Nothing goes together like football and a Thursday holiday in the fall. There is a brisk, autumnal chill in the air, and we are gathering with family for a celebratory feast, eager to clear our plates, hit the couch and soak in the pigskin goodness. For years, we have pleaded with the football gods, wondering why we must wait until Thanksgiving for these two great American institutions – overeating and football – to intersect. Today, the gods are smiling, as they have finally delivered what the nation has been clamoring for, a Rosh Hashana football spectacular.


Move over, pilgrims. There’s a new shofar in town. We may have brisket on the menu instead of turkey and apples and honey to replace pumpkin pie, but make no mistake, Rosh Hashana is bringin’ it in 2014 (or year 5775 in the Hebrew calendar)! It is on like a yarmulke. Thanksgiving ain’t got nothing on the Jewish New Year.


While the pigskin, by definition, is not kosher, let us not be deterred in our mission to make this an annual tradition, with multiple games played on every Rosh Hashana holiday. Admittedly, there’s the small matter of 98% of the American population not actually being Jewish and, thus, having no connection to Rosh Hashana, but we’re willing to overlook that for our love of the game.


Tonight, we can all be grateful for the freedoms of our nation, the promises of a new year (regardless of when you believe that new year begins) and any excuse NOT to watch the slobberfest of coverage surrounding Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium (this correspondent’s Red Sox fandom-induced bitterness will not be going away in the new year).


As the Giants and Redskins prepare to take the field on this very special Thursday evening, and as Jewish mothers everywhere vehemently declare that their sons will never, ever play football, let us rank our Top Five storylines from Week 4, with the help of the shofar, a ram’s horn that is blown on Rosh Hashana to officially ring in the new year:


The Tug of War Shofar:

It’s historically ugly when the NFL’s longest-standing rivals, the Packers and Bears, renew their antipathy each season. The Bears have assumed little brother status during the Aaron Rodgers era, but the Packers look especially vulnerable and not particularly gifted offensively. Is it a case of early season personnel adjustments, or has head coach Mike McCarthy finally been exposed? Jay Cutler has played with toughness and poise through the first three games…which almost assuredly means it will all fall apart soon for him and the Bears.


Blow(out) the Shofar:

The mismatch of the week pits the Chargers, arguably the best team in the AFC, versus the Jaguars, arguably the 10th best team in the SEC. San Diego may be approaching juggernaut status. They play efficiently and intelligently, and all they do is win. The Jaguars do not.


How ‘Bout them Shofars?!?!

Like the blowing of the shofar, the Cowboys’ faltering in spotlight games is an annual tradition. They draw the Saints at home on Sunday night. This is as high-profile as it gets in the NFL, and perhaps the Saints are the team that is under the most pressure to prove itself. New Orleans has fallen woefully short in recent road games, and they underwhelmed versus the Vikings at home last week. The Cowboys appear to be embracing their underdog role, as well as their running game, which is an uncharacteristically smart move by Dallas.


You Can’t Spell Shofar without SF:

Tension is building in the new building in the Bay Area, as the 49ers limp into their sparkling new stadium to face the Eagles. For a team that appears to be so fundamentally sound, the cracks are beginning to show in San Francisco. A loss would be devastating and would fuel further speculation of a rift between the players and coach Jim Harbaugh. Or it might simply be an indicator that the 49ers are overrated. The Eagles remain confounding in the most entertaining way possible, as they seem as immune to pressure as they are to 21 point deficits.


The Sympathy Shofar:

This goes out to our good friends in London. Just when the UK thought that nothing could be worse than having to watch the Jaguars each year, they are hosting the Dolphins and the Raiders. Perhaps Scotland can get a recount on the independence vote, as this is surely not what they signed up when they agreed to remain with the kingdom.


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