FMIA Week 2: Too-Early Power Rankings, Rodgers’ Recovery, and Great Days of Week 2


1. I think I’ve got this half-century-old theme music and intro for you to watch before I make my point about Aaron Rodgers. ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” is the show that a sports-starved junior-high and high-school kid watched every weekend on Channel 40 out of Springfield, Mass. Cliff diving in Acapulco, soccer in Argentina, hurling in Ireland, boxing anywhere, ski jumping from Norway. I ate it all up. Ninety minutes, if I’m not mistaken. The host, Jim McKay, took us all over the world to see all kinds of sports. Winners in triumph, losers often bloody, shaky, tear-streaked. Each week, McKay with his famous voiceover:

The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.

The human drama of athletic competition …

2. I think my point is, this is sports. For you to love it, you’ve got to accept that a soul-crushing injury like the one to Rodgers is going to be a part of it.

3. I think someone called sports the ultimate reality show, and it’s true. The great thing about football weekends is we can turn on the TV and have our jaws drop when Joe Burrow has the worst game of his pro career and is mercy-yanked by his head coach, and when the Cowboys murdelize the Giants by 40 and, of course, when Rodgers goes down on the fourth play of his Jets career with a sudden Achilles tear. If we’re going to get invested in the season, we’ve got to be invested knowing anything can happen—even a brutal, seismic injury like the one that happened to Rodgers. It’s part of the allure of the game. Always has been. We don’t know what’s going to happen on any play, and compellingly, disastrously, it’s part of what makes us sit in front of the TV every Sunday from Labor Day to Groundhog Day, and beyond.

And so now we lose five straight games of great allure: Rodgers at his old coach, Mike McCarthy, in Dallas Rodgers at home against the great Bill Belichick Rodgers-Patrick Mahomes, on a Sunday night Rodgers playing to defend his close friend and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett at Sean Payton and Denver and Jalen Hurts-Rodgers in a match against the defending NFC champs.

I feel awful for Jets fans, and for football fans who were all locked-in to see Rodgers with his first new team in 18 years. We’ve been robbed of a huge part of the human drama of athletic competition, and it’s a bummer. But I take you back to another great American athlete who tore his Achilles 10 years ago. After spending some time howling at the moon (figuratively), 34-year-old Kobe Bryant took to Facebook to say: “There are far greater issues/challenges in the world then [sic] a torn Achilles. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver lining and get to work with the same belief, same drive and same conviction as ever. One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.”

4. I think that’s Rodgers this morning. He was already talking like a multi-year player when I met him in training camp in New Jersey in late July. It was clear he’d found a new love of the game, which he’d lost late in his Green Bay life. It was clear he’s been impacted by the longevity of Tom Brady. What he told me that day:

“When the trade went down, I came out here and started having a lot of fun. I got to know the guys. Everything was so new and different, I felt kind of a rejuvenation. It doesn’t feel like one year anymore. I think when you get older, you gotta be smart about diet and training and every year I’m tweaking things. But, when you’re older – and I bet Tom [Brady] would say the same thing – if you can have years without a lot of injuries, it makes it way more enjoyable. When this stops being fun, like what we saw with some younger quarterbacks … like Andrew Luck, yeah, he was just tired of being banged up. So, if I could string together a few seasons of good health, then I don’t want to put a cap on it. But I feel good about this not being just a one-year thing.”

Of course, that quote included “if I could string together a few seasons of good health.” I get it. But he invested too much mental and physical effort, and he bought into the New York (and New Jersey) State of Mind. This is going to be a Willis Reed story. I don’t know if he’ll be as great with a sutured Achilles at 40 as he would have been with a pure one at 39. But Aaron Rodgers is not going out like this.

