Posted on: October 8, 2008 12:01 am

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 5 Review

I will always post this article here, but it can be found in a more readable format under the blog section of  http://www.probonofantasy.5u.com/  It's really hard to type this into Word and Copy and paste it on this message board.  I appreciate feedback from those who read and disagree with me or see that I have some facts about their team/teams they know well completely wrong.  I'm just a schmuck who likes watching, talking, and writing about football too much and I always welcome learning more.

    Here we are at week 5 of the NFL season.  I would not say that too many things are becoming clear.  We saw the fall of one of the last three unbeaten teams, some more losses by early favorites, and some absolutely lopsided blowouts.

    Passing game – During the off season, I speculated that teams would look towards the running game more because of the issues they were likely to face with the new force out rules.  I thought the force out rules would have a tremendous impact on the game (And I still think it may evolve to when some of the more crafty DB’s start getting good at pushing out on sideline routes) when it came to play calling.  At this time last season, Teams were passing the ball on 56.75% of plays.  This season, teams are passing the ball 57.6% of the time.   Obviously this isn’t an enormous difference but it does show that the general trend towards west coast/spread offenses and short passes instead of runs is one that is alive and well. 
       The trend toward shorter, high percentage passes is also reflected by the higher completion percentages and passer ratings we see nowadays.  If you look back at the year 2001, the numbers 6-10 QB’s in passer rating were between 84.1 and 84.3.  The AVERAGE passer rating in the NFL so far this year is 83.  The average completion percentage is 61.2%.  

Titans over Ravens or “Sorry guys, football has FOUR quarters, not three”

  For the second week in a row, the Ravens have come out and played ridiculously stingy defense for three 2/3 quarters and for the second straight week have found out you need to do it for all four quarters.   With 3:06 left in the third, the Titans had mustered 3 points and 67 yards of total offense.   The Chris Johnson/Lendale White duo who have been burning/battering opponents all year were held to a paltry 48 yards on 21 carries and were tackles behind the line of scrimmage 7 times.

  Suddenly, Kerry Collins is slinging the ball and takes the team downfield 80 yards twice to put up 10 points.  Of course, there is a different story here, one that was in effect all game long.  Penalties.  With 6 minutes left in the game Collins threw an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10 deep in their territory.  There was also a false start penalty on the play.  False start means the play is dead, right?   Not if the QB gets tapped on the shoulder apparently!   Instead of 3rd and 15 the Titans advance 15 yards, get a fresh set of downs, and go on to score the go ahead TD. 

   I can’t help but wonder if roughing the passer would have been called if the Titans and Ravens (And even the Titans and Titans) were not so aggressive when plays were over, as they were flagged repeatedly for unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness over the course of the game.  With how menacing the defensive players on both sides were I could see the officials getting a little free with the flags at any signs of of a potentially explosive situation.

    The Ravens did a pretty good job at moving the chains, (They had 22 first downs), but they just couldn’t string it together.  They’d pick up 2, 3, maybe even 4 first downs and sputter out.  The missed field goal by Matt Stover was especially devastating.  The Ravens came up with a few big plays to go 67 yards in just over three minutes.   A false start penalty caused the Ravens to use their last time out, get pushed back five yards, and led to wide right on a 45 yard field goal.  Three points.  The difference in the game.  You need to take advantage of those chances when you get them.

Statistical Notes – These two defensive machines didn’t record a sack, despite relatively slow QB’s Kerry Collins and Joe Flacco attempting 59 passes.  The Titans defense picked up 2 more INT’s to bring their total to 10, an average of 2 per game.   Fourth round pick Le’Ron Mcclain has four touchdowns this season.  The rest of the Ravens offense has four touchdowns.  Todd Heap had 3 catches for 37 yards in the first three games, and 4 catches for 41 yards on Sunday.  Needless to say he’s not the fantasy TE he once was. 

Panthers bludgeon Chiefs or “One of the most lopsided games I’ve seen in a long time.”

   The Chiefs run defense is really bad.   They gave up 200 rushing yards for the third time in five games (kind of makes you wonder why the Broncos chose to throw 49 times last week despite average five yards a carry).  
Everyone on the Panthers had a big day!  DeAngelo Williams had what is probably his best day as a pro with 150 yards and 3 TD’s.  Steve Smith had 96 yards, Mushin Muhammad had 71 yards and a TD, Jonathon Stewart had 80 yards, and the defense created 3 turnovers, sacked the Chiefs three times, and held them to 127 total yards en route to a shutout.  It’s a good time to be a Panther or Panther fan with the team dominating the game and going to 4-1.
   The Chiefs….well….there is nothing really positive to say here.   Uhm.  At least their offense was only on the field for 21 minutes?  Watching it any longer would have been pretty painful.

Statistical Notes – Good news?  Larry Johnson has 200 yards rushing in the last two weeks.  Bad news?  He had 198 of those yards last week.  Tony Gonzales only had 17 yards but it was enough to pass Shannon Sharpe for most career receiving yards by a Tight End.  Deangelo Williams is on pace for 1036 rushing yards.  His previous career high is 717.  Mushin Muhammed is on pace for his first 1000 yard season since leaving the Panthers in 2004.  I watched less than three minutes of this game…and the highlight reel is four minutes!

Bears over Lions or “Apparently, it will get worse before it gets better.”

   The firing of Matt Millen may be the only thing the Lions have to cheer about this season.  This team is an absolute mess.  Let’s check out the Lions drives, shall we?  Punt, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Punt, Punt, Interception, Punt, TD, Punt, Downs, Downs.  Yikes!   Jon Kitna got sacked four more times, giving him 130 in his 36 games with the Lions.  Either this guy loves football more than anyone ever or he is really really broke.  He left the game with back spasms or something and I have to wonder how a guy In his mid thirties has started every game in his Lions career after taking the beating he has. 
The Lions need some type of strong leadership presence.  Jon Kitna is out yelling at coaches, Roy Williams is out yelling at coaches and QB’s.  The team got rid of Mike Martz to bring in a coach that would try to run the ball.  The Lions have passed on 72% of plays and have run on only 28%. 

    Everyone on the Bears had a pretty good time.  The Lions D made Kyle Orton look like Joe Montana, Matt Forte scored two TD’s, Devin Hester got involved in the offense, and the defense even put points on the board.   All of the sudden, the Bears are alone atop the NFC North at 3-2 and have some guys they like on offense and the swagger back in their defense. 

Statistical Notes – Matt Forte is on pace for nearly 1800 total yards and a dozen TD’s.  Oh yeah, he leads the team in receptions, too.  Kyle Orton has 7 TD’s in his last 3 games.  He had 12 in his first twenty.  Is he going to be a viable fantasy QB?  Devin Hester has 0 kick/punt returns for TD’s but has gotten involved in the offense and had his second TD catch this week.  Lions QB’s have thrown at least one INT in 11 of the last 12 games.

Colts over Texans or “How to lose a game when up by 17 with 6 minutes to go.”

    Oh Texans fans, NFL football is a cruel, cruel world.   First, you take the Jaguars into OT only to lose on a first possession field goal and now THIS!  Something I was wondering about. 

     I have not really noticed, but do they roll Matt Schaub out to his left so much?  Sage Rosenfels, a right handed QB was rolling out to his left pretty often yesterday.  It is something I didn’t notice until it was glaringly obvious it was a bad idea.   On Rosenfel’s first fateful fumble, he rolled out left, tucked the ball in his dominant (right) arm and for some reason went leaping into the air to try to get the first down (which was bad anyway.  If he slides they may even elect to go for it on fourth and 1 at the Colts 35.) and gets hit and loses the ball.  If Rosenfels was a lefty, he would have tucked the ball in the opposite arm and the Colts defenders wouldn’t have had such a clear shot at the ball.

      The next Texans possession, facing 3rd and 9, Rosenfels rolls out to the left again.   Robert Mathis makes a diving grab at the ball which Sage was carrying loosely in his right hand.  With the pressure coming from the inside, it is unlikely that the defender gets a shot at the ball if the QB is left handed.  Instead, the ball is stripped and the Colts go on to win.  If the Texans indeed roll their QB’s out left quite often, perhaps they would like to reconsider and put them in a position where they can protect the ball.

     The Colts offense again, for two quarters at least, didn’t seem to have the same horsepower as in years past.  Peyton Manning looked frustrated.  Of course, you don’t want to give Manning and company too many chances and you certainly don’t let their defense help them, because they’ll eventually turn it on.   The Colts line did play a heck of a lot better than it has been, and Manning actually found some time to throw the ball.

       Where was the fantasy news wire when it came to Matt Schaub being in the hospital with the stomach flu on Saturday?  Come kickoff time, my wife was totally oblivious of the fact that Schaub was out for the game and had him in as a bye week starter.   I know I had scoured the news looking for hints on injured players and the like for at least an hour on Sunday and saw no mention of it.   Her lineup showed nothing about any problems with Schaub.  She goes into Monday night now down 15 points with three players to go (Reggie Bush, Lance Moore, Vikings Defense).  As it turns out, in that particular league, Sage Rosenfels would have scored…..yup….15 points.   She got pretty lucky as her opponent had some players with horrible performances (See Larry Johnson) but I’m still astounded at the lack of news.

