Cleveland Browns safety Johnson Bademosi, in an editorial for Peter King’s MMBQ.com, wrote that he wore an “I can’t breathe shirt” for all those “victimized by our country’s never-ending hegemony.”
This “never-ending hegemony” has been very good to the Stanford graduate, the son of Nigerian immigrants, now living his dream of playing in the NFL. But has the NFL turned into a “never-ending hegemony,” with the team’s featuring superstar quarterbacks consistently dominating the league?
It certainly seems that way, with Tom Brady’s Patriots, Peyton Manning’s Broncos, Aaron Rodgers’ Packers and Russell Wilson’s Seahawks all rolling right now.
Let’s take a closer look at Sunday’s action . . .
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (5-8)
The high-octane Pittsburgh Steelers offense travels to Atlanta to face the NFL’s worst defense.
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown leads the NFL in receptions, and running back Le’Veon Bell ranks #2 in the league in rushing behind DeMarco Murray of the Cowboys.
And Atlanta will be without starting cornerback Robert Alford, and first-team safety Williams Moore is iffy.
Also it’s unclear if Atlanta’s best offensive player, Julio Jones, who has a hip injury, is going to play.
All signs point to Pittsburgh in this game.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) at Cleveland Browns (7-6)
The Browns start their 21st-different quarterback since their return to Cleveland in Johnny Manziel.
The Bengals need to do what LSU and Missouri did to stymie “Johnny Football,” and force him to stay in the pocket where he’s less effective, and has trouble seeing over the line.
Look for Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to run a lot of bootleg plays to cut the field in half and limit Manziel’s reads. Like most rookie quarterbacks, Manziel struggles reading defenses.
It’s very hard to predict this game because it’s difficult to discern if Manziel’s improvisational style will fly in the NFL.
We will start to find out on Sunday.
Denver Broncos (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-5)
Philip Rivers better wear an extra thick flak jacket.
He’s nursing chest and back injuries, and the Broncos, who have sacked opposing quarterbacks 38 times, are coming to town.
If the Chargers are going to win this game, they must do a better job on Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders than they did in the first meeting, when the Broncos wide receiver caught three touchdowns.
The Broncos can clinch the AFC West with a win in this game, but don’t expect the Chargers to go down without a major fight.
Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)
The Buffalo Bills lead the league in sacks
And the only way they are going to win this game is if their pass rush, which leads the league in sacks, makes Aaron Rodgers uncomfortable in the pocket early and often.
Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a good feel for Rodgers from his days as the head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Buffalo could hang around for a while in this game, but it’s hard seeing this Kyle Orton-led Bills offense scoring enough points to keep up with Rodgers, who has thrown 35 touchdowns this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)
It’s always helpful for a rookie quarterback to have a strong running game to take pressure off, and to sell play-action.
So it’s really bad news for Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles that the Jacksonville’s talented tailback, Denard Robinson, was put on injured reserve.
And he will have two dynamic pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, coming after him in a hostile, loud environment.
Baltimore should have little problem winning this game.
Miami Dolphins (7-6) at New England Patriots (10-3)
It’s hard to believe Miami beat New England in Week One.
Both teams are so different now, and Miami’s lengthy injury report doesn’t help their case.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick boasts a 52-9 December record.
And he should make it 53-9.
Minnesota Vikings (6-7) at Detroit Lions (9-4)
This is a near impossible spot for the Vikings.
A rookie quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), and the Vikings 31st-ranked passing attack, on the road, against a team almost impossible to run against inspires little confidence. So Bridgewater will likely need to throw a lot, never a good recipe for youngster away from home.
On top of that, the Lions seem finally comfortable in offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system. Mathew Stafford quarterbacked two solid games in row, with a pair of touchdowns and over 300 yards in each contest.
And the Vikings are banged-up with three starters out – guard Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Sharif Floyd, and safety Robert Blanton.
The Lions should have little problem winning this game.
New York Jets (2-11) at Tennessee Titans (2-11)
The Titans will be without starting rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
But you know what? It might actually help them.
His backup, Jake Locker, is more experienced, further along the growth curve.
This battle between two of the worst teams in the league is a toss-up.
Oakland Raiders (2-11) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)
This is the 112th meeting between these bitter AFC West rivals.
The Chiefs look to avenge a shocking loss to the Raiders three weeks ago, and expect them to do so.
Two prominent Raiders receivers, Rod Streater and Denarius Moore, sit with injuries. Also, Oakland rookie QB Derek Carr, on the road, in one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums, with pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston coming after him, is a Raider recipe for disaster.
San Francisco 49ers (7-6) at Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been sacked 43 times this year.
So a trip to Century Link Field to face the Seattle’s ruthless pass rush isn’t what the doctor ordered.
In the first 2014 meeting between these two teams, cornerback Richard Sherman picked off Kaepernick off twice.
The 49ers need this game to stay in the NFC wildcard race.
This should be a very physical match between two of the NFL’s top defenses.
It’s hard seeing the red-hot Seahawks losing this game at home against the reeling 49ers with a struggling QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) at Carolina Panthers (4-8-1)
Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton sits following a car accident earlier this week.
But the drop-off with Derek Anderson isn’t much. In fact, Anderson led the Panthers to a Week One win over Tampa Bay.
And believe it or not, the 4-8-1 Panthers find themselves just one game out of first place in the anemic NFC South.
This one is too close to call.
Washington Redskins (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9)
The Washington Redskins have lost five straight, and the team’s former standout inside linebacker, London Fletcher, thinks the team’s defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, has to go.
“Why does Jim Haslett still have his job as defensive coordinator after five years of ineptitude at the defensive coordinator position?” asked Fletcher on CBS. “He is clueless as a defensive coordinator.”
The Redskins did get some good news. Colt McCoy has been cleared to start at quarterback, after suffering a neck injury last week. He gives them their best chance to win.
But the best plan to attack the Giants isn’t with McCoy’s arm, but with the legs of RB Alfred Morris against the Giants 30th-ranked rush defense.
The Giants should be able to pull out the win at home against this dysfunctional bunch.
Dallas Cowboys (9-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)
The Cowboys look for revenge after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas’s excellent offensive line didn’t protect QB Tony Romo very well in the first meeting. Expect a much better performance from this prideful, talented group this time around.
And also expect a better plan to deal with Eagles QB Mark Sanchez, whom they made look like Tom Brady in the first game.
There is a very good chance, the Cowboys, a very good road team, comes out of Philly with a win.