Tag:NFL
Posted on: September 30, 2008 9:08 pm
 

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 4 Review

For those of you who used to read my weekly, you can find it under the blog section or in a more readable Blog Format under the Docket at http://www.probonofantasy.5u.com/

   With bye weeks starting, I can’t believe how much lighter the schedule felt.   It felt to me like there were a lot more than three fewer games on.   I do wish the games were spread out more between the noon and 3 PM time slots.  Earlier on there were eight games to keep track of.  Later there were only three.    Then again, it was hard to take my eyes off the Redskins/Cowboys matchup. 

Panthers over Falcons or “Welcome to the Mushin”
   After three subpar seasons and a bit of malcontent in Chicago, Mushin Muhammed is back to his old stomping grounds and participating in a big way.  Last season, he looked liked he had lost a step.  This year, he’s looking as good as ever.
   I don’t know what to think of Jake Delhomme.  Watching him play, he doesn’t seem that special.  His stats this season have not been that solid (Before this week) and yet he makes SUCH a difference compared to the David Carr/Vinny Testaverde/Matt Moore Triumvirate.   What I do know is that since he became the starting QB for the Panthers, they are 38-26 with him, and 5-10 without him.  That’s a pretty big swing.
   I know there are a lot of people who swoon over Julius Peppers and his high sack numbers in seasons past, but I really don’t like the guy much.  He seems so hell bent on racking up sacks that he over pursued the run a few times on Sunday and caused a Pick Six to be called back for delivering a late hit to Matt Ryan’s head.   He’s treated like a superstar, payed like a superstar, but I don’t think he has played like a superstar in two years.
    I really don’t like the fact that the Falcons came out and had Matt Ryan throw the ball 41 times.   This team has won two games by running the ball, and although the Panthers contained Michael Turner pretty well, the game was close enough for them to stick with their bread and butter.    They had been using Jerious Norwood very effectively to keep Turner’s workload from getting out of control but today he gets three carries.   The guy has produced when on the field these last three seasons.
Statistical Notes – Matt Ryan is 21/31 in the Falcons two Victories and 33/74 in the two losses.  Roddy White is on pace for over 1300 yards.  Julius Peppers has 4.5 sacks in his last 18 games.   Mushin Muhammed is on pace for 88 catches and 1200+ yards.   Rookie Jonathon Stewart, who has looked great, has scored a TD in three of his first four NFL games. 
Browns over Bengals or “We have to watch this matchup AGAIN later this season?”
     Oh man was there some bad football going on in this game.  Against two of the bottom third defenses in the league, the teams posted totals of 278 and 211 yards.  Their average gain per play was just under four yards. They combined for six turnovers and 15 penalties.  But hey!  One of them had to win, right?
      Braylon Edwards finally made his presence felt by scoring a touchdown.  Immediately after, he broke into some ridiculous air guitar routine.  Braylon!  You don’t even have 100 yards in four games and your team is in danger of going 0-4.   Now is not the time to celebrate!
         Derek Anderson will probably avoid being sent to the bench in favor of Brady Quinn for at least another week.  He didn’t play all that well, but well enough to get the victory.  With Anderson struggling and the Bengals starting Harvard QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Browns came in with the better plan – Pound the ball.   The ball kept finding its way into the hands of Jamal Lewis while they passed only sparingly.   The Bengals, despite Fitzpatrick not having played in an NFL game since 2005 and being in the lead most of the game, kept throwing and throwing.   Man, Fitzpatrick’s first interception may have been the worst pass I’ve seen in awhile.  That thing hit the safety who was playing 10 yards behind the target in stride.    Seriously, can anyone tell me why Marvin Lewis isn’t hanging out with Matt Millen right now?
          Everyone calls Chad Ocho Cinco a diva, a showboat, selfish, and any number of similar derogatory terms.  He’s on a 0-3 team that he doesn’t want to be on with the starting quarterback on the sidelines with an injury.    He makes a turning stab at a poorly thrown ball and ends up falling backwards onto the ground while the ball is picked off by Erick Wright.  Wright takes off running with the ball and gets a few yards back the other way before Chris Perry hits him and jars the ball loose.  Who is there running back towards the play to recover the fumble?  Ocho Cinco himself.   Many players in similar situations would slowly get up and walk towards the sidelines.  I think this simple action shows that whatever else he is, Ocho Cinco is a guy you want on your team.
Statistical Notes -  At this time last season, Chad Johnson had 28 catches for 488 yards and 3 TD’s.  This season he has 11 catches for 116 yards and 1 TD.  Braylon Edwards had 18 catches for 375 yards and  4 TD’s.  This season he has 11 catches for 97 yards and 1 TD.   That’s a pretty epic decline.   Carson Palmer had 76 TD’s to 45 INT’s the last three seasons.  Bengals QB’s have 2 TD’s and 6 INT’s this year.   With 6 catches this game, T.J. Houshmanzadeh has 24 on the season, putting him on pace for 96.  It’s hard not to be impressed by this considering how bad the Bengals are.

Baseball Interlude:  After watching my Badgers drop a game to a team that had 21 total yards in the first half, the Brewers lose on Saturday, and the Packers lose to Tampa, I needed something good out of Wiconsin sports.  We got it in the form of the Brewers first postseason in a billion years.   Watching C.C. Sabathia put the flailing pitching staff on his back and give up 24 earned runs in 120.5 innings of work has been amazing.  Throwing 230 pitches in five days to pick up 2 much needed wins has quite possibly made him the greatest Brewer since Young, Molitor, and the gang hung up their cleats even though his career with Milwaukee is likely to be a total of just over three months long.  I’m really not much of a baseball fan anymore, but It is exciting to see this team in the postseason and C.C.’s play has inspired me to some level of interest in the sport.

Jaguars over Texans or “Josh Scobee for Team MVP.”
Josh Scobee kicked a 40 yarder, 47 yarder, and 37 yard game winner to help the Jaguars get to 2-2 and back into contention.  Last week, Scobee kicked a 51 yard field goal at the buzzer to win beat the Colts.  He’s 10/11 this season including 2/2 from 40-49 and 2/2 from 50+.   Kickers are one of the more underappreciated positions on the field, mostly because at best they are expected to hit every field goal and at worst they can “Lose” a game for a team.  I suspect that the Jacksonville fans will learn to appreciate Scobee if he keeps up his performance. 
Matt Schaub is really an efficient quarterback when he isn’t getting hammered.  He struggled in the first two games against the onslaught of the Titans and Steelers pass rush but had plenty of time to throw on Sunday.  The result was a really big game.   Suddenly Schaub has a surprising amount of weapons to work with.  3rd round pick Steve Slaton is proving to be a versatile back, even splitting out and going downfield for a huge TD.  4th round pick Owen Daniels is starting to look like one of the better receiving tight ends in the league.  7th round pick Kevin Walter (7 picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant) is impressing me with his route running. 
The Texans can’t be feeling too good at 0-3 right now, but the have a four game home stand coming up hosting the Colts, Dolphins, Lions, and Bengals.  The Colts are reeling right now and the other three aren’t very good.  If they continue to play like they did today, they could be 4-3 before you know it.
The Jaguars pulled this one out, and David Garrard played more like David Garrard v.2.0.0.7 than David Garrard 2.0.0.8 but I am still stymied by the fact that they limited the rushes of Maruice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor to 17 for the game, especially after the way they absolutely pounded the Colts last week. 
The David Garrard scrambling show in the fourth quarter was incredible.  On 4th and 8, he scrambled for a first down.  Next play, scrambled for five yards.  Next play, scrambled for a five yard TD.  When you are playing a QB that can move and has done so twice so far on this drive, how can’t you key a linebacker on him?  The Jaguars defense looked confused when they did it a third time.  The idea of a fourth time was preposterous, right?  Wrong.  Despite Garrard running for about 30 yards on the drive, the Texans looked utterly unprepared for another attempt and Garrard waltzed into the end zone.
Statistical Notes – Kevin Walter has 7 TD’s in his last 10 games.  The Texans share the ball pretty well.  Walter, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels all have 15 catches in three games.  Steve Slaton has 14.  Mike Walker, some guy the Jaguars picked out of the crowd as far as I can tell, had 5 catches for 46 yards.  Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson, highly touted free agents, have a combined 3 catches for 17 yards on the season. 

Chiefs over Broncos or “I don’t understand the NFL at all.”
One week ago, I thought the Broncos were a team of destiny.  I also believed that of the Chiefs, as I thought they had a good shot at 0-16.  Suddenly, we have the Chiefs exposing the Broncos big weakness, their run defense.  The Saints and Chargers each lost close games to the Broncos, combining to run on only 30% of their plays.  The Chiefs come in and run over 50% of the time, giving Larry Johnson 28 carries.  That’s irritates me because now I have to eat crow and grudgingly admit Larry Johnson is a fine player.  I’ve never cared much for Johnson and blasted him bad over the first two weeks of the season.  I was wrong.  Fine.  I’d rather not talk about it. ;)
          Late in the second quarter, the Broncos had the ball at midfield with a first down and the lead.  They lined up with one WR split to the right, two WR and a TE in a “Trips Left” formation, and Brandon Marshall in the backfield.  I think it’s pretty obvious what is coming here.  In comes every KC linebacker and safety.  TE Tony Sheaffler stumbles way towards the sidelines, missing any blocks and the two receivers get bowled over.  Brandon Marshall takes the pitch just in time to see Derrick Johnson coming full steam with three other chiefs behind him.  He gets absolutely clobbered, loses the ball, KC ball at the 2.  If you are going to run something like that, don’t load up the side the play is going to unless you think your wide outs can block Linebackers and safeties coming with a head of steam.  If you have the players to do that, you probably don’t need trickery anyway.
          The Chiefs came into this game in the bottom three defensively in rushing yards, rushing TD’s, and YPC.   The Broncos respond by calling 52 pass plays and 20 running plays.  If you know a team is so weak at one aspect of the game, why not exploit it?  In their 19 carries, Michael Pittman, Selvin Young, and Andre Hall were averaging 5 yards.  Why not go with that?
 Stastistical Notes – Despite only playing 3 games thus far, Brandon Marshall has 31 catches and is on pace for a 128 catch, 1700 yard, 12 TD season.  He’s pretty good.  Eddie Royal is also having a fine season, on pace for over 100 catches and 1200 yards.   Larry Johnson suddenly has 415 rushing yards, just seven yards behind the leader Michael  Turner. 

Saints over 49ers or “Return of the Deuce!”
I’ve been a pretty big fan of Deuce Mccallister since he entered the league.   If not for those two huge injuries, he could have had a really fantastic career.  Even with some serious surgeries under his belt and turning the dreaded three oh, the Deuce still has some gas left in his tank.  Pierre Thomas filled the goal line role to some extent while Mccallister sat on the sidelines, but this is a different team with Deuce back in the lineup.
With Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey out of the lineup, you would think that Drew Brees would have a more difficult time.   Instead, he turned to 2nd round sophomore Devery Henderson, rookie “Who Date” Robert Meachem, and third year “who dat” Lance Moore.   Drew Brees is extremely efficient and accurate even with two of his top receivers out and Reggie Bush a non factor in this game.   He likes to throw the long ball and is good at it.
New 49ers golden boy J. T. O’Sullivan is starting to feel the effects of poor pass protection that has plagued the niners for a few years. He didn’t look very comfortable back in the pocket, getting sacked 6 times to bring this year’s total up to 19.  Letting your QB get hit at least five times is a good way to get the backup onto the field.
The Frank Gore rule – I’ve noted in most of my reviews that the 49ers fate is tied to the number of times Frank Gore runs the ball in any given game.  If he runs it 19 or more times they win, 18 or fewer times, they lose.   He had 16 carries this game and put another loss in the column.  That makes them 0-21 over the last three years when Gore doesn’t get significant carries, and 14-1 when he does.
Statistical Notes – Isaac Bruce pulled into sole position of 11th on the all time TD catch list, and surpassed Andre Reed to become the number 5 all time in receptions.   Drew Brees is on pace for a 5372 yard, 32 TD season.  Oh, and he’s completing 72% of his passes.  Although Reggie Bush only had 7 yards receiving, he did have 5 catches putting him at 31 for the year.   He is on pace for 124.   His previous career high is 88.  Frank Gore has 10 straight games of 100+ total yards dating back to last season.

Jets over Cardinals or “Shootout at the old folks home.”
39 year old former MVP Brett Favre faced off against 37 year old former MVP Kurt Warner.  Between high flying offenses, a mob of penalties, some good kick returns, and interceptions, the ball moved around the field 1305 yards during the course of the game. 
Brett Favre had a record day in his storied career, throwing for a career high of 6 TD passes.  He had lots of time and his receivers were wide open most of the day, but he really showed he can still throw the ball as hard as anybody. 
Kurt Warner had a particularily bad first half, throwing for less than 100 yards while being picked off twice and fumbling twice.  The fact that he ended up with 472 passing yards shows how crazy his second half was.  Nearly 400 yards in a single half of football.  
Down by 34, a seemingly insurmountable number,  the Cardinals did not lay down after the half.  They came storming back with five straight touchdowns, at one point being down by only 13 with a quarter to go.  Although they fumbled the ball all over the place and looked generally terrible in the first half, I give them credit for making a game out of this. 
Statistical Notes – Brett Favre now is 34 career TD passes above Dan Marino’s once unbeatable looking 420.  Lavernious Coles and Jerricho Cotchery are both on pace for over 1000 yards and 10 TD’s.  Coles has passed the 1000 yard mark only once in the last four years and his career best is 7 TD’s.  Three Cardinals players (Steve Breaston, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin) had 100 yard games.  I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.  Kurt Warner’s career high in yardage is 4830.  He is on pace for 4888.  Boldin and Fitzgerald now have 5 100 yard games between them.

