However, once I heard about the unfortunate turn of events in Indianapolis, the topic for this week’s preamble became clear.
In case you haven’t heard yet, Colts first-year coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia during Indy’s bye week.
While the prognosis seems hopeful, he’s expected to undergo treatment for the next 6 to 8 weeks and his return to the Colts sideline this season is very much in doubt.
Off the top of my head, I can’t recall an NFL coach getting a devastating diagnosis like this during the season. The closest comparison might be Vince Lombardi’s very brief tenure in Washington, but he fell gravely ill after the 1969 season concluded.
While Pagano’s illness isn’t expected to be terminal, he still has a long road ahead. His treatment is said to involve some combination of chemotherapy, drugs, and radiation therapy. I’ve had enough friends and family suffer from this disease to know none of the above will be easy.
The sobering aspect of this is that we look to football as a diversion; a way to take a few hours on a weekend (or Monday … or Thursday) and forget some of the troubles in our own lives.
But every once in awhile, we’re dealt a cruel reminder that the NFL isn’t all fun and games. The people involved with the league are just that: people.
Real people like you and I, that deal with the same fears and struggles we do, only with the added burden of the entire nation knowing about it. Cancer doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care if you’re old. It doesn’t care if you’re young. It doesn’t care if you’re rich and famous, or poor and anonymous. It’s not even interested in whether or not you smoke.
It’s the cruel enemy that seeks to rob you of much more than a win or loss in professional football. Suddenly, the effectiveness of the Colts defense doesn’t matter. Andrew Luck’s development as a franchise quarterback is an afterthought. Right now even die-hard Indianapolis fans are probably struggling to remember what the team’s won/loss record is.
Regardless of whether or not you like the Colts, all that matters on this day, (which also happens to be Pagano’s 52nd birthday) is that Pagano pulls through this difficult time and moves on to further pursue his passion.
Now that’s something we can all root for.
With that, we respectfully turn things to this week’s lighthearted NFL recap:
Browns 16 Ravens 23
During this game, NFL Network ran promos for “A Football Life: Cleveland ’95.” Yes, NFLN did this to Browns fans while they watched the team that left them beat the worst consolation prize ever. That hurt my feelings, and I don’t even like Cleveland.
Panthers 28 Falcons 30
“Mind coach” or not, Cam Newton needs to show a better face in defeat — or else he’ll continue to gather reasons to hang his head.
Patriots 52 Bills 28
For those keeping score at home, the Bills defense has now surrendered 48 and 52 points in two division games. I’m stunned by how bad this Buffalo defense has been this year, given how stout their front four looks on paper.
Vikings 20 Lions 13
Can you believe Minnesota is 3-1? Me neither. Of course, we all said the same thing when the Redskins were 3-1 at this time last year, and we all know how that turned out.
Chargers 37 Chiefs 20
At this point, Scott Pioli has to be literally the only guy who thinks Matt Cassell is anything more than an average starting NFL quarterback. I’d love to hear his reasoning, if he survives in Kansas City long enough to explain.
Seahawks 13 Rams 19
Boy, this division looks competitive this year. What once looked like a division where 8-8 wins it, a .500 record might actually be good for last place in the much-improved NFC West.
Niners 34 Jets 0
Ssshhh. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of Tebowmania forcing its way into New York.
Titans 14 Texans 38
Houston is easily the most dominant team in the first quarter of the season. What makes me confident in my Super Bowl pick is that Andre Johnson and the passing game have done next to nothing this season and the Texans are still crushing people. Be afraid, AFC. Be very afraid.
Bengals 27 Jaguars 10
Wake me up when Cincinnati beats a playoff team. So basically, don’t ask me about the Bengals until after they host Pittsburgh Week 7.
Dolphins 21 Cardinals 24 (OT)
Arizona is 4-0. I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself. Ok, now time to eat some crow. Unless there’s a 1-11 stretch coming to the desert, I was loud wrong about the Cardinals.
Raiders 6 Broncos 37
Either Peyton Manning is back, or Oakland’s defense is just that bad. Regardless, it’s bad news for Raider Nation.
Saints 27 Packers 28
I’ve got to give serious props to NFL Network’s Darren Sharper. Before the season, dude predicted New Orleans would start the year 0-4. Wouldn’t you know? The former Saint called it exactly right.
Redskins 24 Bucs 22
What? The Skins have a quarterback who’s good and clutch? Boy, Christmas came early for Washington this year.
Giants 17 Eagles 19
When Nnamdi Asomugha had to go to the hospital with what was called “an eye injury”, did anyone else call to mind that gratuitously gruesome eye scene from the movie Any Given Sunday?
Bears 34 Cowboys 18
Tony Romo did know Dallas wasn’t wearing their navy blue jerseys Monday Night, right?