NFL Happiness: Week 4
Well, last week was a real bummer. It was a particular bummer for Mike Schur, who set a new unhappiness record at minus-118 happiness, thanks to a week where all the teams he actually cared about lost. My week was a much tamer minus-12, in part because my daughter Katie and I invested a lot of our happiness in the Chicago Bears-Houston Texans game, and the Bears won that one on the last play of the game.
This week, we are adding yet another feature to the NFL Happiness Scale system. You might remember that last week, we added a Double-Down Game, where we are allowed to choose one game where we double-down on our happiness. I chose the Bears-Texans game since we were there, and it paid off in a big way. Mike doubled down on Aaron Rodgers losing because he loathes Aaron Rodgers, and his happiness took it on the chin.
Now we are all adding a “Nullification Game.” That is to say, we are allowed to pick one game to nullify based on the fact that, despite what the system says, we don’t really care who wins or loses. For instance, last week I lost eight happiness points because the Jaguars (-3) beat the Chargers (+5) but, being honest, I didn’t feel eight points of sadness, and I wouldn’t have felt eight points of happiness had the Chargers won. I really could not care less about that game. So, if this rule had been in place, I would have nullified it.
Thank you to everybody who is sending in suggestions how we can improve the system. Keep on sending them in. I’m not saying we’ll use them, but we enjoy reading them.
And away we go with Week 4 of the NFL season!
Thursday night: Miami at Cincinnati
Mike: Dolphins +7 vs. Bengals +6, a 1-point game
Joe: Dolphins +12 vs. Bengals +10, a 2-point game
I’ve had all sorts of contrasting emotions about the Bengals. I tried to root for them two weeks ago, it didn’t take, and I dropped them way down. But last week, while casually watching the league as a whole, I found myself very much wanting them to win. So I’m settling into the position that I kind of like the Bengals but can’t ever like them any more than that. We’re both getting into this wild Dolphins season, me a little bit more than Mike. Because we like both teams, this one will not have much impact on our happiness whichever way it goes.
Minnesota at New Orleans
Mike: Vikings +12 vs. Saints +3, a 9-point game
Joe: Vikings +2 vs. Saints -1, (NULLIFICATION GAME)
The idea of the nullification game is not to hedge our happiness bets but instead to honestly pick one game each week that we simply have no feelings about, whichever way it goes. I do not care who wins the Vikings-Saints game. Mike, who has had a lot of feelings for Minnesota ever since poor Gary Anderson missed that NFC Championship Game kick for the 1998 Vikings, has a fair amount of happiness on the line.
Cleveland at Atlanta
Mike: Browns -15 vs. Falcons +4, a 19-point game
Joe: Browns +1 vs. Falcons -3, a 4-point game
All season, Mike has been trying to figure out how feels about the Falcons — they have been a +6 team, a +7 team and now they’re down to a +4 team. His loathing for the Browns keeps growing, and it would not surprise me one bit if the Browns end up surpassing the Cowboys at his least favorite team. For me, I never want the Browns to lose because I like Cleveland people way too much, but I honestly don’t derive any real happiness when they win — even last week when they beat the hated Steelers. But I can’t fairly nullify them, so I’ll just have to keep playing it week-by-week.
Buffalo at Baltimore
Mike: Bills +16 vs. Ravens -11, a 27-point game
Joe: Bills +15 vs. Ravens -7, a 22-point game
This is a huge happiness game for both of us because we are so invested in the Bills finally, finally, finally breaking through and winning it all and because neither one of us likes the Ravens one bit. My own Ravens loathing, though, has fallen quite a bit because I do find it difficult to root against Lamar Jackson. And I like the city of Baltimore quite a lot. My animosity comes, obviously, from Art Modell moving the real Cleveland Browns to Baltimore all those years ago, but maybe it’s time to let that go. I mean the Baltimore part — I’ll never, ever forgive Art Modell.