Penalties – I don’t know any historical numbers when it comes to penalties, but it really seemed like there have been a lot of flags this season.  This week, each game saw an average of 11.5 penalties moving the ball 93 yards.   A lot of these penalties seem to be illegal motion/twelve on the field/false start type penalties that are very costly mental mistakes that teams should have worked out by week four of the season.   I also have seen what seems to be a larger amount of injuries this year.  Players are always getting carted off the field.  This would explain such mistakes.  When you start having to work with unfamiliar players, your timing is likely to be off.  Again, I have no historical data about this, but it may be interesting to look into at another date.

Titans over Vikings or “Shootout at the old folks home version 2.”
Ok, so maybe this one wasn’t quite a shootout, but 36 year old QB Kerry Collins stepped onto the field against 37 year old Gus Frerotte.  Unlike Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, these guys showed their age.  They “Treated” us to a combined 43/78 showing with 0 TD’s and one INT.
The defenses did not disappoint.  As always, the Vikings run defense was stout.  They held the Titans to a mere 76 yards on 34 attempts, a 2.2 YPC clip.  Their prior lowest game was 137 yards.   The Vikings were also held to under 100 yards for the first time this season.  Adrian Peterson did perform better than I expected, being a little banged up and playing against the Titans.  This wasn’t one of his biggest days rushing, but he once again showed why he is one of the best RB’s in the NFL.
We did see Peterson fumble the ball though, a big problem for the Vikings this week.  They turned the ball over four times.  The Titans defense now has 12 turnovers in 4 games to lead the league.
Starting late in the third quarter, we saw some serious offensive stalling.  Fumble, missed Field Goal, Punt, Punt, Punt, Field Goal, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt.  Defense minded purists must have loved this sequence while those that enjoy high flying offenses were probably bored to death. 
Expectations have been high for the Vikings this season and they have disappointed up to this point.  Before the season started, I looked at Minnesota’s schedule and said I would not be surprised to see them come out and start 1-3 at which point questions would be asked about the quarterback situation, causing the team to either get it together or spiral out of control.  I was right, except for the fact that they tried to address the QB situation in week 3.   This offseason, they tried to fix the passing game by signing Bernard Berrian to a big contract.  Berrian made a few plays but had a big drop in the end zone this week.  In a league where the QB position is so important, I think the Vikings should have tried to make a trade or something this offseason.  By pulling Tarvaris Jackson after two weeks, they show they really didn’t have all that much faith in his ability to perform and improve.
Statistical Notes – Vince Young had two interceptions in week 1.  Kerry Collins has one interception in three weeks.   LenDale White has scored a touchdown in every game this season.  The Vikings paid big money for Jared Allen to come in and rack up sacks.  He has 2 this season.  Adrian Peterson is on pace for 1700 yards rushing and 12 TD’s.   He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

Bills over Rams or “Bills are one of three unbeaten teams?”
The Bills are looking to be the biggest surprise of the season.  Some picked them to rebound and possibly take a shot at a wild card spot.  Now, they are all alone on top of the AFC East with Tom Brady out for the season.  The path is clear for them.
They really need to start playing a full game though.  Three weeks in a row they needed some fourth quarter heroics to get the job done.  It’s an encouraging sign that the team can overcome adversity and come from behind, but that kind of thing can catch up to you.
The Bills took the lead in the fourth quarter when Trent Green threw a pass to a spot on the field that had no rams within 10 yards.  The ball was picked off, and taken in for a touchdown.  Marc Bulger has struggled a lot, but there have been some serious QB protection issues driving that.   Trent Green had a fair amount of protection this Sunday and didn’t look so great. 
The Rams are now 0-4 and Scott Linehan is gone.    I wonder if that means Marc Bulger will get back into the lineup.   I look at this team and wonder how putting in a QB in the twilight of his career is supposed to make things better. 
Steven Jackson looked like the stud we all know him to be.  To think that the Rams fretted about paying this guy, a proven commodity that is only 25 years old, is strange.  Even after the big payday, even playing for a bad team, Steven Jackson is out there playing hard and playing with emotion.  I think this is the kind of guy you want to build a team around.
Statistical Notes – Steven Jackson has 480 total yards already this season.  The rest of the Rams team has 507.  Tory Holt, who became the 16th player in NFL history to amass 12,000 receiving yards, has eight straight games without a 100 yard performance.  Lee Evans has 332 yards on only 14 catches!  He is on pace for 1320 receiving yards on 56 catches, with a crazy 23.7 Yards per reception average.  Trent Edwards is completing 65% of his passes and is on pace for a 3700 yard passing season.

Chargers over Raiders or “Oh, Now I remember that Tomlinson guy.”
Going into week three, with LaDainian Tomlinson having amassed only 13 fantasy points and facing the possibility of missing week 3 with an injury, fantasy football players who had the first pick were probably cursing their decision not to play Tomlinson.  Last week, he had 2 TD’s but his yards per carry remained quite low.  This week, he seemed to be back to the Tomlinson that has been running over opponents for years.   In a game where Philip Rivers and the passing game struggled, Tomlinson once again showed off his importance to the franchise. 
The Raiders actually led this game going into the fourth quarter and held the Chargers scoreless in the first half.  After how well their running backs have performed lately, I do have to question the decision not to keep Michael Bush and Darren Mccfadden pounding the ball.  Instead they chose to have JaMarcus Russell throw the ball quite a bit.  While he played well for almost three quarters, a big interception and sack/fumble led to two Chargers TD’s.  The biggest mistake was probably the interception.  It was a very poor read in range of a field goal that would have put the Raiders up 18-3.  Instead, the score was soon 15-12. 
Philip Rivers was hurried a lot of the day and the passing game didn’t look anything at all like the one that has shown up for the last three weeks.   I was pretty impressed with the Raiders secondary keeping his targets in check for almost the entire game.
This win kept the Chargers from their second straight 1-3 start.  As I have mentioned before, I believe the slow starts by the Chargers may be caused in part by the resting of their starters in the preseason.  Tomlinson hasn’t gotten up to speed until week 4 or 5 in the last three seasons.
Statistical Notes -   2nd year Tight End Zach Miller leads the Raiders in receiving yards and catches.  After rushing for 450 yards in the first two games, the Raiders have rushed for 170 yards in the last two.  Philip Rivers has throw a touchdown in 11 straight games.  He only had 2 interceptions in the last eight games before having 2 this week.   Despite being down in yardage and receptions, Antonio Gates has scored in 3 of 4 games this season.    Tomlinson hadn’t rushed for 100 yards in four games dating back to last season.

Redskins over Cowboys or “Who was that playing in week one, anyway?”
For three weeks now I have commented that the team I witnesses playing against the Giants on the opening Thursday of NFL games looks nothing like the team that has been playing.  Jason Campbell especially seems to have improved greatly.   After the last four games of last season with the Redskins winning out and being led by a Todd Collins I started to wonder if Campbell was the man for the job.  Week 1 didn’t help my opinion much.   Suddenly he is standing patiently in the pocket and going through his progressions to make good reads.  Most importantly, he is learning how to find his talented wide receivers down field instead of checking down to RB’s and TE’s. 
Of course, all of this has been opened up a lot by Clinton Portis.  People may still question trading a lockdown corner like Champ Bailey for a running back, but Portis is truly a talented back and is being utilized properly this year by Jim Zorn.   He is getting a consistent number of touches (23, 23, 23, and 23 the first four games including receptions) and looks great.  This makes defenses have to respect the run and opens things up for Santana Moss to make the big plays.
For the second week in a row, a defense did a pretty decent job of holding down Terrell Owens.  Yeah, he caught 7 balls for 71 yards and a TD but that is about what passes for TO nowadays.  I love the idea of having a corner play man on him with safety help should he beat the corner.  Carlos Rogers broke up at least three plays in the first half.  Of course, safety help is easier to provide when the safeties aren’t worried about run support.  After Marion Barber and Felix Jones were handed the ball 80 times in the first three games, the Cowboys abandoned that aspect of their offense, giving Barber only 8 carries.
The other thing that happens when you double team Owens on every play is other receivers start to get open.  Jason Witten provides matchup problems the way it is and Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton are finding plenty of open field.   I love the constant man in motion schemes that the Cowboys employ.  They cause the defenders to be chasing guys from one side of the line to the other before the snap and create confusion to get some players open.
The NFC East is just sick.  The Philadelphia Eagles are once again the “Worst” team at 2-2.  The Giants remain undefeated, and the Redskins and Cowboys are each 3-1.  There will be a lot of great matchups between these four teams before the end of the year.
Statistical Notes – Jason Witten has become the clear cut number one option, on pace for 108 catches and nearly 1500 yards.  He has had 6 or 7 catches in every game and 90+ receiving yards in 3 of 4.  Because he hadn’t scored a touchdown until this week, fantasy analysts were claiming he wasn’t doing that well this season!   Terrell Owens is on pace for his lowest reception total (Other than his short 7 game 2005 season) since 1999 but has scored in 11 of his last 14 games.  He’s a touchdown machine.    Jason Campbell, who was a career 57% completions guy with 22 TD’s to 17 INT’s is completing 65% of his passes and has 6 TDs to 0 INT’s in four games this season.    Santana Moss, who has never caught more than 84 balls in a season, is on pace for 108 catches and 1700 yards.  He also has scored in 5 of his last 6 games.  He’s playing like a try stud.  It took until week 12 for Clinton Portis to have 4 20+ carry games.   He has 4 already in week 4 and is on pace to rival his Redskins season best in rushing yards.

Carnage guesses on games:  I think you should take my advice only every other week.  I posted a pretty terrible 7-6 (Again, straight up, not against the spread) for the week bringing my season total to 39-21, or 65% correct.  I would like to think I can get that up to the 72% range.  I’ll try harder next time.  Seriously though, who really thought that the Bears would beat the Eagles or the Chiefs would beat the Broncos?
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

Bears over Eagles or “I have no idea what is going on”
If you told me that the Bears would turn the ball over four times, I would have believed it.  If you told me that the Bears would be -2 in turnovers and WIN the game I wouldn’t have.   In the third quarter, the Bears drives went Punt, Interceptions, Punt, Fumble, Punt, Fumble.  The Eagles started 3 Drives in Bears Territority and came away with….six points? 
To demonstrate further problems with the Eagles offense, they were 2/13 on third down and 1 of four in the red zone.   At one point, the Eagles had 1st and goal at the Bears 2 yard line.  You have four chances to get the ball 2 yards.  Pass, Pass, Aborted Pass, Pass and a Huge opportunity turns into the Bears ball.  Later, the Eagles had a seven minute drive go down to the Bears 4 yard line.  This time, Run, 2nd and goal from the one.  Run, Run, Run and the Bears are given the ball back.  Correll Buckhalter has done a good job considering his past injuries and trying to replace Brian Westbrook, but this offense just is not the same without westbrook.   Five failed 3rd down conversions were 5 or fewer yards to go.   With Westbrook In the game, I think they convert a few of these and get into the end zone twice.  Not to take anything away from the Bears defense, of course.   To make two goal line stands against the Eagles is tremendous. 
Although Kyle Orton threw the ball away twice, once in the end zone, and fumbled twice I think he is progressing as a quarterback.  Along with Donovan McNabb, the two QB’s found 17 different targets over the course of the game.  It is good news to see your QB’s looking around the field and finding the right guy to throw to.
Statistical Notes – Kyle Orton has five TD passes in the last two games.  The season he started 14 games for the Bears, he threw nine.  Matt Forte had his first career game with Fewer than 100 total yards.   His Yards per carry has dropped every week until hitting a dismal 2.3 on Sunday Night.  Donovan Mcnabb 2 games with Brian Westbrook in the lineup: 642 Yards, 4 TD’s 0 INT’s.  Mcnabb 2 games without Westbrook: 458 yards, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s.  The Eagles tacked on four more sacks this week, bringing the team total to 17 in four games.

