Underdogs Review

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There’s a bit of history between this title and I. As a retail worker in an electronics department, I was subjected to trailers of upcoming movies playing over and over for hours on end. There were movies such as The AvengersTomorrowland, and Paper Towns, but one movie stuck out for being particularly… annoying. This movie was Underdogs, a movie about overcoming adversity, believing in miracles, and soccer (or fútbol). It seemed like typical low-brow animated kids’ junk from the trailers, but a little research made the movie all the more intriguing to me. Originally called Metegol, the film was produced in Argentina, and was released all the way back in 2013. The film won a wide variety of awards within the country, and eventually it was scheduled to have an English dub for an American release. However, as time went on, the film’s theater release date was pushed back multiple times, until it was eventually pulled from the schedule altogether. It wouldn’t be released in America until July of this year, straight to DVD and blu-ray.

The intrigue doesn’t stop there. This is just me theorizing, but I believe the English dub of this film went through production hell for many years. The trailers for the English theatrical release show various lines that are never uttered in the final version, and even have different voices for specific characters. Many of the jokes shown in the trailer are not in the final version. Most damning of all, Metegol has a total runtime of an hour and forty-six minutes. Underdogs has a runtime of an hour and twenty-five minutes. Twenty-one minutes of film mysteriously vanish from one language to another. With all of these loose ends, it’s hard to really criticize the movie’s original form, as I don’t speak the language it was released for. I can only share my thoughts on its English release as Underdogs. So for those who have seen the movie in its intended language, note that I am looking at this film as Underdogs, the American (and apparently shortened) version released only within the last two months.

The film is 95% flashback. The entire story of Underdogs is a recollection of an old father’s childhood and young adulthood in story form. This story is told to his son, who is feeling inadequate with himself for whatever reason. Something about soccer. This story has Jake, the male hero, showcasing his absurd love for foosball to his friends. It then introduces Ace, the antagonist of the film, as he comes in and bullies Jake by beating him at foosball. However, Jake decides enough is enough and defeats Ace many times over, leaving him humiliated. This loss to Jake leaves Ace so distraught with himself that he vows revenge at all costs. That revenge comes many years later, when the main cast are now adults, as Ace comes back to the town and announces he’s purchased it with his fortune after becoming the world’s biggest soccer star. His first order of business is to demolish the entire town to rid himself of any evidence of his loss to Jake many years prior. Jake, defeated, is crying near the center of the town when one of his tears lands on a foosball figurine off of his foosball table. This tear brings this figurine to life (and all the rest of them, apparently), as the adventure begins to unfold soon after. Very soon after.

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The first and most immediate problem with this film is every scene after the figurines come to life. This film has no idea what the word “pacing” is, moving at the speed of sound with scene after scene of long, overdrawn conversations and comedic skits of the figurines doing silly things. Nothing is slow. Nothing is subtle. Transitions are even abrupt as characters randomly jump from setting to setting, going from a dump to a long road to a carnival to Ace’s mansion back to the carnival into a forest and so on and so forth. This constant pounding of scene after scene of so little of overall importance alienates the audience into wondering what the entire point of the story is. Are the figurines only supposed to be comic relief? What is their point? Are they supposed to be helping Jake? As soon as the figurines come into the picture, all importance of a central conflict seems to go kaput. The film literally only shows various ways of trying to make the figurines endearing. It doesn’t work.

Even setting the pacing aside, the plot takes very obvious leaps with its logic in almost every scene. Rats are horses. Figurines talk to one another with intricate backstories that don’t make any sense because they’re toys (Why are these figurines talking about sponsors?). Jake can operate heavy machinery and limousines despite not having a car (and knows where “Ace Land” is despite its existence being short-lived). Explosions occur out of random. There are many things about Underdogs that beg for a change in the movie’s name to Overdone. It tries so hard to cram as much of a silly, adventure-like story into a half-hour timeframe that it ultimately comes off as confusing. I cannot stress enough how completely bonkers the middle of this film is. It makes The Room look competent at times. Every scene is so full of nothing that one can’t help but feel the film should’ve cut the majority of it all out.

When a story is clearly lacking, viewers turn to the characters to make up for a less immersive plot. Underdogs suffers tremendously from a narrative standpoint, but fares only slightly better in terms of character. Jake is a lovable loser type of character, who remains as one of the only characters to obtain any sort of development throughout. But as I’ve covered many times in the past, developing a weakling is among the easiest tropes to complete, so it’s not that impressive. Every other character stays within that slot that they were designed for within the movie. Laura, the female lead and romantic interest of Jake, is just that. She is the romantic interest of Jake (and for some reason Ace(?)). Nothing more, nothing less. There is a point right before Ace returns to the town where she tells Jake that she’s going to art school. This is never brought up at any point afterwards, nor does it indicate that Laura is artistic in any sense. Her entire character is “Stick up for the weak. Fight against the bully. I fall in love with hero just because.” Ace is the antagonist. He’s the epitome of everything everyone hates in a human being and does nothing to hide it. Despite this, he is famous beyond reason with an implied monstrous amount of adoring fans, despite being the worst person in existence. He never changes. Never has any shred of goodness. He’s simply bad. Because he’s bad. In fact, he’s so bad that every person in the town hated him when he was a kid. Every person cheered when Jake beat him in foosball, while Ace commented afterwards that he’d make everyone in the town love him. He might really be Satan.

