(Editor's note: Every week this season, gay high school NFL fan Jeremy Brener will give his perspective and predictions for the upcoming week).
I don't think there has ever been a time in my life so far where I've been this excited about football. It's become a true passion of mine to study, analyze, write, and most importantly, enjoy football for what it is. I've never really questioned my love for sports because it has always been with me for my entire life. Recently, I've been able to grow and mature and realize that sports are more than just a game. I think that's the part about sports that I really love, coupled with the competition factor. It's always something that has drawn to me.
Coming out for me was rough, because I saw myself as this sports guy, and I thought being gay was all about acting feminine and singing Broadway show tunes. Jeremy at 13 was very stupid and very ignorant. Now, 17-year-old Jeremy is a lot less ignorant, and just a tad smarter. But, my love for sports has grown in finding role models, people I can look up to, especially for a gay athlete.
I haven't had too many examples until recently. Obviously, the trail blazers are people I look up to. People like Jason Collins, Robbie Rogers and Michael Sam have all taught us that it is OK to break the stereotype, and break the mold. But, I think we as the LGBT community, want another face on our Mount Rushmore, and someone who becomes a mainstay. Currently, we have one active openly gay player in the five major North American sports (Rogers in the MLS). However, I am certain that we have dozens of not necessarily closeted players, but closeted to the public. And that's OK.
I would love to add another person to the list of role models in the gay sports world, but it is not necessary. Non-LGBT sports people inspire us every day as well. J.J. Watt is the perfect example, whom I mentioned last week. Gay players who are closeted in sports don't have to be on Mount Rushmore if they don't want to. And that's OK.
I, more than anyone as a teenager, would love to see an athlete at the top of his game come out. I can only imagine how many lives that person would change and how many opinions he could question and how many people can benefit. But that person needs to be ready to face the music. If an athlete does not come out at the right time, or takes a wrong step, it might hurt their career, as Sam suggests has happened to him. So, here's an open statement:
Dear Closeted to the Public Player,
I can't wait until you reveal yourself one day, so you can be more of an inspiration than you are today. However, please do it on your own terms. Being vulnerable to the public can be a scary thing, and coming out is an organic process that is part of one's journey throughout life. Please respect and be proud of yourself before you let others to respect and be proud of you. Kick butt this weekend.
Sincerely, Jeremy Brener
Now, here are some notes for Week 4 action:
Game of the Week
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
This is arguably the biggest rivalry in the NFL, and it has been for years now. These teams have a history with one another. Since Joe Flacco entered the league in 2008, they have been very even in the series (including playoffs), with the Steelers having won nine games to the Ravens' eight. The last time they met, the Ravens came into Pittsburgh and won the AFC Wild Card Game. Even though it is not a playoff game, it's almost a must-win for the Ravens, despite it being so early in the season. The Ravens have shown signs of the playoff team they were last season, but they have come up short in three tough losses, all by less than six points. Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after starting the season 0-3, the last being the 1998 Buffalo Bills. Nobody has made the playoffs starting 0-4. The Steelers side also has compelling storylines coming into this game. After losing to the Patriots on opening night, the Steelers have won both of their games since, but also lost Ben Roethlisberger for at least a month with a strained PCL. His replacement? Once phenom-turned-journeyman Michael Vick. Roethlisberger's absence gives the Ravens a little hope in this matchup. It's an even matchup, but given the urgency of Baltimore needing a win, I'm going to give this game to the Ravens, and maybe it can set their season back on track. Ravens 28, Steelers 15.
Upset of the Week
Kansas City Chiefs over Cincinnati Bengals
We have seen two Chiefs teams this season so far. For the first seven quarters of the season, we saw a Super Bowl contender, getting a win on the road against the Texans and leading the four-time defending division champion Broncos. Then, Jamaal Charles' fumble late in their loss two weeks ago against Denver was a tough blow. Their negative momentum carried into Green Bay in the first half, and the hole they dug for themselves was too deep for them to dig out of in the second half. However, they showed a little life in the second half of Monday night's game. This team is still very good despite their 1-2 record. They may face an undefeated Bengals team on the road this week, but the Chiefs know this is an important game for them. Being three games down in the AFC West is inexcusable for a team with such high hopes for this season. I like the Bengals too, but they have proven to be inconsistent over the past few years, and the Chiefs will make it difficult to run the ball. This will be close, but I have the Chiefs winning, 28-24.