Steelers over Ravens or “Did you ever throw a beer bottle at a Police Car?”
I do not have Cable TV at home and don’t meet with the crew if the Monday Night Game is not a Packers game.  I head down to a local bar and check it out.  I walk in case I decide to have a drink or two, and it was raining a little so I went to a closer, slightly more shady bar than the one I usually go to for sports viewing.  A 48 year old guy with long hair decided to befriend me and asked me questions like “Have you ever wanted to go home and get a gun and pump a few rounds into the juke box when people are playing country music” and “Did you ever throw a beer bottle at a Police Car?  I did it at a riot in the park when I was like, 16 dude.  It didn’t accomplish much.”  It was funny because I was watching the football game on one screen while he kept his eye on the “Brewers vs. Cubs” hoping the Brewers would pull out the victory.  The game of course, was the replay from Sunday.
I seriously can’t believe that only one player was carried off the field for this game on a stretcher.  These are two really really physical defenses.  8 sacks between the two games, seven rushes stopped for losses.  470 total yards, and 27 first downs.  After their first drive, the Steelers gained only 6 yards on their next six drives.  I thought there was no way this team could muster up 10 more points to win.  Ben Roethisberger looked as frustrated as I had ever seen him.
In come the Ravens in the third quarter, putting up five entire yards in 5 drives and fumbling the ball away to give the Steelers the lead.  The teams combined for 8 drives of 0 or fewer yards.
34 year old Derrick Mason impressed the heck out of me.  He was laying out for every ball, going over the middle knowing he’d get smacked, and driving the Steelers crazy.  He’s a good guy to have for Joe Flacco to develop.  I thought the play where Flacco scrambled in the backfield for 12 seconds was particularily interesting.  Mason never gave up on the play and earned the Ravens a first down.
Dangerous punt return men Yamon Figures and Santonio Holmes were also kept in check.  10 punt returns for a total of 5 yards.  That’s some good special teams coverage.
Statistical Notes – Derrick Mason is on pace for 86 catches this season.  That would give him 80+ catches in five of his last six years.  He could be duking it out with Hines Ward to become the 20th player with 800 catches.  The Ravens D, expected to decline this season, is averaging 186 yards per game and 13 points.  Terrell Suggs has a sack in each of the first three games.   After rushing for 300 yards the first two games, the Steelers have 102 in the last two.  Ben Roethisberger has game pass completions of 13, 13, 13, and 14 this season.  He has been sacked 15 times, on pace for 60 for the season.

Buccanneers over Packers or “NOOOOOOOOOOO!  NOT MORE INJURIES!”
The Packers are starting to look like a MASH unit.  Luckily, it looks like Aaron Rodgers is not too hurt (Although with the protection problems, how long he’ll last, I do not know).  We saw a glimpse of Matt Flynn and if Brian Brohm is worse than he is, I’m frightened. 
What really bothered me is Packers receivers not coming back to the ball if their routes failed.  On plays where Rodgers had time, you could see Packers pass catchers standing around.  When the pocket breaks down, you run back to the ball.
I give the Bucs pass defense a lot of credit though.  Their cover 2 scheme is looking to be effective once again.   Speed is good.
Seriously though Gruden, isn’t it time to give up on this Brian Griese experiment and put Jeff Garcia back in?  I was PRAYING for you to pass the ball.  Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn were killing us.  Brian Griese was giving us hope.   15/30 for 149 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT’s vs. a depleted secondary?  Hmmmmmmm.
Stastistical Notes – Greg Jennings seems to be a favorite of Aaron Rodgers.  He is on pace for 100 catches and 1900+ yards receiving.  Ryan Grant is averaging 3.4 YPC and Brandon Jackson 5.2.  Tampa has attempted 169 passes to only 106 rushes.  Earnest Graham is on pace for 1300 rushing yards on only 228 carries.

Next Week’s picks
1.    Titans over Ravens
2.    Panthers over Chiefs
3.    Bears over Lions
4.    Packers over Falcons
5.    Texans over Colts
6.    Dolphins over Chargers
7.    Giants over Seahawks
8.    Eagles over Redskins
9.    Bucs over Broncos
10.    Bills over Cardinals
11.    Dallas by 80 over Bengals
12.    49ers over Patriots
13.    Jags over Steelers
14.    Vikings over Saints

That’s all for the review this 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

far. 
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

count! 
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

here.
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

difference. 
        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

combined.
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

three.
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
Posted on: September 17, 2008 2:36 am
 

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 2 Review


         For those of you who read my blog or are interested in starting to read it, I am posting it on the blog section of a free little fantasy/NFL site at http://www.probonofantasy.5u.com/.  I will continue to post it on here, but it's horribly difficult to deal with cutting and pasting out of word compared to just publishing to a blog.  For that reason, it's simply much easier to read. 

         It’s really hard nowadays to tell which teams will actually be “Good” teams.  At least three teams, the Chargers, the Jaguars, and The Vikings, (I’d say the Seahawks too, to a lesser degree.  They were certainly division favorites) who were someone’s chic pick to go to the Super Bowl, are now sitting at disappointing 0-2 records.   Teams expected to lag behind in their respective divisions like the Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Cardinals, Giants, and Titans either hold the division lead outright or are tied for it.  After two weeks it’s too early to determine how the season would unfold.  After all, The 2007 AFC Championship game losers the Chargers as well as the 2007 Super Bowl Champion Giants started out oh for two last season.

Titans over Bengals or “Perhaps this team wasn’t winning because of Vince Young After all…..”
   I will address the Vince Young issue later.  For the time being, I am going to focus on the players that were on the field today.  Frankly, I think the Titans need to stick with Kerry Collins for the remainder of the season unless he looks absolutely terrible in the next three games.  Collins has struggled at times during his career but he’s been on teams that were asking him to go out there and win games for them.  I think in the role of “Game Manager”, which is what the Titans need right now, he works out fine.  He made a few during the first half touchdown drives in less than favorable conditions for passing the ball.
   I know everyone is drooling over Chris Johnson right now, and he is a fantastic player, but some of the holes the line blew open for him so wide that he didn’t get touched until well downfield.  On the other hand, I don’t think LenDale White would get through those holes.  Johnson’s explosiveness was something that the Titans needed.   The Thunder and lightning approach is favorable for fantasy owners, as the Titans appear committed to the run and both backs could very well see 15-20 touches a week.   Johnson has 34 so far (Not counting his five receptions) and White has 33.
  The Titans are benefitting from superior play by the line on both sides of the ball.  Running yards are hard to come by (Their momentary lapse to let Chris Perry go 13 yards and score) as the longest rushing play they’ve given up in the first two weeks.
    Miraculously, the Bengals were down by only 13 points heading into the fourth quarter.  Unfortunately a 70 yard punt by Craig Hentrich left the Bengals at the two yard line.  Watching this sequence I thought “Just gain some yards.  You are still in this.  Don’t get pinned.  Miraculously enough, Chris Perry gained five yards to get some breathing room.  Next play…pass interference by Chad Johnson to push them back to the four.  It’s ok.  2nd and eight.  Run forward and get some of that room back.  Nope.  Carson Palmer to Chris Perry for -3 yards.  3rd and 11.  Run Forward and get some space to punt.  Nope.  Incomplete to Kenny Watson.  You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what happens when the Bengals try to punt from their own 1 yard line.
    The Bengals, a team usually heavily invested in by fantasy owners, is a wreck.  At this point, Chad Ocho Cinco would probably be willing to accept a trade to the Dolphins.  They can’t run, they can’t pass, they can’t keep from turning the ball over, they can’t play defense, and most of all they probably cannot win many games.   I don’t know how this team became such a mess, but I do know I would be planning on firing Marvin Lewis hopefully by mid season to start the house cleaning.  It’s time to rebuild.
     
Statistical Notes – At this point last year, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzedah had combined for 33 receptions, 424 yards and 6 TD’s.  This season?  11 catches for 129 yards and 0 scores.  The Titans have ran the ball 73 times at an average of 4.3 YPC.  8 of the Bengals 42 rushing plays this year have been for losses.   The Bengals have 8 more yards in two games than Kurt Warner passed for this week.  Kerry Collins threw more TD’s (1) than INT’s (0) this week.  Vince Young only did that twice in his last 13 regular season games.  Third Year CB Cortland Finnegan (Whose name sounds more like that of an accountant or something) leads the league with 3 INT’s.    He had one in the previous two seasons.

  Panthers over Bears or “Are you sick of the color yellow yet?”
     This was a sloppy game on the part of both teams.  22 total penalties were enforced.  A great amount of the flags were thrown on the annoying little things that can kill a team.  False start, off sides, illegal procedure, etc.    The Panthers and Bears offenses constantly were constantly in need of an extra five yards to move the chains. 
      The Bears defense played well again, bringing the pressure to get three sacks and a blocked punt for a touchdown.   A Panthers player, whose name I just did not catch, fell down without being touched to allow Darrell McClover an unimpeded path to the punter.   You simply cannot fall down on dry grass when protecting the edge in a punt situation.
       The Bears draft scouting team needs to do a little better with their #1 picks.  2008 #1 pick Chris Williams isn’t contributing as he had back surgery preseason.  They had no first round pick in 2006.  2005 #1 pick David Terrell is probably selling hot dogs on the streets of Chicago. Finally, 2007 #1 pick Greg Olson had 2 catches for 7 yards and fumbled them both this Sunday.  On the Bears first possession, they marched from their own 11 yard line to the Panthers 29, close enough to smell three points (The margin they lost by).  On both of his fumbles, the defender made a token punch at the ball while tackling him and Olson easily coughed up the ball.  The Bears offense is not really high octane and can’t afford to lose opportunities like this.
      Neither offense looked very good.  The Panthers had 0 yards of offense in the first quarter (Drives of -3, 3, and 1 yard).   The Panthers 2nd quarter encore of 20, -7, and 4 put them at 17 yards for the half….but they came away with three points anyway!   They had five negative yardage drives in total.  The Bears had -8 yards of offense in the second quarter on drives of -5, -2, and -1.  Their fourth quarter consisted of drives of 15, 3, -4, and 9.  Yup.  That is 12 yards in 30 minutes of football.
    The high point of the game offensively was Jonathon Stewart.  He scratched and clawed to manage 77 yards and two TD’s on 14 carries.    Seriously.  He put a lot of effort into gaining that yardage.   The Panthers get Steve Smith back next week.  He’s probably itching to get in there after his team won two tough games without him.  If he can open up the running game, Stewart may be huge this season.
Statistical Notes – Matt Forte’s opening game topped Cedric Benson’s best game from 2007.  Forte’s second game topped all but one of Benson’s performances from 2007.   He also doesn’t run straight out of bounds.  He also is averaging over 4 YPC.  The Bears once again have a back to be proud of.  Jonathon Stewart is averaging 5.4 YPC.  Perhaps he should get the ball more?   The Bears defense is directly responsible for 16 of their 46 points.
Bills over Jaguars or “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..”
       The Jaguars are in some trouble.  With an 0-2 start and some important players injured, they have games at Indy, Houston, Steelers, and at Denver before the bye.  Looking at that schedule and knowing that splitting the four games puts them at 2-4 makes things look really ugly.  The Bills come out of the first two games, two games that probably looked a bit scary when looking in the preseason, at 2-0.  They have the Cheifs, 49ers, and two games against the Dolphins left on their schedule.  The Jets and Patriots looked….ok this week.  I’m starting to like this team.
          Trent Edwards seems to have grown up overnight.  He’s completing a high percentage of his passes and isn’t making mistakes.  It helps that with the exception of a handful of plays where the pocket collapsed quickly (one led to a turnover), the offensive line played very well.  Quite often, Edwards had plenty of time to sit back and wait for routes to develop.   His jump ball to James Hardy was thrown absolutely perfectly.  It seemed like Rashaen Mathis either blew his coverage bad or he was just daring Edwards to try making that throw.     Fred Jackson came out of nowhere to look like a good threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.
        With the Jaguars bread and butter, their running game looking so terrible (Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew barely over 3.0 YPC for the second straight week), I did admire the Jaguars taking a chance on that third quarter onside kick.  The Bills players didn’t even have that possibility in the back of their mind.  Trick plays to turn the momentum or make something happen are good on occasion, but the Jaguars lateral circus is probably best left for screwing off time on the practice field.  Obviously the end of game attempt was fine, but after Quentin Groves made a brilliant play stripping Edwards of the ball Reggie Hayward…a fine defensive end but not really a big time “hands” player tries a lateral to another defender, almost losing the ball in the process.  You already made something happen with the fumble!   Your team is up by one!  Let your offense back on with excellent field position. 
       The Jaguars really need to get Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson healthy and on the field.  I don’t actually know their prognosis but the Jaguars are terrible on third down.  After throwing 3 interceptions all of last season, David Garrard has turned the ball over three times and needs someone to throw to to move the chains. 
Statistical Notes – Trent Edwards has completed 71% of his passes in two games so far.  He completed 56% last season.  Marshawn Lynch has either 100 yards or a TD in 6 of 7 games dating back to last year.  The Jaguars are 7/26 in third down conversions and 2/7 in the red zone this season.  Ouch.  Lee Evans has 179 yards this season on only 8 catches.  20 yards per reception?  Not bad. 
 Run The Ball! – Every week I check on the percentage of running plays by the winners of the games compared to that of the losers.  Every week I get similar results.  Out of 14 games (Monday Night game not included) the team that ran the ball a higher percentage of the time won 12/14 games.   Only the 49ers and the Colts managed to overcome poor balance (Though the 49ers game falls under another steadfast rule of mine – more on that later) and win the game.  On average, game winners rushed the ball 49% of the time, and losers 40.5% of the time.            
Colts over Vikings or “Peterson didn’t get 6 yards on first down?  Might as well punt or try a field goal.”
   Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense gave them every chance to win this game.  An anemic 2/13 on third downs on 0/2 in the red zone kept the score low enough to let Peyton Manning come up in the end.   It has got to be frustrating to be a Vikings fan to know that if Adrian Peterson fails to gain 10 yards every two carries, the drive is going to stall.  Out of the 11 stalled drives, 10 of them ended with passing plays.    18 of the 27 passing plays by the Vikings were attempted during these drive stalling series….and I didn’t include the two passes that Tarvaris Jackson completed at the end of the half to get the team into field goal range to get those numbers.
   Peyton Manning still managed to pass for over 300 yards, but like last week he did not have an easy time of it.   The Vikings defense only recorded two sacks but they closed the pocket quickly and Manning had to get rid of the ball fast.  The second half was pretty amazing.  Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzales can get down the field in a hurry.  Manning would have time to drop back and make a token play fake before having to unload the ball.  Wayne and Gonzales would already be 15-20 yards downfield. 
     Seeing the Colts line unable to muster any holes for the running game and barely able to keep Manning safe is new.  They definitely feel the loss of Jeff Saturday and could continue to struggle as the starting left tackle also went down with an injury on Sunday. 
Statistical Notes – Peyton Manning has two interceptions by week 2 for the first time since the 2003 season.  Joseph Addai has only 64 yards on 27 carries…a 3.3 YPC clip.   Adrian Peterson already has 53 touches, which puts him on pace for 424 on the season.  It’s hard to not give him the ball but that kind of workload can reduce his long term effectiveness.    Multi-Million dollar free agent Bernard Berrian has only 3 catches and 38 yards. 