Statistical Notes – Don’t look now but 5’9” 197 lb. third round pick Steve Slaton is on pace for 1500+ total yards (5.0 yards per carry and 64 receptions) and 16 TD’s.   Kind of reminiscent of Dominick Williams busting onto the scene as a rookie in 2003, only Slaton is better.  You know you are good when like Andre Johnson, you are considered to have a “Slow” start and are still on pace for 96 catches and 1300 yards.  After being quiet for two weeks, Mario Williams had another 2 sack game to bring his total to 4.  Peyton Manning has thrown 19 INT’s in his last 21 games after throwing only 39 in the previous 64. After starting with 14 catches for 185 yards in the first two weeks, Anthony Gonzales has 3 catches for 40 yards in the last two.  Reggie Wayne has not had a 100 yard game yet this season but is still on pace for 100 catches, 1400 yards, and 12 TD’s.

Dolphins over Chargers or “Beware the Wildcat”

       The cliché “That team wanted it more” is one of the more annoying ones in sports and I usually cringe when I hear it, but I thought that this game was one example where it was true.   A team that had 9 pro bowlers from last season and that was picked by many to challenge for the AFC Super Bowl title marched onto a field against a team full of castoffs (Pennington), drug policy violators (Ricky Williams), guys coming off major injuries (Ronnie Brown), and guys that were laughed at as high draft picks (Ted Ginn) that went 1-15 last season.   To me, the Chargers in the first half of the game looked like they were just going through the motions as if they had already won the game and were just waiting for it to be over.  The pass rush was lazy and guys were standing flat footed on running plays.

      I thought one of the greatest plays I’ve seen lately that shows a team attitude was when Ronnie Brown lined up in the “Wildcat” or “Single Wing” play near the goal line.  Ronnie Brown took the snap and started heading left.  Old, Slow, oft-injured QB Chad Pennington came in and threw one block to help spring him.  Ronnie Brown made an incredible stop and hop left play to get out of the way of another tackler, looking very unlike someone who is coming off a major knee injury.   He still had flat footed Quentin Jammer to beat to the end zone, but Ricky Williams came flying from the flanker position to block him out of the picture.

        Right now, the Dolphins are playing hard, having some fun with the “Wildcat”, and looking like they get along as a group.  Add that to the fact that they came into the season with very low expectations and they are suddenly a very dangerous team.   I don’t see them having enough talent to make the playoffs, but they are good enough to ruin Sunday for some more teams this season.

        Meanwhile, the Chargers are sitting at 2-3 and are really one quarter away from being 1-4, as the Raiders dominated them through the first ¾ of the game last week.   The defense is really sputtering, allowing all five teams they played to rack up 300 yards.   I had nothing but praise for Philip Rivers earlier this year but he was not good this Sunday.  It looked like he really just wanted to get out of the rain.  I think he had a hard time gripping the ball properly to throw downfield.   Everyone’s fantasy darling LaDainian Tomlinson has not been able to find the same running room he had in previous years.  I suspect he is on the phone right now trying to find Lorenzo Neal.   With 4th and 1 from the goal line, the obvious number to call is Tomlinson’s.  This guy always finds the end zone.  He gets the ball and is absolutely stopped dead.    In years past, Neal would have punched a hole SOMEWHERE for Tomlinson to get through.  I think his role in Tomlinson’s success is sometimes vastly underrated.

Statistical Notes – Picking up where he left off last season, Ronnie Brown is suddenly on pace for 1400 Total yards and 24 TD’s.  Who leads the Chargers in receptions and receiving yards?  All World running back Ladainian Tomlinson?  Nope.  Pro Bowl Tight End Antonio Gates?  Nope.  Huge WR acquisition Chris Chambers?  Nope.  It’s Vincent Jackson, with 17 catches and 302 yards.  Chris Chambers has only 11 catches, but he has 5 TD’s!  Philip Rivers had 9 TD’s to 2 INT over the first three games, but has only 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s in the last two games.

Giants over Seahawks or “Even David Carr is throwing TD passes!”

     We go into this game seeing the Seahawks get back two of their starting WR’s and the Giants minus one ill behaved one.  That should even things out, right?   Well, when both your O-line and D-line get dominated in the way the Seahawks lines were, things don’t go so well.  Eli Manning had all day long to throw the ball, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmed Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward were getting into the secondary untouched.   The Giants scored on their first six possessions and eight of ten.

      This team is looking like a world champion team, despite the fact that big time starters from last season Kawicka Mitchell (FA), Michael Strahan (Retired), Usi Umenyora (IR), and Plaxico Burress (Prima Donna Listed) are no longer with the team.  Suddenly Eli Manning is carving out his own little niche and getting out of Big Brother’s shadow, and the running game is strong again despite losing a marginal HoF candidate running back.

       The Seahawks are looking pretty bad on both sides of the ball right now and are 1-3, having defeated only the hapless Rams.  With some pretty big names on defense like Julian Peterson, Patrick Kerney, and Marcus Trufant, this team shouldn’t be giving up over 350 yards a game.   Mike Holmgren’s farewell tour is looking to be quite a disaster.

Statistical Notes – Matt Hasselbeck’s best passing game of the season netted him 190 yards.  He averaged 248 yards per game last year.  The Giants are averaging 430 yards of offense per game.  Eli Manning has 12 TD’s to 2 INT’s in his last 8 games (Including playoffs).  The three headed monster at running back has 716 yards on only 116 carries (6.18 YPC).  Brandon Jacobs himself is on pace for 1600 total yards.  Despite playing only one game, Bobby Engram is second on the Seahawks in receptions with 8.
Broncos over Buccaneers or “The Brian Griese/Jeff Garcia aerial circus.”

     Once again I am flabbergasted by Jeff Gruden’s strategy.  Last season they were one of the NFL’s most balanced teams offensively, with a 52%/48% balance in rushes and passes.  This year they are operating at a 62%/38% ratio despite having two capable backs that are averaging a combined 5.5 Yards per carry.   Their passing game is averaging 5.48 yards per attempt!  They are gaining more yards per running play than passing play and yet seem to neglect is completely at times.  Jeff Garcia and Brian Greise completed a pretty high percentage of passes this week so it doesn’t seem as bad, but eventually Gruden is going to have to go back to this team’s strengths.

       The Bucs defense did a good job “Holding” the Broncos offensive Juggernaut to only 333 yards and 16 points.  I say only because before this game, the Broncos were averaging 436 yards and 33 points per game.  

      Jay Cutler didn’t light it up, but he did avoid throwing the ball away to a team that has 9 turnovers in the first four games.    Tampa has some fast players on that defense and the Tampa 2 can be a little tricky for younger quarterbacks to read.   Add that to the Broncos relative lack of a running game and you have a pretty impressive outing.

     With all the offensive stars in Denver to be impressed by, I am probably most impressed by 24 year old “Who dat” kicker Matt Prater.  Prater nailed a 55 yard field goal (the difference in this game) and tacked on two more.  He was ¼ in his career before this season and is now 12/13 and has hit 4 field goals of 50+ yards, including this weeks 55 yarder and a 56 yarder earlier in the season.   You probably would have been hard pressed to hear the name Matt Prater before the season started, even among fantasy footballers.  Who’s Jason Elam?

Statistical Notes – Jay Cutler is on pace for 4800 yards, 32 TD’s, and 8 INT’s.  Not bad.   After starting off with 24 catches for 321 yards and 2 TDs in his first two games, Brandon Marshall has 10 catches for 102 yards and 1 TD in his second two.   Unheralded rookie Eddie Royal is on pace for 96 catches and over 1000 yards.   Despite averaging nearly 6 yards per carry, Earnest Graham is getting only 13 carries per game.   Jeff Garcia came in to relieve injured Brian Griese.  Despite having a 7% higher completion rate, a lower interception rate, a 10 point higher QB rating, and leading the team to the playoffs last year, Jeff Garcia is the backup.

Cardinals over Bills or “The Cardinals are good when they aren’t giving the ball away.”

     After a brutal two week stretch where the Cardinals lost the ball 9 times and lost one of their best players in Anquan Boldin, the Cardinals looked great on both sides of the ball.   They scored on 7 of their first eight possessions and put the game more or less out of reach by the middle of the third quarter. 

       Trent Edwards looked like he was in outer space after getting drilled by Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson.   After watching that play a few times, I have to say I’m pretty shocked that there wasn’t a penalty called on that hit, perhaps even a fine or suspension levied.  I realize that in the heat of the moment that Wilson may not have done this deliberately but we really don’t know.  If the NFL has vowed to protect it’s QB’s they need to do it.  Wilson’s helmet was up under Edward’s face mask.  I really think if that was one of the higher profile passers in the NFL that flags would have been flying.

