First we note the passing this week of Darris McCord, a defensive end with the Detroit Lions, native of Franklin, Tennessee and one of General Neyland’s All-Americans - a rather astounding accomplishment when you realize he did not play high school football.
In his NFL career, he was selected for the Pro Bowl and started for the Lions’ 1957 championship team. His unit coined the nickname of “The Fearsome Foursome,” which was usurped a decade later by another exceptional front four of Los Angeles Rams.
Different age, different media rules, vastly different set of trademark habits.
Since almost no one these days remembers the Lions having championship teams - though we may remember a personality like Alex Karras once was a football player and enjoyed a somewhat notorious career in Detroit - few remember McCord.
He was a quiet personality, like an anchor I guess you could say, and pretty much made of iron because he missed all of two games in 13 seasons, only one of which was during the regular season.
Since even the city itself has fallen way off America’s attention radar (except when something else there goes horribly wrong), the whole notion of Detroit as a location for excellence seems misguided.
So here we are called to note a time, a place, a player, and a man who was so very different from most of what we see around us today and therefore should lament their passing. We’ve lost something, and the saddest part is so many of us don’t even know what.
Steelers at Jets - Speaking of losing, here we have Pittsburgh reduced to an offense carried by one rugged and strong-limbed quarterback with almost no one to throw to, no one who can rush for more than 1.7 yards per carry, and additional injuries just waiting as the weeks just drag on and on.
Nobody needed an early bye week more than the Steelers. At times like this in seasons before, their defense could hold things close until something good could break for the offense. At least it’s been that way in the very few lean times since 1968 (the last time the Black & Gold struggled this much), but the defense is not stopping anyone and not forcing turnovers.
Because the Jets always think too much of themselves (even when they are playing well, like since last week), they are always ripe for a fall. I just can’t see Pittsburgh giving up on anything, and losing to New York in a shootout on the road in London, England is one thing. Losing to Gang Green and a rookie quarterback in northern New Jersey is just asking too much. Things just can’t be that desperate.
Eagles at Buccaneers - It’s a lucky thing for defenseless Philadelphia to be dealing with the almost training camp quality of offense Tampa Bay will be putting on the field. If they can just stop the primary game plan, the backup is almost assured not to work.
The Eagles will get their 30. It’s just hard to see the Buccaneers getting anything more than 10 on the scoreboard.
Jaguars at Broncos - Peyton Manning would have to play down to his brother’s 2013 level for this to be even close, and there’s not much chance that’s going to happen. There’s always the chance that Denver will overlook this one, but that’s not been Peyton’s style either.
The only question I have comes in two parts: Oakland in Kansas City or Jacksonville in Denver; which lock is bigger?
Titans at Seahawks - Semi-finalist in the Game of the Day competition, but an explosive Seattle offense at home with the best 12th man in the league is not going to lose to a team without its primary Locker.
Saints at Patriots - Game of the Day finalist brings the lone unbeaten NFC team into Foxboro where this week’s weather will not create a bother to Tom Brady and his ever-evolving band of former misfit toys.
Drew Brees always gives Bill Belichick’s defense major fits, probably because he is not as vulnerable as so many other quarterbacks when you take his primary receivers away. He can get the ball to anybody at any time (kind of like Brady) so the Hoodie is, in that sense at least, trying to beat himself . Thus, he never has.
New England is as good at home as anybody can be, but almost will not be good enough this week and New Orleans gets a mild upset in the “W” column.
Cardinals at 49ers - A lot of folks are believing in San Francisco again, especially the players themselves, who pulled off an impressive performance against Houston last week. Maybe they’re right, but one week is not even a coincidence, much less a trend.
Arizona has a very tough run defense, perform consistently well after making halftime adjustments, and have the same record tying them for second in the division (both trailing Seattle). This would be a very good opportunity for Bruce Arians to prove last season’s coaching magic in Indy was not just a miracle.
This is a tough call to make, but there’s no haughtier group more ripe for a fall from their prideful perch than that bunch of oversized nuts by the bay.
Redskins at Cowboys - It’s still a guess as to what Dallas will do, but this is the type of game and setting where they can pick themselves up off the mat, get back to work, and feel good about the outcome because they always enjoy beating the Washington Whatevers.
Colts at Chargers -At least Monday night should be an entertaining show. Philip Rivers is really good at what he does. He distributes the football to others. There’s the crux of his problem. Since the point of the game is to score more points than your opponent, and Rivers doesn’t do that very much at all, things are not going all that well in San Diego at the moment.
Even though the record book shows us Rivers’ teams usually beat the Colts, and they should have an easier time of that with this game being at home and all, Indianapolis has Andrew Luck who has shown a greater aptitude for winning games and especially doing so late, if necessary.
Even if we all nod off early, rest assured if there’s a battle of “Last Man Standing,” go with Mr. Lucky.