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The figurines, as I will not address them all by name (because I’ve forgotten most of them), range from comic relief to comic relief, with a sprinkle of helpful, magical adviser to Jake. These figurines, on an individual level, are playfully one-dimensional. I won’t comment on the fact that their characters are so one-dimensional because their entire point is to be one-dimensional. There’s the leader, the self-absorbed one, the hippie, the Russian (who gets one line throughout the movie), the Italian brothers (Reference, anyone?), among others who don’t really matter in the long run. People’s tastes in comedy vary, but I never smirked once at any intentional humor the figurines deployed. What was more funny about the movie was how randomly non-important each scene playing back to back was. These figurines, while remaining one-dimensional, don’t have the charm to pick up the film as not only do I not find them funny, but I don’t think they have any use to Jake, either. They fail as both comic relief and a helpful adviser. The only time they serve any assistance is during the last fifteen minutes of the film, and Jake quickly tells them to get off his lawn.

The only real “strength” to this movie is the final showdown with Ace and his team of all-star players. Not because it’s actually good, but because it’s not a bunch of randomly spliced scenes showing back to back without any importance. It is the only time where the film is actually focused on a particular conflict, with dedication being spent on making the match dramatic and emotionally poignant. That doesn’t mean the comedy incorporated into the scene is any better, nor are the amount of clichés bearable, but it at least gives us time to settle into a scene and stick with it, knowing full well what’s at stake and why we should care.

The canvas I’ve painted for this film is already grim, but allow me to further push it into unspeakable decay. What may be the most atrocious part of Underdogs is the voice acting, and the lip-syncing to go along with it. The voice acting during the trailers were fine. Not great, but fine. In the final product, lines become a thousand times more unintentionally hilarious due to a lack of overall effort or bad timing. The lip-syncing is worse than old kung-fu movies made back in the ’80s. People’s mouths will move far less than the amount of words being spoken, with facial expressions varying rapidly despite the monotony of the words being spoken. Ace’s voice in particular seems incredibly over the top, with every word spewing from his mouth like acid spit. Laura’s voice made an already bland character into sandpaper. However, the actor with the most hideous performance of all was Mel Brooks, who genuinely sounded like he was reading a book with every line. Not to mention, the voice does not suit his slimy businessman character whatsoever. I wouldn’t go so far as to say every voice actor was awful, but most of them probably could’ve had another retake or twenty.

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The overall look and animation of Underdogs is probably the only thing the English version didn’t have enough focus to alter, leaving the style of the original film in place. Despite the 2016 release date, the animation looks very early 2010. It also looks very minimal budget, too. For what it’s worth, the colors are vibrant, the animation is smooth throughout, and the characters are memorable enough by the contour of their bodies. However, I feel the design choices of the characters are a little, should I say, uncanny valley. A few characters, particularly Laura as an adult and “Emo,” look a little odd to me based on their expressions and facial structure. There are times when Laura looks twenty, but then looks forty. Emo’s frustrated grimace is just… eugh. There is also an old woman, simply referred to as “Nana,” whose breasts literally take up her entire body. Her breasts are her stomach. They look like giant bananas under her shirt. Needless to say, it was very disturbing. The design choices are, at best, weird, with more focus geared towards lighting, color, and flair, rather than human sculpting. Fine. Not great, but fine.

When all was said and done, I was glad I was finally able to watch this movie. However, I felt slightly disappointed after knowing so much from the trailer was cut from the final version, and then learning afterwards that the original version was slightly more different than not. It makes me want to try and find the movie with English subtitles to see if the movie really is worth all the fame it’s gotten. From what the English version showed me, absolutely not. Underdogs is a complete mess of pacing, unnecessary scenes, and a lack of overall substance that only the lowest common denominator would find high quality. But does that mean Metegol is the same way? This may simply be a case of a movie’s potential being lost in translation, which I think is a shame. Only time will tell—all I know is that Underdogs was certainly not well worth the wait.

