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.