2018 OMW’s I-95 MOVING Adventures, Vol. IX


2018 OMW’s I-95 MOVING Adventures, Vol. IX
M.D. Wright
11.12.18

This… was a nightmare. But since I actually made it through (as did Craig), I can actually breathe, exhale and actually laugh at some of the things which took place as a result.

First of all, this was a culmination of a myriad of things that I saw coming down the pike as early as the first week of June of this year, and only my logistics experience and wise planning prevented this from becoming an out and out MESS in the end.

Back in June, I had begun looking at real estate options, so that I could get back into the game, and knew that with our townhouse lease expiring at the end of October, that I needed to begin planning what the next move would be.

I actually like my job and what I do, and had no intentions of leaving the company, so I advised my boss of what was likely going to happen in the subsequent three months (after I notified her around the first of August), so that there wouldn’t be any of the rushing and chaos that still ended up occurring in the end.

By the time I took a two week vacation at the end of August and went back to Jersey for a family gathering, I knew it was time to give my then-landlord a 60-day notice and start figuring out what we could work out. I knew I was NOT going above $2K to pay rent anymore, and said years ago when it got to that point that it was time to buy a house; even if that meant moving down south again. I am all but done with New York — the overrated morass that it has become — other than business. I’ll always love Harlem and always gonna be a Harlem cat, even if I never move back, but New York ain’t NEW YORK no more… really hasn’t been in years.

Add to the confusion was the fact that both Craig and I were both locked into ridiculous commutes, which limited social living, and the lack of anything below $2K rent-wise without remaining 25-30+ miles away from both our jobs, a very close relative having a recurrence of a previous illness — and the need for us to be closer — and the timing of it all, and it made for a dicey situation. I had to wait weeks before my company gave me the okay to relocate to Charlotte, where those who know me know I once lived — and loved it here — and that ended up being nearly two months from the point when I initially gave notice.

September goes by, nothing.

October goes by, nothing… until the 27th.

Our lease expired on the 31st.

I get the green light to relocate on November 1. I literally had to find a place in Charlotte, pack up my workstation and set it up later upon arrival in Charlotte myself, while packing a full, three story townhouse loaded with furniture and personal effects, all in three days’ time… while still having to work on November 2.

This wasn’t even the most annoying part.

Having been a broker for years, finding a place is easy, getting a deal done is easy (provided the other parties involved are on their game; or I have to put the hot poker to their asses to GET them on their game). I was able to do that in two days — though the place where I ended up moving to had an owner who treated every step of the process like a military extraction during wartime.

No, the biggest hurdle was packing, loading and hauling. And even though we were foolish enough to think that we had done enough by reserving a huge truck and a tow dolly for Craig’s car — since he was moving to another part of the state — of course, after spending Saturday arranging and packing up what we could, we show up at the rental location at 8 am thinking we would just pick up the truck and towing material and be on our way.

No.

And then the cost jumped another $50 for them inconveniencing US. The tow dolly that we reserved and were TOLD would be on site of our reserved pickup location was in Alexandria — a good 20 miles away — and took five hours to be transported to our location in Waldorf. We then went down to get the dolly and got home around 2 pm.

We literally packed, packed, packed and packed some more, while loading the heaviest stuff as we went along. We spent the rest of the literal day packing and loading. After Sunday Night Football concluded, I checked out for an hour and a half to get a nap and go right back up at 1 am to finish what was left.

Then the rain began. Copious, monsoonal, annoying ass SHEETS OF RAIN began. Of course this slowed down everything. Not only did I end up throwing out things (ranging from clothes to furniture, to equipment and random things) that I had spent THOUSANDS on over the years, much of my stuff got soaked, requiring me to do the wash for four straight days (and counting still, as I type this). Some things were broken. Some things were lost that were intended to be loaded onto the truck. Don’t know how, but it happens every time. Some of it important stuff that I now have to buy again, as if moving isn’t costly enough — to the tune of $5,000 and counting until I am settled in HOPEFULLY by the end of this week — but then we had issues in securing the tow dolly and Craig’s car onto the back of the truck.

Of course.