       Speaking of flying, Lee Evans is easily the fastest receiver in the NFL on a straight fly route.  I think if I were the Bills I would call his number any time a cornerback was playing soft and didn’t have safety help.  It is hard for anyone to keep up with the guy.

       I have been keeping an eye on Marshawn Lynch these last two weeks.  I really liked his game last season so I grabbed him on one of my fantasy teams.   I know he hasn’t had much room to run, but I also feel like he missed a few cuts in the last couple of weeks.   I may be a little over analytical in this case because it’s one of my fantasy guys and I want him to do well, but I think he needs to take some time and make sure to improve his field vision.  Of course, this week didn’t much matter because they were forced into  throwing all day because of the Cardinals’ fast start.

        I truly believe that Trent Edwards is a better quarterback than J.P. Losman, but Losman does have a strong arm.   It’s no coincidence that the year that Losman started 16 games was Lee Evans’ best year of his career by far.  I have to wonder if Losman could do a better job stretching the field and getting Lynch a bit more running room.   If Edwards concussion keeps him on the bench for a week it would be interesting to see how that would play out.

Statistical Notes – Kurt Warner has at least one TD pass in the last 13 games….and at least 2 TD passes in twelve of those.  He is completing 69.5% of his passes this season, which is a career best.   Larry Fitzgerald is on pace for nearly 100 catches, 1500 yards and 12 TD’s.  Tim Hightower is tied for the team lead in TD’s with 5…on only 46 Touches!  Marshawn Lynch has not passed the 100 yard rushing mark and has 100 total yards in only one game.   Lee Evans is fifth in the league in receiving yards with 432, but isn’t even in the top fifty in receptions (he has 16)!  That comes out to 27 yards per reception.  

Redskins over Eagles or “Second straight road win in football’s toughest division?  I’d say I’m pretty impressed.”

       No doubt, the Redskins are for real.   Starting 4-1 and having your three division road games behind you has to have the Redskins feeling pretty good.   They have some comparatively easy games coming up with the Rams and Browns at home and then at Detroit.  7-1 heading into a matchup at home against the Steelers is a distinct possibility.   I really think the Eagles are a better team than their 2-3 record indicates.  Coming into this game the Eagles defense was allowing only 53 yards per game rushing, was averaging 2.25 takeaways per game and 4.25 sacks per game.  The Redskins put up 203 yards rushing (12 less than the first four teams combined), allowed one sack, and didn’t turn the ball over. 

       It’s hard enough to win on the road in the NFL, much less come back from an early 14 point deficit.   The Redskins stuck it out, didn’t panic, and played their game.  They took field goals early and kept plugging away.  The defense stepped it up and the Eagles didn’t see Redskins territory on office from the end of the first quarter until the middle of the fourth. 

      The Eagles kept it close and I can’t help but think that Brian Westbrook’s broken ribs had something to do with it.  He didn’t seem nearly as quick as he usually is and was definitely tentative when running at Redskins defenders, obviously not wanting to get hit.  My question is if the Eagles trainers took him back into the locker room and checked him out, how on Earth did he get cleared to go back into the game?    If you get hit too hard with broken ribs, really bad things can happen.  Most athletes when given the choice of playing or sitting it out on the sidelines are going to say they want back in.  The Trainers are responsible for making rational decisions in the best interest of the Athlete’s long term health.   The Eagles staff failed miserably on this count.

             Many people were taking potshots at new Redskins head coach Jim Zorn and his offensive coordinator Sherman Smith before the season started, but I think they have done a marvelous job figuring out how to use their offensive weapons.   Last year, I thought at times they would neglect the running game, neglect the wide receivers, or use Chris Cooley early on as only a blocking tight end.   A run heavy version of the west coast offense fits the bill for getting all of these guys involved (Although Santana Moss was kept silent Asante Samuel this week) from week to week.   Clinton Portis is benefitting greatly from the play calling.  Last season, he was given 20 carries only once in the first seven weeks.  This season he has carried the ball at least 20 times in each of the first five games.  It’s easy to forget that Portis is only 27 years old.   He seems to really be hitting the peak of his career, finding holes, making the cuts, making defenders miss, and breaking tackles.

Statistical Notes – Chris Cooley had a career high 109 receiving yards on Sunday, only the second time he passed the 100 yard mark (I was pretty surprised by this).   After throwing only one more TD than INT’s last season, Jason Campbell has started out with 6 TD’s and 0 INT’s in the first five games.  If Clinton Portis can keep his current workload, he is on pace for a career high 1644 rushing yards.  Donovan McNabb threw for 642 yards, 4 TD’s and 0 INT’s in his first two games and 654 yards, 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s in the last three.   DeSean Jackson came into the game averaging 5.5 catches and 84 yards per game.  He had one catch for seven yards (He did have a punt return for a touchdown, however).

Patriots over 49ers “Solution to passing woes – throw it to that Randy Moss guy.  I heard he’s pretty good!”

        After being virtually forgotten in the last two weeks, Matt Cassell finally figured out that throwing to Randy Moss is an easy way to make yourself look really good.    Cassell found Randy Moss wide open a few times, including a deep ball where he torched double coverage by veterans Nate Clements and Walt Harris.  A great deal of the rest of the game the 49ers played some bizarre double coverage scheme where Nate Clements was almost playing safety, starting 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage while another player (At times a linebacker?!?!) tried to cover Moss shallow.   Moss kept running up and out routes and ending up right between the two.  Clements would be seen jogging into the picture looking surprised.  You’re giving one of the most talented wide receivers ever to play the game an 8 yard cushion on each side!  What do you think is going to happen?

          Gore’s Razor – Ok, this is starting to get old.  Mike Martz, Mike Nolan…if you are listening I’ve been doing your homework for you every week for the last three years.  Your team is now 14-1 when you hand the ball off to Frank Gore 19 times or more and 0-22 when you do not.  Seriously, I think there might be a pattern here.  The last time your team won a game where frank gore did not get 19 rushes was on Christmas Eve of 2005!  Why then, if your team’s biggest deficit through three quarters is 10 points do you hand him the ball only 12 times while letting J.T. O’Sullivan drop back to pass 34 times?  Seriously, sometimes you should set your perceived “Offensive Genius” aside and look for the simplest solutions.

             I’m really starting to wonder about Laurence Maroney.  He just can’t seem to prove that he is the guy the team should regard as their primary back.  He’s a young, athletic, first round pick and He’s getting slightly outperformed (And thus is getting less playing time) by a 31 year old former fifth round pick who has never rushed for more than 525 yards in a season. 

Statistical Notes – Randy Moss may be the playmaker, but Wes Welker has to annoy teams with his knack for getting open.  Even with Matt Cassell at the helm, Welker is on pace for a 108 catch season.  He has 6 or more catches in 14 of his 20 games with the Patriots.  The Patriots have allowed as many points as they have scored (79).  Better hold off on putting O’Sullivan’s name next to Joe Montana and Steve Young’s names.  After three outings where he completed 68% of his passes and posted a passer rating of 104, O’ Sullivan is completing less than 50% of his passes and has a passer rating of about 58.  Crafty WR Isaac Bruce passed two more milestones the last two weeks, seizing sole possession of fifth place in the all time reception leaders list and cracking the top ten in all time TD’s.  Despite being underused, Frank Gore is on pace for 1900+ total yards and 12 TD’s.  He leads the team in Total yards, Receptions, and touchdowns. 

Falcons over Packers or “Where’s the D?”

    The Packers injuries on defense keep piling up and so do the losses.  Atari Bigby, Al Harris, Nick Collins and Aaron Rause have missed time in the secondary with Al Harris pretty much questionable for the year.  Cullen Jenkins is gone for the year, Ryan Pickett is missing time, and A.J. Hawk is banged up.   Without these guys in the lineup and healthy, the Packers D can’t seem to stop anybody.  They were the 11th ranked defense in yardage last season at 312 yards per game.  This season they are 29th at 363 yards per game.  Take away the game against the lowly Lions and the opposition is putting up about 189 yards per game on the ground.  That has to stop or the Packers will be out of playoff contention by the 12th week.

      At the risk of sounding too much like a homer,  I am going to say that Aaron Rodgers has been remarkable.  The defense is, well, see above.  The running game doesn’t exist.  Pass protection is poor.  Receivers are dropping balls.  The team is first in penalty yards (84 yards per game) and second in penalties (9 per game)  yet, he has been able to keep the Packers in games and made some really tough throws despite a sprained shoulder.   He isn’t perfect, I realize this and he is holding the ball too long and leaving the pocket too early, but he’s done a heck of a job.  Ryan Grant was a little bit better this week but I thought he was going to cough up the ball on about three occasions.  The Packers running game didn’t really get going until about the seventh game last year, so maybe there is still hope for it.

