Hello everyone and welcome to America’s favorite game show that… has never actually happened before and no one has heard of it… it’s Pitch That Game!
Here’s how it works. As your host, I have one minute to pitch a sporting event to someone who is not a sports fan. If, after my pitch, they’re interested in watching, I get a point! That’s it! Why would we play such a game? Well, it’s a good way to quickly learn about a set of games to see if you’re interested in following any of them. It’s also a great way for me to learn from you about what may or may not make a sport interesting to a layperson.
In this episode, I pitch you, the listener, all 14 of the NFL games this weekend, on Sunday October 18 and Monday October 19. If you want to know which games will be available on your TV this weekend, check out 506 Sports NFL. If you need help figuring out how to make sense out of what you see there, use my explanation of how to use 506 Sports NFL here.
Enjoy the show!
Sunday, October 18, 2015 1 p.m. ET
We’re in the midst of a major league baseball playoffs that guarantee a World Series winner who hasn’t won since somewhere between 1993 and 1908. No matter which of the four remaining teams wins, it’s going to be a great story. In the NFL, it’s far too early to guarantee anything, but the Cincinnati Bengals, who have never won the Super Bowl in their 46 year history are undefeated so far and playing like a run-away-train on offense and a brick wall on defense. They take their 5-0 record into Buffalo to play against a Bills team whose promising start has been hampered by injuries. The Bills and their fans are always tough at home, especially when it’s cold and windy and maybe even snowy like it’s supposed to be on Sunday.
While we’re on the subject of weather, let’s talk about the next game, the Denver Broncos at the Cleveland Browns. Weather is usually an overrated factor in football games. Rain and snow don’t seem to have much of an impact. The only thing that can effect the game in a major way is wind. Wind makes it harder for quarterbacks, especially those like the 38-year old, nerve-damaged Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who don’t exactly have the strongest arms anymore. Every game Manning plays is like watching a real-life battle between mind and matter. This one will pit mind vs. matter and wind.
After three weeks, these two teams had a combined record of zero wins and six losses. From that moment, one team has continued its downward slide and the other has scrabbled up with all its might. The Chicago Bears have been rewarded for their determination with two close wins, one by two points over the Raiders and one by one point over the Chiefs. The Lions have just lost and lost. If the Bears can beat the Lions, a divisional rival, in this game, they’ll complete their climb back to .500 with three straight wins after three straight losses.
The Texans and Jaguars are both in the AFC South division, which has been dominated by the Colts over the past fifteen years. The start of this year provided a glorious opportunity for the other teams in the division because the Colts have struggled with injuries and performance issues. Alas, none of the other teams could seize the day. The Texans and Jaguars are both 1-4 and looking for a win to salvage any hope of competing for the playoffs this year. I favor the Jaguars in this game. In watching the Jaguars, you can see some of the elements of a good team emerging from the muck.
Unusual for today’s NFL, both of these teams intended to build their season around powerful rushing attacks led by two of the best running backs in the NFL, the Vikings Adrian Peterson and the Chiefs Jamaal Charles. As spectators, we’re robbed of an opportunity to see them go head-to-head this weekend because Charles tore his ACL last weekend. Instead, we’ll see two replacement running backs with great names, Knile Davis and Charcandrick West, try to step into Charles’ giant shoes. On the other side, the Vikings will continue to play the good, conservative football that’s led them to a 2-2 record so far this year.
The Dolphins have been the disappointment of the season. So much so, that two weeks ago they became the first team this year to fire their coach. It’s hard to replace a coach in the middle of the season because of football’s complexity. There isn’t enough time to meaningfully change what the team knows how to do. Instead, new coach and former tough-guy tight end Dan Campbell will look to make an attitudinal difference. The question on the other side is what the Titans actually have in rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota came out of the blocks fast with a record setting performance in the Titans week one win but has been less successful since. We’re starting to hear whispers that Mariota may not be versatile enough in how he thinks and reacts during a game to win.
Normally when Washington travels to New Jersey to play football, they’re facing their divisional opponent and arch-enemy, the New York Giants. This week they play against the New York Jets, the team in the other conference that shares a stadium with the New York Giants. That’s a weird little tidbit that makes this game unusual. What makes it compelling is how much better both teams have played this year than they were expected to. Both teams won only four games last year. The Jets are only one win away from equalling their tally and the Redskins are already half-way there.
These two teams have been connected since 1944 when, due to player shortages during World War II, they merged to play a season as a single team. That joint venture went winless, leading critics to call them the “carpets” a play on Cardinals and Pittsburgh and also the household object you tread on. More recently, they played each other in the 2008 season’s Super Bowl, one of the most entertaining in recent memory. During that game, the offensive coordinator of the winning Pittsburgh team was none other than Bruce Arians, now the head coach of the Cardinals. All of this is to say that in addition to this being a matchup of two of the most talented teams in the league, and a potential preview of this year’s Super Bowl, it’s also a game with great recent and distant history.
Sunday, October 18, 2015 4:05 or 4:25 p.m. ET
I don’t know if it’s been a conscious or unconscious thing on the part of the Panthers management, but it certainly seems like they’ve spent the last several years trying to model their team after the Seahawks. The Panthers are almost like the East Coast branch of the Seahawks. Built around magician quarterbacks who escape pressure to make plays, patient running games, and stifling, physical defenses, both teams try to win games in similar ways. What that means for this game, is that its winner will likely be the team who executes the plan the best, not the one with the best plan.
It’s hard to believe that these two teams met in the Super Bowl only three seasons ago. This year, both teams are only a shell of what they were during that season. Both teams’ elite defensive units have been disassembled by free agency, retirement, and injuries. Both offenses have lost many of their supporting characters. San Francisco’s offensive line is missing in action and Baltimore’s starting wide receivers actually both play for San Francisco now. Both teams are 1-4 and facing the certainty of a lost season if they fall to 1-5. Realistically, both are likely to have a lost season no matter what — it’s not a coincidence that they’ve lost four games out of the first five — but another loss will really shut the door in their faces.
If the pinnacle of sports is about achievement in the face of challenges, this game fits the bill to a T. Both teams have wonderful quarterbacks who have difficult tasks. In the case of the Chargers quarterback, Phillip Rivers, he’ll be up against a solid Green Bay defense without a strong offensive line — the most essential support for any quarterback. Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, will be playing without his best receiver, Jordy Nelson, who is out for the year with a knee injury, and with his two next-best receivers hampered by shoulder and ankle injuries. I suspect both quarterbacks will be up to the challenge but only one can win.
Sunday, October 18, 2015 8:30 p.m. ET
The Patriots have been waiting for this day ever since last Spring when the Colts started the giant shit-storm called Deflategate by reporting the Patriots to the league for having used improperly inflated footballs in the playoff game between these two teams. Although quarterback Tom Brady was eventually vindicated in court and escaped suspension, the Patriots want to beat the Colts more than Bernie Sanders wants to bring down Wall Street, more than Jeb Bush wants to be president… even more than Donald Trump wants you to pay attention to him. This game is the most highly anticipated passion play of the season. I hope it lives up to expectations.
Monday, October 19, 2015 8:30 p.m. ET
The NFC East, which is the division the Giants and Eagles are both in, is the biggest, most popular, most watched, and most talked about division in football. That’s true even in years when the division doesn’t have any truly great teams, like it appears not to this year. The Giants are in first place right now, with a record of three wins and two losses but the other three teams are all only a game behind with two wins and three losses. The chance for all four teams remaining relatively close to one another throughout the year seems to be good, which makes every game between teams even more important.