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Quick Inside Slant: Week 3

Impressions of the 2016 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

A straight line can be made between any two points in three-dimensional space. This is a fact. It may not be easy, for example if one point is in the basement closet and the other one is on an exocomet floating around a Horsehead Nebula just outside the Andromeda Galaxy, but it can be done. This is why not much celebration or panic accompanies 2-0 and 0-2 starts. But once you get three in a row, you have yourself legitimate vectors, one that typically points directly to the playoffs and another that points toward coach firings, plummeting jersey sales, and early draft picks. This year, there are five undefeated teams and four completely defeated teams after three weeks. Under the current playoff format, 83-percent of 3-0 teams make the playoffs. That’s pretty good. But only three-percent of the 0-3 teams make the playoffs. That’s not so good. But realistically, and completely subjectively, what are the REAL chances these teams make the playoffs?

The Three Oh Club

Bill Belichick, when will we learn to never, ever doubt you?

Bill Belichick, when will we learn to never, ever doubt you?

New England Patriots (3-0): Repeat this mantra to yourself, because you need to. I will never ever pick against Bill Belichick. I will never ever pick against Bill Belichick. I will never ever pick against Bill Belichick. Even if I’m the starting quarterback and I have a torn Achilles and am willingly trying to lose the game. What he has done with Jimmy G, and the other guy, and hey! – remember Matt Cassel? Did he ever win another game? Belichick made that guy so much money he apparently didn’t deserve. I’m starting to wonder if they even need Brady, or if Double B just made a $1 bet with Mortimer Duke to make this immobile, overweight college backup the world’s biggest athlete.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 99.9%, only because I refuse to ever admit anything as inevitable certainty after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination.

Denver Broncos (3-0): “It’s a quarterback driven league.” “You can’t win in this league without a quarterback.” Right. New England and Denver have proven it doesn’t matter who your quarterback is, all due respect to Trevor Siemian and whoever New England starts at quarterback this week. Remember when we actually questioned the Broncos after they let go of Brock Oswiler? Do we not remember this is the team that won a playoff game with Tim Tebow? They led the league in interceptions (the kind you throw, not the kind you catch) last year and still won the Superbowl. That has never happened before (not fact-checked, just kinda guessing). This team is obviously quarterback-proof. Well, not Mark Sanchez-proof. Nobody is Sanchez-proof.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 94% The Chiefs are still a very good team and they are running back-proof.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0): Less than a week before the season, the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings for much more than he was worth to the Eagles. And so, with less than a week to prepare, the rookie who was possibly not even going to dress for an entire year was thrust into the starting position in Week One. Which, thankfully, was against the worst team in football. Then they played the next worst. But wins against the Browns and Bears weren’t really convincing, even by 34 total points. And when they were up two touchdowns on the Steelers, I kept waiting for the onslaught. And it never came. Well, not from the Steelers at least. So now the Eagles are heading into their stupid Week Four bye off a 31-point victory over the perennial AFC favorite Steelers. And they’ve only allowed 27 TOTAL points in three games, a number that they’ve scored in EACH of their three games. Yeah, we’re all a bit excited in Wentzylvania.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 85% Let’s remember that Washington won the division last year, because Tony Romo was hurt (which he is again) and Eli Manning is still capable of going all Ryan Fitzpatrick at any moment. The Eagles may only need another five wins to take this division.

Minnesota Vikings (3-0): The Vikings are 3-0? With Sam Bradford starting for them? Well, they do have Adrian Peterson. What? He’s out for a couple months? Well, they must not have played anybody yet. The Packers and the Panthers? No kidding. Well, how about that? I guess they’re pretty good, even without the incomparable Teddy Bridgewater 2-yard pass.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 75% They did win the division last year when they had Adrian Peterson, but as long as they’re in a division with Aaron Rodgers, I’m not sold on a 3-0 start.

Baltimore Ravens (3-0): What? These guys are seriously undefeated? Do I really have to write about them? Their first win was a low-scoring 6-point win against the Bills. Then they beat the lowly Browns on a horrible unsportsmanlike conduct call. Last week, they squeaked by the Jags after both Flacco and Bortles tried desperately to lose the game, throwing picks on four straight drives in the final minutes. And unless I’m wrong here, they still play in a division with the Steelers and the Bengals. But then again, they do play a bunch more crappy teams in the coming month.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 50% I’ll believe it when they beat a team either A) by more than a touchdown, or B) in the top 20 in the league.

The Oh No Club

Drew Brees may not be the entire reason the Saints are losing, but he's certainly not why they are winning any more, yet the Saints have tied so much of their cap up into him and it's made for a bad time in the Big Easy.

Drew Brees may not be the entire reason the Saints are losing, but he’s certainly not why they are winning any more, yet the Saints have tied so much of their cap up into him and it’s made for a bad time in the Big Easy.

New Orleans Saints (0-3): Yes, their defense is atrocious and you should play any fantasy players you have against them every week, possibly even offensive linemen. But the Saints lost their first game by a point against the Raiders on a gutsy 2-point conversion in the waning minutes, and their second by three against the Giants, whose only touchdown came on a blocked field goal attempt. Then they just sucked against the Falcons, which they are apt to do. Still, I’m not ruling a Drew Brees team out yet, when the Panthers are only a game ahead of them.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 25% They may not be able to stop anybody, but they can score with everybody.

Jacksonville Jaguars (0-3): For the seven years I worked at UMBC, we were ranked in the top 20 Up-and-Coming Universities for probably five of them. At some point, it just became insulting. This is where the Jags are right now. “This is the year they turn it around!” “The Jags are my sleeper for the playoffs!” “Blake Bortles will outscore Cam Newton in fantasy!” [splashes water on face] Oh yeah, maybe this is just who they are. They lose close games to good teams, they lose blowouts to average teams, and they lose ridiculous games to the Ravens. But they always lose.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 10% It’s still the AFC South, where all you need to do is squeak by the Colts. It’s a shame they keep giving up home field advantage to go hang out in London and make me wake up early.

Chicago Bears (0-3): Every year, I fall for it again. How are the Bears not better? They have so much talent! Until they got rid of all their talent this year. This time I saw it coming. The Bears, as the Late Great Denny Green would say, are who we thought they were. And as injuries keep piling up on defense, not to mention quarterback and star wide receiver, they just keep spiraling down. Much like the deep ball that Brian Hoyer throws.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 3% The Vikings are already three games ahead of them, and the Packers still exist.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): They really haven’t been horrible. They lost a close one to the Ravens on a nonsense unsportsmanlike conduct call, and they took the Dolphins to overtime on the Terrelle Pryor Show. But it’s not about the closeness of games or the number of quarterbacks that take a snap in a month. There’s just something about this team that smells like failure. I remember when the Phillies, with a 2-run lead, sent Mitch Williams out to “relieve” Terry Mulholland in the 9th inning of Game Six in the 1993 World Series. Before he even got to the mound, I knew we were going to lose. Four batters later, Joe Carter hit that 3-run home run Philly fans will never forget. That’s probably how Browns fans feel all the time. I’m just happy I don’t have to live like that. Sorry, Drew Carey, but you probably deserve it for having four or five TV shows.

Percent chance of making the playoffs: 0.1% Maybe they’ll give up and start Pryor at quarterback and it will be the best thing the franchise has ever done. But probably not. Cleveland is just a barren wasteland where quarterbacks and coaches go to die.

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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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