       Another young QB doing a heck of a job is Matt Ryan.  If I didn’t know better and you told me he was a true rookie playing in his fifth NFL game I would have said you were lying to me.  He looks calm and composed and made some really solid throws.  Michael Vick was a more electrifying quarterback but even after six season in the league he wasn’t half the passer Ryan is.  The Falcons did well with their high draft pick.

Statistical Notes – John Abraham has seven sacks already this season.  He had fourteen in his previous 24 games with the Falcons.   Michael Turner leads the NFL with 543 yards.  He is on pace for 1600+ yards and nearly 20 TD’s.  He already has more yards than in any of his first four seasons with the Chargers.  Roddy White is loving playing with Matt Ryan is on pace for a 1475 yard season.  Aaron Rodgers has a 95.5 passer rating through five games.  Brett Favre, who had a fantastic 2007 season for the Packers, ended with a 95.4 passer rating.  Greg Jennings leads the league in receiving yards and is on pace for 1820 for his third NFL season.

Steelers over Jaguars or “Random Waiver Wire running backs outshine Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew.”

    I’ve managed to watch a lot of Steelers football this year (Being a prime time a lot helps that, of course) and am still impressed at the intensity and physical nature of their defense.   Like the Ravens and Titans, it seems like everyone on the team is headed towards the ball every play…and everyone wants to lay a big hit.  The most important thing is that they all know how to tackle.  With the exception of the Maurice Jones-Drew touchdown, where he managed to worm out an extra half yard, I can’t remember a running play where the first guy didn’t make the tackle.   I know these teams have skilled players on that side of the ball but I wonder how much of it can be attributed to attitude and leadership….a group commitment to not be the guy that misses a tackle or is seen standing still . 

    Ben Roethlisberger moments – I wasn’t a fan of Big Ben until last season when I really got a chance to watch him and saw how tough and how good of a passer he really is.  There were two wonderful Big Ben moments this week.  The first was on the Touchdown to Nate Washington.   Washington was being covered by William James and ran a fairly unconvincing stop and go fly route.  Roethlisberger gave a pump fake that fooled me and Washington found himself WIDE open.  Later in the game despite being pummeled the last 3 or 4 weeks and having injuries all over his body, Big Ben stood in the pocket knowing he’d be hit by up to four Jaguars but threw a perfect strike to Hines Ward to convert a 3rd and 8. 

    Hines Ward is known to be one of the best blocking Wide Receivers in the game.  It seems it’s catchy.  On the Steelers final drive, Santonio Holmes kept Rashaed Mathis away from Mewelde Moore to give Moore another 10-15 yards on an important run.  Wideouts blocking downfield is an aspect of the game that is important but often overlooked.

Statistical Notes – James Harrison had a sack and Lamar Woodley had 2, bringing their combined total to 12 on the season.  The Whizzinator, Mewelde Moore, hasn’t had 10 carries in a game since Christmas Day of 2005 but still ran for 99 yards on 17 carries….5.8 Yards per carry.  Ben Roeslisberger has thrown at least one touchdown in 32 of his last 35 games.  Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor have combined for 100 yards rushing only once this season.  That was against the Colts when they both rushed for over 100 yards.  Mike Walker had 107 yards receiving and the Jaguars had 213 Total yards.  Walker was responsible for more than half the Jags yards this Sunday.  He is the only Jaguars play to put up 100 yards receiving thus far.

Vikings over Saints or “How to hold Adrian Peterson to 32 yards on 21 carries and STILL LOSE!”

    The Saints came in with a good game plan.  On defense, stack against the run and make Gus Frerotte beat you.  On offense, spread the field and attack the weaker part of the Vikings defense, the secondary.  The Saints power running game hasn’t been so great so running directly at the Vikings brutal front four probably would not have gone too well.  Of course, when you turn the ball over four times you can expect bad things to happen.   They actually fumbled the ball three more times so that number could very well have been seven.

    This game was dominated by special teams highs and lows.   The two teams combined for 471 return yards.  Martin Gramatica had a field goal blocked early in the game that went the other way for a TD.  Reggie Bush had two fantastic punt returns for touchdowns and was pretty close to having broke a third one.  Late in the game, Gramatica missed a 44 yarder that would have put the Saints ahead with less than three minutes to go.  This also gave the Vikings excellent field position for their game winning drive.  Ryan Longwell and Martin Gramatica both kicked 53 yard field goals. 

    Some stuff went on during regular game play, too.  Bernard Berrian went out and started earning some of those big dollars he was paid in the offseason.   He had two huge catches….one lazy pass thrown high in the air that Berrian came back for and made a great play on, and a touchdown pass that I think Frerotte was actually trying to hit another receiver on but Berrian came over and made another fantastic play.  With little time left in regulation Gus lofted the ball up deep to Berrian one more time.  Berrian nearly caught the ball in double coverage but drew a huge interference call to move the ball downfield anyway. 

     On the first Berrian Grab, Will Smith came in and got jiggy with Gus Frerotte delivering a blow near the QB’s face.  Frerotte left the game for a few downs and made it back in.  It was the second non roughing call this week where a QB was hit in the head.  In addition to that call the officials missed two pretty clear face mask calls on Reggie Bush, one on his early game fumble.  If you are going to call any penalties you need to call personal fouls.  Injuries are piling up for a lot of teams and there are rules In place to try to help prevent more.  The rules won’t do any good if the refs don’t throw the flag.

Statistical Notes – Want to see some offense?  Watch a Saints game.  The Saints and Opponents are averaging 758 yards per game.  The Saints themselves are averaging over 400.  Reggie Bush leads the team in Rushing yards, receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns.  He is on pace for 121 catches and 1700+ total yards.   He also has 3 Punt returns on nine attempts.  Drew Brees is on pace for 5353 yards, despite having lost two of his top receivers in the first two weeks.  Visanthe Shianco doesn’t get many looks but they do go his way near the end zone.  He has 2 TD’s in the last three weeks and dropped an easy TD in week 2 that would have sealed the victory.  Adrian Peterson is averaging 63 yards rushing in his last three games.  Bernard Berrian has 14 catches for 267 yards and a TD in the three games since Frerotte took over.  He had 3 catches for 38 yards in two games with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.

Carnage Guesses Winners of games:  I am going to try to maintain some dignity and quietly say I was 7-7 last week in my picks….that even WITH picking the Dolphins over the Chargers.  That puts me at 48-26 on the year, dropping to 65%.  That’s two lousy weeks in a row.  I’m going to get back on track here.  I have to do better than flipping a coin SOME week, right?

Bears over Falcons
Texans over Dolphins (If Schaub plays.   If for some reason he still has the “Stomach flu” I get the Dolphins)
Ravens over Colts
Vikings over Lions
Saints over Raiders
Jets over Bengals
Panthers over Buccaneers
Redskins over Rams
Broncos over Jaguars
Eagles over 49ers
Packers over Seahawks
Chargers over Patriots
Giants over Browns
Crazy Upset pick!  Cardinals over Cowboys

Seriously, if I actually gambled on games, I’d be scooping up the Ravens and five points.  The game should be close and the Colts may win, but not by five.  They aren’t the same offense they have been the last few years . They only played one defense as well rounded as the Ravens (The Bears) and the Bears frustrated the heck out of them.  The Ravens are like the Bears defense, only better.
Good luck to your home team and fantasy teams.  See you next week.
Posted on: September 24, 2008 10:58 pm

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 3 Review

If this is hard to read, please go to the blog section of the Pro Bono Fantasy web site.  It's in a much easier to read format.    It can be found at http://www.probonofantasy.5u.com/

Week 3 of the NFL season had some really interesting performances and games.  I’m

having a hard time getting into the writing groove after the poor showing by my Packers on

Sunday Night.  I can take a little consolation in the fact that after being a fantasy doormat

last season (3 leagues, no playoffs) that I posted high scores for the week in all three

leagues I’m in this season en route to a 9-0 start.  My wife, in two leagues, is off to a 6-0

start.   Fantasy Sports happiness is high in the Carnage household.
        Sorry, I have to break that out and brag about my early fantasy success.  As I said,

The Packers getting beaten badly by the Cowboys is not having a positive effect on my current

state of mental health.  Sports are interesting that way.  You know, it’s really insane when

you think about it.   Here I am, emotionally vested in some team of rich athletes that I will

probably never meet in person.  I get absolutely nothing out of it if the team wins the Super

Bowl except for vague notion that I’m somehow a part of the team because I jump up and down,

hyperventilate, throw crap at the TV, and swear a lot….yet a loss can seriously dampen my

mood for at least a day…a win can make me disturbingly happy.    Anyway, now that I’m

finished with that, let’s get on to looking at the rest of this week’s games.

Bills over Raiders or “All alone at the top of the AFC East….”
       One of the most frustrating feelings in sports has to be when you have spend 9 minutes

kicking the stuffing out of a team on a 16 play, 96 yard drive only to have that drive

countered in one huge play to put you back down nine points with just over six minutes to go.