49ers over Seahawks or “Is it bad when Billy McMullen and Michael Bumpkis are catching passes for you?”
    Yikes.  Just two years ago, the Seahawks were wondering how they could keep Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson, Deion BranchBobby Engram, and D.J. Hackett all happy with the amount of playing time and balls targeted at them.  Backup QB Seneca Wallace was reportedly taking snaps as a WR but was injured before he could get in!  Now they are practically pulling guys off the street and throwing them in there at wideout. (No disrespect to Mcmullen or Bumpkis.  They did their best given the circumstances.  I just have no idea where The Hawks found them.)   Coming off a monster of a season, Matt Hasselbeck has to be bumming out.    The only good news for the Seahawks offense is that Julius Jones seems to have found himself, averaging five yards per carry.  Time to lean on the running game as much as possible.
    I only caught a few early shots of this game and then a lot of the end of it.  I’m absolutely amazed as how poised J.T. O’Sullivan looked, considering the beating he took.   Eight sacks and a lot of need for scrambling around.  Mike Martz!  This guy is looking good.  Find SOME way to protect him!  Trust me when I say you don’t want Alex Smith out there in the same types of situations.
      The Seahawks rushed more than the 49ers, which breaks one of my laws of victory.  However, the 49ers have a more absolute law, the law of Frank Gore getting 19+ Carries.  In the last 2 1/8 seasons, the 49ers are 0-20 when Gore gets 18 or fewer carries, and now 13-1 when he gets 19 or more. 
      Watching Isaac Bruce out there is unreal.   At 36 years old, he doesn’t have the speed he used to have but he knows how to sell and run a route.   Early on, Isaac Bruce ran a simple stop and go route that left Pro Bowl Cornerback Marcus Trufant standing around.  Trufant closed a five yard gap in about 20 yards to tackle Bruce, but if you are that much faster than him, how can’t you cover him?  Later in the game Isaac Bruce came across the middle for a big gain.  Who was in the picture giving him a five yard cushion?  Marcus Trufant. 
       This was another sloppy game, with 19 penalties called between the two teams.  The Seahawks turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked (They RECOVERED the blocked punt for a first down.)  On one Hasselbeck interception,  Linebacker Patrick Willis took the ball 86 yards to pay dirt while most of the Seahawks players (Hasselbeck the exception) just jogged in his direction or simply stood there.  Seriously, is there nobody on that team that can run down a linebacker running the length of the field?  We’ll never know because they did not even try.
Statistical Notes – Julius Jones posted the Seahawks largest rushing total since December of 2006 and their first 100 yard game since week 3 of last season.  Matt Hasselbeck, with so many receivers gone, is completing only 45% of his passes and is on pace for an 8 TD/24 INT season.  J.T. O’Sullivan passed for over 300 yards.  The last time a 49ers QB did that was Tim Rattay in 2004!  Alex Smith’s highest total in 20 starts is 293 yards.  Isaac Bruce’s 153 yards put him within 672 yards of being the the all time number 2 in receiving yards.  That’s 48 yards per game the rest of the year.   It may be momentary with Marvin Harrison hanging 200 yards behind him and TO about 1500 behind him, but it’s a testament to how great Bruce’s career really has been.
Raiders over Cheifs or “Start the 0-16 watch up again!”
    I have not check the prognosis for Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard simply because I don’t think it matters much, but the Chiefs are currently down to using a practice squad QB Tyler Thigpen and backup Wide Receiver Marques Hagans.  Hagans is 1/1 for 5 yards with 0 TD’s, 0 INT’s.  Maybe they should stick with him!  The Chiefs were pretty bad offensively.  190 total yards, 5 sacks, 3.1 yards per offensive play, 48% completion rate, 2 INT’s…you get the picture.  Larry Johnson was ineffective again.  I’m not quite sure why they payed money to keep Larry Johnson.  He’s 29 years old, they knew they were entering a rebuilding phase, and the retirement of Will Shields and the other great offensive linemen from the Chiefs past have rendered the running game hapless.   Tony Gonzales made sense to keep.   He provides true veteran leadership.  Larry Johnson has always been more about LJ than about the team.
     Run-DMaC and Michael Bush put up huge rushing totals and everyone is bound to be singing their praises.  Not to downplay their performances, as they did need their speed, but the Raiders Offensive Line AND Wide Receivers were blasting holes in the KC Defense so large that Bush and Mccfadden were getting deep into the secondary before having to break/evade tackles.   Another thing to be nervous about with that pair is that they combined for 3 fumbles lost in 37 touches.   I’m thinking the Raiders coach, whomever that will be this week, will be working on some ball handling with them.   The rest of the team needs to focus on limiting penalties.  19 in two games is not good.  The AFC is pretty wide open as far as playoff spots.   While I don’t REALLY consider this team a contender yet, they do have some talent and could make a surprise run.
     Of course, with the high powered running game and good defense in favor, the passing game is a mark against.   They are in a situation similar to the Vikings.  JaMarcus Russell is an athletic QB with high upside, but you certainly cannot count on him to win games for you yet.  From what I’ve seen of him thus far, I may actually like Tarvaris Jackson a little bit more.
Statistical Notes – Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzales combined for 129 receiving yards.  The Chiefs had 135 Net yards passing.  Larry Johnson has 36 carries for 96 yards, 2.7 YPC.   At this pace, he could carry nearly 300 times and not break the 800 yard mark.  Zach Miller is the Raiders top receiver with 6 catches for 58 yards in two games.   The Raiders have 450 rushing yards in two games.  The now injured Justin Fargus had the worst per carry average of the top three runners….at 5.2. 
Patriots over Jets or “Matt Cassell has not lost a single game as a starter since he was in high school!”
      Ok, so this is the first game he started since high school and he didn’t exactly look like a world beater and some of the passes he threw I had no idea who they were supposed to be to, but he didn’t give the ball away.    In a low score, low yardage contest this was of utmost importance.  
      This game wasn’t thrilling, with neither team playing exceptionally well, but the Patriots special teams made all the difference.  They didn’t have huge plays but made sure that the team was always winning the field position battle.  Out of nine possessions the Jets started seven on their 20, one on their 23, and one on their own 25.  The Patriots nine possessions included five in Jets territory.  Brett Favre was responsible for one of the Pats great starts, but four punts with a net average of 27 yards probably was more costly. 
      Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris were largely ineffective running the ball for the Pats.  Maroney gets hurt and in comes…..one of my fantasy sleepers that I was laughed at for selecting in the 17th round of a 14 team draft, LaMont Jordan!  He smashed his way through on several plays and almost doubled the other backs yardage total on 11 carries (vs. 21).  The often injured back with a strange career could really benefit the Patriots this year if he stays healthy.
      Brett Favre was kept mostly in check with solid coverage on his new favorite target, Jericho Cotchery.  Favre threw quite a few passes in Cotchery’s direction that I thought were pretty risky.  Of course, the Patriots pressured Favre quite a bit and a big 20 yard sack in the fourth quarter put the game away.   Even at 38, Favre is still pretty crafty at getting away from defenders though. 
Statistical Notes – Sammy Morris has 6 receptions last year.  He is third on the team with 7 this season.  Matt Cassel is completing 70% of his passes and has a 101.4 QB rating.  After having only 2 carries last week, Lamont Jordan still leads the team in rushing yards.   Leon Washington and Chancy Stuckey lead the Jets in receptions with 6 each.   Thomas Jones is averaging a full yard and a half more per carry than he was at this point last season.
Cardinals over Dolphins  or “Kurt Warner is partyin’ like it’s 1999.”
   Kurt Warner was impressive, throwing for 61 yards.  The Wide Receivers tacked on another 300 yards running the ball.   Ok, so that is a bit of an exaggeration.  Warner did benefit from Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin outrunning and outjumping opposing defensive backs, but give Warner credit for being spot on with his passes and standing tall and following through despite being hit a few times.  I find two things hard to believe.
1.  The Rams, Giants, and to some extent, the Cardinals did not want this guy to be their starting quarterback anymore.  Sure he’s 37 and has had his share of concussions and other injuries, but he can still play lights out football.  Kudos to the Cardinals coaching staff for realizing that Matt Lienert right now can’t play at Warner’s level and maybe will never be able to play at Warner’s level. 
2. Fantasy owners missed the boat on this one.  Both of my fantasy drafts were held after Kurt Warner was handed the starting job.  A Former MVP with two #1 wideouts gets the nod as starter in a pretty weak division and he’s falling past the 10th round?   A QB that had five 3 TD games and four 2 TD games down the stretch last season?  “Expert” cheat sheets don’t have him in their top ten?  Not even in their top 10?  Maybe I’m gloating a bit because my strategy was to wait on the QB position as long as I could and grab either Donovan McNabb (Another guy that stayed on the board too long) or Kurt Warner.  I ended up with Warner twice and Mcnabb once.  Now if they can stay healthy, I’m in business.

    I have to respect Anquan Boldin at this point.  There was the offseason dispute about his contract that he alleges the Cardinals promised him before last season would get reworked.  He said he was angry and had nothing more to say to Cardinals management and he would go out and play football anyway.  All he’s done so far is go out and outperform the much higher payed Larry Fitzgerald by 5 catches, 40 yards, and 2 TD’s.   That is no knock on Fitzgerald, either.  Many primma donna wideouts would have sat out, causing a scene and disrupting the locker room.  Boldin has done just the opposite.  Cardinals, it may be time to pay him.  He’s reasonable young as far as wide receivers go and he’s just plain good.

      What is there to say about the Dolphins?  Not much.  They can’t run, they can’t throw, and they can’t cover deep threats.   A big question in the preseason was “Who carries the load?  Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams?”  Who cares?  At 2.x yards per carry, I’m not thrilled with either one.  Back to the top five for the Dolphins whom many claimed would be “Much improved” this season.

Statistical Notes – Boldin and Fitzgerald have played something like 50 games with each other.  They have both broke the 100 yard mark 6 times.  Kurt Warner has 85 career starts and 43 300 yard passing games.  The Dolphins are 1-20 in their last 21 games.  Chad Pennington is a career 65.5% completion guy.  In his game and a half as a Dolphin he has completed 57% of his passes.

Packers over Lions  or “Hey Ted Thompson.  Why didn’t you just tell the Packers fans Aaron Rodgers is ridiculously awesome?”

      I’ll admit it, I thought it was a poor, illogical move to not take back your Hall of Fame quarterback when he came out of retirement after one of the best seasons of his career statistically.  You play to win, and I figured Brett Favre gave this team the best chance to win.  I’m trying to be realistic here and know it’s only two games…one against a horrible defense…but it’s not very often you see a young quarterback come in and play so well in his first two starts.   His arm is deceptively strong, he’s elusive, can throw on the run, and seems to have a good grasp on reading the defense and knowing when to audible (Although the Packers line doesn’t seem in sync with him as far as his cadence and calling plays at the line of scrimmage).  He also knows how to go through his progressions and finds different targets (Seven Packers caught passes this game). 
    
          After watching the NFC Championship game and Plaxico Burress absolutely dominate Al Harris, I thought we could see a big dropoff in Al Harris’ performance this season.  Not so.  Roy Williams seemed utterly frustrated in the first half by the cornerbacks physical play. 
 
         Even WITH good Cornerback play it seems that it is getting difficult to contain Calvin Johnson for an entire game.  He’s a big, fast guy that will go over the middle for you.   The first touchdown was a bit of a fluke but he showed pretty good concentration hanging onto that ball tipped by Charles Woodson.   A big problem with the Lions offense for the second week in a row is their apparent forgetting that the running game exists.  It is hard to want to run the ball when you get down early, but calling 50 pass plays to 12 rushes isn’t a good balance.  It always teams to tee off on the pass and has Jon Kitna eating dirt a lot.
 
          Many people last year cried bad sportsmanship on the part of the Patriots last season as they ran up the score.  Here we see a team go up by 21 and relax a little bit offensively for awhile.  The Patriots were a little over the top but too often teams will take their foot off the accelerator and try to coast to victory.  The Packers suddenly found themselves down by a point in the fourth quarter.  Keep pouring it on until victory is certain.  With two stud wideouts on the Lions, 18 points at halftime isn’t enough.