We had originally intended to leave around 2 am in order to avoid traffic.

We left at 6:30 am.

And it rained. Oh it rained. For most of the 250 miles of the first leg of the trip (Waldorf to Durham). The traffic was at a dead standstill from the time we left the house. It took two hours to even GET TO the Beltway. If this were not a portend of things to come, and a confirmation of things that had occurred to that point, then nothing would be.

And to confirm, yes, it was a portend of things to come even after we arrived in North Carolina.

We were bumper to bumper, barely moving from Waldorf all the way to Springfield (that’s 30 miles for those who are counting). The constant starting and stopping, and only getting an hour’s nap — you know as a strategist and a planner, my mind was racing so much that I couldn’t sleep anyway — that we both ended up pulling over at separate spots just to avoid falling asleep on the road. That lasted for about an hour, and by then, the rain was dissipating and we were on our way. The traffic wasn’t bad for the rest of the way, so there’s a silver lining for your ass.

We FINALLY get to Durham around 2:30 PM, unloaded and had to go up three flights of stairs. Of course my meniscus injury from years ago flares up after 48 hours of heavy duty, back-breaking work. My knees and feet hurt for a full three days after all this.

By 4:30 PM, we were finished, went to get food and latched up everything to finish the next leg of the trip. All this time, the owner was dragging her feet about approval, when there are the same number of red flags about me as you’ll find on Grape Street in Los Angeles.

For those who don’t get that reference: that means ABSOLUTELY NONE.

We find out at 6:30 PM that I was approved, about 30 minutes short of reaching Greensboro in order to stop by my parents’ house and they could ride down with us.

I had to pull over, docusign a plethora of documents and then find out on some Easter Egg hunt wave that I needed to scramble to get a money order in order to take care of first month’s and security, since it was after business hours. AND the truck had issues. Craig could have lost his car on the highway due to a malfunction in the tow dolly. Just unreal how fortunate we were despite all my complaining.

By 9:30 PM on Monday, 11/5, I had everything in hand, and had to race to get to the broker’s office. It only took me 45 minutes, of course. And this is from Lexington to downtownuptowndowntown Charlotte. Just my luck, I show up and she is fine as hell… and I’m soaked, looking like I just ran off from the gas station with 10 cartons of smokes and several cases of beer in hand, and can’t even TRY to say anything to her outside of getting this deal done.

We’re 90% complete by now, but still a lot of work to go. Thankfully, my parents came, or else it would have taken eight hours to unload the remainder of the truck. As it were, it still took us from about 11 PM until 1:30 PM to finish, AND I needed to check in at the office here, while Craig had to drive back to Durham, then Henderson, then back to Durham, then back to Henderson and THEN back to northern Virginia to work. I was up for another 46 of 48 hours myself during that same timeframe. It began to slow down by Thursday and by Friday, I decided to work from home, because I would be looking like a tornado hit my condo (and it still does) if I didn’t stay home all weekend.

I don’t plan on spending many weekends at home, now that I am in an area where there is something to DO again, and it doesn’t take an hour minimum to get everywhere like it did in the “DMV” (hate that term, and never use it, BTW).

I hate moving. But the owner accepted my terms to just do nine months here. Nine months of preparing everything so that I can buy a house. A new house. On the South Carolina side of the border, just across from where I am now (which is right on the line anyway). With lower prices. Lower property taxes. Easy appraisal and inspection, and fewer hurdles to cross.

And I’d be paying half of what I paid back in New York and even in suburban DC for a brand new $400K house here, versus a 1 bedroom BOX at $2K back in NYC. I am tired of renting. I hate that I passed up on the two houses that I would have had free and clear when I was 19. A homeowner. With no liens. No mortgage. No real costs. And I passed it up.

“I was young. I was naive. I was stupid.” (To Justin Piazza, notice Alex didn’t do the “sssschhh” back then like he does now?

All in all, it worked out. It was a headache, and it took a whole week to even become livable again, but the office here is quiet, accommodating, and easily got set up, so the job portion of the relocation was plug and play. It was having to uproot my whole life with three days’ notice and moving two states away that was the trouble.