 That kind of thing is just a momentum killer, but how they handle that type of situation

tells you a lot about a team.
        Already having come back from a 16-10 deficit the previous week against the Jaguars,

the Bills worked some magic again.   In those 6:23 the Bills came up with 115 yards and 10

points while holding the Raiders to -2 yards on their possession.    The Bills made a lot of

big mistakes early.  Two fumbles, one leading to a field goal and one well within field goal

range.  A missed 42 yard field goal.  A very costly interception from their own 1 yard line. 

 To add to the early game woes, 7 of the first 10 Bills possessions began inside their own 22

with five being inside their 13.  That’s a pretty long field all day long.
         I really like this Bills team.  They can play some defense, they have explosive

offensive and special teams players, and they can pull it together when the pressure is on.  

        The Raiders have some talent but they just aren’t there yet.  Despite having a decent

looking stat line because of the big play (Which was almost all Johnnie Lee Higgins),

Jamarcus Russel played dismally.  He was 8/18 for 72 yards (only 3 completions to wide

receivers) prior to that play.  If Darren Mccfadden, Michael Bush, and Justin Fargus don’t

come out and run well this team cannot move the ball.  I felt Jamarcus had a reasonable

amount of protection but doesn’t seem to be going through his progressions properly. 
Statistical Notes – Marshawn Lynch has touchdowns in 4 of his last 5 outings.  He is on pace

for over 1500 total yards.  Trent Edwards is completing 67% of his passes this season.  Josh

Reed, who has averaged 38 catches over his six year career, leads the Bills with 13

receptions.  JaMarcus Russell is completing only 51% of his passes.  To his credit, he has 0

INT’s thus far.  Extremely high priced free agent Javon Walker has 2 catches and 18 yards so

Buccaneers over Bears or “The underachievers strike back!”
       Brandon Lloyd, Jerramy Stevens, Michael Clayton, and Antonio Bryant all made major

contributions  in this game.    Stevens (first round pick) tried to drink himself out of the

league, Clayton (first) tried to eat himself out of the league, Lloyd(fourth) is on his third

team in his six year career, Bryant (second) is on his fourth in six years. 
       I hate to be overly critical of a team that won the game, but what on Earth is John

Gruden thinking having Brian Griese throwing the ball 67 times?  That’s absolutely crazy.  

The Bears scored 24 points, encouraging the Bucs to throw more, but 17 of those points came

after the Griese INT’s and one INT came with the Bucs in field goal range, meaning those

turnovers were potentially a 20 point swing in the game.   Speaking of 20 points, that’s all

they managed to muster offensively despite the aerial barrage.    I realize that Earnest

Graham did not have a very good day trying to run against the Bears tough front seven, but

the Bucs are going to have to rethink this strategy.  I really don’t think they want to get

into a shootout with too many teams.  
      This loss had to hurt for the Bears.  The silver lining is that Kyle Orton played well

(Two INT’s, but one was a fluke), Brandon Lloyd looked like a legitimate offensive weapon. 

I’m getting more and more impressed with Matt Forte every week.  I still don’t like how he

runs.  He’s pretty tall already for a running back (6’1”) and he doesn’t get down.  He looks

like a huge target.  No matter, 400 total yards and 4.2 YPC says he runs fine.  I loved how

they tried to use him as a downfield receiver. 
      One Bear I was disappointed with was Charles Tillman.  Although he has never been to

the pro bowl or counted among the best corners in the league, I think he’s a solid, smart,

savvy, veteran.  In overtime after a huge defensive stop on 3rd and 9 with Tampa ready to

punt from its own 10 yard line….a scuffle breaks out near the line of scrimmage in the form

of a pile of several Bucs and Bears.  Tillman runs at least 20 yards to get to the play and

jumps on the pile.   Charles!  Your team just made a play that should put you in a great

position to win the game.  Don’t do anything stupid!  Besides?  What good is throwing  a 200

pound body on top of 1800 or so pounds of humanity?   The Tampa O-Linemen appear to have

started the brawl, but Tillman’s running, WWE dive drew the most attention and the flag.  

First down Tampa!  Nine players later, game over.
Statistical Notes – Only four players in NFL history attempted more passes than Brian Greise

did this week: Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testeverde, George Blanda, and Jon Kitna.  Only

Testeverde’s game was a losing effort.  Cedric Benson’s first 3 games in 2007: 189 yards on

3.2 YPC, 3 catches for 28 Yards.  1 TD.  Forte’s first three games this year: 304 Yards on

4.2 YPC, 13 catches for 105 yards.  2 TD’s.  Brandon Lloyd’s last 100 yard game came in

November 2005.  Michael Clayton has 16 catches in his last four games.  Prior to that, he had

16 catches in his last 12 games.   The Bears, with 5 sacks in their first two games, failed

to record one despite 67 passes attempted this week.

Vikings over Panthers or “Are You sick of this color yet?”
Is it just me or does there seem to be an unusual amount of penalties being called this year?

 The two teams combined for 21 penalties.  The Vikings 9 penalties cost them 100 yards. 

Pretty costly considering the Panthers only gained 204 yards.  Out of those 21 penalties, 14

of them were Offsides or false starts.  These penalties are insufferable when your team is

guilty.   These plays happen due to lack of concentration most of the time.  Know your snap

After a subpar outing against the Packers in week 1, the Vikings front four are starting to

show signs that they can be as dominant as expected.  They held Joseph Addai to 20 yards on

15 carries and hurried Peyton Manning all game long last week. This week they held a team

with 2 talented backs to 2.4 yards per carry, sacked Jake Delhomme 5 times, and put up seven

points for their team.   After a solid first quarter of moving the ball, the Panthers

mustered only 40 yards of offense in the next three. 
Anyone else think Tarvaris Jackson could strangle Visanthe Shiancoe?  After dropping a

potential game winning touchdown pass last week, Shiancoe comes into this game and catches a

Gus Frerotte ball for the go ahead score.  I personally think the Vikings should have stayed

with Jackson.   Frerotte is a slow, 37 year old veteran with a career completion percentage

of 54.3%.  I really don’t see him as much of an improvement over Jackson.   I guess he was at

the Helm for the Vikings first win of the season but I’m skeptical. 
Statistical Notes – Julius Peppers recorded his first sack of the season.  This “Phenomenal

Pass Rusher” now has a whole 3.5 Sacks in his last 17 games.  Adrian Peterson’s Paltry 4.4

YPC performance on a bum leg dropped him all the way down to 5.2 YPC on the season.  Chester

Taylor leads the Vikings in catches with 7.   Jake Delhomme currently has a passer rating of

74.7.  He hasn’t been below 80 for a season since he tossed 73 balls for the Saints as a

rookie in 1999. 
Dolphins over Patriots or “Uhm, about that part in my start/bench column about Ronnie

Brown…..that wasn’t me.”
This was an absolutely wacky game.  I felt I was in an alternative universe.  The Dolphins,

2-18 in their last 20 games, faced the Patriots, 20-0 in their last twenty games.  The

Patriots, known for using crazy offensive formations where Mike Vrabel scores touchdowns

played a pretty conservative game.  The Dolphins, known lately for not really playing offense

at all…well….they tried something different.
The worst of Ronnie Brown’s four trick touchdowns was the last one.  With Ronnie Brown lined

up in the backfield and Chad Pennington split out on the left end, TWO Patriots defensive

backs were in the area that only Pennington was occupying.  I realize the Dolphins were

trying crazy things, but I’d think that one DB would be enough to cover a 32 year old that

runs a 9.2 40.   Two Patriots linebackers stood in one place, unsure what to do on a play

that they saw twice already.     I’ve loved the Patriots defense in weeks one and two, but

they looked very uninspired this week.
The Dolphins defense on the other hand, after Joey Porter came out yapping that “No Tom

Brady?  It shouldn’t be too hard”,  held the Patriots to just over 200 yards and 13 points. 