Statistical Notes – Greg Jennings, who has never had 1000 yards in a season, is leading the league with 258 receiving yards.   Aaron Rodgers is on pace for 4000 yards passing, 32 TD’s, and 0 INT’s.  Jon Kitna has been sacked 8 times already this season.  Calvin Johnson is on Pace for 100+ catches, 1700+ Receiving yards, and 16 TD’s.  The Lions have tried to pass 84 times and tried to run only 33 times. 

Broncos over Chargers or “Thank you Ed Hochuli!”

            The notorious Ed Hochuli “Empty Hand” call was very very bad and obviously allowed the Broncos to win a game they rightfully should have lost.  I’m usually pretty hard on referees because most of the time they seem to have no clue what they are doing.  Hochuli had the play reviewed, understood the ramifications, and confidently strode up to announce that he had botched the call on the field (And you could tell he knew how poor of a call it was.)  Everyone makes mistakes, but the way he completely owned up to it and knew the rules in such a situation is a credit to him.   That is no comfort to the Chargers and their fans but I have a lot more respect for him for the way he handled the situation.
  
            I don’t really know what to say other than if you missed this game, you missed some amazing performances.  I think one thing to understand is the Chargers were supposed to have one of the best defenses this season and the Broncos have one of the top Cornerback tandems with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly.  With that in mind, Cutler and Rivers combined for a 57/83 (69%), 727 yards, 7 TD’s, 2 INT’s stat line.   The end was insane.  I give a lot of credit to Mike Shanahan for his crazy call to go for two at the end of the game.  He essentially gave the ball to his players and said “I know you can win the game right here.  Go do it.”  Going into sudden death would have meant a coin flip very well may have determined their fate.  He urged his guys to take control instead.  What a confidence boost for a fairly young offensive unit.
 
            In 2006, a friend and I both were very high on the Denver Broncos and thought Jay Cutler would be a very good quarterback.   I thought that Brandon Marshall would have a big rookie season.  (Ok, so I knew someone going to school at Central Florida that gave me the scoop).  My friend on the other hand, had a strange fixation with Tony Scheffler.   It turns out we both might have been right.  Scheffler has 138 yards and 2 TD’s this season, and Brandon Marshall looked absolutely unstoppable.  If the Broncos can help this kid keep his head screwed on straight, he could have an unbelievable career. 
 
            Some may think I’m crazy for saying this, but I think the Chargers are becoming Philip Rivers’ team instead of LaDainian Tomlinson’s team.  Tomlinson has struggled and Rivers has been insane.  I was also impressed with Darren Sproles, playing special teams and stepping into the “Michael Turner” role.    Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates are looking like a solid group of targets.

Statistical notes – Speaking of Targets, Vincent Jackson leads the Chargers in receptions with 13.  Jay Cutler is on pace for 5200 passing yards.   Even having played in only one game, Brandon Marshall leads the league in receptions with 18.  Ladainian Tomlinson has not scored a touchdown in two straight games.  In the last two years, he’s only gone on such a “Draught” twice, both times in 2006 (Weeks 4 & 5, 16 & 17).  Chris Chambers is averaging a bloated 25 yards per reception and has 3 TD’s.  He only had 8 in the last two seasons.

 Prognostications or “Carnage Guessing Game Winners”

I opened strong with a 12-4 start last week.  This week, I slipped a little to go 9-6.  That puts me at 21-10 on the year.  I only go straight up.  I rarely bet on games so spread numbers do not interest me all that much, as they are random numbers set by a “stock market” type function.  I only care about W’s and L’.

Bears over Panthers
Jaguars over Bills
Chiefs over Raiders
Vikings over Colts
Saints over Redskins
Giants over Rams
Packers over Lions
Titans over Bengals
49ers over Seahawks
Bucs over Falcons
Cardinals over Dolphins
Jets over Patriots
Broncos over Chargers
Steelers over Browns
Cowboys over Eagles

Redskins over Saints or “Note to Saints: You need to control the clock.”

     The Redskins offense looked inept for the season opener against the Giants.  I thought they were in for a long season.  It really makes me wonder….is the Giants defense just that good still? 
 
      Holding the ball for less than 26 minutes is not good.  Reggie Bush has been awesome in the open field but they desperately need someone to grind out some yards and some clock.  I thought Pierre Thomas had potential but his 6 carries for 8 yards performance doesn’t inspire much confidence.  Speaking of Bush, did he get to the sideline quick on that punt return or what?  It’s hard to go untouched on a play where all 11 guys are specifically coming to tackle you.  Bush did it and made it look effortless.

       The big difference on this team was going to be Jeremy Shockey.  With Marques Colston out for a decent period of time, the Saints need some playmakers to step up.  Shockey caught two balls and fumbled one.  That isn’t going to cut it.

        My favorite play of this game was the draw play for Clinton Portis’ second touchdown.  Jason Campbell pump faked and nobody on the Saints had the faintest idea what was coming next.  Portis took the ball and cut into the end zone untouched. 

      I am still not sure about Jason Campbell, but it looks like he is learning how to find his stud wideout.  Santana Moss had only one 100 yard game with Campbell at the helm last year.  He was huge this week.  Chris Cooley got involved in the offense, which was a big factor last week in the Redskins lack of success.
Statistical Notes – Reggie Bush leads the Saints with 15 receptions.  The next closest player is Shockey with 8.   Drew Brees has four touchdown passes this year.  He didn’t reach that number until the the sixth game of 2007 when the Saints had their nightmare 0-4 start.  The Redskins look dedicated to getting Clinton Portis carries.  He has back to back 20+ carry games.  He did not get that until weeks 9 & 10 last year.  Santana Moss has touchdowns in back to back games for only the second time since 2004 when he was a Jet.

Steelers over Browns or “Monsoon Season is here?  Let’s throw the ball 35 times!”

         The Browns came into this game thinking they were going to be able to throw the ball on the Steelers.  Despite the driving rain and swirling wind, they came out trying to take the ball downfield.   This earned them a total of 166 yards on 32 pass attempts.  Of course, the alternative was to try to run the ball on the Steelers defense, which isn’t really a game plan you want to work with either.
 
            Braylon Edwards is looking more like a rookie out there than a player in a season after his breakout year.    He seems a bit lost and of course, has had some problems hanging onto the ball.   He’s getting booed in Cleveland and is probably losing his quarterback’s faith in him.  Derek Anderson had a great season last year but don’t think he’s not on a short leash.  They (Thankfully) have the Ravens and Bengals next after a rough Cowboys/Steelers opening two games.  If they did manage to drop the next two, we could easily be seeing Brady Quinn coming in and the Browns moving forward.

The Steelers were brutally efficient again.  Run the ball.  Run the ball.  This sets up play action passes where Ben Roethisberger has tons and tons of time to find a target. 

     I actually wonder why the Browns didn’t go for it on 4th and 7 or try an onside kick.   With 3:24 left in the game, the Steelers being very able to run, and you not having moved the ball very well all day you want to….kick it back to them down by 4?   Best case scenario you get the ball back…probably on your 30-35 yard line meaning you have 65 yards to go in 2:30 with no timeouts.  

Statistical Notes -  Derek Anderson had one TD in week 1 and 0 in week 2.  He had at least 2 TD’s in any given 2 game stretch last year.  Ben Roethisberger has 10 touchdowns and 0 INT’s in his last five regular season games.   Hines Ward scored in back to back games for the first time since October of 2006.  Excluding the Rams game where he had 1 carry, Willie Parker has 5 straight 100+ total yard games.  I expected his workload to go down significantly with Rashard Mendenhall on the roster.  He’s had 53 touches in 2 games.

Cowboys over Eagles or “I can’t believe I missed this game.  I really can’t.”

    So I end up working too late Monday and I come home starving with a horrible headache.  I don’t have cable at home (I don’t watch very much TV outside of football and basketball.   I gather with several other people on Sunday’s at a NFL Season Ticket friendly home.  Monday there usually isn’t a gathering.  My wife, if allowed access to cable, ends up staring at that thing for hours and hours a day.   She gets sucked in to watching garbage and doesn’t stop.  We decided $60/month was too much to pay to turn her into a mindless zombie) so I would have had to rush out to one of the bars near my house.  My headache persisted through halftime so I just stayed in.  Looks like I missed a fantastic game; a matchup featuring my two favorite non-Packer running backs (Westbrook and Marion Barber III)

    It looks like the Eagles are legitimate contenders.  Although they lost, they went into the Cowboys’ house and pushed them to the end.  That’s not easy to do. 

    Note to self: Don’t be such a baby next time a high profile matchup is on ESPN
            
Statistical Notes – Terrell Owens has at least one touchdown in his last 10 regular season games, and 15 TD’s in that span.  Marion Barber has played in 47 regular season games and has scored at least 2 TD’s in 12 of them.  He scores multiple TD’s 25% of the time!  Brian Westbrook’s season high TD total is 12.  He already has five in two games.

Next Week’s Games Predictions.

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

That’s it for this week!  Good luck to your real team and fantasy teams this week!
Posted on: September 10, 2008 11:48 pm
 

Week 1 Fantasy Panic - Reasons to stay calm


    If Tom Brady was your first round pick, and you picked in the upper half of the draft, you may panic.  I have some comforting thoughts for the rest of us.

Going into week one you probably loved your team.  You had dreams of Clinton Portis/Ryan Grant going perfectly with Peyton Manning as your top three.  Somehow, the fools in your league let Braylon Edwards and T.J. Housmanzedah fall your way, too.  When Tony Gonzales fell into your lap, you thought it was championship time.

   Week 1 came and you got thrashed by the guy starting Philip Rivers (His first pick), Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Hines Ward, Anthony Fasano, and Deverey Henderson.  You know?  That guy you made fun of all draft long?
     Don’t scramble, selling the house to get Michael Turner or another hot starter.  The first week of the NFL/Fantasy Season is just that….the first week.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  While seeing your loaded team put up the lowest score in the league to open the season, it’s easy to lose sight of this.   Here are some examples of 2007 Week 1 performances that were not indicative of the rest of the season.

Quarterbacks:

The Good

1.     Josh Mccown.  30/40 for 313 yards.  2 TDs/2 INT’s:
While Mccown did throw 3 TD’s later in the year, he never eclipsed 200 yards and finished with 1151 yards, 10 TDs/11 INT’s
2.     Jon Kitna.  27/36 for 289 yards, 3 TDs/2 INT’s:
Boy did you miss the ball on this!  The Mike Martz styled Lions offense was going to give Kitna big numbers.  He started the season with 8 TD’s in four games with only 4 INT’s.  Of course he ended up with oodles of yards (4000+) but threw only 10 more TD’s in the next 12 games during which he tossed 16 INT’s. 

The Bad

1.     Drew Brees.  28/41 for 192 Yards.  0 TD’s/2 INT’s:
A top four QB selection in most drafts, Brees’ Thursday night opener hurt.  In fact, watching him throw 1 TD compared to 9 INT’s with a high yardage total of 260 had owners jumping ship.  The patient held on as he tossed 27 TD’s to 9 INT’s and ended with over 4400 yards.

Running Backs:

   The Good

1.     Travis Henry.  23/139 plus 3 catches for 44 yards.
Travis Henry owners thought they were getting  a surefire 1500+ yard rusher when he started with 443 yards, another 52 yards receiving, and a TD in his first four games.  263 yards, 2 receptions, and 3 more touchdowns was all he managed the balance of the season.
2.     Lamont Jordan.  15/70.  9 Catches for 89 yards.  1 TD.
LaMont Jordan was finally going to live up to the hype.  His 471 total yards and 2 TD’s in three games was looking just awesome.  14 Week later he had increased his season totals by 325 Total yards and 1 TD
3.     Chris Brown.  19/175
Chris Brown had the starting job for the Titans.  He was going to get the ball.  A lot.  He was going to gobble up yardage all season.  You were SET.  That is, until he mustered 287 Yards (But did have five TD’s) the rest of the way.

The Bad

1.     Ladainian Tomlinson.  17/25 with 1 TD.  7 Catches for 51 yards. Passing TD.
Ok, so that is still a decent number of points, but watching the number one overall pick struggle to gain 1.5 yards per carry scared some.  The Next two games he carried forty times for 105 yards and hauled in 7 passes for 48 yards.  2.3 YPC.  What next?  He cranked it up and finished with 1950 total yards, a 4.7 YPC average, and 18 TD’s. 
2.     Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor.  Combined  13 carries for 48 yards and 3 catches for 28 yards.
With another slow start this season, owners of this hard rushing duo are bumming out with their poor performance against the same team that contained them week 1 last season.  They went on to average 1200 Total Yards, 5.1 YPC, and 7 TD’s.

Wide Recievers

The Good:

1.    Antwaan Randle El.  5 Catches for 162 Yards.
Finally!  The Athletic guy’s breakout season!  All that speed, all that ability, what a great sleeper to be my number one guy.  Ok, he made it over 100 yards only once after this and his next best outings were 66, 60, 54, and 53 yards.  Oh yeah, he scored one TD all season.
2.     Ronald Curry.  10 Catches for 133 Yards and a TD.
Awesome!  I got Curry on the waiver wire!  I KNEW I should have drafted him.  Now I can look forward to another big game (4 catches for 120 Yards) and…6 catches for 73…and…3 for 62 and a touchdown and….yup.  Those were his only 50+ yard games.

