How I saw Week 8 of the NFL:
I often try to find a gay angle for the beginning of this column to differentiate it from others, and Michael Sam was a great angle early in the season. But he was cut from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad this week and I despaired. It would be hard to find a gay angle when there were no openly gay players.
Never fear, because we had a pick six by a Gay on Sunday, cornerback William Gay of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He intercepted the Colts' Andrew Luck and took it back for a score in the Steelers' 51-34 win over the Colts. It also reminded me of how another player named Gay led to the most-read story at the time on Outsports.
It was 2005, a year after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl and a professor at LSU wanted to buy a custom-NFL jersey with "GAY" on the back to honor one of her formers students, Randall Gay, who played for the Patriots. The NFL's online shop would not let her buy the jersey, sending back a message that said: "This field should not contain a naughty word."
I then entered "FAG," "HITLER," and "BIN LADEN," among others, and the NFL would have gladly made me a custom jersey with any of those names. I wrote about it and the publicity caused the NFL to change its policy, so "GAY" is now OK. We also ran a list of the more than 1,000 words that were banned from custom jerseys, including more than 300 words containing "ASS" and hundreds more that made for great reading. Fun times.
--By the way, William Gay and the Steelers wore their throwback jerseys Sunday, the ugliest ones in football, the ones that should be thrown away. Then again, the Steelers did score 51 points, so maybe fashion in football is overrated:
(Photo by Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
--The annual Peyton Manning-Tom Brady death match comes next Sunday in Foxboro, Mass., and it should be a doozy. The 6-1 Broncos and 6-2 Patriots have each won four in a row and Manning-Brady have thrown a combined 28 touchdowns in that span. I think this is Manning's most talented team he has had with either the Colts or Broncos and if the game was in Denver I would say the Broncos by double digits. But Manning has only won twice in New England and crazy stuff always happens in the games up there, so who knows? The Patriots have won 14 straight regular season home games, but unlike in past years the weather in this Manning-Brady game won't be a factor (46 and sunny). The Patriots are a rare underdog at home and the last two times that was the case, they won the game (Denver in 2013, Cincinnati in 2014).
--One reason Denver has been so dominant this season is the remarkable luck they have had with injuries, with only two starters -- Montee Ball and Danny Trevathan -- missing any serious time. This kind of thing usually doesn't last since the NFL is a brutal game of attrition and we'll see if it's the Broncos' turn soon for serious, season-altering injuries. Health is the great equalizer in the league, way more than any other pro team sport.
--The Colts (5-3) pitched a shutout last week and gave up 51 points Sunday. That's the second-wildest swing by a team since the 1985 Bucaneers had a shutout one week and gave up 62 points the next.
--The Saints are the most predictable team in the league. They're great at home (10 wins in a row) and shitty on the road (seven straight regular season losses). The good Saints were on display Sunday in a 44-23 romp over the Packers. The Saints are 3-4 but only a half-game behind 3-4-1 Carolina in the crappy NFC South. The teams meet in Carolina on Thursday in what passes for a showdown in that division, so expect the Saints to find a way to go belly up.
--In contrast, the AFC North is neither a great nor a poor division. The Bengals are 4-2-1, the Steelers and Ravens 5-3 and the Browns 4-3, so no one is dominant nor out of it. Sentiment wants the Browns to win, but I can't see that happening. The Browns really miss center Alex Mack, since their offense has fallen off with him out, but it's been a while since Browns fans could even be thinking playoffs come November.
--I want to get excited by the Bills being 5-3 and trying to end their 15-year playoff drought, but I can't. They beat the Jets on Sunday, but everybody beats the Jets. I can't shake them getting rolled by the Patriots at home a couple of weeks ago, a sign of how far they are still behind New England. I'm also pissed that stud rookie receiver Sammy Watkins prematurely celebrated what would have been a 90-yard TD and was tackled at the 10. He cost me big-time fantasy points.
--If the Packers are playing, it's a sign of one sure thing: Good Outsports traffic for people searching the terms "Aaron Rodgers gay."
--Hot player of the week: Griff Whalen, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts. He has a porn star's name and body (5-11, 198 pounds), and anyone watching Stanford's pro day a couple of years ago was treated to this: