It's Halloween today (I know, breaking news) and a National Football League season is like an annual trip around the neighborhood seeking sweetened goodies.
By that I mean there are tricks and treats. For every roll of Smarties (treats), there are those nasty butterscotch candies (tricks). For every mini-Snickers bar (treat), there is the creepy guy who acts like he isn't going to give you some licorice until you perform some song and dance.
Just hand over the candy, dude.
That's how I feel about the NFL sometimes — just give me the good stuff. I want more treats like last Sunday's riveting Packers-Vikings game. I want fewer tricks such as the Redskins-Bears contest where Jay Cutler threw four interceptions to the same guy — DeAngelo Hall.
But when you enjoy something as much as I do — in this case the NFL and sugar — you have to accept the package as a whole. With that in mind, here is my trick-or-treat analysis of the current state of the NFL.
Treat: The NFL sent a bold in-season message prior to last week's games, fining players for "flagrant violations of player-safety rules." It was the right move after a particularly violent Sunday two weeks ago when Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson were each given hefty fines for nasty hits.
I didn't particularly agree with Robinson's fine because I don't know what he could have done to avoid Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson on the play in question. Still, with all that's known about concussions these days and its ramifications, the NFL needs to protect its players — and sometimes that means protecting them from themselves.
Trick: Wait a second. Wait a second. So this same NFL that is so concerned about player safety wants to increase the number of regular-season games to 18? It's a bad idea and it needs to be dropped. The league makes enough money, the owners are rich enough and the players take enough health risks in 16 games. Just stop it. And this comes from a person who loves watching football each week — 16 games are enough.
Maybe the league should ask quarterbacks how they feel about playing an extra couple of games. Start with the ones who have had to miss starts this season due to injuries, such as Tony Romo (today), Alex Smith (today), Matthew Stafford, David Garrard, Michael Vick and Vince Young.
Treat: Local players dominating. It's always fun to follow how players with local ties are faring in the NFL. Haloti Ngata is having a second consecutive all-pro caliber season for the Ravens. Sione Pouha has become a key starter for the Jets. Austin Collie led the league in receiving after a couple of weeks.
Utah rookies are already contributing for their respective teams. Zane Beadles is starting for the Broncos, and Koa Misi has been an important defensive player for the Dolphins. Nick Miller, a Southern Utah product, is returning punts for the Raiders. And how about that interception by Aaron Francisco on the Redskins' final drive to seal the Colts' win a couple of weeks ago? That was spectacular.
Trick: Local players getting hurt. The injury report on my weekly NFL locals list continues to grow. Last week, quarterbacks Alex Smith and Max Hall were knocked out of their games. Collie is out for the Colts on Monday night, Brady Poppinga recently suffered a season-ending injury, and players such as Steve Smith and Brett Keisel have missed games.
Treat: The Jets are back from their bye. It's just a more entertaining league when Rex Ryan is involved. Here's what he had to say about the Jets returning from their bye, and facing the Packers today and their 20th-ranked rushing game.
"We'll allow you to run it. If that's what you want to do, go for it," Ryan said. "If you think you can beat us that way, I'm all for it."
He doesn't lack for confidence.
Trick: The Cowboys' underachieving. It's safe to kick some dirt on Dallas now that Romo will miss a significant portion of the season. The Cowboys were already an embarrassment, having a losing record with an enormously talented roster. What I found interesting about Monday night when Dallas lost to the Giants was it was actually leading when Romo got hurt. The Cowboys quit after he was injured. I know that "quit while you're ahead" is a phrase that is used but I'm not sure that's the meaning people are supposed to take from it.
Treat: Favre throwing touchdown passes to his old teams. I have thoroughly enjoyed the pick-sixes the old man has thrown in losses to the Jets and Packers. Maybe he briefly forgot which he team he was playing for in those instances. Maybe he was just giving those teams some payback for all the points he giftwrapped for opponents when he played for the Jets and Packers. He'll have the chance to pay the Pack back some more in three weeks. Too bad the Falcons aren't on the Vikings' schedule so that Favre could throw them a touchdown as well during his reunion tour.