Yesterday was a great day. The NFL season kicked off, the Texans were at home and the weather was an unseasonably cool 96 degrees in Houston, perfect tailgating weather if you can deal with pit stains and butt sweat.
Oh, and the Texans beat the Colts in the opener for the second year in a row. Also, some out there are printing playoff tickets for the second year in a row.
While I'm cautiously optimistic about the season based on the "they took care of business" and "so that's what pressure on the quarterback looks like" corollaries, allow me to make a suggestion -- the healthy outlook on the season is to chalk yesterday up as a Rusty Smith-type situation (Titans' quarterback during the Texans' only solid defensive effort last season) and wait until after Week 3 against Drew Brees to make a more informed evaluation of our hometown team.
Now onto some winners and losers:
1. Mario Williams I was as critical as anybody of Mario's performance during the preseason, going so far as to call him an "elephant on roller skates" in my Texans season preview. Well, apparently Mario is still pretty good at doing edge-rusher type things, especially when the Colts try and block him with Dallas Clark. Mario had two sacks and looked very comfortable.
So if I can try and wrap my admittedly non-X-ey-and-O-ey brain around all of this, last year Mario's bread and butter was largely his attempt to rush the passer; this season Mario's bread and butter will largely be his attempt to rush the passer. The only difference is that this year, he's standing up as opposed to doing it from a three-point stance, and in exchange for this "difference" we have to call him a linebacker instead of a defensive end.
Um, okay. I'm cool with that. (Translation: It turns out Mario is pretty much doing the same shit and all of this "linebacker" angst is much to do about nothing.)
It's like that scene in The Office where Michael tries to recruit his fellow coworkers to join in a long-distance calling-card scheme that a buddy of his started.
Jim asked, "How is this not a pyramid scheme?" Michael explained, "No, you see if I recruit three people, and they recruit three people..." Eventually Jim just drew a triangle around all of it basically showing Michael that you can call it whatever you want, but it's still a pyramid scheme. Well, how is Mario Williams not a defensive end? Basically, it turns out you can call Mario whatever you want, he's still a defensive end.
2. Texans special teams The difference last season between six wins and ten wins for the Texans largely boiled down to two things -- the historically atrocious defense and return units that never gave the Texans' offense favorable field position or a spark. Well, the game yesterday opened with a big return from newcomer Danieal Manning setting the Texans up near midfield, and the knockout blow/punt return for a touchdown just before halftime by Jacoby Jones. As much as people surmise what may have been "if the Texans just had an average defense," same goes for "if they just had average return units." Good day for Joe Marciano's group, well above average.
3. NFL Week 2 gamblers Yes, the Colts looked terrible in Week 1, and yes, Kerry Collins appears to be bringing the energy of a nursing home Bingo game, but can someone who sets lines in Vegas tell me exactly what the Cleveland Browns have done to earn the right to be favored by a field goal in Indy next week? Was it the way the Browns lost in Week 1 to a Bengals team that everyone has destined for a top three pick in the 2012 draft? Or perhaps Colt McCoy's 2-7 career record as a starter? I don't get it. (Which, of course, means that the Browns will win by three touchdowns on Sunday.)
4. The guy who types up the NFL injury report each week I have a former boss who had an old saying -- "The only thing worse than being underpaid is being overpaid." Well, if that's the case, then the dude who has to compile the injury report for the NFL should feel very secure in his job. Sam Bradford, Eric Berry, Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola, Jon Beason, Nate Kaeding, Luis Castillo, Marques Colston, Kevin Walter and I know I'm missing some more. These in addition to the Arian Foster updates which we will get pounded with this week -- NFL Injury guy is earning his keep. LOSERS
1. Colts fans For a fan base who has lapped up the sweet taste of relevancy for over a decade and reached the mountaintop in 2006, this first taste of "life after Peyton" had to be chilling and painfully familiar. Peyton will likely come back, but this stark reminder to Colts fans of "this is what 5-11 feels like" had to be sobering. It would have been like Rocky Balboa having a dream about becoming poor again at the beginning of Rocky V and then a week later finding out Paulie signed over power of attorney on Rocky's estate to that accountant who proceeded to invest all of Rocky's money in tiny classified ads or whatever it was (still in the team picture for "most far-fetched storyline in a non-science fiction movie").
2. Tony Romo Stop me if you've heard this story before. Tony Romo was piling up yards and had the Cowboys in the perfect position to pull off a huge road win in New York. But with a chance to put the Cowboys up by two scores, Romo lost a fumble inside the Jets' five-yard line, then later in the fourth quarter he threw a pick to Darrelle Revis that set up the Jets' game-winning field goal. Game over, Jets 27 Cowboys 24.
You know how sometimes vindictive men will openly root for their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends to put on like 50 pounds out of spite? (Not me, but vindictive guys.) I often wonder what the female equivalent of that vengeful thought process is -- for an NFL quarterback's ex-girlfriend, it's got to be rooting for the guy to become a turnover machine, right? Well, apparently in the Romo/Simpson aborted relationship, the "spite hope" has worked both ways.
3. Certain casinos thanks to Pac-12 refs Not sure how many of you saw this story out of the Pac-12, but on Saturday night Utah played USC and, for those into that sort of thing (and chances are if you enjoy my show, you are one of those people), the final spread on the game was USC -8.5. Well, with the Trojans clinging to a 17-14 lead late in the game, Utah lined up for a game-winning field goal, which was subsequently blocked and returned for a touchdown by USC on the game's final play. One problem -- the refs never signaled a touchdown, so the game ended 17-14 with Utah covering the 8.5 point number. Well, the Pac-12 brass
who may or may not have had a sizable wager on the game decided to adjust the final score a couple hours later to 23-14, which resulted in wagering upheaval. Many online casinos merely called off the bet as "no action," but some casinos, like the MGM, got double whammied because they paid Utah bettors at the window after the game and then, due to the letter of the law of their payout policy, had to pay USC bettors two hours later.
(Wrestling fans will agree, this game was the first ever instance of a "Dusty finish" in the history of college football.)
4. Garrett Gilbert A couple years ago, he was a five-star freshman quarterback and thought by some to be a future first round pick in the NFL Draft. After being forced into the 2009 national title game against Alabama and making a feisty showing of himself, optimism was brimming over. Now, two years later, after steering the ship during the worst Texas season of the Mack Brown Era (worst by like three games, at least), Gilbert has been benched in favor of Case McCoy. I smell a transfer to a 1-AA school.
By the way, does anyone else get a Coy and Vance Duke vibe off of Case McCoy and Jaxon Shipley? Remember Coy and Vance? When Bo and Luke Duke decided to take to the NASCAR circuit at the beginning of one of the Dukes of Hazzard seasons (actual reason: Bo and Luke were both being held captive in Boss Hogg's basement...or the actors were in a contract dispute with CBS, one or the other), they were replaced briefly by their "cousins" Coy and Vance. They looked sort of like Bo and Luke, they acted sort of like Bo and Luke, but we all know they were a cheap impersonation of Bo and Luke.
That's what the McCoy/Shipley 2.0 experience feels like right now. With Colt/Case as Bo/Coy, Jordan/Jaxon as Luke/Vance and Samantha Steele of the Longhorn Network as Daisy Duke.
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Also, for the full flavor of the analogy, click this video link. (Embedding has sadly been disabled.) This is one of the most awkward scenes in television history.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game weekdays 12-3 PM Central Time, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.