Final Score: 1/10

Entry #18: Hyouge Mono (SoA 2016)

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There’s something to be said about a series that tries to become inherently different than the rest: thank you. Thank you, Hyouge Mono, for focusing on a shtick that is rarely found in anime, and with it so acutely tenderized so as the bulk of the meat becomes hardy and juicy for everyone to enjoy. Hyouge Mono is like a well-done, whopping steak at your favorite steakhouse.

Don’t think I was just gonna use that lip-licking analogy for praise, quite the opposite. What is the worst part about dining out at a fine establishment? Aside from obnoxious people? And bad waiters/waitresses? And noise? And… well, I’ll get on with it. Waiting. Waiting for the food to get to your table, so that you can finally dig into what your stomach and heart have been craving. Hyouge Mono is like that, too. One must wait for the cooking to take place, the tenderizing, the spicing, the little quirks that give the steak its signature flavor. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that enamored with this series until nearly halfway through. It’s one of those anime where everything becomes better over time, as the ingredients to make a compelling story are built from underground up, causing a very, very slow pace from beginning to end. Not to mention that this series has 39 episodes, so it can (and will) take its sweet time. But oh, are the results so good.

One of the focal points of this series is not sex appeal, being trapped inside a video game, or starting a club during your second year in high school. This series focuses on something called aestheticism, which is the placed importance on the aesthetics of items or materials. Essentially, looking at the physical beauty of something regardless of outside influences or symbolism. A lust for precise craftsmanship, gold embroidery, or sheen. Things of that nature. This concept is used both seriously and not-so-seriously, depending on the situation, which plays into the slow-pace of the series near the beginning. Aestheticism seems to be the major driving point of almost every major character in this series, who want to change the world according to their own foundation of aesthetics, or lack of it. It’s exaggerated both for the sake of comedy and drama, and effectively manages to persuade the viewer to be emotionally involved with either.

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With the shtick of the series out of the way, this series also has a more familiar setting: the “Warring States era”, where Oda Nobunaga (who acts as a major character in this anime) has conquered most of Japan and is marking his place in history. Here’s another interesting tidbit: from the beginning of episode one to the end of episode thirty-nine, a period of roughly fourteen years go by. This, especially near the beginning, where years go by by the end of the second episode, makes the pacing feel rather quick aside from slow. From 1577 to 1591, the viewer follows a giant cast of characters and how their influence plays a part in structuring the society of Japan at that point. Whether this story is based upon true events, I’m not entirely sure, but it feels realistic to me, aside from the funny faces, anyway.

That’s enough background. Let’s get to the main dish.

Hyouge Mono can be incredibly dull starting out. The first ten or so episodes shows so little of anything aside from character dialogue and interaction that one without any tolerance for the sort will be dropping this upon the first episode. That’s the thing, too: this anime has a lot of dialogue. You thought the Monogatari series was bad? This anime can rival it. To some degree, one would be inclined to wonder if all of this dialogue is really important, and at points, I’d wondered, too. However, as the series goes on, it begins to take all of those little spots, those scenes where nothing of importance seems to occur, and draws back to it in order to establish a character’s growth. Of course, this doesn’t occur for every character, but the most major characters become characters worth sinking time into, especially the main man, Sasuke (or later on, Oribe).

Sasuke serves as the major source of comic relief and viewer empathy within Hyouge Mono. He’s a quirky guy of thirty-four (in the beginning) and a vassal for Nobunaga whose love for aestheticism gets him into all sorts of precarious situations, though normally of his own accord. Whenever beholding a famous item worthy of his attention, his face contorts and his eyes puff up to abnormal sizes. This happens a couple times each episode, which sort of encapsulates the mood of the series within the first ten episodes or so. It’s not so serious, but serious enough to have viewers understand the weight of the situation. At one point, Sasuke is sent as a messenger to a former-general for Nobunaga’s army to surrender or be executed by Nobunaga’s men. One thing leads to another, and the former-general commits suicide via using his valued teapot as an explosive device. The flying debris causes Sasuke to run after the most stable pieces of the teapot in order to save any resemblance of the pot for his own greed. Now if that doesn’t tell you what you need to know about the tone of the series, I’m not sure what will.

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When I began this series, I feared this focus on aestheticism would just be a running gag for Sasuke to use to lighten a mood. Thankfully, its emphasis is taken more seriously by a myriad of other characters, and at some point near the end, Sasuke’s importance to the plot almost drops entirely. I will say, though, that another part of what makes the beginning so slow is that fallback to using aestheticism as a joke, with characters’ eyelids popping out and mouths agape to the floor. It almost sets a satirical tone that made me forget that the plot is trying to be of a historically somber atmosphere. That, and all the talking. I can’t stress this enough. There is so much talking. So much. And that doesn’t go away at any point in the series.