Crisis averted and another growing experience as a result. I can do anything. With what I’ve endured over the past decade — and most of you have no idea, and the rest don’t even know the HALF, because I did most of it in solitude; which means you really don’t know anything about my path without my telling you. You can’t tell anything about me by just looking at my countenance. It belies my spirit and mindset. Get to know me or move along.

Another adventure in the books. Alive and sound, and $5K poorer.

For those who are truly in my circle, if you want the address in order to visit, or want to send gift cards (PLEASE LOL) in lieu of such, let me know. I obviously will not be posting that here; lest someone gets shot for showing up on my stoop unannounced.

Good day.

VA

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2018 NFL Week 2 Powre Rankings


2018 NFL Week 2 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
9.19.2018

Doesn’t it seem like the NFL season just flies by even faster with each passing year? At any rate, with some pretty shoddy football (and place kicking) thus far this year, some teams’ fortunes are being marred before we even arrive in October. We’ll see who those teams are below:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0).
Despite all the foolish talk about 35-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick being a revelation for the Bucs, the reality is that the entire coaching staff is coaching for their respective jobs (along with the general manager), and the offense, which was intentionally scaled back by the head coach in order to reign in Jameis Winston, is opened up now. It will bear watching for Tampa, when “Fitzmagic” inevitably turns into “Fitztragic,” and the team has to turn back to Winston; what the head coach and offensive coordinator’s response will be.  The assertion that Winston — whose first three years are unrivaled, statistically; despite the pronouncements of those who want to see him fail after they made up their minds about him following the false sexual assault accusation at Florida State — is a “problem” and not the playcalling, offensive line play, running game (which is still virtually non-existent), and injuries on both sides of the ball each year, reeks of agenda-driven tripe.

How Tampa weathers the Winston-Fitzpatrick dynamic will determine whether or not they remain in this spot, or how precipitously they may fall. But for now, they deserve this spot.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0).
The Jags are the best team in the AFC, and only Kansas City is close.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (2-0).
Patrick Mahomes just does WHATEVERHEWANTS to defenses. We know it won’t last (regularly), so it will be key to watch how he performs under adversity. However, when the Steelers came back to tie the game in Week 2, Mahomes responded with two big touchdown drives, so the moxie that many had previously seen prior to 2018 has come to the fore, once again.

4. Denver Broncos (2-0).
They don’t look all that impressive, but they’re 2-0, nonetheless.

5. Los Angeles Rams (2-0).
They’ve done what they should have against the feckless Raiders and rudderless Cards. We’ll see what they’re made of over the next couple of games for sure.

6. Cincinnati Bengals (2-0).
They took apart the Ravens on Thursday night, but did not put them away as they should have. They’re up against it without Joe Mixon for the rest of September, but they have a chance to take a two game lead in the division if they finish the month strongly.

7. Miami Dolphins (2-0).
How?

8. Minnesota Vikings (1-0-1).
SEC Kickers.

9. Green Bay Packers (1-0-1).
How long will Aaron Rodgers’ knee hold up? Green Bay’s entire season rests on his sprained ligament.

10. Los Angeles Chargers (1-1).
Baffling team, even if the Chiefs look to be good, to lose Week 1. We did not learn anything from them in Week 2. They’ll need Joey Bosa back soon.

11. Atlanta Falcons (1-1).
How good are they, really? Difficult to get a good read on them just yet.

12. Baltimore Ravens (1-1).
Regression to the mean in Week 2? Or are the Bengals really that good? We knew the Ravens weren’t as good as Week 1 suggested to some, but still…

13. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1).
The Eagles aren’t more than an average team. 2017 is over with. Carson Wentz being back won’t change much.

14. New England Patriots (1-1).
They were only in the game because the officials attempted to swing the game in their favor in Jacksonville. Had it been the AFC Championship, the officials would have completed the act.

15. Carolina Panthers (1-1).
Their offensive line injuries (along with Greg Olsen) are going to be problematic this season…

16. Cleveland Browns (0-1-1).
The Browns should be 2-0, if not for their now dearly departed kicker.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1).
The Steelers offense puts up points, but the dynamic that Le’Veon Bell brings is missing. Plus they cannot defend even if their lives depended on it.

