The way that the construction of each season's NFL schedule works, every team already knows 14 of the 16 teams they will play every season from now until such time that the NFL a) expands, b) realigns, or c) gets bored and changes the way they do the schedule.
Simply put, right now each team's schedule consists of all of their division games (6 games total), a rotating crossover with one AFC division (4 games), a rotating crossover with one NFC division (4 games), and two variable games. The variable games each season are determined by the previous year's standings.
Those other two games are against the corresponding placed teams from the two AFC divisions your team is not crossing over with that season. (I know, that's a mouthful.) Using the Texans as an example, this season they play the Ravens and Patriots, because like the Texans, both won their division in 2012. The Texans cross over with the entire AFC West.
I bring this up because from now until the end of time, Texan fans looking for a good road trip should be rooting for the Chargers to be in the same slot as the Texans every season, forever, on the oft chance it results in a road trip to San Diego.
Because San Diego is awesome.
So in honor of San Diego, maybe the nicest city on earth, we dig into last night's winners and losers from the Texans opener (plus a few other things)...
4. San Diego, the city After spending three days in San Diego, it's easy to see why so many of my fellow media members are so adamant about San Diego being part of the Super Bowl rotation. It's incredibly easy to get around, as the highway system makes everything a 15 minute drive away. (This is a big deal to people who cover the Super Bowl as oftentimes, most are forced to stay on the outskirts of town.) The weather is amazing, the food is varied and unique, there is a downtown area that is perfect for parties and bar hopping, and there's In N Out Burger! Hell, I even had a good time at the San Diego Zoo, and make no mistake, I abhor zoos. (By the way, the improvements I would make to the "zoo experience" may need their own post, and would all be frowned upon by conventional zoo goers and PETA. Just know that my zoo would have a VIP ticket that would allow the ticket holder to antagonize the animals. The "zoo experience" would be way more interesting getting to rattle cages, slingshot golf balls, and talk shit to the gorillas about how we humans have opposable thumbs.)
3. Earl Mitchell In the box score, Mitchell's first game as a starter was just your average affair (three tackles, a couple of the solo variety), but in one of the more underrated important plays of the game, Mitchell showed why the team had the confidence to hand the reins of the starting nose tackle spot to him this offseason. Tied at 28, and with the ball 2nd and 10 on his own 16, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw a swing pass to running back Ryan Mathews who had a head of steam as he turned upfield. It was a play that looked like it could be a big gainer as it evolved, and if it had been, the Chargers would have momentum, field position, and eventually a chance to take the lead. However, before Mathews could break loose into the secondary he was chased down from behind by Mitchell, who managed to keep the Chargers in a third down situation (3rd and 2), and on the next play, some J.J. Watt pressure forced an incomplete pass. From there, well....we all know from there. Back to Mitchell, though. He was a high school running back himself at North Shore, and on that play he flashed the athleticism that has many around the team excited about the upgrade at that position this season. Put simply, no chance Shaun Cody catches Ryan Mathews from behind.
2. Adam Lefkoe Before you all waste your time rummaging through the box score trying to see if Adam Lefkoe is some obscure defensive tackle from the Chargers who perhaps made a play in the first half or something, stop. Lefkoe isn't a Charger. In fact, he's not even a football player. No, Lefkoe is a sportscaster on WHAS Channel 11 in Louisville, and he's come up with my new favorite "local sportscaster" gimmick that I've seen in quite some time. I started a couple Sundays ago with Wrestlecast (count the WWE references, including S.D. Jones!):
And it continued this past weekend with Seinfeldcast (41 references in all!):
I've already asked Lefkoe on Twitter that he let me help ghost write Sopranocast, if and when that day comes, but until that day, kudos to a local sportscaster in a medium sized market doing something memorable in the Viral Era.