Any major complaints I have with this show lie within the first third of its episode count. Apart from that, this show is a wonderful piece of fiction, or exaggerated non-fiction. The characters’ focus on their own ideologies and the impact each character has based on reputation and experience alone makes for a riveting drama on whose word trumps whose. There is so much fascination with the different variety of people’s aestheticism that it drives people either into prosperity or madness. The things some characters are willing to do to promote their own view of the world is heart-breaking and cruel. But it makes for beautiful character development. Something as simple as the color of a building is enough to set people off. Gold or black? White or polka-dot? Perfection versus imperfection. The amount of stylistic integrity and focus on aestheticism—which near the beginning was used as a joke—that this series has works wonders for those enamored with things more intellectually involved. For those who enjoy simplistic, harem-like plots of boy goes to school and tries to ward off slobbering archetypes, stay far, far away from this series.

For what it’s worth, there isn’t a single character in this show that I can come to dislike, but there are plenty of characters I don’t care for in the end. With the exclusion of about four or five major characters, the character list is likable, but not altogether quality meat. There is a giant cast of characters, and most serve purpose to some degree. However, by the end, it’s clear which characters the series favors. And those characters are all wonderful. With the exception of Hashiba, the ruler of Japan for the bulk of the series, I found myself genuinely concerned for the characters’ struggles and ideas. While these characters aren’t the most colorful, they feel genuine and honest, in almost grim-like fashion. Theirs ideas may coincide and even mimic one another, but it’s not due to trends set by current reality, but by the reality that is set within the world painted in the anime. Once again, the characters and story coincide to create this magical world where things change on the part of characters’ ideals and the influence they have on “modern” culture. There is so much detail that comes from this series later on that I cannot recommend this series enough for those willing to face the drag it takes to get there.

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Animation is a little on the standard side. The emphasis on aestheticism would imply that the series would focus on making the objects of characters’ desires look more magical, and it does. However, that’s really all the series has going for it. Individual animation for basic actions is fine, not great. Character shininess and design are okay for the time, but it gets props for making characters easily distinguishable. Except with women, which typically relies on either their weight, hairstyle, or eyes. Sasuke’s wife, Osen, has these “whoosh-like” eyes that imply someone took an ink brush and made a fell swoop and just called it “eyes.” It’s odd. The expressions that aesthetes make in the presence of magical-looking items is humorous, and always manages to make me smirk, but they aren’t as fantastical as they could be; very rarely, in fact. I suppose that suits the realistic qualities of this anime (though not everything is realistic), but it leaves a little more to be desired. It’s typically with Sasuke, too. It’s almost funnier when characters like Rikyu have it happen to them, but they never take advantage. But I suppose I can’t complain when the series is more dramatic than comedic. Ho-hum.

It’s a series that I’m really glad I discovered. Before watching it, I had never heard of this anime before, which is rare considering I search the high seas for various anime to watch almost all the time. There aren’t many anime I’m not at least vaguely familiar with. Ripe with psychological manipulation, the weight of one’s actions, and the stylistic approach to an unheard of shtick, Hyouge Mono is a wonderful treat for those willing to lick their way to the tootsie-roll center.

Personal Score: B

Critical Score: A-

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Impressions from Week One of the 2015 NFL Season

It was good to be an NFL tight end in Week One. Rob Gronkowski, Jason Witten, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Travis Kelce, Ladarius Green, Darren Fells, Tyler Eifert, Eric Ebron, Martellus Bennett, Jimmy Graham, and Jordan Reed all had at least fifty receiving yards and one touchdown reception in the first week of games. Some of the names I listed even had two touchdown receptions. Gronkowski had three.

It wasn’t good to be a Vikings, Browns, or Buccaneers fan in Week One. These three teams got blown out by teams many don’t predict having winning seasons. The 49ers, who admittedly looked good on Monday, lost basically half their roster during the offseason. The Jets are starting a seasoned veteran that doesn’t have much on his resume and a talented, but inconsistent receiving corp. Finally, the Titans went 2-14 last season. They revamped the team with a few key additions, including first round pick Marcus Mariota, but I doubt they’ll make any drastic improvements with their team. Nevertheless, the Buccaneers were simply outplayed in every way.

(Note: My impressions for a majority of these games are based on stats and a few highlights. While I love stats and numbers when it comes to football, I know they don’t necessarily paint the whole picture, so take with that what you will. I will note the games I did watch below the game headers. I will also note whether or not my Pick ‘Em guess was accurate from my previous entry.)

[Pittsburgh @ New England]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Deflategate sure made Tom Brady fall flat, huh?! That was such a genius interpretation on my part. Never doubt Tom Brady, especially at home.

