Three quarters of the year has passed, and 2008 has taken on the look of an alternate dimension. Somewhere Rod Serling is lisping quietly while eerie music fades in the background. The Tampa Bay Rays, not the Yankees or the Red Sox, rule the roost in the AL East. AL Cy Young conversations revolve around Cliff Lee, not C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett or Roy Halladay. Buffalo and Tennessee are 4-0, and Matt Millen has been removed from the Detroit Lions front office.
If you've ever closed your eyes, clicked your heels and prayed with all your heart for something to happen, this would be at the top of my list to finish a glorious year.
• Al Davis needs to step down.
Maybe "step down" the wrong term. His reign of terror in Oakland has everyone wearing black. His saber-rattling rambles carry the bouquet of Nikita Khrushchev, howling of power long gone, of might long since deteriorated, from a citadel whose foundation has crumbled, teetering on the precipice of oblivion; a great and powerful empire now tattered, held together only by the fading memory of past glories.
Davis needs to be deposed. He is a despot, a dictator, a deranged madman holding onto the thinnest thread of reality. Never was that more apparent than his most recent press conference. I was waiting for him to break out into an imitation of Dennis Green's "They are who we thought they were" rant.
The end of his days are being disfigured by a growing cacophony shrieking indignation, shuffling blame to all but the true source. His latest act (holding a 45-minute news conference to tear down his now-ex coach Lane Kiffin)strikes as an act of someone whose hands are so numb he doesn't feel his grip slipping away. As Mike Shanahan commented when asked about his experiences with Davis, "The press conference speaks for itself."
We need a coup de grace ... a final, defining moment for this most spectacular of years. And I am doing my part in this charade. I'm offering Mr. Davis a seat at the head of the table ... my favorite seat, in fact. Kiffin sat there last week. As did Scott Linehan. Matt Millen was our last Honorary Chairman. So there is a spot readily available.
Let me get that chair for you Al. It's a nice, comfortable seat isn't it? Not too rough on the hemorrhoids, is it? Good.
OK, I feel dirty after that tirade, almost like John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains & Automobiles ... "So how about those Bears?" If you saw the movie you know what I mean.
• And what a great segue, don't you think? Chicago welcomed the Eagles into their home by the lake, and sent them back to the City of Brotherly Love with a nice pat on the butt and a "thanks for stopping by." The Eagles just aren't the same without the little engine that could, Brian Westbrook. Correll Buckhalter has done a fair imitation in Westbrook's stead, but it's still an imitation. So as I wait with bated breath to determine whether Le'Ron McClain gets the call for one more week while Westy heals, here are some of the pits and patters of thoughts I have going into NFL Week Five.
• After their shellacking by the Dolphins' single wing sneak attack, how will the Patriots respond this week?
I'm not so sure that 49ers fans are feeling so good, knowing that Bill Belichick has had two weeks to game plan this one. After a defensive effort that was more turnstile than turnbuckle, I'm fairly certain the Patriots' front seven will be whipped into a frenzy. Although I generally believe that you start your studs every week, I'd not hold it against any fantasy fan if they saw fit to sit Frank Gore this weekend. And if J.T. O'Sullivan thought New Orleans' pass defense was tough, wait till he gets a gander at the formations New England will throw at him. I just hope Randy Moss shows up this week. He looked lost in the Miami game, as if he spent most of his time wandering around looking for Tom Brady instead of running routes.
• What can we expect from Earnest Graham this weekend?
Mr. Gruden, I'd like you to meet Earnest Graham. Yes, he's a squat fellow, and doesn't have breakaway speed according to dozens of scouts armed with the latest in stopwatch technology, but I promise you when you give him a steady diet of the rock, he pounds it. Graham has had broken loose with runs of over 45 yards in three of the season's four games. He could do it more than once this weekend, if given the opportunity.
• How bad is Anquan Boldin's injury?
I don't know what a fractured sinus membrane is, but it has to hurt, especially if you spent a high draft pick on Boldin this year. With his status in doubt for at least the next week and possibly longer, I'm looking at Steve Breaston as a viable start in the interim.
• Who will tote the rock in the Steel City?
Monday night's epic battle between Baltimore and Pittsburgh took a heavy toll on the Steelers. Not only did they lose Rashard Mendenhall for the season, but the tattered offensive line took another shot below the waterline when starting RG Kendall Simmons was lost with an Achilles tendon injury. The Steelers signed Najeh Davenport in a desperate attempt to provide some kind of depth in the running game. With Mendenhall done for the season and Parker still nursing a sore knee, Mewelde Moore will get the start, but will have his hands full this week against Jacksonville.
• How long will it take for a QB controversy to start brewing in Titan-town?
Tennessee is 4-0 for the first time in its history, led by a signature Jeff Fisher smash-mouth defense, a talented rookie running back and a journeyman quarterback named Collins. Waiting in the wings is Vince Young, whose mom has apparently given him permission to come out and play again after realizing the neighborhood kids didn't really miss him. Kerry Collins is a seasoned, if not somewhat grizzled veteran who brings stability to the offense. Unless Bud Adams foolishly intervenes, I think the question raised by other sites is really moot. There is no controversy. This is Collins' team as long as he is healthy, and he is only useful for the wounded fantasy owner in desperate need of consistent, if not spectacular, production for their QB slot.
• Travis Henry -- ouch.
• Will Green Bay bounce back this week?
The Packers visited Tampa Bay this past Sunday with high expectations. They limped home beaten and battered, with serious questions about Aaron Rodgers' shoulder, and the loss of defensive stalwart Cullen Jenkins for the season. If Rodgers can't go, I'd be looking to deal Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Ryan Grant. And while Atlanta might not strike fear into the hearts of many, Michael Turner might just have one of those special days against a reeling Green Bay defense.
• How long before Chris Henry makes an impact on the Bengals passing game?
Prior to last week I'd have said next week. With The Player Formerly Known as Chad Johnson struggling, Henry seemed a good one to stash on the bench for his eventual return. After watching the Bengals without Carson Palmer, I'm having second thoughts.
• Are the Rams ready to follow Kansas City's example and rise from the ranks of the beaten?
Not just yet, since the Rams have a bye this week. That's good news for new coach Jim Haslett, and a glimmer of hope for Marc Bulger and Torry Holt fans who've seen their former studs fall well below the waiver line. Unfortunately for Rams fans their reward is a trip to FedEx Field and a date with the Washington Redskins, who are beginning to look like contenders in the brutal NFC East. After that, Dallas comes to town, and the week after that it's the hostile Foxboro on tap. I wonder how long Haslett's job will be safe considering St Louis is staring down the throat of a 0-7 start?
• How will Matt Hasselbeck perform now that he has Deion Branch and Bobby Engram back?
Branch hasn't played in so long that I don't remember much about him. I know Tom Brady was pretty upset when New England let him go. Engram has been one of the most consistent players in PPR leagues when healthy, and Hasselbeck favors him in clutch situations. The Giants secondary is nothing to write home about, so if you are in need of a QB, you might find Hasselbeck lingering on the waiver wire.
• Each week I try to pick an upset that goes against the grain of conventional thinking. A couple of weeks ago the Raiders let me down with a last minute meltdown against Buffalo, but prior to that I've been pretty lucky. This week I am concerned about Green Bay. I know the Packers are at home and their record at Lambeau is almost legendary. I also know that Atlanta isn't scaring too many people. But if Aaron Rodgers plays with a bum shoulder or, worse, doesn't play at all, the Falcons could fly out of Wisconsin on the wings of an improbable victory.