Normally in the Monday column, we quickly review the injuries with fantasy significance from the prior day's games. There really weren't many of those on Sunday, though. So instead, we'll begin by trying to answer the largest question confronting the NFL:
What the heck is Bill Belichick doing?
The issue isn't whether or not he's running up the score – of course he is. The issue is what he's trying to achieve. Is Belichick just a creepy moral relativist and an unfeeling super-genius? Or is he something else? Maybe he's just a fantasy owner who drafted Wes Welker in all of his leagues, and Laurence Maroney in none.
It's not just Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth down deep in Washington territory with 11 minutes left, ahead 38-0. And it's not just the decision to go for it on fourth-and-two with 7:16 remaining, leading 45-0. Nor is it the decision to return Tom Brady to the field in the fourth quarter of the previous week's 49-28 victory over winless Miami.
No, if you've been listening to football pundits on TV, you've been assured that all that stuff is OK.
They've reminded you that, hey, if the Tennessee Titans defense can allow 29 fourth quarter points – as they did in Week 7 at Houston – then it can happen to anyone, including the Patriots. Even when they're playing the Dolphins. TV pundits have also assured you that in professional sports, it's acceptable to humiliate your opponents, not merely beat them. All the reasons we find not to embarrass our adversaries in youth sports – respect, empathy, reciprocal altruism – do not apply to adult humans.
What really makes Belichick so freaky and enigmatic are these uncomfortable non-answers to questions in post-game press conferences. When asked about going for it on fourth down late in a game in which his team led by six scores – and then seven scores, and then eight – he said, "What do you want us to do, kick a field goal?"
The reporter replied, "I didn't want you to do anything."
"It's 38-nothing," Belichick said flatly. "You know … it's fourth down."
Then there was a long, spooky pause.
"Just out there playing," he finally said.
My current theory is that Belichick is doing something artful and subversive, something to transcend sports. And sportsmanship. And culture. He's bored with it, especially football. The 2007 Patriots are his robotic manifesto on human isolation. Like a Bergman film. The New England offense is a contemplation on modern life, and we can only guess at how Belichick intends for it to end. Possibly with Brady throwing 70 touchdown passes. Or possibly with some frustrated defense – maybe the Jets in Week 15, or the Dolphins in Week 16 – blitzing and late-hitting Brady mercilessly. It's not clear that Belichick cares about this. Or anything.
Whatever the case, he's certainly not just out there playing.
Onto the few relevant injuries …
Steven Jackson, back
It was like old-timer's day in St. Louis, with Jackson, Marc Bulger, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt all performing like it was 2006. Then Jackson – who'd finally returned from that groin tear – suffered back spasms and left the game in the first half with 41 yards and a touchdown. The good news for his owners is that the Rams have a bye in Week 9, which you were probably planning for anyway. Jackson told the team's website, "It's not an injury that will keep you out for weeks." The consensus No. 2 overall pick will get New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Cincinnati following the bye.
There's an excellent quote from Holt in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Jackson's importance to the Rams: "When he's in the game, (defenses) have to come down and play eight-man boxes. It gives us an opportunity to have some one-on-ones on the outside. It takes a little bit of pressure off the offensive line – a lot of pressure off the offensive line. When he goes out, everybody wants to go back to the conventional Cover 2."
And we all suffer.
Reggie Bush, ribs
Nothing to see here. "He's fine," Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "It wasn't real significant."
Frank Gore, ankle
Gore aggravated that ankle sprain in the second half, but it doesn't sound particularly serious. Don't be surprised if he's limited in practices, but expect him to go in Week 9 against the Falcons. They allow 126.4 rushing yards per game and 4.3 per carry.
Laveranues Coles, discombobulation
Coles was rocked by Terrence McGee, and it's hard to imagine he didn't suffer a concussion. He's dealing with a medley of injuries now, and it would be no surprise if he can't participate in Game 1 of the Kellen Clemens era. The Jets get Washington in Week 9, then a bye.
Matt Schaub, concussed
The Texans have a bye in Week 10, so you can reasonably expect Maquoketa's own Sage Rosenfels to start at Oakland in Week 9. Rosenfels has thrown for 466 yards with five interceptions and five touchdowns over the past two weeks. Expect more yards and turnovers.
Trent Edwards (wrist) and Vinny Testaverde (ankle) both left with injuries in Week 8, though you probably weren't relying on them. You don't want either Testaverde or David Carr in your lineup at Tennessee in Week 9. But either J.P. Losman or Edwards would be a reasonable play against user-friendly Cincinnati (246.4 passing yards per game, 18 TD allowed).
- Bill Belichick