5. I think, not to pile on the Jets, but let’s look at what could happen to the schedule of the 1-1 team in the final 15 games, per NFL schedule and flexing rules:

  • Sunday night games:
    • The Oct. 1 game with Kansas City couldn’t be flexed because the league wouldn’t flex out of a Patrick Mahomes game and because it doesn’t fall into the timing for the flexing rules.
    • The week 10 game at the Raiders is eligible and will be a good candidate to be flexed.
  • Thursday night games: The Jets have one, in week 17, at Cleveland, and it is eligible under new NFL rules to be flexed if done by Nov. 28. Interesting early-window Sunday candidate to flex to Thursday in week 17: Miami at Baltimore.
  • Sunday doubleheader games: The NFL could flex any of them to 1 p.m. ET—at Denver in week five (unlikely), Eagles at home in week six (unlikely), at Buffalo in week 11 (unknown).

6. I think I think there’s no sentiment other than outrage for those who said on social media that Vikings running back Alexander Mattison should commit suicide after his performance in the Vikings’ Thursday night loss to the Eagles. The story should see the light of day, absolutely, because we need to see what lurks in the shadows of this society. “Under my helmet, I am a human, a father, a son. This is sick,” Mattison wrote on Instagram. Keep posting, Alexander. Keep illustrating the hate out there, in the hopes we can see under the rocks.

7. I think congrats are in order for Houston receiver John Metchie III, who returned from a bout with leukemia last year to play his first game in the pros on Sunday—and to make his first catch, a 17-yarder in the fourth quarter against Indianapolis. “It was an amazing feeling, something I thought about every day in the hospital,” said Metchie. Good for him. Great for him.

8. I think Sean Payton’s not going to make it comfortable for the Broncos in practice this week. Going 0-2 against the Raiders and Commanders, both at home, both winnable games, will fry Payton. And it should.

9. I think the good sign for Zach Wilson is he’s playing less frenetically than he did last season—maybe due to the zen QB approach he saw in Aaron Rodgers. The bad news is his 54-percent accuracy and 2-to-4 TD-to-pick ratio are nowhere near winning numbers. It doesn’t help to play Dallas. But the Patriots come to New Jersey Sunday, and Wilson’s got to show better or the fans will lay it on him.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. I made it only to halftime of Colorado-Colorado State as the clock struck 12 on the East Coast. But what football that was. And then, to see when I woke up that Shedeur Sanders, down eight with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, drove Colorado 98 yards for the touchdown and passed for the two-point conversion, then threw for touchdowns twice in OT for the 43-35 win. At 2:28, Giannis Antetokounmpo said on social media: “I don’t watch football but that was a heck of a game.”

b. Best theater in sports today: Colorado football.

c. Imagine thinking that nine months ago, when the Buffaloes ended a 1-11 season with consecutive losses of 39, 38, 47 and 42 points. It is incredible what Deion Sanders has created in Boulder.

d. Interview of the Week: Rich Eisen, on “The Rich Eisen Show,” with Sanders.

e. Good note from Sanders, on how he makes sure his players don’t get big heads with their stunning early success for the 3-0 Buffaloes: “The morning message is, ‘If you’re a person that’s willing to change because of the attention, that means you’ve never had attention, and you ain’t built for this. You’re built to be on a seesaw.’”

f. I can see why players want to play for Sanders.

g. Great sign behind Sanders, for the interview with Eisen, in his office in Boulder: “You play good, they pay good!”

h. Are you like me, and you wonder how an escaped convict could elude hundreds of police officers and a team of trained dogs for 13 days in Pennsylvania? I thought this story, from Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs of The New York Times, covered the nitty-gritty of the chase and capture of escapee Danelo Cavalcante quite well.

i. Cavalcante, a Brazilian, was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend in 2021, and he was wanted for murder in a 2017 killing in Brazil. On his fifth day on the lam, according to deputy U.S. marshal Robert Clark, Cavalcante stole a white 2020 van with the keys inside and made off with it.

j. Wrote Bogel-Burroughs:

It had only about a quarter tank of gas, Mr. Clark said, but Mr. Cavalcante used it to drive north, where he tried to reach former co-workers at their homes. At one, he was captured on a doorbell camera, by then cleanshaven and in a hoodie.