Despite the Patriots kick return game constantly giving them good field position most of the

game (only 2 out of their first 8 drives were inside their 30 yard line), the Patriots looked

bad.  At some point Matt Cassell has to start looking for Randy Moss.  Double, Triple

coverage?  Who cares?  Daunte Culpepper made a living heaving that ball up high for him.
At one point during the afternoon, after a Matt Cassell pass went clanging five yards wide of

the target, my wife looked at me and said “It’s just like people said.  Tom Brady is only

good because of the team around him.  He’s a system quarterback.  No better.”  I realize that

Tom Brady wouldn’t have been out there playing defense and stopping Ronnie Brown….and a Brady

Led Pats team may have still lost to the Dolphins today, but how people still cling to the

idea that Brady isn’t that great is beyond me.  To go from the highest scoring team in

history to 24th in the league in scoring in a single season is a pretty big deal.  The

Patriots lost (I think) two offensive starters from last year this offseason.  There was not

a huge upheaval.  I think it’s obvious even to the most ardent Brady haters what is going on

Statistical notes – The Patriots offense had 214 yards.  The Patriots kick return game had

248.  Joey Porter had three sacks Sunday and four on the year.  His season high is 10.5. 

Maybe he’s not as washed up as people have said. While Randy Moss is struggling with 6

catches for 45 yards in the last two, Wes Welker still is catching passes.  He has 19

already, putting him on pace for 101.  Raiders castoff LaMont Jordan leads the Patriots in

Rushing yards for the season…with 90.
Falcons over Chiefs or “Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Int, Int”
     Yup, if you are a Chiefs fan, that is the frustrating beginning of the game for your

offense.  Of course, two straight possessions where they scored touchdowns were next followed

by Missed Field Goal, Punt, Turnover on Downs, Interception.  Yikes!  Watching Tyler Thigpen

complete only 39% of his 36 passes and throw 3 picks was pretty ugly too.   The worst part

about it was, the Falcons didn’t put a lot of pressure on Thigpen and a lot of his passes

were not even close.   When will Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard return?
     After a rough week 2 game against Tampa, Michael Turner picked up where he left off

against the Lions.  Man, Turner is fast for a 240 pound guy.  He can hit holes, bump it

outside, or run between the tackles, carrying several defenders on his back.  There were

questions concerning Turner’s ability to be an every down back, but I think those have been

answered.    Of course, when the Falcon’s running game is going, backup Jerious Norwood puts

up some yardage, too.  He has been very effective when given chances.  Having two good backs

should help Matt Ryan develop.
      Last season when Michael Turner was a Restricted Free agent, a lot of people thought it

would be foolish to try to give a first or second round pick to the Chargers for a guy that

had been a backup for three seasons and nothing more.  People cited his gaudy 6.0 YPC average

as being due to playing in “Garbage Time”.    As a starter, he’s pounding out 6.3 YPC and any

team that doesn’t have a back they like would likely be happy to give up a draft pick for

him.   Of course, the Chargers were smart enough to know they were sitting on a guy who could

fill in for Tomlinson for a few games if need be so they were not selling.
       Speaking of Matt Ryan, if you give him time to throw he can perform.  I think he’ll be

a solid quarterback within a year or two.   It has to be nice to have 70 and 61 yard TD

passes under your belt after three games in the league.    He has a strong arm and throws a

pretty ball.
        The Chiefs are in a bad way.  They are 28th in points scored, 26th in points allowed.

 24th in yards gained, 26th in yards allowed.  They can’t really move the ball on anybody and

they can’t really stop anybody.    It’s going to be a looooong year for this team.
Statistical Notes – Michael Turner leads the league in rushing yards and touchdowns.  He is

on pace for 1952 yards and 27 TD’s.  Roddy White has 232 receiving yards putting him on pace

to become the first Falcons player in 900 years to gain 1000 yards receiving in back to back

seasons.  Dating back to last season, John Abraham has 8 sacks in his last four games.  He’s

starting to become a machine.  Larry Johnson averaged 5 yards per carry in a game for the

first time since December 2006.  A few more like that he’ll break the 4 YPC mark for the

season.  The Chiefs are 8th in pass attempts but 25th in passing yards.

Wal-Mart, the place where you can get ANYTHING
        I’m not a huge fan of Walmart.  Dealing with the large crowds is less convenient to

me than saving $.40.  Today, I decided to go there anyway.   My place has radiator heat and

it collects a LOT of dust.   My wife is a bit allergic to dust and occasionally will go on

sneezing jags so I figured I’d try one of those air purifiers to see if that makes a

        Anyway, as I approached the store I was asked by someone on the side of the building

for a light.  I handed her my lighter and she asked If I “Needed any Oxy’s or Xanax.”  She

still had my lighter so I figured I’d play friendly and ask how much.  Apparently the going

rate at Walmart for a 40mg Oxycontin tablet is $25 and the going rate for a 2 mg Xanax bar is

$3.  I continued on.  Mostly because I don’t do drugs, partly because 3 Oxy’s and 5 Xanax

instead of the air purifier I planned on getting didn’t sound like a good plan.
         I got into the door and some dude was standing there saying “Hey, Hey, Hey buddy,

how ya doing?”  I informed him that I was doing allright and he told me I could be doing

better.  “I’ve got teeners of white for $80.”  I asked him if he was afraid of getting in

trouble with the Wal Mart Security standing nearby.  He yelled “Hey Man!  This one is

paranoid!  Can you disappear for awhile!” to the Wal mart security guy who promptly made

himself scarce.  I told him I didn’t have any money and went into the store.
         A little perturbed, I found my air purifier and an awesome deal on Red Bull (6 pack

for $7.  First time I’ve seen a six pack, and that’s a great price) and headed out the door. 

There was a very nice looking young lady that was wearing some very flattering attire.  She

informed me that I looked a little lonely and for $25 (Oddly enough, the cost of one Oxy)

she’d be some really good company for about 20 minutes.   The wife was at work, the girl was

cute, and I’m a guy so I had to think this one over for a second.  I decided any girl willing

to sell herself at a Wal-Mart for $25 probably isn’t the kind of woman you want to take

chances with….that and the good husband that I am I felt guilty just thinking about it so I

continued on.
       My last encounter was a guy asking me for $10.   I told him that I was out of money

and if I had $10 I’d be standing next to him trying to get myself another $15 as I pointed to

the lady.  I asked him why he thought people would give him money for free when you could by

sex or drugs here instead.  He cursed and told me I was right and he was going to head over

to the Office Depot across the street.
Titans over Texans or “Could this be the team to beat in the AFC?”
   With the expected powers in the AFC struggling early, my eyes are really turning to the

Titans.   They are a football purist’s dream.   They have committed to the run (Actually

running on 60% of plays), the defensive line is absolutely dominating the line of scrimmage,

they create turnovers, and the defense gets involved in the scoring game.   Although Kerry

Collins isn’t a fantastic quarterback at this stage in his career, I couldn’t help but

realize how much the dynamic of the team has changed with his ability to throw the ball

downfield.  If Collins has one thing, it’s a big arm. 
     This offense has absolutely nobody that can be construed as a Superstar but they take

their physical game and grind away.  Chris Johnson may soon be considered at that level, but

not quite yet.  For now he’s just a fast explosive back that compliments that 240 hulking

human bowling ball LenDale White as he runs between the tackles.
       The defensive, however, is building a nice little cast of potential pro bowlers. 

Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanderbosch anchor the front, 2006 seventh round pick  is looking

like another potential pro bowler.  Imagine if Pacman had stayed in and made the playbook

rain all night long and was on his best behavior.  The Titans could be looking at a fantastic

CB tandem.
         The poor Texans.  I really have been liking them the last two years and they start

out with two vicious matchups (Titans, Steelers) and look like an NFL Europe team.   Matt

Schaub is looking like the goat but for a guy under constant pressure that has been sacked

four times a game, he’s completed 60% of his passes.  Yeah, the five INT’s aren’t so good,

but he probably could have been worse.   Had Andre Davis and Kevin Walter caught those end

zone balls, his stats would not look that bad.    Being in the Red Zone six times and coming

away with 12 total points is poor.
        On the other hand, the weak part of the team, the running of Steve Slaton, looked

fabulous.   In the end, he rushed for more yards than the previous two teams that the Titans

faced combined.  I don’t know what the story on this guy is.  To me he came out of thin air. 

He’s elusive, he can break tackles, and he can just plain run.  If that keeps up, the Texans

will have a much better chance than teams expected.
Statistical Notes – Again, Fantasy owners worried about Lendale White and Chris Johnson had

nothing to fear.  Both players are going to get their touches (106 between them in three

games).   Steve Slaton put up 100 yards on the ground, the third such performance by the

Texans in the last three seasons.  Third year DB has 4 INT’s and a TD in 3 games.    Kyle

Vander Bosch has 8.5 sacks in his last seven games.

Redskins over Cardinals or “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! RIGHT?”
Scott Suishiem shanks a 52 yard field goal to give the Cardinals the ball back, down by 7

after a 9 minute Redskins drive where no points were scored.  3 plays later the Cardinals

face 4th and 4 at the 48 yard line with 2:46 left.  Down by 7 with three timeouts left the

Cardinals know that if the Redskins get the ball back a single first down ends the game. 

Your average gain per play for the day has been 5.6 yards.  Time to go for it…or….no.  In

comes the punting unit.   One Redskins first down later, game over.   You are at midfield

with a chance to go 3-0 to start the season, and you punt?  Ugh.
I’m still unsure that this Redskins team of the last two weeks was the same one we saw the

Giants destroy in week 1.   I chastised the play of Jason Campbell.  I blasted the play

calling because they failed to get Chris Cooley involved.  Suddenly, Campbell is playing

well, Cooley is involved, and the Redskins are looking like the team I expected them to.  Of

course, they are still in last place…..with a 2-1 record.  The NFC East is a combined 10-2…

with the two losses being between each other.
What I like about Campbell this season has been his ability to find dynamic playmaker Santana

Moss.  For a stretch of time last season, he utterly refused to throw to his Wide Receivers. 

