Bitterness burns in Week 4 grudge matches

Michael Silver
Yahoo! Sports

Jared Allen(notes) is awesome for many reasons, including but not limited to: his relentless pass-rushing motor, his taste in restaurant slogans, his hairstyle/lifestyle choices, his locker-room wardrobe choices, his restraint in dealing with those who insult his girlfriend and, best of all, his honesty.

In addition to being one of the NFL's best players, the Minnesota Vikings' Pro Bowl defensive end is a fantastic interview, precisely because he doesn't try to shade the truth. So when Allen, in a conference call with Kansas City reporters Wednesday in advance of his impending return to Arrowhead Stadium, was asked what prompted him to demand that the Chiefs trade him in 2008, he got right to the point.

[ Related: Jared Allen not fond of Chiefs' front office ]

"His name was Carl Peterson," Allen said, referring the Chiefs' former general manager. "You can write that in caps." (Note to reader: CARL PETERSON. Now, back to our regularly scheduled quote …)

Allen, who led the league in sacks in 2007, said Peterson had been disingenuous when discussing the prospect of a lucrative new contract.

"Obviously, I had a problem with [owner] Clark [Hunt], too, because he chose Carl over me, huh?" Allen continued. "When everything went down there, I didn't appreciate being lied to. I was told I'd be getting a [contract] extension and everything and the way things played out, my biggest thing was, 'Listen, I never lied to you guys. I show up and I bust my tail for you. Please don't lie to me.' After so many times of hearing they're going to take care of you and they don't and hearing the words Carl had to say about me, it's tough to give it your all for somebody like that."

Though there are usually two sides to these types of stories, I believe that Allen is being honest about his former bosses' dishonesty – but that's not the reason I'm referencing these quotes here. Instead, I'm doing so to express my gratitude to him for adding some much needed spice to an otherwise dud of a matchup between the 0-3 Vikings and 0-3 Chiefs on the fourth Sunday of the NFL season.

In a sport in which hyper-competitive men routinely push their bodies to perform irrational acts and endure unseemly measures of pain, sometimes a little vengeful rage – real or manufactured – is a godsend.

Though Peterson no longer works for the Chiefs and Hunt won't be lined up across from Allen trying to pass block his former employee (oh, how I wish this were so), watching a man take aim at The Man for having wronged him is compelling theater. Think about it: We've all had that desire to show a former love interest he/she blew it by moving on or to flaunt success in the face of an ex-boss or adversary. Imagine doing that in a stadium in front of tens of thousands of people, with millions more watching on television. Now picture doing it violently.

Score-settling isn't always as clean and clear-cut on the football field as we'd like it to be, and oftentimes we're not even alerted to subplots. However, in a transient league in which players from opposing teams are known to socialize over the offseason, sharing agents and girlfriends and personal trainers, you can bet there's something spicy going down on any given Sunday.

So, what's the scandalous gossip that serves as a backdrop to this particular weekend's games? What am I, TMZ? No, just an NFL columnist looking for "I'll show you" angles, and there are plenty that aren't too hard to uncover:

• Ron Rivera and Lovie Smith: When the Panthers take on the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, there will be all sorts of flexing – including some from Carolina's rookie head coach. Rivera, a former Bears linebacker, was the team's defensive coordinator in the 2006 season when Chicago won the NFC. He was a hot head-coaching candidate at the time, and the Bears' long postseason run may have kept him from landing a job. In the immediate aftermath of the team's Super Bowl XLI defeat to the Colts, Chicago coach Lovie Smith had a stare down with management before finalizing a contract extension. Then, in a stunning development, Smith got rid of Rivera and replaced him with his buddy Bob Babich. Many Bears defenders weren't happy, and they were even angrier as the team's yards per game defensive ranking plummeted from fifth in '06 to 28th the following season. By '09 Smith had taken over the de facto coordinator's role, and Rod Marinelli formally got the gig the following year. Rivera, meanwhile, had to rebuild that buzz over the next several seasons, first as the Chargers' inside linebackers coach (ouch, half a position group) and later as San Diego's defensive coordinator. Guess what? He was good at his job, and the Panthers hired him to replace John Fox last January. As with Allen, Rivera didn't bother trying to varnish his desire to go back to Chicago and vanquish Smith and the Bears. "I'm not going to downplay it," he said during his Monday news conference. "People say it's another game; no it's not. They're all big. But this has a little personal meaning for me because it's Chicago."