All the while, the manhunt was growing, with hundreds of local, federal and state officers, backed by dogs and aircraft. At one point, he went three days without food, and as the search wore on, he considered surrendering, Mr. Clark said. “It was difficult to live out there.”

Instead, he kept moving, and kept breaking into houses, Mr. Clark said.

As Mr. Cavalcante moved through the woods, he took steps to mask his tracks, sometimes covering his excrement with leaves so as not to be tailed, Mr. Clark said. He stayed hydrated by drinking from a stream. At one point, he found a watermelon on a farm and split it open by smashing it with his head.

k. Netflix, you’ve got your next movie.

l. Travel Story of the Week: Matthew Kronsberg of The Wall Street Journal on the good and bad of getting work done on an airplane.

m. Good story. Sometimes I veg out on the plane. Most often, even in cramped quarters, I view time on the plane as golden for getting some typing done. You can’t go anywhere. Why not pass the time by doing the busy work you know you’ve got to get done anyway?

n. Writes Kronsberg:

For Casey Shultz, the best workspace on Earth … isn’t. “I am at peak productivity on an airplane,” said the impact investor from Saint Paul, Minn. A flight helps her tackle onerous tasks that she struggles to find time for on the ground, like getting to the mythical Inbox Zero.

For many business travelers, everything that conspires to make flying so onerous—little personal space, few worthwhile distractions and a seemingly interminable amount of time before you land—also makes it an ideal opportunity to hunker down. To avoid losing hours to idleness midair, the most productive fliers adopt simple steps—or, failing that, changes in perspective.

You have time to yourself that you wouldn’t normally get at home or in the office,” said Russell Ganim, the associate provost and dean of international programs at the University of Iowa. His productivity peaks while he’s shuttling between campuses and conferences around the world. He finds those “relatively quiet, relatively dark and relatively cool” long-haul flights conducive to accomplishing “nitty-gritty” administrative tasks, he said, while also putting him in the state of mind to think “a little bit more broadly and deeply” on bigger projects.

o. What is Wrong with Us Story of the Week: Brandon Drenon of the BBC on the Seattle police officer who appears to make a joke out of the death of a woman struck and killed by a police car.

p. The officer was recorded laughing when discussing the death of 26-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula, a college student in Seattle. On the recoding, officer Daniel Auderer is overheard saying: “She was 26, anyway. She had limited value.”

q. The laughter. It’s just too grotesque.

r. TV Story of the Week: Steve Hartman of the CBS Evening News on a professional good-deed-doer, Calvin Godette of Chesterfield County, Va.

s. Calvin Godette donates half his income to strangers—including Denise Walters. It changed her life.

t. “You may have lost your husband. But you gained a family.” Attaway, Steve Hartman. Keep those stories coming.

u. When you turn on the news and see stories like the laughing cop, or Lauren Boebert/vaping/Beetlejuice, you have to wonder just what this country is coming to. That’s why it’s good to see Calvin Godette.

v. Now, we always had a saying in the King family, originated and stressed by daughter Laura: I’m just saying. And if Travis Kelce is going to hang out with Taylor Swift, and perhaps get involved with Taylor Swift, then Mary Beth King is going to become a Kansas City fan, and fast. I mean, I’m just saying.

w. Beernerdness: Had a pair of Catawba White Zombie White Ales (Catawba Brewing Company, Asheville, N.C.) on the training-camp trip, after a broiler of a day at Panthers camp. This beer defines “crisp.” Delicious, with a citrus hint, right out of the purple can.

x. Coffeenerdness: There’s a new drink on King coffee playlist: Tall flat white with an extra shot at Starbucks. Only before noon, though. It’s too much of an energy boost, too potentially sleep-disruptive, to have after noon.

y. Nice game, Ohio Bobcats, holding Brock Purdy U to zero points for 55 minutes (with Ohio committing zero penalties in those first 55 minutes) and beating Power Five Iowa State 10-7.

z. Great stat, Buster Olney: Entering Sunday’s games, Kyle Schwarber had 45 singles and 44 homers for the Phils this year.