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Quick Inside Slant: Week 9

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

Grades

I am widely revered throughout my household of cats as one of the premiere football columnists in the greater New Carrollton area. As such, I am often referred to as a teacher. A teacher with 32 students, who all compete against each other each week in a football contest. And though each of them (sans Oakland) believe they can be the best – much like how everybody thinks they are an above-average driver, which is statistically impossible – I happen to know differently. Which is why when I give out mid-term grades, I grade on a curve based on my expectations for each student. Sure it’s not fair, but since implementation of the No Child Left Behind bill, education in this country really doesn’t matter. So without any further complaints or needless decade-old political stances to take, here are the AFC’s mid-term report cards.

Mid-Term Report Cards – AFC

AFC East:

New England (7-2) – I don’t care if you field a team of Madden All-Stars with cheat codes that let you play with Jim Thorpe, Mike Tyson, and Sonic the Hedgehog, I will always take Brady and Belichick until it stops working. And even then, probably for another two years, just in case. I’ll assume the were just being nice to the Raiders. A-

Buffalo (5-3) – The Bills haven’t had a winning season since 2004 and haven’t been in the playoffs since Doug Flutie got them there (and we all remember how that ended). They’ve won a few 3-point nail-biters against the NFC North and a couple big divisional games against the non-Patriots, but can they seriously keep this up all season? No. But hey, just like dating that girl who is way out of your league and is going to dump you soon, just enjoy it while it lasts. A

Miami (5-3) – The Fins are a Cortland Finnegan tackle on a fake spike away from having the longest winning streak in football. And that would finally take the shine off of that “brilliant” play and expose it for the stupid play that it actually was. But honestly, I completely expected the Fins to be here. They’re always here. At five and three. With the rest of the pretty good teams that don’t make the playoffs. C

New York Jets (1-8) – Hmm, maybe it wasn’t Mark Sanchez. Maybe it’s just the Jets. They need to thank the league that the Raiders still exist, because a 15-game losing streak to end the season isn’t too improbable. Neither is their trash-talking coach being run out of town on a pole, whatever that means. F

AFC North:

Cincinnati (5-2-1) – Back in high school, I had the privilege of running cross-country with two of the top three runners in Pennsylvania. They would finish every race, up to and including the district championship, side by side, both in first place. It looks like that’s what the AFC North is doing this year. And despite the cloud of crap Vontaze Burfict cast upon the team, what they did with Devon Still transcends football. A+

Pittsburgh (6-3) – There are a few teams who could win or lose any game on their schedule and it wouldn’t surprise me. Pittsburgh is one of them. Their three losses came against two divisional opponents and the Tampa Bay JV squad, but Big Ben is now on pace to throw 187 touchdowns this season. B-

Cleveland (5-3) – Finally, people are talking about the Cleveland Browns. And not just to talk about Johnny Football. In fact the only time they talk about Johnny Football is to say that they’re not talking about Johnny football (or in my case, how they’re talking about not talking about Johnny Football). The point is, these guys are somehow relevant. Shame they’re in this division. A

Baltimore (5-4) – They find themselves in last place in this monster division with three division losses already, despite having the best point differential by 37. But with everybody running shoulder to shoulder, anybody could pull ahead at the end. But boy, wouldn’t it be funny if the Ravens finished with a winning record and had to watch as Cinci, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland got to the playoffs? That seems like the right amount of karmic punishment for plaguing the league with that Ray Rice debacle. C

AFC South:

Indianapolis (6-3) – The Colts are going to look really good for the same reason that Billy Madison looks awesome at dodge ball – because they’re playing against toddlers. The other quarterbacks in the division are Ryan Fitzmallett, Blake Bortles, and some guy the Titans picked up off Pinterest. Outside of their division, they are a .500 team. No surprises here. B-

Houston (4-5) – The Texans have won all the games they were supposed to win and lost all the games they were supposed to lose. You know what happens to kids who always do what they’re told? Nothing. C

Tennessee (2-6) – Dexter McCluster begged whatever Titans fans are left to stay with the team during their transition from a losing quarterback to a losing quarterback with a mustache. In other news, Dexter McCluster is apparently on the Titans. D

Jacksonville (1-8) – When people legitimately ask “How the heck did they ever beat the Browns?” you really suck. And boy did they look good this preseason and the first half of their Week One game against the Eagles! Lots of hope there. It’s a shame they couldn’t just end the season there. F

AFC West:

Denver (6-2) – This team set 187 offensive records last year. Then they lost the Superbowl so badly, if it was a Friday night bowling league, they’d have to bowl the next frame with their pants around their ankles. So they went out and got some unprecedented defensive help. And they look poised to actually win the Superbowl this year. As long as they don’t have to play the Patriots or the Seahawks. A-

Kansas City (5-3) – The Chiefs are always nipping right at the heels of the Broncos without ever actually beating them. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to play everybody’s backup quarterbacks this year. Because that’s the formula that worked so well for them last year. B-

San Diego (5-4) – I feel like I get a hernia every time I watch Philip Rivers throw a ball, but he has carried my fantasy team thus far. That three-game slide with the goose egg they just pitched against the Fins doesn’t give me a lot of confidence, but if they can manage to do that thing where they win four of their last five games like they seem to do every year, they might be able to sneak past one of those AFC North teams for a wild card spot. B-

Oakland (0-8) – The Raiders are proof, Dubya, that some children need to be left behind. They may as well bury their uniforms along with the football. If they were allowed to forgo the rest of the season and just draft Jameis Winston tomorrow, they probably would. But they aren’t. By rule, they have to play the rest of their games, to the delight of the 2008 Detroit Lions. F

Next week… NFC mid-term report cards. Unless of course I have to talk about Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson, which will be annoying.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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