Greg Olsen(notes) and Mike Martz: Before Martz's arrival as Smith's offensive coordinator in 2010, Olsen was a highly productive tight end. Martz's system, however, regards the position as an afterthought, and there was bound to be tension. Shortly after the lockout ended in July, the Bears traded Olsen to the Panthers for a third-round draft pick, and he has regained his mojo, with 12 receptions for 169 yards, including a game-winning 16-yard touchdown catch against the Jaguars last week. He has publicly disputed reports that he asked the Bears to trade him and says he's glad to be in Carolina. "Of course I want to go up there and play well and I would be lying if I said I didn't," Olsen told reporters.

Julius Peppers(notes) and Jerry Richardson: Peppers bolted Carolina for Chicago via free agency in 2010, signing a massive contract, and the defensive end played well in his victorious return to Charlotte last season and later made it to the NFC championship game. So he has already proven his point – but that doesn't mean he still won't be motivated to remind the Panthers' owner of his enduring value, especially after Richardson's gloating about the money he spent post-lockout in a belated and ridiculous effort to make people forget how cheap he'd been for the previous two years.

James Harrison(notes) and Brian Cushing(notes): No, the two linebackers won't be on the field simultaneously when the Steelers visit the Texans. But it's fair to say Cushing will have plenty of impetus for inflicting pain upon Pittsburgh's offensive players after Harrison said the former NFL defensive rookie of the year was "juiced out of his mind" in a Men's Journal interview over the offseason. On Wednesday, Harrison told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he won't apologize to Cushing. Thank you, James, for keeping the flames of bitterness burning brightly in advance of this game.

• Jim Haslett and the Rams: In 2008, in Haslett's first game as St. Louis' interim coach following the firing of Scott Linehan, the 0-4 Rams stunned Washington, 19-17, at FedEx Field. Before the night was done, a report had already surfaced that Haslett was in line to get hired on a permanent basis. But after another upset victory (over the Cowboys) the following week, Haslett's team lost its next 10 games, and he was gone, spending a year in the UFL before resurfacing as the Redskins' defensive coordinator in 2010. Last season, in Week 3, the Rams ended a 14-game home losing streak with a 30-16 victory over the 'Skins. So, yes, Haslett would like to walk out of the Edward Jones Dome a winner this time, especially given that St. Louis is struggling at 0-3 and there are questions about the job security of coach Steve Spagnuolo, the man who succeeded Haslett.

Ray Lewis(notes), Terrell Suggs(notes), Bart Scott(notes), Derrick Mason(notes) and Rex Ryan: The Ravens and Jets are emotional – and incredibly physical – teams as it is, and this Sunday night showdown in Baltimore is bursting with prideful payback desires. There's Lewis, the Ravens' proud leader, snubbed (in favor of ex-teammate Scott) during free agency when Ryan, Baltimore's former defensive coordinator, got the Jets' head coaching job in '09; Suggs, the pass-rushing demon who regards Ryan as the coach most responsible for his success yet vowed to give his ex-coordinator a hug and a kiss "when we beat the Jets" (he also paid homage to ex-teammate Scott by wearing a "Can't Wait!" T-shirt Wednesday); Scott, who is still mad about the way the Ravens gloated following a season-opening victory over the Jets in 2010; Mason, the veteran receiver who joined the Jets this summer after being released by the Ravens and says his return to Baltimore will be "bittersweet"; and the never-subtle Ryan, who has previously conceded he was bitter about the Ravens' decision to pass over him before hiring current coach John Harbaugh in '08. Other than that, there's not much going on with this game.