I see him looking downfield more often.   I like that.
It was kind of a letdown game for Kurt Warner.   After competing 70% of his passes the first

two games and playing mistake free ball, he had a hard time getting over the 50% hump and

threw one away.   I have appreciated the fact that despite the incredible tandem of wide

receivers, the Cardinals have remained committed to the running game.  Even more surprising,

the cardinals play calling has been 93/87 in favor of rushes the first three weeks.  Tied for

the 49ers for first place, the Cardinals are currently the best team in this division ahead

of the struggling Seahawks and the dismal Rams.
Statistical Notes – How good are Anquan Boldin and Fitzgerald?   After three games they are

averaging 11 catches,  180 yards, and 2 TD’s between the two of them.   They are on pace for

176 catches, 2900 yards, and 32 TD’s as a duo.   Santana Moss has scored in five straight

going back to last season.  Touches are important for fantasy backs, and Clinton Portis has

20+ touches in his last six.  He also has 7 TD’s in that span. 
Running Back By Committee evolved
     Fantasy Football players everywhere have been lamenting the dual running back scenario. 

Suddenly, there are “Primary Backs” putting up huge totals and secondary backs putting up

acceptable totals.  Spelling your backs leads to fresh legs, huge in every game.   In the

second half of the Packers/Cowboys game, Dallas down by three….Marion Barber III got a break

from his continuous pounding of the ball to let a fresh Felix Jones in.  Jones promptly took

the ball and went 60 yards to pay dirt.  The Result?  150+ total yards and a TD by Barber,

70+ yards and a TD for Jones.  The Titans Lendale white and Chris Johnson have both been

getting over 15 touches and a game.  Chris Johnson has been breaking the long ones, Lendale

White has been fighting for the tough yards and at the goal line.  Both are viable starters. 

The Raiders have been alternating to keep their guys fresh, creating two or three viable

starters.   Tim Hightower has made some plays and kept Edgerrin James more fresh and

productive than he has been.   The Jaguars finally ran the ball and divided the carries….the

result being 100+ yards for both Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred TaylorPierre Thomas has made

Reggie Bush more effective by taking the tough yardage downs and letting Reggie play all over

the field which suits him best.  Each back hit the end zone twice.    Suddenly the potential

player pool is getting large for running backs.
Denver over Saints or “Broncos are playing?  Bet the over.”
Looks like Broncos fans had better get used to down to the wire shootouts.   If I would have

told you that a team featuring Dre Bly and Champ Bailey at Cornerback would be the team

giving up the most yards through the air, you’d have thought I’m crazy.  The Broncos are

giving up over 300 passing yards a game.  I guess back to back Chargers and Saints matchups

will do that to you.
Of course, the Broncos offense is scary in its own right.   Jay Cutler wasn’t quite as

dominant as in the first two weeks, but he still looked good.    I’ve heard a lot of people

referring to his 2nd quarter interception to let the Saints really get back into the game as

evidence that Cutler makes a lot of poor decisions.  I’d say that’s a little overboard. 

Certainly he should not have forced the ball into double coverage as he did, but his good

plays have come more often than the bad.
Of course, it helps to have Brandon Marshall on your team.  Seriously, he’s starting to

remind me somewhat of a young Randy Moss.  He’s big and strong, making it difficult for

corners to cover him, and is he ever fast.  Early in the game, Marshall ran a fly pattern

right into the end zone.   The Saints CB, expecting safety help, played him for a shorter

pass.  The safety, with no other Broncos in the area to worry about, simply let Brandon

Marshall blow by him for six points.
Facing 2nd and goal from the one, the Saints got stuffed.  Facing 3rd and goal from the one,

Drew Brees fumbled the snap.  Realizing that the momentum was shifting in their favor and to

go into halftime tied would be huge, I applauded as the Saints went on 4th and goal from the

one.  Pierre Thomas gets stuffed going up the middle, turnover on downs with 27 seconds left.

 Unfortunately for Denver, they couldn’t just kneel on the ball and trot into the locker room

even thought the Saints had zero time outs.   A QB sneak usually doesn’t lose yardage. 

Instead, Cutler hands the ball off in the middle of the end zone and Andre Hall gets creamed

and the Saints end up getting two out of the deal.  I absolutely love the decision to go for

it here.
Drew Brees, without top wide receiver Marques Colston, was fantastic.   Seriously, the Saints

WR group isn’t really that awe inspiring.  I don’t think anyone not named Tom Brady or Peyton

Manning goes through progressions and finds the most wide open man better than Brees does.  

Luckily for Brees, Reggie Bush is starting to look like he knows where he needs to be and

seems to always be available for a short route or check down.  Team supposedly game plan for

Bush.  If that is so, why is Reggie always left wide open?
What’s up with Deuce Mccallister?  Is he not really healed yet?  He was suited up again but

did not play.  It’s really a shame that Deuce blew his knee out twice.  He was a fine player.

Statistical Notes – Drew Brees is completing over 74% of his passes and his on pace for 5226

yards this season.    The Saints already have six players with 100 yards receiving.  Reggie

Bush has an insane 26 receptions thus far.  That puts him on pace for 139 on the season. 

Bush is averaging nearly 10 rushing yards and 40 receiving yards more than his career

averages.  Brandon Marshall is averaging 12 catches, 160 yards, and a touchdown in the two

games he has played.  Michael Pittman has 20 touches and 4 TD’s.  A touchdown every five

times he gets the ball! 
49ers over Lions or “Why does Matt Millen still have a job?  Seriously?”
The Lions are a complete mess.    Millen has decided to continue to draft skill position

players in the first round (And this is high first round…it’s the Lions…remember?) every year

for six decades or something.  Ok, that’s exaggerating, but to Lions fans it might seem even

longer.  Want to know a secret?  Without an offensive line your QB gets sacked and you can’t

run the ball.  Without a defense the other team scores mobs of points.   The solution?  Fire

the coach every few years.  It’s OBVIOUSLY his fault.
Jon Kitna is starting to remind me of Rocky in his fight against Ivan Drago (Not the winning

part, just the beatings) as he’s constantly running for his life as 1, 2, or 3 defenders rush

in unblocked on every play.   It is just ugly.
For the second straight week, Frank Gore got 19+ carries, which means for the second straight

week the 49ers won.  They are now 14-1 in the last three years when Gore Rushes 19 or more

times, 0-20 when he does not.   Gore found gaping holes in the Lions D to run through.  What

a shock.  Note to Fantasy players.  Start every player  on your roster when they go against

the Lions.
Mike Martz made a good call going with J.T. O’Sullivan this season.  Alex Smith is hurt

anyway but J.T. really does seem to know the offense and throws some pretty passes. 
Statistical Notes – Gore has gone over the 100 total yard mark each of the first three games.

 Last season it took until week 12 to get three such games.   The Entire Lions team had 240

yards of offense.  Rudi Johnson had 131 of those yards.   Kitna, sacked 63 and 51 times in

the last two seasons is on pace to be sacked 65 times.

Jaguars over Colts or “Don’t blink, you’ll miss the Colts on offense…”
      In terms of Time of Possession, this is the most lopsided game I can remember.   The

Jaguars held the ball for 41:35 but needed a miracle at the end to finish this game off.  

This owes a lot to the Jaguars inability to get it done in the red zone.  Four times the

Jaguars got within the Colts 10 yard line.  Out of those four trips, they came away with 13

points.  Ouch.    It gets harder to run (And pass) the closer you get to the goal line.   You

run out of space and teams really clog up the middle. 
    The Jaguars need to be able to count on David Garrard and the wide receivers to make some

plays at the end of the field.    Another devastating play for the Jaguars was the third

quarter interception.  Chewing up 60 yards and 8 and a half minutes and coming away empty

handed is painful.  Garrard should not have thrown that ball.  Josh Scobee obviously is

capable of making field goals in the 47-48 yard range.  It’s demoralizing to the team to work

that hard and see the ball going the other way.  Of course, hyped free agents Jerry Porter

and Troy Williamson got injured in the preseason and have 2 catches between them.  The Jags

tried to fix their passing game by signing these two, but I don’t think I am the only one who

thought that was a bad idea.
      I did love that the Jaguars finally got back to their bread and butter, pounding the

ball all day long with their two talented running backs.  The Bob Sander lacking Colts are

already a bit softer on defense and as the game wore on they started to look REALLY soft.
      The Colts offense came out right away and looked really fresh.  They can still be

explosive, but I was shocked at how bad they looked at times.  I think the prior two games of

intense pass rush were really getting to Peyton Manning as he looked pensive at times in the

pocket.   His pick six by Rashaen Mathis occurred on a play where he had a reasonable amount

of time to throw the ball but simply made a very poor read.  Marvin Harrison had Jaguars one

either side of him. 
      On a lighter note, the Colts offensive line finally found a little running room for

Joseph Addai.   If they can keep that up I would think that the Colts offense will soon be

hitting on all cylinders.  Peyton Manning simply has too many weapons and is too good of a

quarterback to count out.   Still, I think the secret is out that you can run on the Colts

and they still have to play Jacksonville again, the Titans twice, The Steelers, and the

Chargers…..four teams that like to run the ball and are quite effective.   They also have

games against the Patriots and at Green Bay.   At 1-2, this team is not a lock for the

playoffs and could end their six year postseason run.
    Statistical Notes – Peyton Manning has 3 TD’s and 4 INT’s after three weeks.  He hasn’t

opened the season with more INT’s than TD’s since his rookie year.  The Colts have allowed

four 100 yard rushers in three games.  Over the last five meetings against the Colts, Fred

Taylor and Maurice Jones Drew have combined for 965 yards rushing (193 yards per game), and

have six 100 yard games between them.  David Garrard had 3 INT’s in 2007.  He has 4 already

in 2008.  He is on pace for 5 TDs and 20 INT’s. 

