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NFL = Weekly Mediocrity

I should really stop looking at the ESPN NFL power rankings.  Because I’m a Giants homer, I’ll view any position below 2nd as way too low (no matter what their record) and Sando’s constant short shrifting of Big Blue has aggravated me for as long as I can remember.  I can handle the Giants being marked below where I believe their fair rank ought to be, though: after all, nobody does “nobody believes in us” like the G-men.  Plus, as excited as I am about the way Eli Manning is playing, I can’t deny the fact that the only quality win the Giants have is against New England, with the rest coming against what I’ll sportingly refer to as “awful teams.”  So I guess I can handle the Giants coming in at 7th this week, given how unsure I am about their prospects this year. 

What I CAN’T handle is the inordinate amount of love that teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers constantly get.  I have a healthy dislike for the Steelers that has little to do with the product they put on the field.  Most of this has to do with their fanbase, whose members will spare no opportunity to claim that they’re the most devoted fanbase in the entire world.  Ignoring the impossibility of proving such a claim, who cares?  Being a fan is already an exercise in irrationality and at a certain point fandom descends to pathos. 

When I was in New Orleans for Halloween 2010, the Steelers were in town to play the Saints.  Know who else was in town?  Thousands of black and yellow-clad Steelers fans who donned Steelers apparel head-to-toe for the duration of the weekend.  I saw an otherwise attractive girl ruin her appearance by donning a Steelers fanny pack and sweatsuit.  Why?  What’s the point of this?  It wasn’t even game day, where such ridiculousness might be excused.

Anyway, the point is that I’m already predisposed to think Pittsburgh sucks, so take my analysis with a grain of salt, but it KILLS ME that they are ranked 5th this week while the Giants are ranked 6th.  Pittsburgh has one win over what I would deem to be a good team (the New England Patriots).  Their other wins are against Tennessee, Seattle, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Arizona.  ESPN says “The Steelers can play with anyone” and they’re right, as long as “anyone” doesn’t have a winning record.

“Anyone,” as it turns out, must not include the Baltimore Ravens, who have now swept the Steelers for the first time in the history of the world.  ESPN notes that this makes the Ravens “the new kings of the AFC North,” which, in a division with the Bungles and the Browns, is like being the smartest kid with Down’s syndrome.  Yet, because they’re the gritty kings of the smashmouthingest division in football, the Ravens are 3rd place in the ESPN power rankings.  Other than the Steelers, the Ravens have beaten the Jets (who probably suck more than their record suggests), the Rams, the Texans and Arizona.  The Rams and Cardinals are spectacularly terrible, so those wins shouldn’t even count (You can take them away from the Giants too, and the more I think about it the less good I think the Giants are).  The Texans are having a decent season, posting a 6-3 record and landing at 8th in the power rankings because of it, but their wins have come against Pittsburgh (who, again, sucks), Indy, Miami, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Cleveland.  I do not see a single quality win on there.

Point being that the gritty, murderous Ravens are being lauded for beating terrible, terrible teams.  Except for Tennessee and Jacksonville, who beat Baltimore.  Whom Texas beat.  Whom Baltimore beat.

People like to shrug their shoulders, pick their noses and say “Hey, any given Sunday, amirite?” whenever a team loses to what people perceive as an inferior team.  But when the team beats an inferior team?  They go to third on the power rankings.  So we have Baltimore, who beats crappy teams and loses to crappy teams, ranked third and Pittsburgh, who beats crappy teams and loses to crappy teams, ranked fifth.  The problem I have with all of this is that these two teams are accepted as being good on an a priori basis and their performance relative to one another is used as a justification for those a priori assumptions.  This, while ignoring the fact that the only quality wins these guys have are against the Jets (who may actually suck) and the Patriots, who I think are good.    Two quality wins between the two teams after 9 weeks of football.  And they’re ranked in the top 6.  That is ridiculous.  When a “good” team loses, chalking it up to the “any given sunday” concept is just a nice way of saying that most teams are horribly mediocre at best, because they’re liable to lose to the Rams or the Chiefs at a moment’s notice.

After looking at the season results for each of the top 10 NFL teams on the power ranking list (including my beloved Giants), all I see is blah blah mediocre suckness. 

2. The 49ers have one quality win against Detroit and the rest came against terrible teams.  They’ve got at least 5 more easy wins on the schedule, meaning the 49ers could go at least 12-4 under Alex Smith.  That thought alone makes the rest of this post a formality.

I’ve covered the Ravens. 

4. The Saints are pure, pure trash, beating nobody good and losing to the previously winless Rams (who have since won no other games).  Knock Knock!  Who dat?  YOU SUCK.

I’ve covered the (awful) Steelers. 

6. The Giants, whom I love more than I could ever love any woman (this is an exaggeration), nevertheless lost to Washington and Seattle.  Sorry, but that probably means that nobody believes in the Giants because we SUCK.

7. The Lions have beaten only garbage teams and have lost to the two arguably strong teams they’ve faced.  THIS IS THE MOTOR CITY.  AND SUCK IS WHAT WE DO.

8. The Texans lost to Oakland, who might be good, if they weren’t too busy SUCKING A LOT.  The Texans victories came against teams with a combined 16-34 record…a record which is inflated by Pittsburgh’s and Tennessee’s already inflated records.  EVERYTHING’S SUCKIER IN TEXAS.

9. The Bears have a quality loss to Green Bay but sucky losses to New Orleans and Detroit.  The team has quality wins against NOBODY, unless you consider Atlanta and the Eagles to be good.  Which I don’t, because not even ESPN deems them worthy of their already overrated top 10.

10. The Bengals…wait, what?  The Bengals are 10th on the power rankings list?  This is absurd.  “The Bengals are tied for the best record in the AFC,” ESPN says, which is true and demonstrative of precisely nothing except that the entire AFC must therefore be a joke.  Seriously, you’d rather play the Patriots or Falcons or Eagles than the Bengals right now?  Get real.  Also, three teams in the AFC North being in the top ten this week means that Pittsburgh fans everywhere are going to be even more insufferable than usual, so thanks, ESPN.

Only one team in the top ten can be said to definitely (maybe) not suck: The 8-0 Green Bay Packers.  They haven’t lost (yet), mostly because Aaron Rodgers is descended from an Atlantean God-King who can single handedly dominate everybody on the field.  This is GOOD FOR FANS.  One of the things that’s frustrating about NFL parity/mediocrity is that you rarely see domination of the sort that you see with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  I don’t want to watch a football game and wonder what’s going to happen.  I want to watch because I want to see Nietzschean supermen impose their will on their opponents and utterly destroy them.  Maybe I’m weird.

Look, I’m a Giants fan and I want the Giants to win the Super Bowl.  But if that’s not going to happen?  Then I want the Packers to go 19-0.  Then I want it to happen again next year.  I want Aaron Rodgers to throw for 5000 yards and 50 touchdowns every single year for the next ten years.  Why?  Because I want to see greatness.  We haven’t seen true greatness in sports since MJ absolutely dominated the NBA back in the 90s.  You know what my favorite image of Jordan is?  It’s not him dunking with his tongue wagging out, or slamming down Pippen’s free throw rebound.  It’s the shot of him shrugging his shoulders after draining his 6th three-pointer of the half against the Pacers.  He’s shrugging his shoulder like “what do you want from me?  I’m the GREATEST OF ALL TIME.”  And it was awesome even for non-fans to watch.

Is Rodgers the greatest QB of all time?  Is he at least the Michael Jordan of the so-passer-friendly-it’s-borderline-cheating modern NFL? Probably not, but in a sport where mediocrity reigns, it’s refreshing to see at least somebody who week in and week out is playing on God mode.

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