The Bad:
1.     Braylon Edwards.  3 Catches for 49 Yards.
You couldn’t believe you got roped into his hype.  He’ll probably be better but no way was he going to put up something like, 80 catches for 1300 yards and score in all but 3 of the next 15 games for a total of 16 TD’s.  I wonder if I can get someone to trade him to me for that Randle El guy….
2.     Larry Fitzgerald.  3 Catches for 20 Yards.
Oh  Yipee.  My number 3 pick got me two fantasy points.   Of course, after week 1 he only had one game that he had either less than 80 yards or didn’t score.  He finished with 100 catches for 1409 yards and 10 TD’s. 
Posted on: September 10, 2008 11:46 pm
 

Carnage's Long and Boring Week 1 Review


    Week 1 of the NFL has been crazy to say the least.  In general, I think we all need to start taking everything we think we know about the NFL at the end of a year and throw it completely away (Aside from the fact that the Lions won’t make the playoffs.  That seems constant).  Teams liked in the preseason: the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, and the Seattle Seahawks got knocked off.  Michael Turner ran wild.  Donovan McNabb is wearing a throwback self.  The entire power base of the AFC shifted in one fateful play where Tom Brady injured his leg. 


Tom Brady's Injury -  As I write this, the reports say that Tom Brady is done for the season.  I know some people out there will be cheering about this, saying that “Bellicheat” deserved it.   Have some class.  Anyone getting hurt that badly is bad and any player as good as Tom Brady going down is bad for us all.  The Patriots have been a big part of some absolutely epic AFC Playoff races in the last eight or so years.   Tell me Giants fans?  Was there anything more satisfying than beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year?   Colts fans, what game did you enjoy more?  The actual Super Bowl victory against the Rex Grossman led Bears or the masterful comeback against the Tom Brady led Patriots?  Love or hate the Patriots, Brady will be missed in January.

     Run The Ball! – For those of you who have read my material before, you know that I believe that teams should get as close to a 50/50 run/pass split as possible.  Last year, 92% of the time the team that won was the team that ran the ball a higher percentage than threw the ball.   Teams get behind by 7-10 points in the first half and forget their running games.  By becoming one dimensional, they stray from their game plan and end up performing worse.  Let’s see if the trend continued.
     As of the end of the Sunday Night game, 13 of the 14 game winners had a higher percentage of rushing plays called.  The lone exception was the pass wacky Panthers beating the balanced Chargers.  On average, winning teams ran an extremely high 53% of the time while losing teams ran a pathetic 36% of the time.  Before you say “But teams behind by a lot have to throw” I’d like to point out that some of the biggest differences in ratios came in relatively close games.  Titans: 56%, Jags: 29%.  Jets: 55%, Dolphins 26%.  Falcons: 75%, Lions: 36%.  Cardinals: 54%, 49ers 45%.  Ravens: 61%, Bengals 43%. 
      It’s practically clockwork week in and week out.  Coaches get wrapped up sometimes in the brilliant offensive schemes and fail to recognize the obvious fact.  You probably need to run the ball to be successful.  I’m not a purist, I love the passing attack.  I grew up watching Brett Favre.  What I am is a realist, and I’ve been running these numbers long enough to know they do not lie.

Giants over Redskins or “Third down means you need to get to the marker to stay on the field.”


      This offseason I have really wondered if the Redskins with Jason Campbell would have won four tough games to finish the 2007 regular season and get into the playoffs.   I’m really not sure.    Especially on third downs, Jason Campbell did not seem to be going through his progressions and throwing to the check down even when not under pressure.   Four second half drives were stopped after coming up a yard or so short on passing plays.    Another glaring problem?   I think Chris Cooley’s catch was the one time that he was targeted.  Perhaps the Redskins are not yet comfortable with Jim Zorn’s west coast scheme.
       After the Giants beat my Packers in the playoffs last season, I realized that Plaxico Burress is one of those few Wideouts in the NFL that can take over a game.  His sixty yards on the opening drive set the tone for this game.  No disrespect of course to Brandon Jacobs, who somewhat quietly had a huge game on the ground.
       The Giants lost some serious talent on the Defensive side of the ball this season, but don’t count out Justin Tuck.  Some thought his successes were due to having other players to key on, but he’s quick and looks like the real deal.

Statistical Notes – London Fletcher-Baker has 7 seasons of 100+ Tackles.  He was credited with 17 this week.   Plaxico Burress has 18 catches for 277 yards and 3 TD’s in the last two opening day games.    Clinton Portis carried the ball 23 times.  It took until week 8 of last season for him to get more than 20 carries.

Falcons over Lions or “NFL, meet Matt Ryan and Michael Turner.”


      The Falcons offense had a favorable matchup against the Lions questionable Defense, no doubt but I never would have anticipated the dominating performance the Falcons put on.  Having your first Regular Season pass be a 64 yard TD is as sweet as it gets.  The real story however, belongs to Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood who combined for 313 rushing yards, a Falcons franchise record.  That is saying something considering the running treo of Michael Vick, Warrick Dunn, and Norwood two seasons ago.  Even more frightening, they averaged 8.7 yards per carry. 
       For those of you in Fantasy leagues that do NOT have Michael Turner, don’t give away your team to get him.  I expect Turner to have a fine season.  He’s a fast, strong runner with a good first cut and an ability to hit the hole.  Today’s performance however, had a lot to do with the Falcon’s O-Line dominating the Lions defense.  While I think the Falcons have an adequate line I do not think they will push many teams around as they did today.  If You DO have Michael Turner and someone is desperate, now is the time to get value out of him.
       On defense, the Falcons were impressive controlling the line of scrimmage.  Six tackles for a loss and three sacks (All by John Abraham) are a testament to that.  Jon Kitna is going to spend another season getting beat up.  You have to give him a lot of credit.  He’s 35 years old and is going into his third year as a starter behind the Lions special “El Matador” style of blocking.
        The Lions got rid of Mike Martz and claimed they were committed to running the ball more.   21 rushing plays, 36 passing plays.  Not the balance they were thinking.   It’s tempting to forego the run when you have the monster Calvin Johnson and the underrated Roy Williams for wideouts, but it hasn’t worked the last two years.  Guess what?  It probably won’t work again this year. 

Statistical Notes – Actually, Jon Kitna must have felt pretty safe today.  The Three times he was sacked was under his Lions average of 3.6 sacks per game the previous two seasons (He’s been taken down 114 times in 32 games).  Calvin Johnson tied his career high with 7 catches and posted his highest yardage total (2nd 100 yard game of his career).   Roddy White and Jerious Norwood tied for the team high in receptions with…..two.

Titans over Jaguars or “Those who don’t learn from mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”


   Last opening day, the Jaguars handed the ball to Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew only 13 times against the Titans.  This year, they decided to try that strategy again and gave the duo 14 carries.  Taylor and MJD did not take advantage of those few carries, but that is the strength of this team.  You have to live and die by these guys.  Keep pounding away and trying to get them going, especially in a close game like this.   My opinion of David Garrard has been that he is the type of guy who won’t lose games for you, but I don’t think you can count on him to go out and win them.   The Jags also failed to take advantage of Red Zone chances.  Touchdown, Missed Field Goal, Fumble, Field goal.  10 points inside the Titans’ 20.   You need to get at LEAST 16 points, more like 20 when you get down there.
   Of course, I have to give credit for the Titans front seven being absolutely incredible.  They came up huge, sacking David Garrard seven times and holding the Jags to 1.9 YPC.  The Jags are chic picks for the Super Bowl, but the Titans with that defense looked darn good.
   Speaking of good, Chris Johnson is FAST.  The “Thunder and Lightning” combination of him and LenDale White should keep the chains moving for this team.  My biggest concern for the Titans is Vince Young.  After a pretty decent rookie campaign, I felt he regressed last season and did not play well once again.   This team has been good in spite of, not because of, Young’s performance.   Not to mention Young’s sulking.  Sorry buddy, you are getting paid Millions to perform.  Your team looks like a Contender.  Suck it up and play better.  You aren’t in Texas anymore.   I have to wonder if the Titans aren’t better off looking at replacing him for the season with Kerry Collins if Collins wins 3 or 4 games while Young is out.  You have to convert third downs to win in this league, and you have to pass on third and five+.   Who would you trust to convert third and six?  Collins or Young?

Statistical Notes – David Garrard threw one less interception Sunday than he did ALL of last season.  Vince Young threw more INT’s than TD’s 9 out of 14 games last season.  He’s 1 for 1 already this year.   The Titans had a 100 yard pass catcher in Bo Scaife.  They had two all of last season.  The two teams combined to convert only 8 out of 27 third downs.

Bills over Seahawks or “Mike Holmgren is wondering if he said he’d retire AFTER or DURING this season….”
The Seahawks are In rough shape offensively.  If the Cardinals or 49ers can display any kind of talent they can take this division.  This week they face a Bills defense (That is improved mind you…but still) that was second last in yards allowed, 3rd last in passing yards allowed, and 4th last in yards per carry.   They came out and completed 17/41 passes, were sacked five times, rushed for 80 yards, turned the ball over twice, and averaged 3.8 yards per offensive play.  Just ugly.   Nate Burleson is an explosive player (His touchdown catch is definite highlight material) but it looks like he’s hurt pretty bad now, although I don’t know the official word on it.  If he’s going to miss time, they have nobody to throw to.   Deion Branch is supposed to return soon but I don’t think much of his ability to be a #1 nor his ability to stay on the field.  Hello Seneca Wallace split out! I think the Seahawks are going to go back to handing the ball off more and hope Maurice Morris or Julius Jones can really step up. 
I don’t think the Bills are serious contenders this season, but I love the team.  They have quite a few young, talented, offensive players.   No disrespect to Adrian Peterson, but I think the gap between his talent and Marshawn Lynch’s is smaller than most people believe.  Roscoe Parrish is a big play guy and was both quick and elusive on his punt return.  If Edwards can keep up his good play, Lee Evans may reach his potential.   
I like the Trickery by the Bills.  With only a 10 point lead, they had a fairly easy 36 yard field goal attempt.  With Punter Brian Mooreman as the placeholder, the Bills snuck defensive end Ryan Denney onto the sidelines.   However unlikely this play was, someone on the Seattle Coaching staff should have been watching and screamed “Timeout!”.  Instead, they allowed a punter to throw a touchdown to a defensive end and the game was out of reach.

Statistical Notes – The Bills four highest scoring games last season were 38, 31, 24, and 21.  They put up 34 this weekend.  Lee Evans already has half as many 100 yard games as last season.   When throwing 40+ balls last season, Matt Hasselbeck’s lowest completion number was 26.  He was 17/41 Sunday. 

Ravens over Bengals or “Exhibit A: Why Ocho Cinco wanted out of Cincinatti”

Either reports of the demise of the Ravens D were GREATLY exaggerated or the Bengals are a bigger mess than we could have imagined.  The Bengals couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, and couldn’t keep their offense on the field.   By the Numbers – 8 First downs (2 by Penalty), 2/13 on third down, 154 Total Yards, 2.8 Yards per rush, 10/25 passing with an interception, Time of Possession: 23:45, and their defense outscored their offense 7-3.   Holdouts, Injuries, Arrests…..they’ve taken a toll on this team.  I’m shocked that Marvin Lewis is still employed, but I’m guessing this is his last year as Bengals head coach.
I actually thought Chad Johnson was open on some plays, particularily when Carson Palmer threw one of his interceptions.  Could there be some bad blood between the two that is skewing their on the field relationship?
Michael Vick who?  Meet Joe Flacco.  The Ravens offense isn’t much to write home about and they have to be creative to score some points.  In one of the weirdest plays of the weekend, Joe Flacco rolled out right on a naked bootleg and took the ball himself 38 yards to the house.  I admit to not knowing much about Flacco, but the guy isn’t that fast.  How can you leave THAT much room in front of a quarterback that he has such a clear path to paydirt?
More Trickery – Reverse type plays are often chancy and can yield large losses.  In the first quarter, Mark Clayton took a double reverse at about the 50 yard line and ran, juke, and spun all the way to the end zone.  It wasn’t the prettiest run ever, but it’s another case of the Ravens doing what they must to get into the end zone.
Other than the run, Joe Flacco was….ok in his debut.  He completed just over 50% of his passes, the longest being a fifteen yard completion to Derek Mason.  Ray Rice didn’t look too great, averaging less than 3 yards per carry and fumbling the ball.  Fullback Le’ron Mcclain looked much more effective.  I think this team needs Ray Rice.  As much as I like the trick type plays, the Ravens are going to have to find a way to move the ball.
Statistical Notes – Carson Palmer’s 10 completions for 99 yards are his second worst numbers of his career . The “Worst” was a 5/8 54 yard performance against the Chiefs during the 2005 season when he played only one quarter. T.J. Houshmenzadeh scored a touchdown in the first eight games last season.  He has scored in only 2 of 9 since that time.  Chris Mccallister’s one interception matches last years’ total.
Prognostication or “Carnage Guessing on games”

Obviously I did not blog last week but I wrote down my picks.  I do not gamble on football games because I love Football and I love to gamble.  The two combined would be dangerous.  My wife is gracious enough to put up with the obsessive amount of time I spend on watching games, writing, discussing, and messing with my fantasy lineups.  Losing time is bad enough.  Losing Money….that would not be acceptable.  For that reason, I pick my games without the spread.  It’s easier, I know, but not that easy.  Besides, teams winning and losing is of more importance to the actual NFL than some arbitrary number that a team has to win by.   I’ll post my guesses every week.  Use them to guide your wagers if you place them, post against mine, laugh at me.  Ignore them.  Whatever.  ;)  I’ll post next week’s pick at the end of the column.  This week, I’m 12-4.  I swear I almost wanted to call Bears over Colts for some reason but I didn’t.