18. New Orleans Saints (1-1).
Like the Eagles, 2017 is over. This is an 8-8 team. MARK INGRAM ain’t changing that.

19. San Francisco 49ers (1-1).
Whatever.

20. Chicago Bears (1-1).
After the first 15 scripted plays, the Bears offense goes to absolute nothing. They’ll have to fix this. Even the hapless Seahawks managed to hang around until Russell Wilson began seeing ghosts and threw a back-breaking pick-six to close out the undecided portion of the game in Week 2.

21. Tennessee Titans (1-1).
What a dreadful team to watch.

22. Indianapolis Colts (1-1).
The Redskins aren’t any good, and their delusional fanbase and local sports announcers knew it both before and after the game.

23. New York Jets (1-1).
Stop crowning quarterbacks after one game.

24. Washington Redskins (1-1).
Reality struck after they beat an NCAA FCS team in Week 1.

25. Oakland Raiders (0-2).
They had their chances in Week 2, but came up short…

26. Detroit Lions (0-2).
Another season of missed playoffs on the way for Matthew Stafford.

27. Houston Texans (0-2).
The Texans will get their first win in Week 3. With relative ease.

28. Seattle Seahawks (0-2).
This team is BAD. Only Russell Wilson’s exploits keeps them close.

29. Dallas Cowboys (1-1).
Dallas isn’t any good, and Week 2 didn’t do anything to change that fact. Week 2 was all about how bad the Giants are, not how  Dallas (or Dak Prescott “accepted a challenge” that he didn’t meet).

30. New York Football Giants (0-2).
The Pat Shurmur Era seems a lot like a continuation of the Ben McAdoo Era, mixed in with some Willie Taggart (at Florida State) Era.

31. Arizona Cardinals (0-2).
They are the NFC’s equivalent to the Buffalo Bills (see below), until Josh Rosen plays, that is.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-2).
They’ll need a collective Slip & Fall act by an opposing team in order to win a game in 2018.

2018 NFL Week 1 Powre Rankings


2018 NFL Week 1 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
9.12.2018

You know why we’re here. Now that Week 1 is complete and we have had time to come down from all the overreactions in both directions, we can assess who’s doing what heading into Week 2.

1. Los Angeles Rams (1-0).
The Raiders hung around for a half, but then Derek Carr became David Carr and that was the end of the Raiders in Week 1.

2. New York Jets (1-0).
We’re not going to take anything away from the Jets by talking down the Lions, because either way, they’re NFL players. The Jets were dominant in ways that they haven’t been since 1998.

3. Baltimore Ravens (1-0).
They were playing an FCS-level team, but they still got the job done.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0).
The Jaguars don’t seem to have a tight end, and didn’t have Leonard Fournette for three-quarters of a game, and managed to outlast the Giants at Giants Stadium. Though they needed several unforced errors and penalties by the Giants to get it done, a win is a win and the AFC’s best team needs road wins like these in order to be taken seriously in a playoff run this year.

5. Minnesota Vikings (1-0).
The Vikes had “Jimmy G.” seeing ghosts by the 4th quarter Sunday. The game-sealing INT was a prayer in the highest order by Garoppolo.

6. Green Bay Packers (1-0).
Aaron. Yawn.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-0).
The Bucs will win the NFC South, and Jameis Winston (when he returns in Week 4, and after the Bucs get the FULL Ryan Fitzpatrick experience of a pinball scoreboard game, a game-manager game that he does just enough to lose late, and a putrid blowout loss squarely on his hands — which may happen in succession vs. PHI and NE) plays his best football when people count him out, even if he has proven many a time that it is foolish to do so.

8. Carolina Panthers (1-0).
Injuries are already piling up for them on the offensive side, and they were far from impressive on offense to begin with.

9. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0).
This team cannot rely on gimmicks all season again. Back to back games vs. Atlanta where the Falcons blew games far more than the Eagles actually won them.