Washington at Dallas
Mike: Commanders -13 vs. Cowboys -16, a 3-point game
Joe: Commanders -15 vs. Cowboys -16, a 1-point game
Ugh. What a nightmare game. I don’t believe for even one minute that Washington winning would bring Mike three points of happiness, and I can tell you for certain that Washington winning would not bring me even one point of happiness. I have to tell you, I seriously considered swapping Washington to the bottom and moving the Cowboys into the -15 slot, but what’s the point? I thoroughly and pretty equally despise both these teams — they are my bottom two — and I don’t think I could choose which owner is the worse person, and my only actual thought about this game is what Joshua the computer said about global thermonuclear war in “WarGames”: The only winning move is not to play.
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Seattle at Detroit
Mike: Seahawks -1 vs. Lions +11, a 12-point game
Joe: Seahawks -2 vs. Lions +14, a 16-point game
Yes, I’ve been all over the map on the Seahawks. I am trying to search my feelings. I thought that I really liked them when we invented the system — I was seeking my inner Mina Kimes. But the last two weeks, I have found that I think so little about the Seahawks that I’m never even sure the next day if they won or lost. Even now, I don’t know their record off the top of my head. I love the city of Seattle and I love the idea of the Seahawks — Jim Zorn, Legion of Boom and all that — but it’s time to be honest: I don’t care. Meanwhile, I care a lot about the Lions — they will be the team I root for this weekend and the team I write about in our football diary on Monday.
Los Angeles Chargers at Houston
Mike: Chargers +16 vs. Texans -10, DOUBLE-DOWN, a 52-point game!
Joe: Chargers +9 vs. Texans -10, a 19-point game
Mike is pushing all his happiness chips in for this one — this will be a record-setting happiness game one way or another. It’s huge because if the Texans do happen to win, that would make the Chargers 1-3. “And then,” Mike says in a worried way, “their season is over.” I’m not quite as invested in this one. I can’t quite get all the way behind a Chargers team that dumped San Diego, but how can you not like Justin Herbert and, no question, a season where the Chargers are a factor would be way more interesting.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Mike: Titans -7 vs. Colts -3, a 4-point game
Joe: Titans +5 vs. Colts -6, an 11-point game
I find that I kind of like the Titans. I like Nashville, and one of my best friends and his son have become pretty big Titans fans, so I’d like to see them do well. I have no feelings whatsoever for the Colts, and I didn’t even know Matt Ryan was their quarterback until much, much later than I should have known. Mike’s relative disdain for the Titans continues to baffle me, though he did move them up one spot on his happiness chart this week.
Chicago at New York Giants
Mike: Bears -6 vs. Giants -4, a 2-point game
Joe: Bears +13 vs. Giants +7, a 6-point game
The Bears are still in the race for becoming our favorite team after coming up big last week when my daughter Katie and I went to Soldier Field. It was a blast, a great experience, and we love Bears fans deeply. I must admit, though, that I’m just not sure we could stand watching Justin Fields play every week. I’ve also developed an odd fondness for the Giants and quarterback Danny Dimes, who grew up and went to high school right around the corner from where we live. Do I really like the Bears and the Giants? Football is weird.
Jacksonville at Philadelphia
Mike: Jaguars -8 vs. Eagles +9, a 17-point game
Joe: Jaguars -5 vs. Eagles +11, a 16-point game
I keep saying to myself: Hey, why dislike the Jaguars? They were Jason Mendoza’s favorite team on “The Good Place.” They have a pretty painful history. They don’t hurt anybody. Then I remember my two most memorable experiences in Jacksonville, which I talk about this week on the PosCast. When I was 24, a Jacksonville police officer ticketed me for having a tail light that was out during Georgia-Florida football weekend, which is the pettiest thing imaginable (and then tried to suspend my license when I didn’t pay it, which in retrospect might have been my fault). Years later, I went to a Jacksonville breakfast place the day after the Jaguars-Chiefs game and ordered some orange juice and they said, “We’re out.” In Florida. If anything, the Jaguars are going down. The Eagles, meanwhile, we both love this team.
