the shelf, it wouldn’t surprise me if in almost every fantasy league in the country, not only does Peyton Manning start every week, but so do Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Orange Julius. The last thing anybody playing against Broncos needed was their franchise running back to go down and likely force Denver to throw more.
- Revenge is a dish best served in front of the home fans and, for those who had Greg Olsen, who got run out of Chicago when Mike Martz was there and ruined their offense, got paid off. Not only did the Panthers come from behind to beat the Bears, they did it with the former Bear tight end front and center to the charge.
- If you had Percy Harvin on your fantasy team Monday night, you have our sympathies, especially if you lost. He had not one, but three TDs called back due to penalties. Ouch, babe.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. At This Pace They’ll Win in 2017 – The Jags lost their fifth straight game, but at least they knocked their margin of defeat down to single digits, losing by eight points to Pittsburgh. Their previous losses were by 17, 31, 27 and 19 points. They’re still sucking out loud, but they’re doing it to a lesser extent in recent weeks.
9. Folding Your Cards – Few teams can win with their No. 3 quarterback, much less against Denver. But for Arizona to get knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by 21 points, it’s going to leave a mark. Granted, Denver had a bye week to prepare for the Cardinals defense, but they put the boots to them like a lopsided bar fight in which the loser gets kicked in the head a few times after getting knocked down.
8. Bridge Over Troubled Ponder – In January 2013, Christian Ponder missed the playoff game at Green Bay with an injury. It’s all be downhill since then. The unquestioned starter in Minnesota last year, he has lost any shred of confidence he had remaining a humbling blowout at Lambeau Field. Minnesota fans had better pray Teddy Bridgewater stays healthy, because, if he doesn’t, Ponder remains the next man up.
7. The Bucs Stop Here – Tampa Bay is not only mired at 1-4 after blowing a double-digit lead in the second half to New Orleans, they are the only team in the NFL with a 0-3 record in their division. They have dug themselves a hole that, even if they got hot and the rest of the division cools off, they’re going to struggle to make up for it. Even if they run the table, they’ll finish 3-3 in the division and you don’t win division titles that way.
6. WKRAP In Cincinnati – The Bengals were the last unbeaten team in the AFC and Sunday night could have been their national coming out party and put a big nail in the Patriots coffin. Instead, not only did they lose, they allowed the Pats to score nine times. It’s hard to take a team seriously as a legitimate Super Bowl contender when you allow an opponent to roll up and down the field on you like that.
5. Third Time a Charm? – The Lions have played just five games, but their sixth game will mark the debut of their third kicker this season. Rookie Nate Freese got the hook after missing four of seven field goals. Alex Henery got two games and missed four of five field goals, including three Sunday in a three-point loss. They combined to miss eight of nine field goals beyond 40 yards. Detroit had a chance to take control of the NFC North at 4-1, but blew it thanks to its kicker. Detroit usually waits until December to fold, which could make this an ominous precursor of things to come.
4. Megatron Leaking Fluid – Over the last three years, Calvin Johnson has seemingly been impervious to pain. He almost never practices on Wednesdays and Thursdays are usually part of that routine as well. But, after being a decoy against the Jets and catching one pass against Buffalo – and getting hurt doing it – the Lions are likely going to sit him for a week or two. For fantasy owners who took him in the first round, that combines to be a month of nothing and he still has his bye week coming. Perhaps he is human after all.
3. Grin and Bear It – Chicago had a lead over division rival Green Bay at home before getting crushed in the second half two weeks ago and allowing the Packers back into the division race. On Sunday, they had a 14-point lead at Carolina before taking a nosedive in the second half and losing again. The Bears are one of the best first half teams in the league, but last time we checked
2. Volunteer To Quit – Tennessee set a dubious record Sunday, being the first team in NFL history to blow a 25-point lead at home. Had they done it against Denver or New Orleans, it could be explained – not forgiven, but explained. To lose to Cleveland in such a fashion is unforgiveable and will make their game next week against Jacksonville the first of two battles for the top pick in the 2015 draft, unless Oakland has something to say about it.
1. Say No To Geno/Vick Makes Us Sick – The Jets put together one of the worst quarterback performances in the history of the modern pass-happy era. Geno Smith has been awful since he arrived in New York and Mike Vick completed just one of his first 12 passes in relief. With Denver coming to town Sunday, they might want to forfeit now and save Rex’s dignity.