10. New York Football Giants (0-1).
The Giants found themselves in an early hole due to the insanity that is continuing to play Ereck Flowers at all. However, all of the linemen were pushed around all day against the league’s best pass rush — except the one player who used to block against those linemen: Patrick Omameh. As bad as Flowers was, Nate Solder and Will Hernandez got whipped frequently themselves. John Halapio was passable. Despite all the unforced errors, the Giants had another chance to win on a last minute drive until the final unforced error occurred with a muffed punt. Game over.

11. Denver Broncos (1-0).
They outlasted Seattle more than anything else.

12. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0).
They were impressive, but we need to see more.

13. Seattle Seahawks (0-1).
Seattle is a completely different team now, but despite all the offensive line shuffling, in-game injuries and the new faces on both sides of the ball, Seattle had a chance to win this game late and could not get it done. They’ll have many games like this one in 2018.

14. Chicago Bears (0-1).
They’re better, but they stopped playing football once they saw Aaron Rodgers carted off and subsequently return to the game in the second half.

15. Cleveland Browns (0-0-1).
The Browns found every way they could to lose this game, then they came back, then they tried hard to blow it late in regulation AND in OT, then they had the game won (before a bogus, and I do mean BOGUS block in the back call drove them back 20 yards on the interception of Roethlisberger and the return to the Pittsburgh 6 yard line), until the Browns did a very Browns thing: had the game-winning field goal blocked; and settling for a tie. At least they didn’t lose a season opener for the first time in fifteen years.

16. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0-1).
It was a game. In the rain. Without the league’s second-best running back.

17. Miami Dolphins (1-0).
Did anyone — even those in the Miami and Nashville markets — even watch that game?

18. New England Patriots (1-0).
Whatever. Deshaun Watson set them up twice, they were not impressive.

19. Cincinnati Bengals (1-0).
The pick six late made it a two-score game, but the Bengals were trailing a good bit in this game and played down to a Colts team that doesn’t have NFL-level talent at half their positions on both sides of the ball.

20. Washington Redskins (1-0).
The Cards and Bills are the two worst teams in the NFL. This was known going into the season, and will play out as such, there’s no need to go crazy about anything the Redskins or Adrian Peterson did in Week 1.

21. Los Angeles Chargers (1-0).
How do the Bolts always manage to lose games that most people think they are going to win going in?

22. Houston Texans (0-1).
Deshaun Watson had a rough game, but he will be better once he is truly 100%.

23. New Orleans Saints (0-1).
48 points? To a team with several key injuries and missing its starting quarterback? WHILE AT HOME? 2017 was a fluke, and Saints fans will spend all of 2018 trying to refute that fact. Too bad.

24. Tennessee Titans (0-1).
Losing was bad enough, but losing Marcus Mariota, Delanie Walker and a couple other guys isn’t going to help matters moving forward.

25. San Francisco 49ers (0-1).
Jimmy G. is overrated, but that is not a pronouncement on the 49ers’ season. We do not overreact to one game on the road against arguably the best defense in the NFC. 

26. Indianapolis Colts (0-1).
Andrew Luck being back does not fill all the other holes on this team.

27. Arizona Cardinals (0-1).
From this point downward, each of these teams had a couple of decent drives and did nothing else.

28. Atlanta Falcons (0-1).
This team is toast. They lost their best defensive player, a key member of their secondary, and who knows how long Devonta Freeman’s knee will hold up this year? Matt Ryan still cannot connect with Julio Jones when the game is on the line, nor can the Falcons score in the red zone.

29. Oakland Raiders (0-1).
Jon Gruden has been notorious for speaking out of both sides of his mouth over the years. Simeon Rice clashed with him over this very thing many years ago. He’s done it with Martavis Bryant, Khalil Mack, and is down to issuing subliminals to Derek Carr. Carr will be gone by next season. Book it.

30. Detroit Lions (0-1).
Yikes. Matt Patricia was making his debut as head coach, but the Lions looked completely unprepared to play in every facet of the game.