• Raheem Morris and Jon Gruden: It all wraps up nicely on Monday Night Football when the Bucs host the Colts (it's their first Monday night home game in eight years) and third-year Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris gets to roam the sideline while his predecessor and ex-boss, Jon Gruden, talks about it in the ESPN broadcast booth. You think Morris doesn't love that? "You love the stage," Morris told reporters Monday. "Yeah it matters, man … We got Jon Gruden coming back to town. We got the old boss comin' to town, man, we gotta have a good showing. He's watching me. He'll be up in that box. I gotta make him proud." Given the way some of Gruden's former Bucs players brutalized him publicly after his firing following the '08 season, I'd imagine that some of those holdovers who remain on the roster are equally jacked up. I also know Gruden pretty well, and I'm sure he's excited about calling a game in the town he still calls home. And you can bet he'll shower Morris, the Bucs' players and the organization with praise, because when you're a man with a microphone, Monday night is no time for payback. That will come later, when Gruden takes another NFL coaching gig and, eventually, brings a team to Tampa with vengeance in his heart. For I don't know if you've heard, but he's pretty good at the retribution thing. If you don't believe me, ask Al Davis.

TAKE IT TO THE ATM

In a Suck For Luck special, the Chiefs will prevail over the Vikings in a tight, turnover-filled battle. … The Raiders will continue to play physical, explosive football, but Tom Brady(notes) will pick apart their linebackers and secondary in a Patriots victory. … Suggs will honor Ryan, his mentor, by terrorizing Mark Sanchez(notes) in a Ravens triumph over the Jets on Sunday night.

PLEASE, BOSS, SEND ME TO …

Oakland, for the second consecutive week, for another sure-to-be-entertaining game between the best team in the AFC West (yep, that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and a beast of the East. The only thing missing will be the white stuff.

[ Video: Who'll shine more: Tom Brady vs. Darren McFadden? ]

LIES, LIES, LIES

1. Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa will come out of retirement to square off against Philadelphia Daily News beat writer Les (The Disorderly Reporter) Bowen, portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, in Rocky VII.

2. Doctors performed back surgery on Tom Cable after the Seahawks' assistant coach was accidentally bumped by former Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu's(notes) 2006 Hyundai.

3. After learning that former Bears Hall of Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton had turned down a White House invitation because he's "not a fan" of President Obama, ex-Packers tight end Mark Chmura invited him to a celebratory post-prom, hot-tub party.

WORLD'S SIMPLEST POOL

Aaron Rodgers'(notes) Packers are just one of three remaining unbeaten teams.
(Getty Images)

Another week, another snoozer – after the Ravens' 37-7 thrashing of the Rams, my three WSP picks have now won by a collective margin of 95-14, which should have me feeling pretty, pretty good going into Week 4. With the Ravens joining the Texans and Steelers as off-limits, I'm contemplating whether to burn my Packers chip early and go with Green Bay at home against the Broncos on Sunday. The negatives: I'll probably regret it later if I lack the ability to pick the Pack, and Green Bay may be a bit sluggish after an emotional road triumph over the Bears. The positives: Even a sluggish Packers team should be able to roll in this one – and there may not be a later if I screw around and take one of the other teams I'm considering (Saints at Jags, Eagles vs. Niners, Bucs vs. Colts). So it's settled: Packers over Broncos, possible home team letdown be damned.

[ Yahoo! Sports Radio: Packers WR Jordy Nelson says team flying under radar]

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Remember, you can find all of my picks here – still hot, still waiting for the inevitably harsh ice bath – and receive the analysis behind them by registering for the Silver Insider at ridewithsilver.com. And though I've tragically dropped to 8-1 in Locks of the Week, I'm feeling reasonably good about my current selections.

FANTASY ANNOYANCE OF THE WEEK

It wasn't a particularly good week for my fantasy friends, as Cal women's hoops coach Lindsay Gottlieb and psychotic Chargers fan Malibu suffered defeats with teams that suddenly don't seem so awesome. Gottlieb's Bringin' It Back, which fell to 2-1, should be OK in the short run, especially since she faces 0-3 The Placekicker (Josh Freeman(notes), Frank Gore(notes), Mark Ingram(notes), Greg Jennings(notes), Devery Henderson(notes)) this week. Still, her running back situation beyond Adrian Peterson is a mess, and she has a trio of Jets (Shonn Greene(notes), Santonio Holmes(notes), Plaxico Burress(notes)) who are under-producing and have to deal with the Ravens' defense this week. There were lineup decisions to be made, and this is how it shook out: Matt Ryan(notes) (at Seahawks) over Kevin Kolb(notes) (vs. Giants); Willis McGahee(notes) (at Packers) over Greene, the lesser of two evils; Reggie Wayne(notes) (at Bucs), Julio Jones(notes) (at Seahawks) and Burress at receiver, with Holmes sitting; Jimmy Graham(notes) (a.k.a. The Franchise) at tight end; the newly acquired Falcons' defense; and newly acquired Dan Bailey(notes) (six field goals last week) ahead of Stephen Gostkowski(notes) (too many extra points, not enough field goals). It's Gottlieb's birthday on Sunday, and I hope their collective production gives her yet another reason to go large.

