The Friday Stoots NFL 6 pack

Will Fuller is a threat when on the field. Photo by Edward Clarke

Six things headed into the weekend to ponder about the NFL. Drink it in. 

1. How about Baker Mayfield playing hero in the third game of the season for the Browns. I love Mayfield. He's a baller and I believe he will be very good in the league. He can put it where he wants it with ease and as soon as the coaching gets better around him Cleveland will have a dangerous weapon. Think about the AFC at the quarterback position right now. It's incredible. 13 of the 16 teams have their franchise guy or future franchise guy. (Miami, Jacksonville, and Denver in case you were wondering.)

2. The Kansas City Chiefs have the hardest task of any undefeated team trying to stay unbeaten. While they are at home, the 49ers are coming to town. The Chiefs have allowed almost 900 yards passing in two games but thanks to Patrick (Insert Nickname Here) Mahomes and his 10 touchdowns they're 2-0. I imagine Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan will have plenty cooked up for a putrid Chiefs defense. 

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been one of the best stories in the early part of the NFL season. FitzMagic has the Buccaneers off to their best start since 2010 despite being a 35-year-old journeyman who seemed to be placeholding Jameis Winston's spot. The NFL doesn't usually have happy endings and stellar stories like his rarely last. The Steelers are desperate and aren't that different from the 2017 team which finished fifth in total defense. Magic isn't real and Monday, unfortunately, FitzMagic comes to an end as well. 

4. Will Fuller's return can't be understated. He's a potential star at the wideout position and is a far more complete pass catcher than many thought he could be in the NFL. Eli Apple is the Giants starting corner opposite Janoris Jenkins and he hasn't practiced. With Apple out, it could be backups on Fuller meaning another huge day for him. 

5. The Giants allowed six sacks on Sunday against the Cowboys and have allowed eight this season. Dallas didn't have to send much pressure to get some of those sacks either. The Texans have only allowed one less sack and also have put Watson in danger plenty. Each team has underperformed rushing the passer with the Giants having one lone sack and the Texans just three. When there is so much underperforming someone is bound to impress Sunday. 


6. The Texans and the Giants both desperately need a win. Just 2.9 percent of the teams who start 0-3 have ever made it to the postseason. The last time a 0-3 team made the playoffs was the 1998 Buffalo Bills. They were one of five teams to ever do it. None of those teams played for a conference championship. If the Texans have designs on a successful season avoiding the bad part of history is in their best interest. 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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