As for the rest of the game, it’s impressive to see how few weapons Tom Brady needs to succeed in games. Those weapons are Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, and [Insert starting running back name here]. The gameplan boiled down to the Edelman-Lewis show outside the red zone, then the Gronkowski super deluxe finale within the red zone. It’s really embarrassing for Pittsburgh to fall victim to this scheme over and over and over again. That defensive secondary was problematic the entire game, while New Englands’ defensive secondary looked great despite losing debatably the best cornerback in the NFL in Darelle Revis.

Antonio Brown was amazing, as he always is, but hardly proved a threat in the long run. Speaking of long runs, DeAngelo Williams looked really good, too, thanks in part to a solid showing by the Pittsburgh offensive line. However, once they got into the red zone, the offense fell flat. The play-calling was subject and New Englands’ defense held up really well. Pittsburgh’s offense all-around was decent, up until the part where they actually needed to score points. And they didn’t. So they lost. It’s their defense that worries me. Very little pressure on Tom Brady throughout, and receivers were getting open like nobody’s business. There were, say, three, four blown coverages that game? Pittsburgh need to clean up their mess of a defense if they want any chance of making the playoffs.

[Indianapolis @ Buffalo]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Man. That Buffalo defense sure is something. Andrew Luck and their so-called elite offense didn’t even reach the endzone until the third quarter. That’s pretty pathetic, especially for Indianapolis, who are among the discussion for Super Bowl contenders. I’m pretty sure I recall Luck throwing two interceptions before the half, too. Frank Gore only ran the ball eight times. T.Y. Hilton was the only consistent receiving threat, but left in the third quarter due to injury. Luck was sacked only twice in the game, but I heard he was pressured all day. So, instead of using a first round draft pick on an offensive lineman, Indianapolis decided to use it on a wide receiver. Starting to look a little naive with that choice.

Tyrod Taylor, on the other hand, looked fantastic with what he was asked to do. He only passed the ball 19 times, but completed 14 of them. No interceptions. He even rushed for quite a few yards, too. Buffalo doesn’t have a lot of offensive weapons, but Taylor made the most of what he had. Oh, and LeSean McCoy had 17 rushes for 41 yards. Against Indianapolis’s sluggish defense? Real elite running back there. This has little to do with the game. I just don’t like McCoy. My personal disdain for Shady aside, the Buffalo defense was everything people expected it to be and more. It’s looking to be up within the top 5 defenses this year, assuming nothing goes haywire.

[Cleveland @ New York (Jets)]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Cleveland are a sad, sad mess.

New York is also a mess, but less sad than Cleveland. I was genuinely surprised at how one-sided this game was. Guess you can never count out FitzMagic. Their defense looked up to standards as well. Then again, who are they defending against? Brian Hartline? Travis Benjamin? Johnny Manziel? Cleveland was up against a mountain. They didn’t bring the necessary equipment.

I was also fairly surprised at how not good Cleveland’s defense was. They held up pretty well until halftime, but after that, it was touchdown city for New York. I guess the team imploded after realizing they could actually win the game. For those not aware, Cleveland has a tendency to do that. No one really knows why or how.

[Carolina @ Jacksonville]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Remember what I said about Cleveland self-imploding after realizing they could win a game? The same could be said about Jacksonville.

Jacksonville was down a single point at halftime, showing rare resilience against a playoff team (to be fair, Carolina got into the playoffs last year because their division is awful). After halftime? Zero points scored. Ten points given up. Such has been the case for Jacksonville since, well, a while. The last five years, at least. Gus Bradley is on the hot seat. And if he isn’t, he should be.

I think I remember at one point seeing that Cam Newton was, like, 6 of 13 passing in the game. That was mindblowing to me. Sure, I don’t think Cam Newton is as good as everyone claims he is, but I didn’t think he’d cower under the might of Jacksonville’s lower twenties ranked defense. Then again, who was he throwing to? Jerricho Cotchery. Philly Brown. Tedd Ginn. Ick. At least he has Greg Olsen! Who… had one catch by the end of the game. Wow. I can see why Newton struggled early on. Jon Stewart (not that one) had a good day rushing, though, so at least they have that going for them. Carolina’s defense also provided five sacks and two interceptions. Step up the pass protection, Jacksonville.

[Green Bay @ Chicago]

  • (Watched three quarters, correct)

Oh, my God, guys! Jay Cutler is so bad! Look at his stats! They are so gross! Ugh! I thought Jay Cutler looked pretty good, actually. He managed the game well and completed the ball when he had to. Not the mention, his receivers dropped a couple passes, too. Though, this could also be deemed true by a terrific performance by Matt Forte, who gained, like, 180 overall yards rushing and receiving. Green Bay’s run defense was looking eerily similar to how it was last year before they put Clay Matthews inside. Speaking of Clay Matthews, he played amazing. Julius Peppers had 1.5 sacks, but was pretty silent aside from a few tackles for a majority of the game.