31. Dallas Cowboys (0-1).
No receivers, no tight end, eight in the box with a mediocre-at-best QB and a defense that is game, but will get worn down every week because the offense can’t produce. Dallas really should have been shut out by Carolina.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-1).
47 points surrendered, no semblance of a game plan or offensive integrity, and their defense will be on the field for most of every game. They will be hard-pressed to win more than one or two games this year.

If that.

Then again, we expected this as injuries, retirements, trades, waivers and defections took hold months ago after last season’s cup of coffee in the AFC playoffs.

2018 NFL Preseason: Week 2 Powre Rankings


2018 NFL Preseason: Week 2 Powre Rankings
M.D. Wright
8.15.2018

… because we’re bored and we do indeed have another week of preseason football lurking (beginning tomorrow, Thursday 8/16), when the starters usually play into the second quarter, at least.

These rankings weigh more so on where we expect teams to be (and taking into account who has or hasn’t been hurt to this point) when Week 1 of the regular season begins, not based upon how a ton of backups performed for 50 of the 60 minutes in their teams’ first preseason games.

*- Predictive Records in (Parentheses).

1. Minnesota Vikings (12-4).
Exit, Case Keenum (who performed quite well for the Vikes last year), enter Kirk Cousins and all his guaranteed money — $90 million of it — and the expectations to come with. Cousins is coming into a great situation, though. Despite the fluky NFC Championship (in which Eagles fans pulled the tired, yet tried and true tactic of causing a disturbance at the Vikings’ team hotel the night before the game), the Vikes are going to be every bit as good as they were last year. And they will get Dalvin Cook back from injury, as he was on his way to an all-world season last year. The defense is pretty much intact across the board with no major defections or injuries to date.

2. Los Angeles Chargers (12-4).
The Bolts almost have TOO MANY wide receivers. For now, their offensive line is healthy (which hasn’t been in five years), and you already know what they have on defense — minus Jason Verrett’s annual season-ending injury. If they can ever put together a season where their key players are mostly, if not all, healthy, they will win the AFC West.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars (13-3).
Expect them to build on 2017, not regress.

4. Houston Texans (11-5).
They are trending upward. Defensive coordinators will be more prepared for Deshaun Watson this year, but he is good enough — though it is funny to watch the people who speak the most glowingly and howl the loudest about his exploits DON’T watch college football and act as if they are telling those of us who watch Watson’s entire Clemson career something we don’t already know — that he will adjust. The real key is will JJ Watt both play and be effective in doing so, more than he does the yapping away in commercials, on social media and holding Look at Me, Look at What I Did telethons?

Pay Clowney, while you’re at it.

5. Green Bay Packers (12-4).
The Packers are LOADED, though they lost an important player on their defense for the season in Jake Ryan. Once they got rid of ancient defensive coordinator Dom Capers, they improved merely by subtraction. By adding more talent on the defense, they got much better.

6. New York Football Giants (11-5).
Unlike the NBA and maybe MLB, previous season records don’t carry over. 2016 did not carry over for the Giants into 2017, nor does 2017 carry into 2018… with an actual whole head coach, fresh offensive philosophy, a return from injury nearly half of the team’s starters who landed on IR last season, an infusion of young, top talent and a defensive scheme that utilizes players’ abilities instead of playing zone all game like the previous regime. People who still parrot “but, but the offensive line” and “3-13” are in for a rude awakening this season.

7. Los Angeles Rams (11-5).
They better pay Aaron Donald, or they won’t be this high at any point for the reason of the season. Suh isn’t a game-wrecker anymore. Donald is.

8. San Francisco 49ers (10-6).
Show and prove time. Was November/December 2017 a fluke or a portend of things to come?

9. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7).
They will take a step back this year. How big of a step remains to be seen. There couldn’t have been a more fortunate team last season, as they caught teams coming off road trips, played a last-place schedule, their road games were mostly against teams that were having bad seasons (even if they were expected to be good going in), and benefited from borderline criminal officiating (vs. Rams and vs. Giants), while being fortunate to even avoid going one and done last year as the Falcons shot themselves in the foot with four opportunities to win the game in the Eagles red zone in the Divisional game. Never mind the Vikings and the replay rulings in the Super Bowl.