[ Related: Get your NFL tickets here ]

As for Malibu's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – well, things went from bad to abysmal. Last week, I told you about his Cedric Benson(notes) nightmare, on the heels of Jamaal Charles'(notes) season-ending knee injury. Now his best receiver, Kenny Britt(notes), is out for the year as well. I hope Malibu walks carefully on the beach; I'm worried he'll tear his ACL, too. So now Sabbath (1-2), heading into its matchup with winless Fire Sale Every Player Must Go – that team owner ain't lyin'; Malibu might actually have a chance in this one – will trot out a lineup that includes the underperforming Philip Rivers(notes), the underperforming DeSean Jackson(notes), the underperforming Julio Jones, the underperforming Vernon Davis(notes), Roy Helu(notes), Devin Hester(notes), and some similarly uninspiring players. I did do my best to help him, advising him to sign the Texans' James Casey(notes) as a free agent and to put in a waiver claim on the Ravens' Torrey Smith(notes). The latter was denied – not good. On a positive note, my 12-year-old son plays in a league with participants who actually have lives (that's because they're also 12), and he was able to claim Smith and three other players: Denarius Moore(notes), Evan Moore(notes) and Fred Jackson(notes). Yes, Fred Jackson. He is quite pleased about this.

THIS WEEK'S PROOF THAT CAL IS THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

I've been accused of going on … and on … and on in this section, so this seems like a good week to address that criticism by keeping things short: It has been a rough seven days for Cal athletics, with frustrating defeats in football (at Washington), women's volleyball (the previously top-ranked and undefeated Bears lost at USC and UCLA), field hockey (the No. 11 Bears lost 3-2 at Stanford, though these two teams will meet again) and women's soccer (No. 11 Cal had its eight-match winning streak obliterated by No. 21 Santa Clara, 3-0).

It's all good in Berkeley, though, because our athletes are resilient, skilled, intelligent and lovely. Very lovely.

YAHOO! SEARCH WORDS OF THE WEEK

Dre Snoop St. Ides

LYRIC-ALTERED SONG DEDICATION OF THE WEEK

Brandon Jacobs(notes) has rushed for just 98 yards and 1 TD this season.
(AP Photo)

New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs doesn't like people who don't believe in his team. On Thursday Jacobs told reporters that outsiders who doubt the Giants "can go back and finish living their miserable lives as they've been living and hoping that they lose and whatever.") After reporters vacated the locker room, Jacobs – or so I imagine – put on an orange wig, affected a Scottish brogue and got his Shirley Manson on, to the tune of Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains."

You're only happy when it rains
You're only happy when Coach Coughlin's yellin'
Our ex-receiver's a convicted felon
You're only happy when it rains
You know you love it when the news is bad
When I throw my helmet in the stands
You're only happy when it rains

Pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me
Pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me

You're only happy when it rains
You feel good when Eli misses Nicks
You get excited when he throws three picks
You're only happy when it rains

You only smile when we suck
Your only comfort is when I get loud
Screamin' obscenities at the Philly crowd
You're only happy when we lose
You think I'm stupid? Well to hell with you
And stop complainin' about Big Blue
You're only happy when we lose

Pour your misery down … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down on me … pour your misery down
Pour your misery down … pour
You can keep wearin' jerseys
As long as you still pay

You're only happy when it rains
You want to hear about Osi and Jerry
We're riding high but you are quite contrary
You're only happy when it rains … pour some misery down on me
You're only happy when it rains … .pour some misery down on me
You're only happy when it rains … pour some misery down on me
You're only happy when it rains … pour some misery down on me
You're only happy when it rains … pour some misery down on me … pour some misery down on me … pour some misery down on me … pour some misery down on me