I would think Chicago would have had a better chance if they had any receiving threats. Or if they weren’t facing Green Bay. Jokes aside, the offense looked okay for the most part. Chicago didn’t get completely blown out like I expected them to, so that’s definitely a plus. Chicago may finish the season with an okay record. Their defense, while still bad, didn’t look bottom of the barrel. Then again, most defenses look bad against Aaron Rodgers, even without Jordy Nelson. Rodgers didn’t even have that stellar of a game. Didn’t pass for two hundred yards, but got three touchdowns in, along with some gaudy rushing numbers. Green Bay’s offense is definitely worse without Jordy, but it’s still good enough to put 31 points on the board.

[Kansas City @ Houston]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

J.J. Watt is still amazing. Travis Kelce is coming into his own.

Houston’s offense is starting to crumble. Brian Hoyer was pulled in the fourth quarter for back-up Ryan Mallett after a poor showing. Their run game was dismal, but a few receivers had good games (DeAndre Hopkins, Nate Washington). Their offensive line looks pretty bad, too. They gave up five sacks. Some of the highlight reels show a lot of way too wide open receivers, which makes me question the state of Houston’s defensive secondary as well. I actually thought this team looked good going into the 2015 season. Now that it’s here, there are definitely some issues facing this team.

Kansas City is a different story. Still no touchdown to a wide receiver, but Travis Kelce is starting to become the AFC West’s Rob Gronkowski. Alex Smith had a great game and Jamaal Charles had an okay game rushing and receiving. Aside from J.J. Watt, because he’s a god, no sacks from Houston’s defense. Kansas City is looking like an improved team. Their defense held Houston to 13 points until the fourth quarter. It’ll be interesting to see how the season plays out for them.

[Miami @ Washington]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

I really need to stop putting off-the-field adversities as a sign of weakness from a team. Washington’s defense actually held Miami to 17 points! Miami! With Ryan Tannehill and Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron and Greg Jennings! What’s going on with the NFL world?

Washington’s offense, on the other hand, looked (expectantly) like a mess. DeSean Jackson got injured early on, and after that, little offense to speak of. A few of Washington’s offensive players had decent games, too. Like Jordan Reed and Alfred Morris. It’s unusual they didn’t get more points on the board. Then again, recently-cut kicker Kai Forbath missed a field goal. I guess that’s enough to get you cut from Washington?

Miami’s defense was stellar, as many predicted it would be. Surprisingly few sacks, considering Washington’s offensive line, but only held them to 10 points. Included with this was two interceptions. A lot closer of a game than I would have expected, but Miami pulled it out regardless. Would I be worried? Maybe.

[Seattle @ St. Louis]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

They ran the ball on 4th and 1. They didn’t get it. An eerie reminder of what could have been last February.

St. Louis actually won. It was in overtime and it was close almost all the way through, too. This would’ve been a game I’d like to have watched, because there were touchdowns all around in many different ways. A punt return touchdown from both teams. Tavon Austin had a rushing touchdown. It was insanity.

Russell Wilson was good completion-wise, but threw an interception early on. I was also pretty surprised by how high-scoring this game was. 31-34? Are the Cowboys playing the Saints? Where’s the defense we know from these two teams? Lots’a sacks from both teams, though. Nick Foles played well in his debut in St. Louis, which surprised me some. Against Seattle’s defense, I would’ve thought he’d throw a pick or four. There’s not much else to say other than it was a very odd game.

[Detroit @ San Diego]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

C’mon, Detroit. Where’s that #2 defense you had last year? 33 points? And a comeback, nonetheless? You aren’t doing much to make me think you’re the real deal. Maybe you should’ve kept Suh, hmm? Regardless, Matt Stafford threw two picks and Calvin Johnson had two catches. Golden Tate had two, too. So many twos. You probably won’t win many games when your best offensive weapons aren’t getting the ball. Ameer Abdullah looked pretty good, though. Joique Bell? Not so much.

San Diego was a bit of the same, except Keenan Allen decided he wanted to have a reception buffet and hauled in 15 fucking passes! Philip Rivers showed he was feeling better from last year, aside from his own two picks. Danny Woodhead’s two touchdown runs were also fairly impressive, as he’s more of a pass catcher than a full-on running bruiser. Detroit’s defense had two sacks. San Diego’s had one. Both had two interceptions. Both gave up more than 27 points. I think both of these defenses have some practicing to do.

[New Orleans @ Arizona]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Drew Brees, my sweet, sweet knight. How long do you have before your arm loses its might? His numbers this game were very un-Brees-like, aside from the pass attempts and yards. The running game was pathetic and no receiver had any distinguishable good games (based on stats). The defense, as I predicted (and everyone else, too) was awful. Rob Ryan has shown to be a one-year wonder and needs to go. Either that or their defense need to be revamped with some fresh players. New Orleans didn’t look good. They probably won’t look good the rest of the year, either. I wonder how, or if, they recover?