Giants over Redskins
Lions over Falcons
Ravens over Bengals
Bills over Seahawks (I insisted that this was going to happen)
Jets over Dolphins
Patriots over Chiefs
Saints over Bucs
Eagles over Rams
Steelers over Texans
Jags over Titans
Cowboys over Browns
Chargers over Panthers
Cardinals over 49ers
Colts over Bears
Packers over Vikings
Broncos Over Raiders

Patriots over Chiefs or “The POP heard around the (Sports) world.”

I already addressed the Brady injury in some form, but now I have to wonder where it leaves the team.  Matt Cassell had a good outing but it WAS the Chiefs.  If Bill Billichick is anything, he is personnel savvy.  I have a feeling that Daunte Culpepper is going to be coaxed out of retirement and be reunited with Randy Moss
The hero of the game for the Patriots was definitely Deltha O’Neal.   You have to like guys that hustle and running down Devard Darling definitely qualifies as hustle.  He kind of made a play keeping Dwayne Bowe out of the end zone in the last play of the game.  As I mentioned about Evil Bill before, he is personnel savvy.  Deltha O’Neal had two subpar seasons in a row for the Bengals and seemed to be nearing the end of his usefulness.  This game proved he still has something left.
The Patriots seem to have a bottomless well of good defensive players.  Lose a solid player here and there, someone steps up.  Mike Vrabel looked fantastic and Jared Mayo seemed to fit into the lineup quite nicely.  Seriously, I don’t really like the Patriots but I have to respect the fact that at all times Patriots defenders all swarm towards the ball.  
Tom Brady wasn’t the only QB to go down.  Brodie Croyle finally was getting a chance to start on opening day and suffered a shoulder injury.  I am not sure it is serious, but it seems to be a continuation of a bad trend in the NFL…Quarterback injuries.
Larry Johnson carried the ball 22 times and managed to gain 74 yards (3.4 YPC), but 22 of those yards were on one play.  That means LJ carried the ball 21 times for 52 yards, a paltry 2.5 Yards per Carry.  I’m not a big fan of Larry Johnson.  He was touted as a Superstar runner in 2005/2006 but he had two all-pro offensive linemen.  I maintain that Larry Johnson is a rather ordinary runner that benefited from a great scenario. 

Statistical Notes:  Tony Gonzales grabbed 6 balls for 55 yards.  Seems a bit pedestrian but that projects to 96 catches for nearly 900 yards.  He’s had at least 70 catches and 900 yards in 7 of the last 8 seasons.   30 year old Randy Moss had another 100 yard game and another touchdown.  He passes Jimmy Smith to move up to 13 on the all time receiving yards list.  He’ll never catch Rice in receptions, but if he plays 5 more years at a high level, he could be knocking on the yardage and touchdowns leader door.

Quarterback Injuries:
  Over the years, the NFL has implemented many measures to keep quarterbacks safe.  Last year was terrible, with NFL QB depth charts looking more like an infirmary.  There is just no getting around the fact that QB’s are often hit when not expecting it or hit with their bodies fully extended, getting rid of the ball.  It truly makes Brett Favre’s (And Peyton Manning’s) consecutive start streak all that more impressive.  
Many people point out Favre’s toughness when talking about his streak.  No doubt he played injured at some points in his career but more than anything, Brett Favre is quite possibly the luckiest man ever to play the position.  Favre’s legendary iron man status wouldn’t allow him to play with a torn ACL or a separated shoulder any more than the next guy.  No Knock on Favre, it’s still quite an accomplishment (Including playing through emotional pain) but don’t think for a second that he has some “Rugged gene” that has kept him from sitting out.

Eagles over Rams or “Donovan Mcnabb addresses his skeptics.”

For a few years now Eagles fans have been thinking of a future without Donovan Mcnabb.   I guess he’s gotten injured a few years, but spast!  He’s one of the best in the league when he’s healthy and playing well.  361 passing yards…and only 1 yard receiving for Brian Westbrook?  100 yard games out of three receivers: a rookie, Hank Baskett, and Greg Lewis?  Are you kidding me?  You can call it a product of Andy Reid’s system….but if that is the case why doesn’t everyone use that system?
Deshaun Jackson has spectacular.  He’s undersized but has some speed.  What impressed me most was the catches he made.  Mcnabb was throwing into pretty decent coverage on at least two of Jackson’s grabs and he hung on to them.  You like to see that in a rookie.  He also looked great on one punt return. 
As bad as the Rams defense was, the offense may have been worse.   Every time I looked, Marc Bulger was being pressured.  Steven Jackson was stuffed for less than 3 yards per carry.  They failed to convert a single third down and had only 8 first downs (Compared to 28 for the Eagles).    There was also a glaring lack of discipline as the team was penalized nine times.  The Greatest Show on Turf is but a distant memory.

Statistical Notes – Tory Holt was held to one catch for the first time since 2004 and only the fourth time in his 142 game career.  The Rams “Contained” Brian Westbrook.  He failed to reach 100 total yards, (He had 93 and 2 touchdowns) a mark he only missed three times last season. 

Steelers over Texans or “Is there a new team to beat in the AFC?”

   Seriously, I have the Texans competing for a wildcard spot.   They went 8-8 in a rough division last year and should only be better this year.  They were completely dominated.   The box score shows that the Texans actually had 230 yards and scored two touchdowns.  Most of those yards and both touchdowns came in the fourth quarter when the game was way over.  Fast Willie Parker looked, well, fast.  Ben Roethisberger was cruelly efficient, completing 13/14 of his pass attempts.  The defense seemed to be on top of Matt Schaub the entire first half. 
   After last year’s poor offensive line play and the loss of Alan Faneca, I thought that the Steelers might have some trouble on offense.  I think I might have been wrong.  While the other powers in the AFC struggled/lost their leaders, the Steelers looked really strong.  After watching how bad the Browns struggled against Dallas, I can’t see them taking the division from the Steelers.
   I think the Texans got hit with a bad opening day matchup.  They ran into a machine.  They have got to protect Matt Schaub better if they are going to do anything.  Granted, one of the INT’s he threw was just an ill advised pass and he held the ball two long on the one of the sacks, but quarterbacks tend to stop thinking clearly when they hear footsteps all day long. 
Statistical notes – The Texans had a few Bright Spots.  Mario Williams started off where he ended last season with two sacks.  He finished last season with 10 in the last seven games.  He’s blossoming into a super pass rusher.  Andre Johnson caught 10 passes for 112 yards and is a top five WR if he stays healthy.   Between Big Ben and Schaub, only 7 of 47 passes hit the ground (Though two were picked off).  Willie Parker had 3 TD’s, one more than all of last season.  Big Ben has thrown more INT’s than TD’s only twice since November 26th of 2006.  Kevin Walter has 4 TD’s in his last 7 games.
Saints over Buccaneers or “The Jeff Garcia Aerial Circus!”
   Last season, I often applauded the Buccaneers for their throwback style of playing.  Work hard on defense, run the ball, throw high percentage passes once in a while.  They performed well enough using this philosophy to get into the playoffs.    Suddenly, in a close game against a division rival they hand the ball to a guy averaging 9.1 YPC only three times in the entire second half of the game.   To their credit they did put up over 350 yards of total offense, which is probably well above last years’ average.
   I loved the swing/screen play to Reggie Bush.  Usually screen plays take some time to develop but Drew Brees hit Reggie Bush on a dead run from the “I” formation.  Bush took that one to the house.  It’s on the highlights.  Neat play.  Both of Reggie’s longer passes came out of the I formation.  You can talk about splitting him out to create mismatches, but I think he may get more running room coming out of the backfield.
    Is it just me or did Drew Brees seem to be throwing the ball harder than in previous years?  He’s been a very good, very accurate passer for awhile now but I felt that the ball was getting to the receivers very quickly and in perfect places.  I think adding Jeremy Shockey is perfect for this offense.   In a standard I set the defense will have to watch out for Marques Colston running all sorts of routes, one of the Saints deep threats, Shockey working the middle and possibly drawing  off linebackers, and Bush swinging or “Sitting Down” in front of the linebackers.  The Bucs were a stout defense last season (2nd in yards allowed, 1st in passing yards allowed, 7th in Yards per Carry, third in takeaways.  The Saints lit them up for 438 yards, a good amount of which were passing yards. 
   
 Statistical Notes – Reggie Bush’s longest run in 2007 was 22 yards.  He had a 26 yard carry Sunday.  In 2007 his longest reception was 25 yards.  He had catches of 29 and 42 yards Sunday.  Earnest Graham has 6 games of 100+ total yards in his last eight, including doing so on only 12 touches Sunday.  The Saints have not had a Tight End catch 50 passes in a season in a decade.  Shockey had 6 in week 1.  Jeff Garcia has more INT’s (1) than he did in the first 7 games last season. 

    Cowboys over Browns or “I think we should cut the lead to 18.”

    The Browns weren’t going to win this game anyway, but I thought Romeo Crennell’s decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 3 from the 17 yard line, down 21 with 10 minutes to go was utterly ridiculous.  Your team is having only the second substantial drive of the game.  If you pick up the first down and go on to score a touchdown, you are down by only 2 scores with probably over 9 minutes left.  A defensive stand and another score would set you up for a chance at an onside kick or another defensive stand.  Kicking a field goal leaves it at three possessions and tells the players you are calling it a day and sends a message that you do not believe your offense can gain three yards.  There was absolutely nothing good that could come out of kicking a field goal.
     The Cowboys utterly destroyed this team with a potent offense and a supposedly improved defense.   They appeared utterly unstoppable.  The offensive line played tremendously, giving Tony Romo tons of time to throw and blowing open huge holes for Marion Barber and Felix Jones
      For the last two years Marion Barber has been on my list of “Favorite Non-Packers Players” (He and Brian Westbrook are my backfield) and he showed why again this week.  He signed the big contract and he’s still throwing himself around, stiff arming, and generally playing like a wild man.  Truthfully, I think this guy is less talented than a lot of backs in the league, but has so many times more heart and toughness that it doesn’t matter.   My only concern is that he already has some injured ribs.  How many games can you play the way he does and remain healthy?
      I thought the Jason Witten secret was out.  Apparently nobody told the Browns.  I saw him come across the middle, attracting not a single defender to catch a ball, and come off the left side, drifting towards the sidelines to catch a ball…once again not a defender in sight.
     Is it just me or did it look like Derek Anderson (When he had time to throw) seem to have the “Isn’t Braylon Supposed to be there.” Look?  I know Braylon Edwards spent some time injured but I was surprised how out of sync the two looked.  The same problem did not exist with Kellen Winslow.
     This game was rough to watch because of the penalties.  Twenty flags and 130+ yards worth of them.  That breaks down to one every three minutes of game time.  That’s a lot.   I did think the Terrell Owens taunting penalty was a little silly.  There have been far worse stunts than that.

Statistical Notes – Terrell Owens TD was the 130th of his career, putting him tied for second with Cris Carter.  He has at least one score in 9 of his last 11 games.  With 2 TD’s this Sunday, Marion Barber has multiple TD’s in 11 of his 46 career games.  Braylon Edwards caught two or fewer balls only once last season.  He has already matched that low total.  The Cowboys had 30 first downs to the Browns 11.

Jets over Dolphins AND Packers over Vikings or “Brett Favre is the Quarterback for the New York Jets.  He made his first start as a Jet this Sunday.   This means that Brett Favre is not the Green Bay Packers Quarterback.  Aaron Rodgers is the Green Bay quarterback but Aaron Rodgers is NOT Brett Favre.  I figured that you may not have realized this so I thought I would go over it.”
    Seriously, the Brett Favre exposure for the Sunday Pre-Game shows and Monday Night Packers matchup was annoying.   Let me make things clear on where I stand.  I am a Packers fan and I bear no ill will towards Favre or the organization.   I enjoyed watching him play all of these years and still found him fun to watch.  I was excited to see Aaron Rodgers start and fully support him.  In other words, I’m still a Packers fan (Not a “Favre” fan as some people are called) but I do not hate Brett Favre (Which, to some people, makes me not a Packers fan).
   Anyway, having to hear about Favre’s first pass, first completion, first touchdown, first incompletion, first sack taken, first crotch grabbing, and 100 other inane things on Sunday had to have gotten on everyone’s nerves.   We’ve seen Favre throw thousands of passes and score 400+ touchdowns.   I think we were all pretty sure he could throw more passes and score more touchdowns.  I think we all are aware that he is now a Jet.  Twenty Six teams full of players, some of them very talented, played on Sunday.  Maybe shift the news to some others here and there?
Anyway, Favre played pretty well, hooking up with Jericho Cotchery on a textbook Brett Favre fantastic pass and later with Chansi Stuckey on a textbook Favre “Crazy” play.  I’m sure the Jets are happy with Favre’s performance, but I think Thomas Jones’ day was more of a reason to be happy.  The Jets really struggled running the ball last season.  Granted, this was against the Dolphins…..
Jets kicker Mike Nugent hurt himself on a field goal attempt which was a big reason the Dolphins remained in the game to the last minute.  He missed the field goal when he injured himself, and it forced the Jets to go for the deuce with no kicker.  Nugent eventually was able to come back and kick an extra point, but don’t underestimate those little 3 point and 1 point plays.
The Dolphins, reportedly very happy with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, called 47 passes and 17 rushes and ran only 3 times in the second half.  Neither Ricky or Ronnie looked like world beaters but I would have expected more balance with the Tuna hovering over this team.
Statistical Notes – Thomas Jones averaged 4.6 YPC, a full yard over his 2007 average and better than 15 out of 16 games last season.  Anthony Fasano and David Martin are both 1 receiving TD away from tying last years’ Dolphins team leaders in that category.

