The NFL can be so hypocritical at times.
The NFL has acknowledged the 15th anniversary of 9/11 this past Sunday with moments of silence observed at every game, and special pregame ceremonies for the thousands that lost their lives. Yet six players — among them Titans LB Avery Williamson, Colts punter Pat McAfee and Giants WRs Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham, Jr. — wore cleats to honor the victims and faced $6,000 fines for violating the league's uniform policy.
Thankfully, the NFL has said it will not fine these players. The league also announced that players can have league-approved messages on their cleats in Week 13 of this season. Many players will use this opportunity to advocate for a cause important to them, or honor a special person in their life. The NFL must sign off on any message and the cleats must be auctioned off, with 100% of the proceeds going to charity.
I think it is a fantastic idea to allow players to have messages on their cleats for a week to honor a special person or cause. But why can't it be every week? People honored 9/11 victims this week with their cleats and were not fined. Let this be every week. Because of the timing, the Browns and the Titans won't be able to participate in this gesture because Week 13 is their bye week.
Imagine if someone wants to put #BeTrue on their cleats in Week 13 or some other pro-gay message? As a gay teenager, that would inspire me and so many other LGBT people. I'm sure Chris Kluwe or Brendan Ayanbadejo, two former NFL players and LGBT advocates, would have done something to promote LGBT equality. We need to have one NFL player step up and put some sort of pro-LGBT message on their cleats.
On to Week 2:
Game of the Week
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
These two teams have some bad blood. The Bengals had a two-possession lead in the fourth quarter in the AFC Wild Card matchup in January, but the Steelers were able to overcome and win the game 18-16. The Bengals' loss was large in part to the team's conduct on defense, which allowed Pittsburgh to advance on the field via an array of penalties.
Fast forward eight months later and a lot has changed. The Steelers are stacked on offense, but they did lose WR Martavis Bryant, who had an unbelievable touchdown catch in the game. And the Bengals have their starting QB Andy Dalton back. One thing that hasn't changed? These two teams HATE each other.
This is a divisional rivalry that has been brewing for years, and for two teams that are legitimate playoff contenders, this game could be extremely important in the long run. It's only Week 2, but these results will have a huge effect on the end of the season.
This game is in Pittsburgh, so it should give the Steelers an advantage in their home opener. However, the Bengals won in Pittsburgh last year and A.J. Green looked like a man possessed last week. The Bengals have a lot going for them, but I am going for the home team in this matchup. QB Ben Roethlisberger proved on Monday night that he is still the backbone of the offense and the main reason behind their success, and this game should be a duel between two top-five receivers in the league in Green and Antonio Brown. Expect a high scoring game that the Steelers pull out.
Steelers 35, Bengals 31
Upset of the Week
Jacksonville Jaguars over San Diego Chargers
It's a battle of 0-1 teams in San Diego this Sunday, and the home team is favored. Also, the Jaguars have struggled on the West Coast (2-12 all-time).
The Jaguars flashed some positive moments in their 27-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers, an NFC favorite. Meanwhile, the Chargers had arguably the worst loss of the week. Up 21-3 at half at Kansas City, they lost star WR Keenan Allen to a torn ACL, and he won't play the rest of the season. He was a major part of the offense in the first half, catching six balls for 63 yards. After he left, the offense froze and the defense followed suit. The Chiefs won the game in overtime by overcoming a franchise-record halftime deficit.
Allen's absence is nothing new for San Diego, as he was out most of last year with a lacerated kidney. However, his absence stalls the offense and prevents it from reaching its full potential. That's why I like Jacksonville's high octane offense and revamped defense to defeat the Chargers this Sunday.
Jaguars 28, Chargers 20
Fantasy Start of the Week
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson
In opener against the Panthers, 139 total yards and two touchdowns were signs that Anderson was back. Coach Gary Kubiak loves to run the football, and with Anderson as the only capable running back in the Denver backfield, the offense will continue to feed him the ball. Expect him to have another big week against a Colts defense that allowed Theo Riddick to go off last week. Anderson should start in all formats and be a hot pickup in daily leagues, regardless of his price.
Fantasy Sit of the Week
Rams WR Tavon Austin
Austin is the top receiver on Los Angeles's depth chart, but against San Francisco in Week 1, he had four receptions for 13 yards on 12 targets. He had a pitiful performance on Monday Night Football against one of the worst defenses in the league. I don't expect his production to improve against one of the best defenses in the league in Seattle. Do yourself a favor and steer clear from any Rams receivers.
Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Chargers WR Tyrell Williams
As mentioned earlier, Keenan Allen is out for the season, and those targets are going to need to be spread across the offense. Sure, Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead can cover the load. Melvin Gordon may get some extra carries, and Travis Benjamin is a decent receiver. But watch out for this guy most people haven't heard of.
He went undrafted last year and bounced from the Chargers practice squad to the active roster all season. In Week 17 last year, he scored a touchdown in Denver. Last week, he had two catches for 71 yards as the team's WR3. Philip Rivers has done nothing but rave about him to the local media and this guy is bound to break out, and he is available in most leagues. Fellow Keenan Allen owners, our answer is here.
Lock of the Week
New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins
No Brady, no Gronk, no Ninkovich, no Dion Lewis, and the Pats still got it done. On the road. In Arizona, against my NFC Super Bowl pick.
Jimmy Garoppolo has the Pats not skipping a beat at QB and this week he faces a disheveled Miami team that was in Seattle last week. The Dolphins have had to travel from Miami to Seattle, back to Miami, and to New England in the span of a week. Whoever chose the NFL schedule must have hated the Dolphins.
The Dolphins almost squeaked out a win in Seattle last week and gave me a scare in my Losers Pool, but it was only because the Seahawks' offense was dismal. Miami's offense was horrific, and now they get to play the Patriots in New England, in their home opener, after they just beat one of the best teams in the league.
I hate to say it, but the Patriots might now be the team to beat in the AFC. I don't know if anyone will be able to beat them. And a weak Miami offense certainly won't beat New England.
Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.
Dolphins plus 6.5 at Patriots. Pick: Patriots
New England will dominate its home opener over a Miami team that lost a physical game at Seattle and now has to travel up the East Coast. The Patriots have won seven consecutive home games against the Dolphins, six of them by double digits.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 0-1.
Hot Player of the Week
Steelers OL Alejandro Villanueva
As much football as I know, I can honestly say that before this week, I did not know who Alejandro Villanueva was. I'm so grateful for the friend that told me about him and you can probably see why. However, after doing some research, I found out that he was not only the Steelers' starting left tackle, but also a former Army Ranger who played his college ball at West Point. I'm sure for Week 13 he'll be honoring the troops with his cleats, and this week, I'm honoring him.
(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)