One line to fool them all – 11.2.15

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 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Line: Bad Andy reared his head but the Bengals still won.

What it means: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s career has been full of periods when he plays extremely well, but they’ve never been free of times when he’s played equally badly. Because he’s never had any significant success in the playoffs, he hasn’t really earned any sympathy from fans, so these periods are called Bad Andy times. He played poorly in this game but the Bengals were still good enough to win and stay undefeated.

Green Bay Packers 10, vs. Denver Broncos 29

Line: Maybe the reports of Peyton Manning’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

What it means: The Denver Broncos defense slowed down the Green Bay Packers offense, specifically their quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in a way that’s really never happened before. The biggest news of the game though, might have been the play of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who looked, at least for a night, as good as he’s looked in past years. At 39, people have reacted to his poor play so far this season by predicting his football demise, but tonight gave Broncos fans hope.

San Francisco 49ers 6 vs. St. Louis Rams 27

Line: Don’t look now, but I think the Rams are good. Gurley is the real deal.

What it means: The Rams are not a popular team, they’re not on national television often, and they haven’t been good for a long time, but thanks to the excellent play of rookie running back Todd Gurley, they’ve won three of their last four games.

Tennessee Titans 6 vs. Houston Texans 20

Line: The Texans are one game away from first place and one game away from firing their coach.

What it means: The division that the Texans and Titans are in, the AFC South, is so bad across the board, that it’s possible for a team like the Texans to be simultaneously so disappointing that their coach is at risk of being fired AND almost in first place of the division. Football can be a weird sport with small sample sizes and lots of randomness.

New York Giants 49 vs. New Orleans Saints 52

Line: This looked more like a video game than reality.

What it means: Games with this much scoring are very unusual in real football, but thanks to the “solveablilty” of video games, much more common there. Many football fans are or have also been big fans of football video games at some point in their lives. So this game’s bizarre scoring probably felt familiar, if only from virtual reality.

Minnesota Vikings 23 vs. Chicago Bears 20

Line: Hmmmm… the Vikings keep winning, but not in a way that inspires very much confidence. Plus, look at who they’ve beaten.

What it means: Beating the now 2-5 Chicago Bears is something that should be expected of good teams in the NFL, not the product of a dramatic, late-game win, like the Vikings needed today. The Vikings have a very respectable 5-2 record, but if you look more closely at it, the teams they’ve beaten (Bears, Lions twice, Chiefs, Chargers) are a combined 8-23. That’s doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the Vikings’ ability to win against good teams. Sorry Vikings fans!

New York Jets 20, vs. Oakland Raiders 34

Line: Eh, I wouldn’t worry about the Jets too much. Hard to get up for the Raiders the week after the Patriots.

What it means: Last weekend, the Jets lost a close and emotional game against their biggest rivals, the New England Patriots. It’s natural, even for a professional sports team, to have a let-down in the following week. Add to that, a trip to the West Coast to play the historically bad but currently sneaky good Oakland Raiders, and it’s no wonder that they came out flat and lost. The bigger concern is the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, possibly for the season, with a hand injury.

Seattle Seahawks 13, vs. Dallas Cowboys 12

Line: Can we all agree not to talk about this game again?

What it means: This game was televised nationally and really shouldn’t have been watched by anyone other than die-hard fans of the two teams. A bad game was further marred by the breath-stealing sight of a player on the Seahawks being knocked out on the field and stretchered off. Luckily, he is not paralyzed.

Detroit Lions 10, vs. Kansas City Chiefs 45

Line: Not sure the fire everyone the week before the London game gambit is going to work for Jim Caldwell after this showing.

What it means: The London game, which is always followed by a bye week, has become an opportune moment for teams to fire their coaches. As if he knew that might be a possibility and wanted to cut it off at the pass, the Lions head coach fired most of his offensive staff the week before this game. After losing so badly to the Chiefs, this almost blatant attempt to buy himself some time, may not work. Head Coach Jim Caldwell might get fired anyway.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23, vs. Atlanta Falcons 20

Line: The Atlanta Falcons? More like the Atlanta Frauds.

What it means: Okay, this is a little bit of a snotty thing to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The Falcons got off to a great start this year, winning five games in a row. People thought they were a great team. Then they lost to the Saints, won a close game over the lowly Titans, and now lost to the equally lowly Buccaneers. From the evidence of those last three games, it looks a lot more like the Falcons are an average team that got lucky to start the year than a great team going through a rough patch.

San Diego Chargers 26, vs. Baltimore Ravens 29

Line: I can’t decide if that’s a fitting end for Steve Smith or a totally out of character one. Either way, it’s terrible.

What it means: Hall of fame to be wide receiver, Steve Smith, has been a fan favorite for many years. He had announced at the start of this season that it would be his last, but he didn’t expect it to end so soon. He tore his Achilles tendon during today’s game and will miss the rest of the season. Unless he reconsiders, this was the last we’ll see of him on a football field. What a shame!

Arizona Cardinals 34, vs. Cleveland Browns 20

Line: If the game had ended at halftime, I would have had to seriously rethink what I thought I knew about football. Phew.

What it means: People, myself included, assumed that the plot of this game was as simple as, “good team (Arizona) plays bad team (Cleveland).” What a surprise it was, then, to see the Browns leading the Cardinals 20-10 at halftime. The Cardinals scored 24 points in the second half and held the Browns scoreless, proving us right, albeit in a very tardy way.

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