Honorable Mention: Miami Dolphins over New York Jets
Fantasy Start of the Week
Raiders WR Amari Cooper vs. Chicago Bears
This guy is going to be a stud. I know that's a bold prediction given that he has only played three NFL games, but he has already clinched 100 yards in two of them. He's Derek Carr's favorite option in the Oakland passing offense, and he should be claimed in every league. Last week, against elite cornerback Joe Haden, Cooper had eight catches for 134 yards. Yes, he fumbled, but that should not turn into a habit. Against a stiff matchup last week, he shined. This week, against a Bears team that seems to be in shambles, look for Cooper to have another big game, and maybe find the end zone. The Bears are 30th in fantasy points allowed vs. WRs, so I like Cooper's chances to continue trending up and into the wide receiver stratosphere in the fantasy football world.
Honorable Mention: Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. New Orleans Saints
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Dolphins WR Rishard Matthews vs. New York Jets
Matthews is one of 16 players to score multiple times last week, which led him to many experts' waiver pickup lists for this week. But this is not the week to start Matthews. Most of Matthews' production came during garbage time, when the Dolphins were already out of the game against Buffalo before halftime. They are also playing in London this week, as part of the NFL International Series. (Early 9:30 a.m. EST start, set your lineups early!). And they are facing the Jets, who, in my opinion, have the best cornerback tandem in the league. Matthews will have Darrell Revis or Antonio Cromartie on him at all times, which won't result in much production. Not a great idea to play a guy who a) has somewhat flawed numbers, b) playing in an unusual environment, with unknown field and at a funky time, and c) has a terrible matchup. Matthews is a bench for this week, and he needs to prove he isn't a one-time fluke before warranting true starting consideration.
Honorable Mention: Bengals RB Jeremy Hill vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Lions TE Eric Ebron
Ebron was one of my fantasy sleepers at the beginning of the year, and so far, he's done well for himself. Through the first three games of the season, he has 13 catches for 157 yards and two scores. This week, the Lions head to Seattle to face the Seahawks, but I still like Ebron's chances to contribute. In the TE spot, he could be a great weekly pickup in case you have Delanie Walker or Rob Gronkowski on bye this week. Ebron is a more than sufficient option this week, and a good replacement that should get you a couple points, and might even surprise you with a score. Bye weeks start this week, so I would suggest looking at which players you have on bye this week and maybe even next week, and plan accordingly to the players who are taking next week off. Just a heads up, the Panthers, Dolplhins, Vikings, and Jets are on bye next week, so maybe you'll want to pick up Ebron to replace Greg Olsen, Jordan Cameron, or Kyle Rudolph for next week if you've got room to spare on your roster. (Editor's note: Jeremy is 3-0 in a fantasy league with Jim and Cyd and has scored more points than anyone else).
Honorable Mention: Steelers QB Michael Vick
Lock of the Week
Arizona Cardinals over St. Louis Rams
The Cardinals might just be the best team in the NFL, because they are the most complete team. People forget that they started 2014 winning nine of their first 10 games, but they could not stay healthy, which led to them losing to the Panthers in the Wild Card round in a game started by Ryan Lindley. This year, Carson Palmer is looking to take this team to the Super Bowl, where they belonged last year. Could you have imagined if the Cardinals were to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium? The Cardinals are dynamite at home. The defense had four interceptions last week, and Larry Fitzgerald, the current league leader in touchdowns with five, looks like vintage Fitz. I'm struggling to find a hole in this team. And they're facing a team this week that has many holes in their offense, the Rams, who only had six points to show for it last week in a home loss to the Steelers. I like the Cardinals in this one, and it might be over before halftime.
Honorable Mention: Indianapolis Colts over Jacksonville Jaguars
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Minnesota +6.5 at Denver. Pick: Denver
The Broncos are 5-0-1 against the spread vs. NFC teams since Peyton Manning became their quarterback in 2012. The Vikings looked good in winning their last two games at home but laid an egg in their only road game. I see them struggling to move the ball against a Denver defense that has been the league's best through three games. Denver's offense is starting to click more as Peyton Manning become more comfortable and being at home will be a nice tonic after two tough road games.
Last week: 1-0. Season: 3-0
Hot Player on the Field
Seahawks WR/KR/PR Tyler Lockett
I have to give props to Lockett, the Seahawks' third-round pick from this past draft. Lockett looked stellar this preseason, and it has carried into the regular season. He already has two returns for TDs in three games. Returns have been rare since the NFL moved the kickoff to the 35 as opposed to the 30 a few seasons ago, and touchbacks have been more commonplace. However, Lockett is a difference-maker for Seattle. A special teams touchdown can dramatically change the course of the game, and we need more players in the league like Lockett. He'll get another chance to return another touchdown against the Lions on Monday Night Football.
Honorable Mention: Falcons WR Julio Jones