The Packers And The NFL: Loads Of Uncertainty

For anyone like me who devours anything Beatles or Beatles-related, this was a big week. John Lennon’s 70th birthday celebration on Saturday brought with it a ton of John Lennon-related events and (of course) new Lennon stuff to buy. Principal in the Lennon birthday campaign was the reissue of (almost) all of his solo albums, a couple of new compilations, and a spendy box set. Basically, Yoko Ono and Capitol Records are asking you to plunk down a bunch of coin for stuff you’ve already bought, perhaps two or three times already.

(Not to be outdone, Sir Paul McCartney has recently announced the beginning of a set of reissues under the umbrella title “The Paul McCartney Archive Collection,” which kicks off, predictably enough, with several different versions of Band on the Run being issued on November 2.)

A sentimental favorite of most Lennon fans, is, of course, the 1980 song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” a syrupy ballad written for his young son Sean that became incredibly poignant in the wake of what happened to Lennon just three weeks after the song’s release on Double Fantasy.

Where am I going with this besides taking the chance to give a much-deserved shout-out to Dr. Winston O’Boogie?

Well, “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” includes the heartbreaking lyric “I can hardly wait to see you come of age/But I guess we’ll both just have to be patient,” lines that are equally appropriate for the current NFL season.

More so than any NFL season I can recall, this one has me downright stymied. And I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out. But I guess we’ll all just have to be patient.

Here are some teams I have major questions about:

Green Bay Packers. Nothing wrong with a 3-2 start, but there is something wrong with a team thought by many (including me) to be the class of the NFC that is now coming off a 1-2 stretch that included an unimpressive home victory over the Lions. Green Bay’s issues can be summed up in one word: injuries. It has been and will continue to be fascinating to see how Mike McCarthy’s squad can respond long-term to some of their unforeseen substitutions. And while you may be able to chalk up the loss on Sunday to LB Clay Matthews missing significant time in the second half, which allowed Donovan McNabb crucial time to throw the football, there are other concerns that aren’t necessarily injury-related: What happened to Greg Jennings? What’s with all the dropped passes?  And yes, Ryan Grant is out, but Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn aren’t complete garbage. How about at least trying a little offensive balance? And if the team is really that unhappy with what it sees in Jackson and Kuhn, they should have traded for Marshawn Lynch. Or barring that, Jane Lynch. Hey, the Packers just need bodies.

Minnesota Vikings. Will Brett Favre’s short-lived career in amateur self-photography be a fatal distraction to a team already looking far from the squad that nearly ended the Vikings’ 33-year Super Bowl drought? Or will the league step in and suspend the legendary quarterback, ruining his consecutive starts streak and tarnishing what is most likely the grandfather’s final NFL season? Or will the simultaneous scrutiny and acquisition of troublemaker but still lights-out receiver Randy Moss light a competitive fire under Favre that will make worried Vikings fans soon forget about their sloppy 1-2 start? And what to make off the Moss situation? Yes, he’s a great player, but he’s a great player when he’s happy. Seems to me he didn’t leave Minnesota the first time around on very good terms. True, the team and coaches are largely different, but if the Vikings don’t make any moves to sign Moss to a contract extension, how long can he stay interested? You just don’t know right now if the Vikings are headed for disaster or greatness. It’s probably somewhere in the middle, but at least at this point it’s unclear. A week ago it wasn’t.

Chicago Bears. Could Jay Cutler’s forced absence from yesterday’s messy victory over the godawful Carolina Panthers have been a blessing in disguise? By having to take the ball out of backup Todd Collins’s hands as much as possible – dude had almost as many passes intercepted (four) as completed (six), the Bears rediscovered their run game with Matt Forte, who finished with a fantasy-stud day of 166 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Granted, you aren’t going to get to run against the porous Panthers every week, and Bears fans trust that their offensive line won’t break down about as much as they trust that a quick lunch at the Des Plaines Travel Oasis won’t give them heartburn. But with Cutler back in the fold probably by next Sunday’s game against Seattle, I’m liking my preseason sleeper pick right now. Oh, and their defense is pretty good too.

Detroit Lions. Can they follow up their most lopsided victory in 15 years with even a non-lopsided victory? With Shaun Hill playing so well, are the Lions in any rush to bring back brittle Matthew Stafford? And how much will the injury to stud receiver Calvin Johnson slow this team’s already protracted crawl out of the NFL dumpster?

New Orleans Saints. Perhaps the only 3-2 team in the league that has been a bigger disappointment than the Packers. Three squeaky wins against teams with a combined 1-12 record. And then a loss to the (I thought) horrid Arizona Cardinals? People in New Orleans are used to hangovers, but the Saints are mired in a Super Bowl hangover that doesn’t look to be going away anytime soon.

The NFC West. This division is more putrid than that new William Shatner show. Speaking of Arizona, they could be the worst team since the 1987 Minnesota Twins to win a professional sports division. (Although I don’t see Max Hall winning a championship the way those ’87 Twinkies did.) It will be interesting to see if the acquisition of Marshawn Lynch can elevate the Seahawks to anything other than wretched, and the Rams, a team I was starting to modestly believe in, took a huge step back with Sunday’s embarrassing blowout loss to the Lions. But the biggest question for me is: Can the San Francisco 49ers still pull out this division? Even at 0-5, with their upcoming schedule, I wouldn’t bet against it.

New England Patriots. How will the Pats, already struggling to deal with Tom Brady’s hair, deal with the loss of their main deep threat in Randy Moss? You have to like Belichick’s odds, but there is no way the Patriots don’t take a step back. In the ultra-competitive AFC East, a step back could be fatal.

New York Jets. With a resurgent LaDainian Tomlinson, a looser Mark Sanchez, and a (presumably) healthy Darrelle Revis, is this the team that’s now poised to challenge for the AFC title? After a bad first game, they’ve been tremendous. (But they still should have cut moron Braylon Edwards.)

Dallas Cowboys. How many losses until people stop saying how talented this team is and they start saying how underachieving this team is? Like the Packers, they can’t run the ball for anything, despite having three supposed talented rushers.

Denver Broncos. Speaking of not being able to run the ball, does Denver’s league-worst 51.8 rush games per game make Kyle Orton a viable MVP candidate? Maybe in fantasy football, but not in reality football, despite the fact that no other quarterback is asked to do more with less than Orton. And he’s doing it.

The NFC East. Why is it that every time I see one of these teams play, they look as awful as a Katherine Heigl romantic comedy, yet three of them are 3-2? Can the Giants, who right now look like the class of the division, avoid a defensive freefall like they had last season?

Houston Texans. Why do Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson seem so intent on upending my fantasy football league? What did I ever do to them?

Pittsburgh Steelers. Speaking of the allegedly naughty Brett Favre, will the return of the allegedly equally-naughty Ben Roethlisberger put this team on the fast track to the Super Bowl? Their defense is sick, Rashard Mendenhall is slowly coming around, and Mike Wallace has emerged as a terrific complement to Hines Ward and Heath Miller. Though the return of Big Ben has everyone in Pittsburgh holding their breath, there seem to be fewer questions about this team than nearly any going forward.

Lots of questions, very few answers. But it all starts to sort itself out with Monday night’s game between Favre, Moss, and Rex Ryan’s Jets. I can’t wait. Oh, and happy birthday, John.


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