Arizona is still a good team. How good? We may never know. There have been so many “buts” with this team it’s hard to tell anymore. They don’t have a playoff win under Bruce Arians, but they had to start a third-string quarterback against Carolina. Their defense is really good against the run, but questionable against the pass. They have a lot of talented running backs, but none of them seem to have much of an impact. Arizona is hard to pinpoint, and winning against a poor road team like New Orleans isn’t helping any. At least Larry Fitzgerald still seems productive. Carson Palmer looks good, too, coming off an ACL tear. Let’s hope he doesn’t get injured… again.

[Baltimore @ Denver]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Yeesh. Neither quarterback in this game looked good at all.

Peyton Manning, with all his numbers and honors and penchant for perfection, looked like a beaten old man. He had one interception, no touchdown passes, and didn’t throw for 200 yards, despite passing the ball 40 times. Those are numbers for a typical back-up quarterback, not Peyton Manning. Joe Flacco, on the other hand, fared far worse. Barely had over 100 yards passing and threw two interceptions, with no touchdown passes. Neither team had more than 75 yards rushing. Baltimore didn’t even have one player exceed 25 receiving yards. No touchdown passes. An ugly, ugly offensive game.

Defense, however, proved to be the deciding factor for both teams. Sacks aplenty for both teams, along with a 13-19 finish. Despite the ugly offensive showing, both teams had a chance to win all throughout. It just happened to be the team with more field goals made. Offensive line has become a question mark for both of these teams. And further down the road, Peyton Manning’s ability will be called into question, too. You can’t win the Super Bowl with an offensive performance like this. Your defense has to be very good in order to even make the Super Bowl. Right, 2006 Chicago Bears?

[Cincinnati @ Oakland]

  • (Did not watch, correct)

Andy Dalton had a good game. Not that I expected him to have a bad game, but he needs to show this sort of resiliency in games that not just I, but everyone can see. The surprise of the Cincinnati offense here was Tyler Eifert. With the numbers he put up, you’d think he was A.J. Green out there. Getting rid of Jermaine Gresham, for the moment, looks to have been a good move.

Oakland’s offense was a little less stellar. They didn’t start actively scoring until late in the game, at the point where they were down 30-0. Cincinnati’s defense looked pretty meh all season last season. Is this just a good showing? Or is Oakland’s offense just that mediocre? I’m going with the latter. Then again, Derek Carr got injured a little ways into the game, so they had a back-up quarterback for a majority of the game. Who knows? Probably just Oakland being Oakland, much like Cleveland being Cleveland or Jacksonville being Jacksonville.

[Tennessee @ Tampa Bay]

  • (Did not watch, incorrect)

Do not let Marcus Mariota’s numbers fool you. He let his receivers do most of the work. Nevertheless; four touchdowns, no interceptions, and over ten yards per attempt? That’s a good start for the #2 overall pick. The rest of Tennessee’s offense fared pretty well, too. Delanie Walker, Kendall Wright, and Bishop Sankey all had pretty good games. Is Tampa Bay’s defense so bad that even Tennessee’s offense looks good against them? That’s kinda sad. Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David can’t do all the work. Pick up the pace, guys.

Jameis Winston’s first NFL pass was a pick-six. A sign of doom and gloom or something altogether (Brett Favre’s first NFL pass was a pick-six)? Nevertheless, after that, the offense didn’t get much going. Again, against Tennessee’s defense. Did I mention that Tennessee went 2-14 last season? My guy Derrick Morgan had two sacks in the game. But it’s Tampa Bay’s offensive line, so that’s not all too surprising. Tampa Bay’s just kind of a mess. Much like it was last year. I wonder who they’ll win against this year?

[New York (Giants) @ Dallas]

  • (Watched the final quarter, correct)

I don’t know what the hell Dallas was doing up until the very end of the game, but it wasn’t very Dallas-like. Turnovers and fumbles and dropped passes, oh my! And worst of all, the fair prince Dez Bryant suffered a serious injury. Dallas’s offense probably won’t be as prolific without him, but nevertheless, I think they’ll be okay. Their defense looked pretty good, for the most part, too. Sure, they gave up 26 points, but 17 of those were off turnovers, aka shortened field length to the endzone. Outside of turnovers, only 9 points. Dallas, despite its losses, are still a fairly complete team. And whether people agree with me or not, Tony Romo is among the top 10 quarterbacks in the league.

