Welcome to the first (and possibly only) edition of Five Cents, where I’ll give five opinions on a variety of sports-related topics. This week I’ll focus on football in celebration of Week One of the NFL season, which also allows me avoid discussing how my Islanders just signed an unproven goalie to a 15-year contract (and I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Their off-season will be discussed in a future column, just so you all can understand my pain).
1. The AFC North, not the NFC East, is the toughest division in football.
Yes, all four of the teams in the NFC East are capable of winning the division this year, but that is because they have serious flaws (the names Bledsoe and Brunell come to mind). These mistakes were shown in Week One, as the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins all lost winnable games. Even Philadelphia has problems after Week One, with All-pro cornerback Lito Sheppard out indefinitely with an ankle injury.
While the NFC East faltered, the top three teams in the AFC North showed why they would all contend for not only the division title, but also the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh survived against Miami without Ben Roethlisberger and will only get stronger as the season goes on. Cincinnati, who may have ended up in the Super Bowl last year if Carson Palmer hadn’t gotten injured, dominated against Kansas City.
Finally, the Baltimore Ravens came out and decimated Tampa Bay (one of the NFC’s best teams last season) on the road. The inter-division games between these teams will be some of the best football played this year.
2. The Patriots came out ahead in the Deion Branch trade.
While Branch will improve the Seahawks offense, did they really need the help that badly? Last year, Seattle was one of the top offenses in the league, even though top receiver Darrell Jackson was out half of the season. With Jackson healthy and Shawn Alexander at running back, Branch will once again be stuck in an offense in which he is not the main option. Several quality receivers were traded during the off season for far less than a first round pick, so Seattle gave up way more than fair market value to get a player they didn’t really need.
Meanwhile, the Patriots got great value for nothing, as Branch did not plan on ending his holdout. Branch would not have played for New England ever again as long as Bill Belichick was the coach and I have a feeling that someone else will step up to adequately replace Branch.
3. As long as he is willing to make fun of himself, Peyton can make as many commercials as he wants.
I have to admit, I used to hate Peyton Manning. However, the first time I heard Peyton utter the phrase “cut that meat,” my opinion of him changed.
Early in his career, Peyton seemed too perfect, as though Archie Manning had built a football playing robot just so everyone would forget how bad a quarterback he was. However, Peyton’s MasterCard commercials, featuring him acting like an obsessive fan to everyday people, showed that he actually does have a personality.
This season, several more commercials featuring Manning have aired. This could have been overkill, but each commercial is funny because Peyton is willing to poke fun at himself. By far the best new commercial is the one in which he dons a wig and a fake moustache and talks about how great Peyton Manning is. Really, the only way it could have been better is if his character referred to himself as Peyton Mexico, but I doubt the NFL or Mike Vick would have appreciated that.
4. “Two-A-Days” is the best new reality show since “Flavor of Love.”
Every year, it seems like a new show debuts that raises the bar for trashy reality shows. This year, that show its MTV’s “Two-A-Days,” which chronicles the 2005 season at Hoover High, Ala., one of the top high school football programs in the nation.
The show’s greatness comes not from gold-digging women vying for the affections of an eccentric rapper, but from the drama caused by the coach, the players’ families and the players’ girlfriends. From Max, the safety trying to come back from shoulder surgery, to the cheerleader who thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her, the show plays like a real life version of the James Van Der Beek classic “Varsity Blues”.
Hopefully Ross, the quarterback whose older brother led Hoover to two state championships, will quit the team by telling his brother, “Playing football at Hoover was the opportunity of a lifetime for you. ... But I don’t want your life.”
5. Ryan Howard will win the NL MVP, but the Phillies won’t make the playoffs.
Yes, this has nothing to do with football, but what Howard has done since the All Star break makes it hard to ignore him. When the Phillies traded Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees in a salary dump, the season was supposed to be over. However, Howard has almost single-handedly kept his team in the race, batting almost .400 with 21 home runs and 51 RBI since Aug. 1. Although the MVP discussion would be different if Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran hadn’t both lost games to injury this summer, Howard will win in a landslide.
However, Howard will most likely become the latest MVP to not make the playoffs. Although the Phillies are 2-and-a-half games out of the wild card, there are three teams in front of them and Philly failed to prove themselves in this past weekend’s split against the feisty Marlins. Despite his 56 home runs, Howard will find himself at home in October watching the Mets, wishing that he was David Wright - just like the rest of us do.