1. Matt Schaub As many of you know, I spent the better part of a few thousand words questioning Matt Schaub's intestinal fortitude, testicular fortitude, and really most any of his other fortitudes in my cover story for the Houston Press print edition last week. I'm not ready to say that I was too harsh or even that I was wrong, but I will give credit where it's due, Schaub was a man on Monday night, going 34-45 for 346 yards and three touchdown passes. This, however, is where I issue not so much a word of caution as it is a statement of fact -- nothing will matter for most Texans fans as pertains to Schaub until he wins a big game in January. Just the harsh reality of the position he plays and the amped up expectations of the fan base. (Put another way, Texan fans all remember how warm and fuzzy they felt about Schaub after the Denver game last September, too, and I would guess there's a bit of a "fool me once" thing going on. I'll know more when I get on the radio today.) LOSERS
4. Philip Rivers I think that ultimately new Chargers head coach Mike McCoy will get it right with Philip Rivers and help rejuvenate him to some extent, and I am basing 95 percent of that prediction on the fact that McCoy made Tim Tebow look somewhat competent as an NFL quarterback in Denver. Using my "Tebow-to-actual compentent QB" conversion chart, this means that McCoy should be able to turn Rivers into something resembling the love child of Tom Brady and Joe Montana. To that end, the first two quarters and change went swimmingly, with Rivers accruing a 134.8 passer rating as the Chargers went up 28-7. After that? His passer rating was a positively Tebow-esque zero. ZERO.
3. Johnny Manziel's privacy The rematch everyone's been waiting for over the last nine months goes down on Saturday in College Station, Johnny Football versus Nick Saban. For fans or alums with a vested interest, easy enough to pick out a side. For much of the rest of the college football rooting world, this is like one of those late 80's WWE "heel versus heel" matchups designed to eventually turn one of the two into a babyface. (Think Randy Savage versus the Honky Tonk Man in late 1987. Just trust me.) It should be epic. And if you're into Johnny Manziel, well, it should be really epic, because on Saturday CBS, for the first time ever, will institute something called "Johnny Cam," a camera that specifically follows Johnny Manziel around the entire game -- on the field, in the huddle, "ignoring" Kevin Sumlin (you still suck, Mark May!), taking a leak, whatever. I'm not sure what's left to know about Johnny Manziel that we don't already know, but on Saturday, college football's tradition meets good old fashioned voyeurism in an attempt to find out.
2. All of your ears Traveling to San Diego for a game, while fun, is not an inexpensive proposition. For traveling Texans (or "Traveling Texans," as it were) airfare, hotels, meals, drinks, and insuring your Cowboy hat with horns glued to the side all add up to a collectively pricy experience. But as best I can tell from my Twitter timeline and text messages, it was worth every penny to avoid the all-out assault on the ears that Chris Berman unleashed on all of you on Monday night during the telecast. In fact, I just made an executive decision to give this its own post with embedded tweets. Let's move on...
1. Oklahoma State If you haven't read Part One of the SI.com story on potential NCAA violations in the Cowboys program, you need to give it a read. It's about as detailed an account as you'll find in a story like this, and the scary thing if you're a Cowboys fan is this is Part One of five parts. FIVE. (The other four parts are titled "The Academics," "The Drugs," "The Sex," and "The Fallout." I'm losing track of whether this is an investigation into a college football program or the sordid tale of some grunge band gone awry. My head is spinning.)
And because the two former OSU assistant coaches implicated in the story are Joe DeForest (now with West Virginia) and Larry Porter (now with Texas), the tentacles of this thing just in terms of distraction, if nothing else, extend as far as Morgantown and Austin.
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I think my buddy Jerry Barca, though, sums up my feelings best on all of this:
What did Ok St pay for? Only ranked three times in the final AP Top 25 between 1998-2013. No. 3 in '11, No. 13 in '10 and No. 16 in '08.
— Jerry Barca (@JBarca) September 10, 2013
At its very core, this has turned out to be an underwhelming investment for OSU, if winning games is the ultimate goal (if, in fact, any or all of this stuff is true).
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.