The saddest part about this game is that New York could’ve won. They had a minute and a half to go, and Eli decides to stop the clock by throwing the ball out of bounds on third down. Take the sack and, hell, run around like an idiot and waste some clock time, and maybe Dallas wouldn’t have had time to score that last second touchdown. Then again, with how bad New York’s middle-of-the-field coverage looked in that last drive, Tony Romo could’ve just thrown a Hail Mary down the middle to Lance Dunbar and won the game.

One other thing that stuck out was offensive line, for both teams. Only one sack between both teams, and each starting back had a decent yards per carry average. New York might be a mediocre team, but they can at least keep Eli Manning upright. Dallas’s offensive line is already greatly established from last season as one of the best.

[Philadelphia @ Atlanta]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

This one had all the makings of a Philadelphia comeback win. Down 20-3 at the half, they suddenly come roaring back after Atlanta’s offense starts stalling. If Cody Parkey didn’t miss that field goal in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia may be 1-0 right now.

One thing any NFL fan would notice about Atlanta is their defense. It looked astronomically better than it did last year, holding off Philadelphia’s notably fast-paced offense (until the second half). Despite the almost comeback, Atlanta held firm when it needed to, coming up with an interception in the final minute of the game. In regards to Philadelphia’s defense, it looked to me like it has the talent to be a good defense, but I don’t think the chemistry is there yet. Byron Maxwell got beat multiple times by both Roddy White and Julio Jones, making his offseason signing look a little fishy. They made some plays and provided quarterback pressure, especially in the second half, so I wouldn’t be too worried in the long run.

The pairing of Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray didn’t look up to par that night, though. It took a while for Bradford to get his game going. When he did, most of his completions were hitch routes or screens or crossing routes. Aka: easy throws. However, he still ended the night with two interceptions. DeMarco Murray looked completely unlike his former Dallas self, running for nine yards on eight carries. That’s more than pathetic; that’s humiliating. Darren Sproles ran for more vigor and spirit than he did, and he’s 32 years old. Murray was little more than a non-factor the entire game, until they basically took him out completely by the fourth quarter. Philadelphia’s defense I’m not worried about. Its offense, however? A few more questions surface after that loss.

Atlanta’s offense was surprisingly balanced. Tevin Coleman looks like a future star and Matt Ryan is already a star. It helps when you throw to other stars in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Atlanta’s offense is just full of shooting stars. If only some of those stars were on the offensive line. Or at tight end. Seriously, Atlanta. Would it kill you to draft or sign a decent pass-catching tight end? It might help in the long-run.

[Minnesota @ San Francisco]

  • (Watched, incorrect)

Of all the games in my pick ’em list, this game made me look the worst.

San Francisco lost so many players! They aren’t half the team they were last year! The sky is falling and Hell is rising upon the state of California! On the opposing side, Minnesota has Adrian Peterson back! Teddy Bridgewater is sure to improve upon his rookie season! Their defense is stout!

I fell for it. I fell for it all. The offseason hype, the offseason drama. The preseason performances and Teddy’s stupid “110 QB rating” nonsense in that span. When it came down to it, Minnesota turned into Cincinnati in primetime.

San Francisco, outside of the first quarter, looked spectacular. A well run machine. And by well run, I mean Carlos Hyde is filling the hole Frank Gore left tremendously. San Francisco’s offensive line was like a horde of giants, trampling Minnesota’s puny defensive line like they were tree branches. This, I believe above all else, was the deciding factor of this game. Kaepernick had all day to throw and Hyde had holes bigger than a whale’s gaping asshole to run through. It was over by halftime. Minnesota couldn’t get anything going, neither on offense of defense, despite early chances by poor San Francisco special teams play.

I wonder what happened to Vernon Davis? Just a couple years ago, he was among the top tight ends in the game. Now, he’s catching two or three passes a game. Is he declining? Or is he just being ignored for other options? Whatever it is, he isn’t contributing much to the offense. Instead they have Garrett Celek.

I wonder what happened to Mike Wallace? Just a couple years ago, he was among the top wide receivers in the game. Now, he’s catching two or three passes a game. Is he declining? Or is he just being ignored for other options? Whatever it is, he isn’t contributing much to the offense. Instead they have… who do they have? Charles Johnson? Good luck, Minnesota.

Questions aside, San Francisco looked really good against a team with a lot more talent than their execution showed. Their defense, without all of those lost in the offseason, still looked like the San Francisco defense of the past couple of years. If their offensive line keeps of their reign of terrors, they could go places. But only if.

Minnesota? Yeah. They have a lot of uncertainty heading towards the rest of the season.

It was an interesting week of upsets and typical bad teams looking really, really good. Elite quarterbacks looked like rookies and new starters looked like elite passers. The one thing I could take away from this week of NFL football is that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions. That being said, I’ll probably still pick against Jacksonville.

  • Week One Pick ‘Em record: 9-7.
  • Overall Pick ‘Em record: 9-7.