New York Jets at Pittsburgh
Mike: Jets +2 vs. Steelers -2 — a 4-point game
Joe: Jets +4 vs. Steelers -8, a 12-point game
Mike has come way, way, way down off his original Steelers fury because a couple of friends who are Pittsburgh fans convinced him that he doesn’t actually loathe the Steelers. I suspect I know who one of these fans is, and I get it: He can be very convincing. In fact, most Steelers fans can be very convincing; it is one of the strengths of Pittsburghers, who are delightful by nature. However, I think Mike is now lying to himself. He knows, deep down, that the Steelers are there to be rooted against.
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Arizona at Carolina
Mike: Cardinals +10 vs. Panthers -5, a 15-point game
Joe: Cardinals +3 vs. Panthers +6, DOUBLE-DOWN, a 6-point game
Speaking of lying to oneself, I have been trying to convince myself that I like that Cardinals team and am coming to fully realize that I don’t. I like watching Kyler Murray. But that’s hardly a reason to like the team; I like watching Lamar Jackson even more and I still want the Ravens to lose. I like Larry Fitzgerald a whole lot, but he’s not with the Cardinals anymore. I cannot tolerate that coach. Even at +3 (down from +9!) I’m not being honest about my Arizona feelings, they should be even lower. I don’t want the Cardinals to win. I kind of want them to lose. That’s why I’m doubling down on this one; I actually think I’ll get more than 6-points of happiness if the Panthers beat them.
New England at Green Bay
Mike: Patriots +14 vs. Packers -14, a 28-point game
Joe: Patriots -14 vs. Packers -11, a 3-point game
Mike seems to have many more important happiness games than I do this week; it seems like my least favorite teams keep matching up. Here’s another game that he cares a lot about and I don’t. But for me, this is only about two people: Bill Belichick (who I want to see lose and retire) and Aaron Rodgers (who I want to see lose and retire). When they’re gone, I think I can sort of like both these teams. I always liked the Steve Grogan Patriots. And I always liked the Lynn Dickey Packers.
Denver at Las Vegas
Mike: Broncos -12 vs. Raiders -9 (NULLIFICATION GAME)
Joe: Broncos -9 vs. Raiders -12, a 3-point game
Good use of the nullification game by Mike, who could not possibly have less interest in this game. I feel similarly — this is such a bad schedule week for me with all my least favorite teams playing each other. The Raiders particularly infuriate me because I used to love loathing the Oakland Raiders; it was one of the most fun parts of being an NFL fan. Those fans WANTED you to hate them. Now, they’re in Las Vegas, playing in like a casino/mall, I mean, it’s hard to feel anything about them. And that’s what I can’t forgive.
Kansas City at Tampa Bay
Mike: Chiefs +13 vs. Buccaneers +5, an 8-point game
Joe: Chiefs +16 vs. Buccaneers -13, a 29-point game
Looking around, I suppose a whole lot of my happiness this week hinges on this game. I still have the Chiefs in my top slot; they’re still the favorite to become my favorite team. And the Bucs, well, again, I used to like them a lot in the Lee Roy Selmon days, but now they’re good and Tom Brady wouldn’t stay retired and is instead playing utterly joyless football for them and all of it just blech.
Monday: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco
Mike: Rams +8 vs. 49ers +1, a 7-point game
Joe: Rams -4 vs. 49ers +8, a 12-point game
I’d say this is probably my most poorly rated game — there’s no way I’m going to feel 12 points of happiness or sadness here. I’m probably not even going to watch one minute of it. And I can’t nullify it because Mike and I made the rule that you can’t nullify games that have a 10-point or higher spread. So, we’ll just play it out — I do kind of like the 49ers and I do kind of not like the Rams, so maybe when the game is actually played I’ll feel emotions I don’t feel now. Mike likes the Rams as one of his hometown Los Angeles teams.