They are good, but they aren’t repeat good.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6).
Oh the band is sure to be back together, but don’t the Steelers seem to be missing something on offense? Maybe it is the tight end position, or a third receiver who can be reliable outside of Brown and John S.S.?

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6).
Ryan Fitzpatrick does well when you don’t name him the season starter. Despite their first three opponents,  they can still go 2-1 in that stretch (if not win all three) with the talent that they have assembled.

Like Jameis Winston or not, he has shattered records in his first four seasons, and with a make-or-break season on the line for Dirk Koetter (and, by extension, possibly Winston himself in Tampa), ANGRY Jameis is the Jameis who cut through the college football world like a buzzsaw in 2013, and led Florida State back into games for wins all season in 2014 when ESPN and others who sought FSU’s demise were dying for them to lose. That’s the Winston you will see in 2018 in Tampa.

12. New England Patriots (10-6).
This will be the first time in a while that they didn’t run away with the AFC East. They wouldn’t have last year either, but the officials saw fit to overturn opponents touchdowns in five games (vs. Steelers, vs. Jets, vs. Chargers, vs. Bills — which shifted the entire momentum of that game with the Bills up at the time, and vs. Jaguars, though in the AFC Championship) and grant the Patriots touchdowns on plays that should not have been (Brandin Cooks vs. Houston). Won’t be able to get away with such officiating this year.

13. Detroit Lions (9-7).
The Lions have been stuck in this 6th seed/just miss the playoffs, not good enough to draft in the Top 5 purgatory ever since Matthew Stafford arrived, it seems.

14. Baltimore Ravens (9-7).
Joe Flacco does suck, but I don’t think Lamar will be starting anytime soon.

15. Atlanta Falcons (10-6).
I don’t believe in the Falcons after the Super Bowl two seasons ago and the way they played for most of last year. No matter the Sark/Julio platitudes.

16. New Orleans Saints (9-7).
Last season was a fluke year. Just like 2009.

17. Tennessee Titans (10-6).
We’re still waiting for Mariota to turn the corner and become even a semblance of what he was at Oregon.

18. Cincinnati Bengals (9-7).
They COULD have a higher win-ceiling with big bodied Auden Tate in the fold, to go along with John Ross (who has a ton to prove) and Joe Mixon entering his second season, following a year of bumps and bruises.

19. Cleveland Browns (7-9).
The Browns have given Hue Jackson far too many actual NFL-level weapons for them to be zero-win bad again. In one of the rare instances where teams don’t allow their organization to bottom out with a Black head coach, only to begin drafting more wisely and spend actual free agent dollars once they hire a White coach (retread, unproven or otherwise), the Browns seem in line to be very competitive this season, though the playoffs are a major longshot in the weak AFC.

20. Oakland Raiders (8-8).
8-8 because that’s all Gruden was outside of winning a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s players and knowing all of the Raiders’ plays during that game. He was basically a walking .500 season otherwise.

Prove that things done changed like C. Wallace once said, then we’ll admit we were wrong.

21. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7).
Kareem Hunt faltered down the stretch last year, they let Derrick Johnson walk, and we don’t know what Patrick Mahomes is capable of, just yet. Let’s just wait and see.

22. Chicago Bears (8-8).
The Bears could have an explosive offense their year. Their defense was already better than a lot of people think, in 2017. With Roquan Smith in tow, it only figures to be better. Florida State fans know what Mitchell Trubisky  is capable of when he really gets on a roll, but then again, the Bears won’t be facing many defenses as unprepared as Charles Kelly’s was in 2016, either…

23. New York Jets (8-8).
Actually think the Jets will be better than this, but you always have to be cautious when pinning hopes on a rookie who will either be starting Week 1, and definitely by Week 5.

24. Arizona Cardinals (5-11).
Ditto.

25. Carolina Panthers (5-11).
They will be calling for Ron Rivera’s head again after this season. I don’t see it with them.

26. Washington Redskins (6-10).
We don’t believe you, you need more peeeeooople… and that was even before the tough break to Derrius Guice. Alex Smith has nothing there. Nothing.

