It’s conceivable that a USFL fan could be getting hooked on the NFL for the first time, but only barely conceivable, and then mostly in the case of ten year olds. I imagine that most people who have paid attention to the USFL in the last two years were already junkies for either the NFL or CFB who wanted a little taste during the long dark periods of beautiful Spring weather.
What follows, then, is the idiosyncratic sequence of questions I’ll be using to evaluate the NFL games this week. (Note: I won’t have every game here, because some teams I consider beneath my notice. Basically I’m talking about the Texans, but the Raiders and Colts are already on warning.)
So: the games WOOOOOOOO FOOOTBAAAALLL
Lions @ Chiefs: I think we have a good sense of what the Lions are: they’re a fun throwback team that prides itself on playing tough. If the rest of the division is as bad as last year, they have a real shot to be a first round playoff exit! The real question here is not whether the Chiefs will win, but how easy they make it look. That is, will the absence of Eric Bieniemy leave flaws in the offense that the rest of the league will be able to exploit?
Panthers @ Falcons: Which first round rookie is in the better place to win early? Which coach looks less over his head?
Bengals @ Browns: Can DeSean Watson play football at this time? Or did the Browns in fact do the most Browns thing imaginable and tie their franchise to a guy who it’s close to illegal to root for but who is also not an asset?
Jags @ Colts: Is Trevor Lawrence, on average, closer to the guy we saw in the first half of the Wild Card game against the Chargers, or the second half guy? How long till we start seeing FREE JONATHAN TAYLOR signs in Indy?
Bucs @ Vikings: Both of these franchises seem like they’re in prime positions to retreat into a decade of irrelevance. Could we mash these teams up and put the Bucs’ defense together with the Vikings’ offense? Would that composite team be as good as the Niners or the Eagles?
Titans @ Saints: Which kind of boring quarterback and potentially exciting second year receiver gets off to the better start? (Keep in mind, in both of these divisions, starting 1-0 gets you approximately 12% of the way to a playoff berth.)
Niners @ Steelers: Is Brock Purdy THE GUY? Or will the accumulated bad mojo of whining about getting thrashed in the NFC Championship and ignominiously getting rid of Trey Lance allow an always-sneaky Pittsburg team to surprise them? (Or will Shanahan just neglect to block TJ Watt and let Purdy’s arm get ripped off entirely? AHEM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DL9JSEd4LcM )
Cardinals @ Washington: Does getting rid of the Dan Snyder stink happen right away, or do you need a couple of seasons? Gannon’s Cardinals are going to win, what, three games this year? Really good chance for the Commies (let’s treasure this nonsense while it lasts, people) to briefly share the lead in the NFC East.
Packers @ Bears: Does Jordan Love inherit Rogers’s ownership share in the Bears’ franchise? Green Bay still looks like they have the better roster and better coaching. It could be that Green Bay is looking at a surprising improvement on the Seattle-minus-Russell Wilson simplification model.
Raiders @ Broncos: Speaking of Russell Wilson, CAN THIS MAN COOK? Getting Sean Payton is the equivalent of Denver bringing in Gordon Ramsey for Kitchen Nightmares. The Raiders are gently bad and uninteresting; can the Broncos look as good this year as everyone thought they were going to last year?
Eagles @ Patriots: This game is a rematch of the 2017 Superbowl, which, lest we forget, was the culmination of literally the best sports story of all time. The Patriots have always been joyless and uptight, but the Bradlyless Patriots are also uninspired on offense and prone to lapses on the overworked defense. The question is how new Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai looks against Belichick’s notorious wiles.
Dolphins @ Chargers: Should Tua even be allowed, in good conscience, to play contact sports?
Rams @ Seahawks: Will the race for second place in the NFC West start better for Geno Smith (who wasn’t so much rejuvenated as just juvenated last year) or Matt Stafford (who needs some serious juvenation himself, after last year)?
Cowboys @ Giants: The Cowboys are irritatingly good; they’ve constructed a fantastic roster and hired legitimately great coordinators in Dan Quinn and John Fassel. However, the also cripple themselves by only hiring Yes Man head coaches. Is the core of a very good team, minus a very good offensive coordinator, good enough to beat a Giants team that has consistently punched above its weight since it hired Brian Daboll?
Bills @ Jets: How long before the wings fall off on this Rogers experiment? (Speaking of Daboll, can Josh Allen get back to making consistently good choices without that guy?)
Book you should read this week, because, look, you need to broaden your horizons:
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger. School’s starting back up; the sound of teenage angst fills the air. Let’s see angst done well. (Note: This is not meant to give the New York teams good luck. I don’t think Salinger gives anyone good luck. But perhaps he will help us endure.)