Welcome to the Fifth Quarter, the only NFL recap column you’ll ever need. It’s the only one to provide a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, after all. Here’s what was going on around the rest of the league while you were selfishly focused on your home team and your fantasy players.
On Sunday, cameras caught the Cowboys' Dez Bryant absolutely losing his mind on the Dallas sideline, yapping at teammates Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, and whoever else wandered into his sight line.
Teammates and coaches later denied it, but it appeared for all the world that Bryant was engaging in the kind of me-first, throw-me-the-damn-ball divadom that gets opposing fans and middle-aged sportswriters into a sanctimonious froth.
It was great. It was perfect, as long as you weren't on the receiving end of it. And while Bryant's nonstop tantrum/outburst/rallying cry didn't push the Cowboys over the top, it helped galvanize a team that's, frankly, pretty dull without him.
No position in sports allows more potential glory with less risk than wide receiver. You snag a touchdown pass around two defenders, you're a hero. You miss, and it's your quarterback's fault for not putting the ball where it ought to go. It'd be similar to the NBA bringing in a designated dunker to do nothing but stand at the free-throw line and wait for alley-oops, or a designated hitter getting to come to the plate only with late-inning runners in scoring position. Wide receiver, as the NFL is set up now, is a position genetically engineered to appeal to the glory hound.
You can see why that combination of athletic heroism and freedom from responsibility would breed a certain godlike mindset. Michael Irvin, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson: all phenomenally talented, all tolerated by their teams only because they were, for a time, so damn good they were worth the headaches.
Which is why, in sufficiently small doses, diva WRs rule. Divas remind us that the NFL isn't just a Fantasy Score Delivery System, that there's actual emotion still in the margins of the sanitized, corporate, ready-for-mass-consumption game. Yes, they're arrogant, but so what? Chances are if you were the best on the planet at your chosen vocation, you'd have trouble fitting your head inside your helmet, too.
Here's the thing: divas can get away with acting spoiled because so much of their destructive tendencies bounce around inside their own locker room. You go after another team's player, a referee or the league itself, and the NFL will drop the hammer on you. But the league allows teams to clean their own dirty laundry, and all too often, teams make the devil's bargain and put up with the stain for a couple seasons ... all the while biding their time.
That, of course, leads to the tragic moment when the team releases the diva even though he believes he's still got more to contribute. You end up with delusional former star wide receivers cranking out situps in their driveways or begging for jobs on Twitter. It's unseemly, yes, but it's somehow sadly appropriate. Nobody revels in the glory of a spotlight quite like a diva, and nobody hurts quite as much when it's gone.
So, yeah, heads up, Dez. There'll come a time soon enough when the Cowboys don't need you, and when that day comes, they'll ditch you like you'd spit on the star. But if you play your cards right, President Romo may be able to find you a place in his Cabinet.
Running down the biggest stories of Week 8. We'll try not to catch you offsides.
• Megatron Triumphant. If you're not watching Detroit every single time the Lions are on, you're missing out on a singular NFL career. Yes, it means you have to watch the Lions, but trust us: watching Calvin Johnson absolutely destroy defenses is worth the agony. Combine Megatron's terrifying athleticism with Matthew Stafford, a guy who probably backs up 40 yards to toss his water bottle in the recycling bin, and you've got highlight-show potential on every snap. Don't wait until January, because chances are the Lions won't be around there long.
Yoink. Cornerbacks like Deion Sanders and DeAngelo Hall can give wide receivers a real run in the diva sweepstakes (it's like a regular sweepstakes, but with much more preening). Sometimes, though, they remind us why, as with Hall's astonishing horizontal interception right out of Demaryius Thomas's hands:
Fashion statement of the week. Maurice Jones-Drew, who appears to be wearing a hoodie-suit. Quite well, we might add.
In which we recap every game in seven words. Ready ... go!
Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 13: This was real, not a Madden demo?
Detroit 31, Dallas 30: Stafford'll never get a free kneeldown again.
San Francisco 42, Jacksonville 10: This is for sending us Adele, England.
