Editor's Note: Alright peoples, its week three. Too early to panic but late enough that most predictions need to be forced into the re-edit box. As usual we're back with a group of five talented writers, here to answer the weekend's five biggest questions. Get some.
Question 1. Everyone is already sick of the replacement refs. Give me a scenario that would end the lock-out. What would have to happen for the NFL to settle this?
Brandon Scott: A handful of owners would have to speak out. How else does anything get done in this business? What’s twisted in all of this is how the poor officiating is creating a new kind of intrigue. The brand is still thriving with the flashlight refs in power.
Vinnie Goodwill: What would it take? Brady, Rodgers, Manning and the faces of the league, taking a stand along with the coaches, saying they won't work under these conditions. Stick it to Roger Dodger and put him on Front Street, force him to be accountable for the state of such terrible affairs. But that ain't happening.
J.R. Gamble: Commissioner Goodell would have to give a Snoop about his image. He obviously doesn’t. He plays both sides of the fence like a young Ken Griffey Jr. He was a crusader for safety. Now he’s got scab refs missing more calls than a shorty whose boyfriend just got 15 flat. It’s like MMA now, lots of helmet-to-helmet, late hits and the like. Sweet.
D.K Wilson: Ahhh, "The Replacements." NFL players and fans have suffered enough and we're only three weeks into the 2012-13 season. Just when the owners are ready to give up $1 million or so in salary and pension dollars, MFLRA prez Scott Green suddenly hasn't the authority to broker a deal. Note to owners: please give the refs what they're asking for - what's one-third of one percent of monies to a $6 billion a year enterprise?
Nubyjas Wilborn: A big reason why the NFL is so popular is because it’s the easiest sport to wager on. Roger Goddell is very aware of what goes on in Vegas so much so the NFL sued New Jersey to block them from getting sports books. If people can’t trust results they’ll stop betting and the NFL doesn’t want issues with Vegas.
Question 2. Considering that the Saints are 0-3 with a tough game next week vs Green Bay, what is their likely trajectory? Still winning the NFC South? Wild-Card bound? .500? Or do you dare say that the season is already a done deal?
D.K.: The 0-3 New Orleans Saints' next six weeks look like this: @Green Bay, Chargers, @Tampa Bay, @Denver, Eagles, Falcons. The way they're playing right now (click here for Chiefs-game lowlights, stats), 3-6 is a possibility. And the Niners, Falcons and Giants await down the stretch. Put a fork in New Orleans, they're done.
Nubyjas: If “Dandy” Don Meredith were still around, he’d sing his famous tune “Turn out the Lights” because the party is most certainly over in New Orleans. Saints had bounty-gate, Brees' contract dispute, and too much other drama that will not allow the Saints to prosper this year.
Brandon: The NFC is too stacked for the Saints to be relying on a Wild Card spot and the Falcons already have a three-game head start toward ruling the division. It’s excusable losing to RGIII and the Redskins in the season-opener, but coughing up an 18-point lead to the Chiefs?
J.R.: The Saints will not be marching into the playoffs. Drew Brees lives by the numbers. So let the numbers tell it. It’s not looking good. Trade for Pac Man Jones. Tell him to bring a trash bag of money, and start breaking bread up in that locker room. I’m talking straight “Pay –For-Play”. First Saint to make a play gets paid.
Vinnie: In the epic words of Michael Ray, "The ship be sinking". The three teams N'Awlins have lost to have a combined ZERO wins against all other teams not named the Saints. Brees isn't on and they have yet another "interim" coach to get used to in a few weeks. Other than ATL, nobody scares NO but they could be easily 0-5 into the bye. Ship…be…sinking.
Question 3. Lions coach Jim Schwartz decided to go for it on 4th and 1 (from the seven yard line) instead of kicking a field goal to tie. The Lions did not get the first down and lost the game. Schwartz’s spin? He blamed it on a miscommunication. Under what circumstances can that ever be justified?
D.K.: I'll put it as simply as possible: in the average NFL 4th and 1 situation, going for and making the yard is worth 6.3 points. A field goal is worth 2.3 points and a punt -0.5 points. Also, the offense is a 2-to-1 favorite to make the yard (66% success, 33% failure). Jim Schwartz played the odds like any great poker player - or head coach (even if the play was the result of a "miscommunication").