27. Indianapolis Colts (6-10).
Show and prove. Andrew Luck returning (and having not played in basically two years) isn’t enough to catapult them to a division title with all the holes they had — and still do, for the most part — on both sides of the football.

28. Miami Dolphins (4-12).
What are they?

29. Denver Broncos (5-11).
I don’t believe in them at all.

30. Seattle Seahawks (6-10).
Russ will keep them in most games, but no one fears that defense anymore. Even if Earl Thomas remains there, he isn’t what he was five years ago. Or even two.

31. Buffalo Bills (2-14).
They can try to talk up their WR room all they want, but they have a porous offensive line with several major losses and new faces, a new, unproven QB who was never really that good when facing even slightly above average competition in college, and… well… prove me wrong.

32. Dallas Cowboys (5-11).
Well, if nothing else, we will see what Dak Prescott is REALLY made of this year with no real #1 receivers and unproven tight ends.

Riptides and Faith


Riptides and Faith
M.D. Wright
7.31.2018

Oftentimes, those who are of The Faith can find themselves in a wilderness; a space that feels like the doldrums — effectively lost at sea. If you live long enough, you will feel that way at some point or another, if not several times.

In keeping with the “lost at sea” angle, which can then be analogized in synonymy with being taken via riptides from the shoreline to the middle of the ocean. How does this happen when you know to not go too far out without being on a paddle board without a paddle… or a boat without its rudder?

It is very subtle, and often occurs over a period of time, where you almost feel lulled asleep. It always begins the same way, though: something tempts you (everyone has something or someone who can tempt them, it just varies in degree from person to person) away from your sanctuary — wherever that may be — like 88 Fingers Louie who sold Fred Flintstone the stolen piano… and then you yield to your temptation, and gradually and surely get farther and farther away from the shore…

The effect is manifold: in willfully deviating from The Path… and allowing temptation to lead you astray, you begin to drift away from the people who hold you accountable, who keep you grounded, who exhort you when necessary, but who will also admonish you when you need it. You are apart from your Source. You are vulnerable to things that you were impervious to (and protected from) when you were in your sanctuary, until one day you just wake up and you realize you are miles and miles out to sea with no one near you.

The Riptide that is temptation took you farther and farther away, even as you knowingly blew through warning signs to not go any further and turn back along the way.

You can’t tell which direction is the right way back to the shore (or your sanctuary), and you don’t have a paddle to steer yourself back to shore on your paddleboard, and the current will prevent you from getting through without some divine intervention. What do you do? How did you get here, you ask? You are terrified. Sharks (death, destruction, etc.) are nigh, just waiting for the right moment to pounce, as you are defenseless… except that one angel (a friendly dolphin) that was assigned to keep watch over you and protect you comes out of nowhere to keep the sharks at bay.

And lo and behold, you were detected on radar about to stray into enemy waters, and the Coast Guard sent a boat out to investigate what was going on. Despite being out of your sanctuary with no protection and no communication, you were rescued and brought back to shore.

However, in looking back, you retrace your steps. You examine the decisions you made along the way… you willfully cut off people who meant you well (often the only people who truly did), you stopped feeding your spirit what it needs to remain connected to ITS Source… you began to pollute your eyes, mind and mouth with the trash in the ocean on your way out to being stranded alone. You realize what seemed like just an afternoon foray into “just this once” temptation was actually a decade of being stranded, as you had just enough nourishment from the waters to sustain yourself… as you wavered from one small island to another, only to realize it was not your safe place. The people on these islands were not those who you recognized, and you picked up little things here and there from them, as you became tossed to and fro by their doctrines like the wind did the waves that carried you out beyond the riptide.

You realize that you rejected the Truth when you were presented with it, and began to seek any and everything that would not only disprove what you had rejected, but would provide you something… anything that would solve your existential crisis and questioning of your Faith, even if you can’t explain every detail — which drives you insane to the point of anger…

… which is, when you get back to shore, is one of the reasons you took your foray into the untamed waters which landed you in the riptide and carried you out to sea.

Beware of the “riptide” in your life, you may not be so fortunate next time.

(c) MDW, 2018.