Kansas City 23, Cleveland 17: Getting nervous yet, '72 Dolphins? No? OK.
New England 27, Miami 17: Patriots need to cut this Brady guy.
New Orleans 35, Buffalo 17: Saints just toy with teams now, catlike.
New York Giants 15, Philadelphia 7: Reading these words would injure Mike Vick.
Cincinnati 49, New York Jets 9: Let's hold off on Geno Smith Day.
Oakland 21, Pittsburgh 18: Can the Raiders sign 22 Terrelle Pryors?
Arizona 27, Atlanta 13: Time to trade Tony Gonzales to KC.
Denver 45, Washington 21: Being down 14 just makes Denver angry.
Green Bay 44, Minnesota 31: GB O was flawless; D a concern.
Seattle at St. Louis: Know how to pass? Call St. Louis.
Teams on bye: Bears, Chargers, Colts, Ravens, Texans, Titans.
Champ: Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals. People are really still named Marvin? Yeah? Huh. Well, when you have a day like Jones had on Sunday, you can call yourself Hingle McCringleberry if you want and nobody's gonna blink. Jones had four touchdowns in Cincinnati's 49-9 rout of the New York Jets, and somebody's already grabbed him in your fantasy league, so don't even bother checking.
Chump: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons. This was a must-win for the Atlanta Falcons, and for about five minutes, they looked like a flawless, well-orchestrated, well-organized unit. Of course, those five minutes came late in the fourth quarter, and were buried beneath fifty-odd minutes of incompetence, indecision and outright suckitude. Chief among the offenders: Matt Ryan, who threw four interceptions this year to go with his five against Arizona last year. What's with the Cardinal gratitude, Matt? It's not like you get a tax deduction for those INTs.
Oh. Oh, Great Britain. We're so very glad that you're buying into this NFL-across-the-pond experiment, but you have so, so much to learn about how to properly dress for an NFL game. Look, first off: this is the Jaguars you're riding with. So you've got that knock on you to start. But to look like extras from a community-theater version of "Cats"? Yeah, no. Trust us, you'll get eaten alive by Raiders fans. And we do not mean that metaphorically.
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There's plenty of good writing every day on the NFL. Here are a few choice reads to keep you busy while there's no football. Because the other alternatives are talking to your family or doing chores, and nobody wants that. (Send us your favorite words of the week.)
• The fact that the Rams even considered Brett Favre shows that the NFL has a serious quarterback problem. (Yahoo Sports)
• Lookin' ugly down in Tampa Bay as discipline deserts Team Schiano. (Yahoo Sports)
• Seattle's Richard Sherman brings a sobering angle to the concussion debate, one you can tell right from the title of his piece: "We Chose This Profession" (The MMQB)
• What's it like trying to rehab from injury and find a job in the NFL? This one's a must-read. (Bleacher Report)
• How close was Peyton Manning to not coming back at all? Much, much closer than you think. (The Washington Post)
• The NFL has an attendance problem. Here's why. (NFL Philosophy)
Each week, we’ll make a random Super Bowl pick based on trends, stats or general nonquantifiable gut feelings. One of these weeks, we’ll be right. Probably right after both conference championships.
49ers vs. Chiefs. You know what? Why not? Who cares if the Chiefs have fattened up on the dregs of the league? Who cares if those astronauts in "Gravity" could've used the red-jacketed Andy Reid as a way to keep their bearings while looking at earth? They're 8-0, and every single 8-0 team has gone on to win the championship ... or, at least, has won half their games. As good a reason as any to back 'em, right? (Send us some barbecue, Chiefs fans.) As for the 49ers: they're looking scary good.
Super Bowl picks, full season: Denver 3x, New Orleans 2x, Seattle 2x, San Francisco 2x, New England, Indianapolis, Kansas City.
And that's a wrap for this week's edition of Fifth Quarter. Got a question? Comment? Concern? Rant? Hit us up below. We’ll run your words here or in Thursday’s weekly letters column. For now, enjoy the week. It's not long 'til more football!