Vinnie: A coach being too smart for his own good? We've seen this before and this was history repeating, Schwartz trying to recreate another Music City Miracle. In a game you had no business being in anyways, play smashmouth (2 good backs), escape with the win or kick a FG. Don’t put your backup QB in this spot. Lions keep finding a way to make you LOL.
Nubyjas: The Detroit Lions as a staff, organization and crew are simply not ready to flourish. I’m not mad at Schwartz for lining them up to go for it, because if you can’t get that yard you don’t deserve to win. However, the fumble, lack of execution and subsequent excuses are why the Lions are always headed for self-destruction.
Brandon: Schwartz tried explaining it as a breakdown in communication and that the Lions were trying to draw the Titans offsides. Actually, Schwartz said he didn’t know what to call it from an enforcement standpoint. Sounds like the Lions I’ve come to know.
J.R.: Jim Schwartz could have just said, “I went for the win. We want to be champions.” Instead, Schwartz channeled his inner Mike Vick and used Tony Dungy to explain that he wanted to kick but all hell broke loose. Schwartz is no lawyer. He should have pleaded temporary insanity fueled by a passion to win. He chooses to plead incompetence.
Question 4. At what point do we consider the Texans a true contender (and not just an talented upstart)? Over/Under they win 12 or more games?
D.K.: Take a team like Houston, put them in a weak AFC South division and – viola! – you have a contender! Now, give them a vicious defense and the 21st century version of The Triplets" in Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, and you have the makings of a 12 or 13-win Houston Texans team capable of a deep playoff run. Now, if someone can recover the missing piece from Matt Schaub's ear...
Nubyjas: I’ll take the over on this one. Texans showed us last year that they can deal with adversity after losing Matt Shaub going into the playoffs and after missing Andre Johnson for six games during the season. There is no reason to think the boys from H-Town won’t make noise this year and for years to come.
Brandon: I took them seriously last season before everyone that mattered got hurt. The Texans still won a playoff game with a rookie third-string quarterback. Now that Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are on the field together and J.J. Watt emerging as a star on defense, no one is taking them lightly.
Vinnie: Over (13 wins). The only history I care about is who they remind me of. Top flight QB/RB/WR about 20 years ago, same state, should ring a bell. And that D is giving up just 14 points per, second best. Count six gimme wins in the division and B-More and Brady & Co. could have to go through H-Town to get to New Orleans. New sheriff in town.
J.R.: The Texans have been on the cusp of the elite longer than golfer Michelle Wie. The lethal combo of Schaub, Foster and Johnson are big-time players without a playoff win together. In this parity-driven NFL, where every cute girl has a chance to be a supermodel, I’m riding with the girl with some international runway experience.
Question 5. Atlanta's offense or Arizona's defense: which one do you believe in more?
J.R.: This Cardinals defense is not 85’ Bears–like. Atlanta has an offense I can trust. I’m a huge risk taker...until my money is at stake, then I get practical. If I’m looking to buy a reliable vehicle I’m copping the Beamer. I don’t care what kind of gas mileage or rebate I’m getting on the Chevy Volt.
Nubyjas: Julio Jones is the new “Human Highlight Reel” in the ATL. Matt Ryan is showing he’s ready to break into the elite category, Roddy White is still a pro-bowl caliber receiver, Tony Gonzalez is playing like he’s 26 and Michael Turner looked better in San Diego. Only question is can the “Dirty Birds” avoid the pitfalls of late night partying?
Brandon: Arizona’s defense is nice and all, but how long have we been seeing this from the Falcons? Their offense has rarely struggled in the Matt Ryan era, so I'll go Falcons. This is fine to talk about in Week 3. I wouldn’t bet on either in a game that mattered.
Vinnie: As long as we're talking regular season, Matty Ice is just as consistent with the NFC's best and their offense is balanced across the board. Arizona's D has been impressive, but they haven't forced any team to do anything out of character (thanks Andy Reid playcalling).
D.K.: 'Zona's D or the ATL's O? Gimme the Falcons all day long. Atlanta's taken all the painful baby steps of a team about to break through. ATL's O has Brazilian National Soccer Team first name/nickname players: Matty Ice, The Burner, Julio, Roddy, and Tony. The Cardinals D has... Ken Whisenhunt and the his merry band of yes men. Besides, Arizona is a va-ca destination from October through December, while the Georgia Dome is a weekly trip to football hell.