BACK IN BLACK (AND WHITE): The regular refs took some time before Monday Night’s game to give the Dallas faithful some love. We don’t know why they chose Cowboys fans, but we won’t hold it against them. Photo courtesy Ian Rapoport/NFL Network

Each week, the NFL storyline changes. If each play is a verse, each week is a chapter, and each season a book. As with any good story, the trends change and new plots develop. But, it’s important to look beyond the score box when taking a peek at each NFL week. Here are some things that stuck out this past week.


Photo courtesy Jeff Gross/Getty Images

New Orleans is Looking a Lot Like Indianapolis 2.0

I know I’ve been beating the same drum for a couple of weeks now, but with the unionized referees returning to work, the biggest story in the NFL now has to be the Saints.

In a lot of ways, this story is a familiar one, as it seems very similar to that of the 2011 Colts. A once powerhouse franchise suffering through the loss of personnel (on the field or off), everyone expected them to falter a little bit but not to such great lengths. Tell me that doesn’t sound like the conversations around the water coolers after Week 4 last year.

The fact of the matter is, even though we’ve just barely entered October, the hopes for the Saints 2012 season are quickly dwindling. They’ve amassed four losses, which already makes repeats of their 2011 and 2009 campaigns impossible. If they lose one more, they’ll need to win every other game to tie their 2010 record.

But let’s be honest: does even an 11-5 season still feel possible with this group?

Saints fans need to start facing the truth that 2012 is going to be an ugly, ugly year. The last time they got off to an 0-4 start also happens to be the last year they finished with a losing record. But even then, in 2007, New Orleans also strung together a 4-game WIN streak. Does anyone see that happening with this team as it’s currently assembled?

To get back to 4-4, as they did during that 2007 campaign, the Saints would have to beat the Chargers, Eagles, and Broncos (IN Denver). I’m not a betting man, but I don’t like those odds.

Looking ahead at their schedule, I now have to dial back my expectations for this team this year. As I touched on last week, the defense is a mess and this interim coaching arrangement is, on its best days, laughable. There are simply too many good offenses on their schedule and not enough wimpy defenses for them to beat in a shootout. To me, the absolute BEST CASE scenario for the 2012 Saints is 6-10, which means they go 6-6 from here on out.

Things Are About to Boil Over in New York

To their credit, the Jets have been reasonably successful in staying out of the headlines. All offseason I had been dubbing these guys the ‘Bronx Zoo II’ and, to their credit, most of the drama thus far has been a fabrication of the media.

But Sunday’s loss was bad. And, when I say bad, I mean BAD. I was shocked when I flipped over to CBS and Buffalo-New England was a better game and the Patriots were leading 42-21. If it sounds like I’m trying to sell you on the severity of this loss, it’s because I am. Everything is fun and games when people are winning, but all it takes is one lousy game for everything to derail. Yes, that Pittsburgh loss wasn’t fun, but this loss at home to a team coming off a stunning upset to the lowly Vikings was downright embarrassing.

In its wake, this flurry of headlines feels like the Jets’ season is coming apart at the seams. People want Sanchez benched. Rex Ryan is rethinking his wildcat shenanigans with Tebow. The owner, Woody Johnson, would rather talk about Mitt Romney and the presidential race than face the music about what happened Sunday.

Suddenly, I’m starting to hear lions and tigers and bears.


Photo courtesy Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Sacks to be Cutler

Even in an impressive win, Jay Cutler somehow manages to come off as a schmuck.

Some of you may have heard about Cutler’s most recent sideline buffoonery last night when he blew off offensive coordinator Mike Tice. If you haven’t, Cutler came off the field visibly frustrated. Tice came up to him and Cutler walked by him seemingly ignoring everything one of his coaches was telling him. As Cutler sat down on the bench, Tice grabbed a seat next to him, so Cutler immediately stood up and walked away as Tice was talking to him.

We’ve seen a lot of big egos prima donnas in the NFL over the years, but somehow Cutler rubs me more the wrong way than any of them. Most of these inflated heads in the NFL are highly-successful. What has Cutler ever done? Get to an NFC title game? Oh by the way, that was also ground zero for another classic Cutler moment.

Cutler has the talent of some of the league’s premier passers but has the ego and personality of Jeff George. The fact that the guy can’t get out of his own way for two seconds and realize his true potential is frustrating not just to Bears fans, but to any football fans who happen to be watching.

For a town cheekily known to embrace their lovable losers, Cutler is one loser Chi-town should kick to the curb if and when a better option comes along.

Praying For Pagano

On a final note, the Colts were handed a heavy loss in their one football-free week of the regular season. Head Coach Chuck Pagano has been diagnosed with Leukemia and a timetable for his return to the Colts has not been definitively established.

The irony, of course, is that news of this broke on the first day of October. October, of course, is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Even though it’s not breast cancer, Leukemia is a cancer of the blood and the NFL, in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, does plenty to promote cancer awareness, especially breast cancer, during October.

Leukemia is often a general term for a broad spectrum of different blood cancers, which, from the “big picture” angle, is a serious, serious deal. Leukemia, in this broad category of cancers, only has a survival rate marginally better than 50%. However, the good news for Pagano is that he has been diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. APL, as it is more commonly referred to, is highly-treatable and, by latest estimates, almost 90% of patients see the cancer go into remission.

Still, Indianapolis will be without their new head coach for some time. The best reports say that Pagano expects to be hospitalized for somewhere between 4-6 weeks but Pagano, ever the eternal optimist, says he’s gunning for four.

The coach also reportedly emailed’s Albert Breer, “Will be back REAL soon.” I think I speak for all football fans when we say we certainly hope so, Chuck. Get well soon.

NOTE: This story was originally posted on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing he is on Twitter. Make sure you give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans.