Cook’s Mailbag (With a Thursday Night Pick Too)

It took eight weeks into the NFL season for the idea of a Thursday Night Football column to seem like a complete waste of time. Titans vs. Jaguars? Any preview I could come up with for Titans vs. Jaguars would make Jeremy’s NBA Preview look like War & Peace. I got nothing to say about it, none of you care about it, so let’s do something else this week! I’m going to go ahead and open up the old USB Mailbag. Honestly, the Mailbag is mostly filled with election ads & Dustin’s porno magazines, but occasionally we get some letters!  I’ve dug some of the best out and will answer them now to kill some time on a sleepy Wednesday.

Are Happy Days Here Again for the Bengals? WHO DEY! – Andy, Texas

happydays

After a win over the Browns? Child please. The sorry state of the bought & paid for Cincinnati media was on full display after Sunday’s game, with all the pundits rejoicing over the win over a winless team & losses by the Steelers & Ravens bringing them within a game of first place. I know that my expectations, and the expectations of most Bengals fans, are higher than the media’s. They, like ownership, are happy with the status quo as it keeps fans at just the right level of pissed off where they’re still interested. The fact of the matter is that the AFC North isn’t looking too great right now and the Bengals just might be able to rise to the top of a pretty sorry division so they can make the playoffs again. And lose in the first round again. Don’t count out a loss this week in London, by the way. Weird stuff happens over there and Washington is one of those teams that can beat people they have no business beating just as often as they can lose to bad teams.

All I can say is Week 7 did nothing to change my mind one way or the other on this Bengals team, and nor should it have. Beating the Browns proves absolutely nothing.

Does the legitimacy of the Minnesota Vikings as the team to beat go out the window and does it make Philly that good of a team? – Aaron, California

eaglesvikings

We knew the Vikings had an Achilles’ heel and it was their offense. When you lose your superstar running back, your quarterback & your left tackle, and you don’t really have wide receivers, you just don’t have much of an offense. So it was only a matter of time before the Vikings faced a team that would take advantage of that. The Eagles were in a unique spot to take advantage of Sam Bradford, they’re very familiar with his strengths and weaknesses. The Vikings still have playoff potential and could go a long way if the offense doesn’t mess things up too much, but now that they’ve lost and teams know the key to defeating them, we do have to slow the bandwagon down a touch. I think the idea of them as the team to beat will fade as other teams in the NFC step up. This happens a lot in the NFL..teams get hot early, we fall in love with them, and they start to fade. The Atlanta Falcons most years (and maybe this year too) are a prime example of this.

As for the Eagles, they’ve been better than advertised and deserve a lot of credit. This Sunday night they’ll have a chance to crown themselves against the Cowboys, another team that has exceeded expectations so far. Either way, I think you have to take them seriously as playoff contenders. Team to beat? Eh…I wouldn’t go there just yet. Talk to me again after Sunday night’s game, we’ll have a much clearer indication of where things are going after that. Either the Cowboys or the Eagles will be getting a lot of talk as Super Bowl contenders next week.

Should they just give Lamar Jackson the Heisman Trophy right now? – Paul, Tennessee

USP NCAA FOOTBALL: NORTH CAROLINA STATE AT LOUISVI S FBC USA KY

Let’s be fair, there are a lot of good players in college football this season. Deshaun Watson was the preseason favorite and he’s been pretty solid. Jabrill Peppers is playing offense, defense & special teams for Michigan and that’ll get some votes. J.T. Barrett’s stock took a hit when Ohio State lost in Happy Valley. A fella named Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech took the total touchdown lead from Jackson last week. Jake Browning is leading Washington to glory. And heck, there’s still five weeks left in the regular season for somebody else to grab the nation’s attention. But the more you watch Lamar Jackson, the more you think everything else in this paragraph is irrelevant.

Louisville will more than likely miss the playoffs. Their five remaining games don’t feature teams that will impress the pollsters or the selection committee. They need a lot of teams in front of them to lose to make the committee consider taking a one-loss team that didn’t compete in their conference’s championship game. (Clemson losing twice would help, but Louisville still needs to win the rest of their games.) Even so, this has been something else to watch. We fans often don’t appreciate these things enough in the moment.In hindsight, we realize how special the greatest players & the greatest versions of our favorite teams were. Some of these players & teams are so special, however, that we realize in the moment just how remarkable they are, and we know there’s a good chance we’ll never see anything like it again.

I don’t expect to see anything like Lamar Jackson again. I believe in my heart that the Louisville football program is here to stay and the idea of seeing the Cardinals winning the national championship in my lifetime isn’t as unbelievable now as it was 20, 10, even 5 years ago. There will be more great players to suit up for Louisville. There won’t be another Lamar Jackson.

Looking forward to college basketball season? The Cards are 14th in the preseason rankings! Could be a good year! – Rick, Kentucky

louisville_cardinals9

Not really. I’m less excited about the upcoming college basketball season than I’ve ever been, and that’s saying something because Louisville has had some teams that looked pretty bad on paper heading into November. I couldn’t tell you anybody on the team this year. Mangok Mathiang? He still there? Quentin Snider? Yeah?

It’s a direct result of HookerGate. I try not to get too offended at cheating in college sports because it probably happens everywhere in different forms and the NCAA is the kind of institution that is tough to respect as a rules enforcer, but hiring prostitutes for recruits is as sleazy as it gets. (And pointless, anybody that’s been to a big-time college knows that athletes can get pretty much any girl on campus they want.) Whether Rick Pitino knew about it or not, and I believe he didn’t, he deserves more than a fair shame of the blame for allowing it to happen. The 2012-13 National Championship banner should stay up and I doubt the NCAA will strip Louisville of it, but this whole mess being brought out into the open definitely taints the championship in my eyes.

It’s going to take time for this Louisville Cardinal to forgive & forget.

The Predators are 2-3 after 5 games. Tied for last in the Central. Nervous yet? – Nicholas, Illinois

pk

Even I’m smart enough to know that nobody gets nervous five games into a hockey season. Unless you’re on Twitter, where you’re supposed to get nervous over everything and overreact because it’s fun to do. The Preds have drawn a tough opening schedule, facing off with some of the top Central teams early & now heading out to the West Coast. Hitting a few bumps in the road early in the season isn’t the worst thing in the world, it’ll show the team their weaknesses & give them time to improve.

Frankly I was a little bit negative on their upcoming prospects until Saturday night’s win over the Penguins. Not only did it end the three game losing streak, but most of the team had gotten food poisoning in Detroit the night before and they had to call up a bunch of guys from the minors to field a team. The guys from the minors held their own, especially goalie Juuse Saros. Might be a name to keep an eye on in the future there. It was a good display from the Predators and reminded us that they have a ton of heart & intestinal fortitude, which you won’t go far in hockey without.

So how’s your first season following the Premier League going? – David, Wacky Old England

spurs

It’s been all right. It’d be even better if I wasn’t working weekend mornings, or if my workplace at least had better Wi-Fi, but what can ya do. The Spurs haven’t lost a game in the league yet, which is fun, but it’d be nice if they won a little bit more often. I try to avoid spoilers as much as I can, but when I hear the score was 1-1 or 0-0, I guess I’m glad I didn’t waste two hours on it. The Champions League games are more convenient for me to watch and those are fun. That song stays in my head the rest of the week though.

What are you watching on Netflix these days? – Bill, Washington

jessietv

I’ve been catching up on episodes of Jessie that I haven’t seen. I hadn’t watched Disney Channel in forever until Girl Meets World became a thing. I kept it on Disney one night after GMW ended and fell in love with Debby Ryan, the title character of this show. It’s kind of sad, honestly. This is what happens when you’re 32 & single & live in Kentucky…you don’t have any options so you develop crushes on girls on television. So I might be biased, but Debby is a really good actress and I can’t wait to see her on non-Disney Channel productions.

(And yes, she is over 21. I looked this up the first time I saw the show just to make sure I wasn’t being too pervy.)

So…got a pick for Jaguars vs. Titans (-3.5)? – Gamblers Anonymous

dontcare

The home team generally does well in this series but the games have been really close. So I’m thinking Jaguars.

Week 7 Results: 8-7

2016 Results: 53-51-3

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