One line to fool them all – 9.28.15

Sports talk is frequently used as a common language but it’s far from universal. If you’re someone who doesn’t follow or even understand sports, you can find yourself at a disadvantage in common small-talk situations like in an elevator, waiting for a bus, sitting at a bar, or around the proverbial water cooler at work. Even if you are a sports fan, it’s impossible to watch everything and know everything. To help in these situations, we provide lines to use when engaged in a conversation about all of the high profile sporting events of the day, plus explanations of what they mean.

NFL Football

Cincinnati Bengals 28 at Baltimore Ravens 24

Line: Win the Raven, nevermore.

What it means: The Baltimore Ravens were actually named after Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, The Raven. This may not completely excuse your mangling of Poe for the purpose of rubbing a little salt in your Baltimore fan friend’s wounds after the Ravens lost their third game in a row, but do it anyway. At 0-3, the playoffs seem like an unlikely possibility at this point for the Ravens, particularly because this most recent loss came at the hands of their divisional opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, who are 3-0.

New Orleans Saints 22 at Carolina Panthers 27

Line: The Saints almost did it without Brees, but they didn’t quite have enough.

What it means: The New Orleans Saints were one of several teams facing an 0-3 start and one of a few teams playing without their starting quarterback. Virtually no one expected them to be able to play competitively with the Carolina Panthers, much less win, but they were surprisingly good. In the end, the Panthers, with their start quarterback Cam Newton who played extremely well, were too much for the Saints to contend with.

Oakland Raiders 27 at Cleveland Browns 20

Line: Let’s hold up on the parade for the Raiders – their wins have come against the 0-3 Ravens and 1-2 Browns.

What it means: Oakland Raiders fans and unaffiliated football observers might get excited by the Raiders first two-game win streak in more than three seasons. Although it’s never wrong to celebrate, it might be wrong to conclude that the Raiders are a good football team, because their two wins have come against teams that seem not to be very good themselves. With the pitiful Chicago Bears coming up for the Raiders next week, it might be another couple weeks before we find out more about how good the Raiders actually are.

Atlanta Falcons 39 at Dallas Cowboys 28

Line: Don’t think the lesson is that the Cowboys can score with Weeden. The lesson is that the Falcons can’t stop anyone.

What it means: After losing starting quarterback Tony Romo, to a broken collarbone last week, the Dallas Cowboys have been forced to go with backup quarterback Brandon Weeden this week and for the forceable future. Without Romo (and star wide receiver Dez Bryant) many feared the Cowboys wouldn’t have enough skill on offense to play competitively. Some Cowboys fans might be comforted by having watched the team score 28 points in today’s losing effort, but I think that’s more of a reflection of how bad the Falcons defense is than anything about the Cowboys offense with Weeden.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 at Houston Texans 19

Line: Neither of these teams is going anywhere this season but the Bucs are traveling nowhere faster.

What it means: In honor of Yogi Berra, who died this week, that’s my best Berra-esque comment about this game. The Buccaneers are worse than the Texans but both teams are bad enough that casual fans can stop paying them any attention.

San Diego Chargers 14 at Minnesota Vikings 31

Line: I wonder how much of the Charger’s issue this year is Los Angeles hanging over their heads?

What it means: The San Diego Chargers are one of a few teams that are rumored to be candidates for relocation to Los Angeles after this season. A move could be distracting to any team, but particularly one whose veteran quarterback has vocally opposed the move in the press. Connecting the team’s slow start to the relocation issue is not obvious, so get some football knowledge points by suggesting its possibility.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at New England Patriots 51

Line: The way the Patriots are playing, bye week can’t come soon enough for the rest of the league.

What it means: During an NFL season, each team gets one week off. That week, called a bye week, is next week for the New England Patriots. This will come as a relief to the other teams in the league, because the Patriots have been unbelievably good so far this year, winning their first three games easily and scoring 119 points (which is a lot!)

Philadelphia Eagles 24 at New York Jets 17

Line: This game is the classic lesson about jumping to conclusions after the first two weeks.

What it means: Coming into this game, the Philadelphia Eagles were 0-2 and people were already talking about firing the coach. The New York Jets were 2-0 and some of their fans might have quietly Googled this year’s Super Bowl, just to see where it was… just in case. After today’s game, both sides are quietly moderating their early conclusions about their teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers 12 at St. Louis Rams 6

Line: What’s the latest on Big Ben’s knee?

What it means: The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger (nicknamed Big Ben after because of his stature and the existence of the British clock, Big Ben), to a knee injury during this game. The injury happened when a defensive player tripped and slid into Roethlisberger’s legs. There was immediate speculation that Roethlisberger could have a serious injury, which might force him to miss the rest of the season. Although the next round of rumors was more positive, we won’t know for sure until the results of the inevitable MRI are leaked/shared tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts 35 at Tennessee Titans 33

Line:  Eh. I’m not impressed. Win or not, needing heroics to beat the Titans does not show the Colts in a positive light.

What it means: The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the biggest disappointments so far this year. They avoided a 0-3 start by beating the Tennessee Titans, but if quarterback Andrew Luck and the rest of his team want to restore confidence of their being a clear playoff team, they’ll have to beat a stronger team than the Titans. As disheartening as this weekend’s loss must be for the Titans, this season is all about the development of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, and he continued his promising start in this game.

San Francisco 49ers 7 at Arizona Cardinals 47

Line: We have our answer now, the 49ers are terrible.

What it means: The San Francisco 49ers were expected to be awful this year. Then they won their first game in convincing fashion. That confused most people’s ideas about what kind of team they were going to be this year. Even after a loss last week, people weren’t sure. Now, they are. The 49ers are bad, bad, bad.

Buffalo Bills 41 at Miami Dolphins 14

Line: Is there a more disappointing free agent signing than Ndamukong Suh?

What it means: Coming off a promising season last year, the Miami Dolphins made one of the biggest splashes during the offseason by agreeing to a contract with Ndamukong Suh, the controversial but undeniably talented defensive lineman. So far this season, he’s been a bust in Miami. The Dolphins can’t seem to stop anyone on defense, certainly not the Bills today.

Chicago Bears 0 at Seattle Seahawks 26

Line: Oh well. I was cracking up when it was 3-0 halfway through the second quarter, but eventually all good things must come to an end.

What it means: Unless you are a Seattle Seahawks fan, the prospect of a 0-2 Chicago Bears team, playing without their starting quarterback and best wide receiver, coming into Seattle and defeating the desperate 0-2 Seahawks was a hysterically funny one. The Seahawks are a brash bunch whose success over the past few seasons has engendered a lot of envy, so the longer it seemed possible they would fall to 0-3 at the hands of the hapless Bears, the funnier it was.

Denver Broncos 24 at Detroit Lions 12

Line: It may not be pretty, but so far it’s working for the Broncos.

What it means: The Denver Broncos may be the most criticized 3-0 team ever. The problem so far has been that their legendary but ancient quarterback, Peyton Manning, has not looked half as good as he has for the entirety of his career. Despite much hemming and hawing about his age and health, my theory is that this has more to do with he and his new coach, Gary Kubiak, feeling each other out. In this game, the Broncos played most of their offensive plays from a formation called the pistol, which was new to both Manning and Kubiak. As the result shows, their experimentation seems to be leading somewhere good.

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