Ravens over Browns or “Brady Quinn, coming soon to a huddle near you!”
     I thought that the Browns not trying to dealing Derek Anderson this offseason was a

curious move.    Despite attempts to upgrade the defense, I claimed that the Browns were not

a playoff team and an 0-3 start was a very real possibility.  If ever I got anything right,

it’s this.    Fun games left on the Browns schedule include the Giants, At Redskins, at

Jaguars, Broncos, at Buffalo, at Tennessee, at Philly, at Pittsburgh.    Six wins is starting

to look like a lofty goal.
       In the first half the Browns mixed it up a little, actually handing the ball off to

Jamal Lewis 8 times.  Jamal Lewis was averaging nearly 5 yards per carry.   The Browns went

into the locker room enjoying a small lead.  They came out in the second half throwing 5 of

the first 6 plays.  The result?  Interception at their own 12.  Touchdown.  Interception at

their own 32 taken in for a touchdown…and the rout was on.
       The Ravens defense wasn’t quite as dominant as we were used to last year.  Ray Lewis,

Ed Reed, and Chris McAlister are aging.   Even in fantasy football, where name recognition

can go a long way, nobody was looking at the Ravens Defense even as a top ten unit.  Knowing

that the team isn’t suddenly void of talent, I happily scooped them up after other teams had

taken teams like the Panthers, Saints, and Raiders.   Averaging 160 yards allowed, having 5

turnovers, 7 sacks, and a touchdown in two games shows that reports of their demise were

greatly exaggerated. 
       Unfortunately for the Ravens, they lost Kyle Boller (Did I just say that) and had to

throw Joe Flacco right into the fire.    He isn’t playing very well at this point.  With the

lack of AFC teams really playing well, the Ravens could be in the playoff chase.  The fact

that they are going to be one dimensional all season will hurt their chances.
      I have really liked the Ravens using a true fullback, Le’ron Mclain, in an actual ball

carrying role.  Mclain is 260+ pounds and is a load to tackle. 
Statistical Notes – Anderson and Flacco treated us to a combined 27/67 for 254 yards, 1 TD,

and 5 INTs.  The Ravens are third in the league in rushing touchdowns and fifth in the league

in takeaways…despite playing in only two games.  Last years’ Browns team was 8th in the

league in offensive yardage and points.  They are Worst and second worst this season in those

respective categories.  Braylon Edwards in on pace for 42 catches for 390 yards.  Despite

having fewer touches, Mclain has more Yards and Touchdowns than Willis McGahee and Ray Rice

Prognostications or “Carnage guesses the winners of games”
I went 11-5 this week and can’t figure out why I picked the Rams and Lions to win games. 

Hmph.  Not bad.  That puts me 32-15 this season.  Yay.   Pretty good considering I went 3-13

in week 3 of 2007.
Atlanta over Kansas City
Redskins over Cardinals
Tampa Bay over Chicago
Patriots over Dolphins
Giants over Bengals
Titans over Texans
Vikings over Panthers
Bills over Raiders
Lions over 49ers
Broncos over Saints
Rams over Seahawks
Ravens over Browns
Colts over Jaguars
Chargers over Jets
Cowboys over Packers
Steelers over Eagles

Eagles over Steelers or “Steelers introduce new “El Matador” blocking scheme.  Fantasy owners

exhale as Brian Westbrook’s MRI is negative.”
“Quit Messing with the Tivo already” one of my friends told my dad.  “We don’t have Tivo” my

dad said.  “Then why do we keep seeing that same play where four Eagles are jumping on Ben

Roethisberger?”  Obviously my friend was being sarcastic but it did seem like every play that

Big Ben dropped back looked exactly the same.   When you trot your already injured franchise

quarterback onto the field, you need to do a little better job of protecting him.  In

addition to the nine sacks on Roeslisberger, the Eagles defense stripped the ball from him

another time and forced him into a grounding penalty in the end zone.  They also were credit

for 7 tackles for a loss.  The Steelers offensive line were completely and utterly dominated.
The Eagles faced two scares in the same game.  Injures to Westbrook and Mcnabb had everyone

in Philly and many fantasy owners cringing.  Westbrook looks like he’ll be ok and Mcnabb

obviously returned to the game.   Correll Buckhalter, although he is no Brian Westbrook ,

stepped in and played pretty well, especially considering he missed two entire years with

injuries.  Willie Parker was also injured and the Steelers may not be so fortunate.
Statistical Notes – Big Ben is on pace to get sacked over 60 times this season.  Hank Baskett

is on pace for nearly 70 catches and over 1000 yards.  Buckhalter led both teams in total

yardage with 87.    This game wasn’t very exciting statistically. 
Scoring – Note just for the offense anymore
Last season I noticed an unusually high number of scores by the defensive/special teams side

of the ball.  This week the defenses put up 72 points (Counting TD’s as 7.  10 TD’s and 1

Safety).   Defensive touchdowns and punt returns on demoralizing plays.   This has a huge

impact on fantasy, as a touchdown from your defense can really give you a boost.  Be sure to

watch teams that have a knack for their defense putting numbers on the scoreboard and be sure

to start those teams.
Seahawks over Rams or “Is Billy McMullen a more viable fantasy option than Tory Holt?”
Oh boy are the Rams bad.  For some reason I picked them to win.  You know, playing at home,

having highly paid Superstars like Steven Jackson, Tory Holt, and Marc Bulger.  Playing

against castoffs like Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett as well as people grabbed off the street

(Billy Mcmullen, Michael Bumpkis, Courtney Taylor.) 
What was I thinking?  Steven Jackson still looked impressive, but the rest of the Rams on

both sides of the ball were terrible.  Let’s just say that you had to be pretty bored to

watch too much of this game.  On a lighter note, Julius Jones seems to be benefitting greatly

from a chance in scenery.  He doesn’t look like the guy that couldn’t gain 4 yards per carry

for the Cowboys.
Statistical Notes – The Rams have the third worst offense in terms of points and yardage and

the worst defense.  Still, Steven Jackson is on pace for 1600 yards in this mess.  Tory Holt

is on pace for 68 catches for 650 yards and five TD’s.  Over the last EIGHT seasons he’s

averaged  94 catches for 1384 yards and 8 TDs.  Seriously.  That’s really really good. 

Julius Jones has not had back to back 100 yard games since October 2006 before this season. 

He is third in the league in rushing yardage.
Cowboys over Packers or “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Packers got killed.  Al Harris has a ruptured spleen and may or may not miss the rest of the

season.  He left the field after the play that ruptured his spleen and came back in a few

plays later.  He made a solo open field tackle on Marion Barber.  We havn’t seen too many

without TORN INTERNAL ORGANS be able to tackle Marion Barber alone.
Letting Charles Woodson cover Terrell Owens with a safety lurking around was a great game

plan.  Owens was less of a factor than I have ever seen him be.  Of course,   that left some

guy named Michael Austin to make some really huge plays.  Oh yeah, the fact that the Packers

got run all over by Barber and Felix Jones didn’t help either.  Jason Witten can do so many

things he’s virtually not coverable.  The Packers must have shared pass blocking ideas with

the Steelers because they used the Matador Technique a lot, too.
Statistical Notes – Marion Barber has at least 100 total yards and a touchdown for the first

three weeks.  What’s that about him not being able to handle the load?  Greg Jennings is on

pace for nearly 2000 yards.    Aaron Rodgers is one of three QB’s (Jason Campbell and

Jamarcus Russell) without an interception this season.  He has the most attempts of the

Next Week’s Games
Panthers over Falcons
Browns over Bengals
Jaguars over Texans
Broncos over Chiefs
Saints over 49ers
Cardinals over Jets
Packers over Bucs
Titans over Vikings
Chargers over Raiders
Bills over Rams
Cowboys over Redskins
Eagles over Bears
Ravens over Steelers
Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com