Rob Woodfork, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - I almost started this week's recap with a 'welcome back' for the regular referees (which Packers fans should be glad I've scuttled, given they almost got done in by another offensive pass interference non- call.
However, once I heard about the unfortunate turn of events in Indianapolis, the topic for this week's preamble became clear.
In case you haven't heard yet, Colts first-year coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia during Indy's bye week.
While the prognosis seems hopeful, he's expected to undergo treatment for the next 6 to 8 weeks and his return to the Colts sideline this season is very much in doubt.
Off the top of my head, I can't recall an NFL coach getting a devastating diagnosis like this during the season. The closest comparison might be Vince Lombardi's very brief tenure in Washington, but he fell gravely ill after the 1969 season concluded.
While Pagano's illness isn't expected to be terminal, he still has a long road ahead. His treatment is said to involve some combination of chemotherapy, drugs, and radiation therapy. I've had enough friends and family suffer from this disease to know none of the above will be easy.
The sobering aspect of this is that we look to football as a diversion; a way to take a few hours on a weekend (or Monday ... or Thursday) and forget some of the troubles in our own lives.
But every once in awhile, we're dealt a cruel reminder that the NFL isn't all fun and games. The people involved with the league are just that: people.
Real people like you and I, that deal with the same fears and struggles we do, only with the added burden of the entire nation knowing about it. Cancer doesn't play favorites. It doesn't care if you're old. It doesn't care if you're young. It doesn't care if you're rich and famous, or poor and anonymous. It's not even interested in whether or not you smoke.
It's the cruel enemy that seeks to rob you of much more than a win or loss in professional football. Suddenly, the effectiveness of the Colts defense doesn't matter. Andrew Luck's development as a franchise quarterback is an afterthought. Right now even die-hard Indianapolis fans are probably struggling to remember what the team's won/loss record is.
Regardless of whether or not you like the Colts, all that matters on this day, (which also happens to be Pagano's 52nd birthday) is that Pagano pulls through this difficult time and moves on to further pursue his passion.
Now that's something we can all root for.
With that, we respectfully turn things to this week's lighthearted NFL recap:
During this game, NFL Network ran promos for "A Football Life: Cleveland '95." Yes, NFLN did this to Browns fans while they watched the team that left them beat the worst consolation prize ever. That hurt my feelings, and I don't even like Cleveland.
"Mind coach" or not, Cam Newton needs to show a better face in defeat -- or else he'll continue to gather reasons to hang his head.
For those keeping score at home, the Bills defense has now surrendered 48 and 52 points in two division games. I'm stunned by how bad this Buffalo defense has been this year, given how stout their front four looks on paper.
Can you believe Minnesota is 3-1? Me neither. Of course, we all said the same thing when the Redskins were 3-1 at this time last year, and we all know how that turned out.
At this point, Scott Pioli has to be literally the only guy who thinks Matt Cassell is anything more than an average starting NFL quarterback. I'd love to hear his reasoning, if he survives in Kansas City long enough to explain.
Boy, this division looks competitive this year. What once looked like a division where 8-8 wins it, a .500 record might actually be good for last place in the much-improved NFC West.
Ssshhh. Do you hear that? It's the sound of Tebowmania forcing its way into New York.
Houston is easily the most dominant team in the first quarter of the season. What makes me confident in my Super Bowl pick is that Andre Johnson and the passing game have done next to nothing this season and the Texans are still crushing people. Be afraid, AFC. Be very afraid.