Favre’s old team game notes

Now, back to Green Bay over Minnesota.  Aaron Rodgers looked really good in his debut, even with the insane amount of penalties committed by the O-Line (The Packers were flagged 12 times for 118 yards).  At one point in the first, the Packers had a 1st and 33 situation.  Tony Kornheiser, who would not shut up about Favre, made it sound like Favre would simply take the snap and immediately complete a 34 yard pass or something.  Is Kornheiser supposed to be an analyst or a comedian?  It’s hard to tell because he’s not very good at either.
Rodgers’ most impressive play in my opinion didn’t make any highlight reels, which is a shame.  In the second quarter, he hit Greg Jennings on a 15 yard or so slant.  I thought it was incredible how quick that ball came out, how fast it got there, and how well it was placed.  Mike Mccarthy obviously wasn’t as impressed.  With 18 seconds on the clock, one timeout, and the Packers on the Vikings 16 yard line…he was content to let the clock run down instead of having Rodgers take a shot at the end zone.  Coach!  Your guy is playing brilliant up to this point!  Go for Seven!  Mason Crosby’s field goal was blocked and they got nothing out of it.
Early in the game, Adrian Peterson looked like he would be extremely difficult to contain with 65 yards rushing in the first quarter.  The Green Bay D really turned it on and help him pretty well past that point.  I think a lot of people are down on Tavaris Jackson, but I thought he played pretty well considering how much pressure the Packers were able to bring.  They only brought him down once as he made some huge plays with his feet but I guarantee he was hurried plenty of times. The abandonment of the high profile running game in the second half didn't help his cause either.  I seriously think he will be a better quarterback by mid season.

Statistical Notes – The Vikings defense gave averaged 3.1 YPC last season.  The Packers gained 5.1 yards per rush Monday Night.   The Vikings averaged more YPC than the Packers, gained more total yards, ran 20 more plays, had the edge in time of possession by 2 minutes, were penalized 74 fewer yards, converted a greater percentage of third downs, and had 21 first downs to the Packers 15.  Stats never tell the entire story.

Panthers over Chargers or “What the? Part 1”
After listening for a week to my friend saying that Dante Rosario was his awesome fantasy sleeper pick and me just laughing.  For that reason, my jaw doubled dropped when Jake Delhomme found Rosario in the end zone as the clock hit triple zero. 
This game was simply shocking to me.  I wasn’t too excited about the Panthers to begin with.  They were without Steve Smith and they were going down to San Diego to play one of the more talented teams in the league.      To be honest, John Kasay was the absolute key to this game.  He nailed four field goals of course, two of them 40+ yarders,  but the more important factor was that following each of those scores he kicked the ball into the end zone giving the Chargers a long field.  8/12 Chargers drives began at their own twenty or worse. 
Although Philip Rivers (Rivers played very well, actually), Antonio GatesLaDainian Tomlinson and the offense played well they never seemed to be able to get into the type of groove we are used to seeing.  Rivers hooked up with Gates, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson on some big plays but they felt a tad out of sync otherwise.  Ladainian Tomlinson was pretty absent from the passing game.  After their slow start last season, I have to wonder if their conservative preseason approach doesn’t leave them a little behind when the season starts.  Due to injuries, it was unavoidable this year but I think even healthy we wouldn’t have seen much of them in pre season.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart both looked sharp.  I like this backfield duo.   Fantasy wise they should be frustrating with each gobbling the other’s carries, but Panther fans should enjoy a fine season of running the ball.

Statistical Notes – Antonio Gates has scored in each of the last three season openers.  Philip Rivers has seven TD’s and 0 INT’s in his last four regular season games.  The Panthers are 3-1 with Jake Delhomme the last two seasons and 5-8 without him.

Bears over Colts or “What the? Part 2”
Heading into the season, there was uncertainty as to Peyton Manning playing the first game.  Many people assumed that the Colts could beat the bears even with Jim Sorgi at the helm.  If Manning plays?  The Bears have no chance at all.
It seems we all forgot that a healthy Bears defense has some serious talent.  With two new players on the Colts O-Line and the obvious absence of Jeff Saturday, the Bears absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage.   Joseph Addai was largely ineffective and the Colts became ridiculously one dimensional, running 15 times out of 66 total plays.  The Bears D put up Nine points themselves and the safety set up a short field and eventual field goal.  I’ve always respected the Bears and their ball slapping ways and once again it paid off with Charles Tillman popping the ball from Marvin Harrison’s usually sure hands.  They put pressure on Peyton Manning, making him settle for shorter throws and did a nice job tackling the Colts talented receiving crew. 
What is especially surprising is the fact that the Bears actually outgained the Colts and were far more efficient on third down.   Pounding away all night with rookie Matt Forte and Kevin Jones opened the way for Kyle Orton to make just enough plays to win. 
I think within two weeks Peyton Manning and his crew will get in sync with each other (Although I don’t know the status of Dallas Clark….if he is going to miss time that would be huge.) 

Statistical Notes – Matt Forte’s 123 yard performance tops Cedric Benson’s lone 100 yard game (101 yards) from last season.    Reggie Wayne has 32 catches in his last three regular season outings.

 
Next Week’s Predictions.
Chicago over Carolina – Matt Forte has another big day and the Panthers struggle against the tenacious Bears defense. 
Jaguars over Bills – Jacksonville looked bad last opening day.  They are a solid team.  The Bills keep it surprisingly close.  I like Marshawn Lynch and Maurice Jones-Drew in this one. 
Chiefs over Raiders – The Raiders looked terrible Monday Night.   Darren McFadden has a better outing though.  Tony Gonzales will catch a lot of balls.
Vikings over Colts – If Matt Forte was so effective against the Colts, Adrian Peterson should be at least that much.  The Colts offensive line did not look good and the Colts are going to be throwing a lot.  Jared Allen will bring the heat in this one.
Saints over Redskins – The Saints were able to move the ball against the Bucs and should be able to do so against the Redskins.  I expect good numbers out of Drew Brees again. Clinton Portis should have a big game if they feed him the ball.  I am just not sold on Jason Campbell at this point.
Giants over Rams – The Rams SHOULD be better on Turf but they looked too horrible to consider picking.  Jacobs, Manning, and Burress could all put up some numbers.
Packers over Lions – The Lions D is porous and the Packers could have a field day in the Lions backfield.
Titans over Bengals – I’m picking too many road games but the Bengals did not look good in any way.  I seriously may even sit Palmer, Housh, and CJ if I had better options.
49ers over Seahawks – The Seahawks are in disarray.  The 49ers are going to have a hard time scoring but Matt Hasselbeck throwing to Seneca Wallace doesn’t appeal to me.
Buccaneers over Falcons – Michael Turner and Matt Ryan come back to Earth.
Arizona over Miami – Arizona may suddenly be the team to beat in the west.  Miami is better…..just not much better.
Jets over Patriots – Matt Cassel starting his first game.  Jets at home and looking pretty good.
Broncos over Chargers – Jay Cutler was scary good without Brandon Marshall.  He gets him back this week.  Tomlinson runs wild but the Broncos take it at Mile High.  Chargers start 0-2 for the second year running.
Texans over Ravens – The Ravens won but struggled to move the ball on the Bengals.  Flacco will actually be facing a pass rush.
Steelers over Browns – I called Steelers over Browns x2 before the season started and week 1 makes me feel stronger about that pick.
Cowboys over Eagles – Great Monday night matchup.  We get to see if the Eagles are for real or if the Rams are THAT bad.  The Cowboys looked too good to pass up at home.


Whew.  Long review to start the season.  I’ll try to make it shorter and more exciting next time.
Posted on: July 7, 2008 1:14 am
 

Tight Ends, the 3-4, Free Agency, and More!


   So it’s the football offseason.  Yup.  I love the summer, I really do, but without football it seems like something is missing.  From a few weeks after the draft to the start of preseason games, this is probably the deadest time in the NFL.   You’ll pick up a few tidbits about players and how they look in OTA’s and Minicamp but they are mostly fluff.  After all, last year’s camp had Bears coaches raving about Rex Grossman’s growth.  We all know how that turned out.

    In order to entertain myself, it’s time for a few random thoughts.

   The rise of the Aerial Circus
There is no doubt that Quarterbacks have always been vital, but with teams shifting to a more passing based approach it is even more apparent.  There were four 30+ TD passers for only the second time in over fifteen years (The most common year has a single or none at all 30+ TD QB’s) and for the first time in NFL history, 7 4000 yard passers.  Matt Hasselbeck was a mere 44 yards away from making it eight.  

The teams that were passing were not bottom feeders doing it out of desperation.  Of the top 8 QB’s in yardage, 5 played for playoff teams.  Out of the top 8 in TD’s, six made the post season.  

 Obviously, someone has to catch those touchdowns, and Eleven WR/TE’s caught over 10 TD’s for the first time since 1995, when (future) Hall of famers Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, and Michael Irvin were terrorizing cornerbacks.  
No doubt that Spread offenses, versatile running backs, and a great upper tier of quarterbacks have lent itself to this renassaince.  How long it holds up is hard to tell.  Traditionally the passing game will rise for a few years and fall back to normal levels.   Another trend tells us that this might not be the case, one of the most important reasons for the increased passing productivity…..
    
    Tight Ends, they’re not just for blocking anymore

In years past, a few tight ends would emerge as great pass catchers.  Kellen Winslow, Shannon Sharpe, Ben Coates, Keith Jackson, Tony Gonzales….but suddenly there are a plethora of them.   My personal belief is that the Chargers scooping up Antonio Gates who did not play college football opened the flood gates.   Teams broadened their definition of the position and began looking for big, fast, athletic guys.   Last season, 9 different tight ends were in the top 32 in the league in Receptions, Receiving yards, or Touchdowns.  Gonzales, Gates, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow Jr, Chris Cooley, Heath Miller, Ben Watson, and Donald Lee found themselves having productive seasons.  Add Vernon Davis, Jeremy Shockey, and Owen Daniels who all had 50+ catches and 500+ yards and you have a pretty big cast.  Not to mention the fact that Todd Heap, one of the more productive Tight Ends the last few years, was hurt most of the year.

    The Stud RB – MIA
Those gaudy numbers for QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s have to come from someone and the stud running backs, the Gods of fantasy football, were missing this season for the most part.  LaDainian Tomlinson won the rushing title with a mere 1,474 yards…the lowest season high since 1990.   TD totals were also down.   Tomlinson’s 15 Rushing TD’s were the second lowest high (Shaun Alexander led the league with 14 in 2001) since 1993.  Some of this can be attributed to the increasing popularity of the Running Back By Committee approach but more has to do with the overall direction offenses have been going in.

           And suddenly, the 3-4 is popular again…..
  While the 4-3 is probably the most well known and most traditional set, nine teams went with the 3-4 as a base package and I would not be surprised to see more teams coming in with it.   As offensive players become more versatile, defenses have to adapt.   A team lining up 2 WR’s, 1 TE, a RB, and a FB can be fielding five viable pass catchers.  Having players that can step up and stop the run, blitz, or drop back and help in pass protection is vital.  

These undersized guys have the strength to take on offensive linemen when rushing, and the speed to run down RB’s and running QB’s as they break to the outside.  The Extra Defensive tackle is good for clogging the middle, but outside containment isn’t their strong suit.  
To me, the 3-4 also allows a team to create confusion for the offense.   You can have three different guys showing rush and send None or all of them.  As offensive packages get more complex and versatile, defenses need to follow suit to keep up.

      Free Agency was shallow as teams kept their own

Free Agency was pretty boring this year, especially when talking about offensive players.  The Big scores at the skill positions were….Bernard Berrian and Michael Turner? (I had no illusions about Randy Moss ever actually shopping around).  

Need a quarterback?  I did not see one viable starter outside of Derek Anderson who was restricted and MAYBE Daunte Culpepper…but interest in him has been pretty low even in this late stage of the game.  

Running backs?  You have a few career backup types out there (T.J. Duckett, Mewelde Moore, Julius Jones, and Dominic Rhodes), troubled players (Cedric Benson, Travis Henry), and guys with their best years WAAAAY behind them (Shaun Alexander, Warrick Dunn).  I myself find Kevin Jones, who is only 25 year old, to be a bit interesting.  
Wideouts – Again, we have the troubled like Chris Henry and Javon Walker.  Walker was a big gamble.  He seems to have some serious issues.  He has talent but two big injuries, demanding to get away from two teams, and some rather odd personal habits are too much for me.  Again, we have guys with their best years way behind them (Keenan Mccarddell, Isaac Bruce, Darrell Jackson, Troy Brown, Eric Moulds…).   If your team is still looking…well…looks like Aaron Moorehead is coming your way!  At least his name can be good for a joke or two….

Tight Ends -  The biggest names on the move are Alge Crumpler, Bubba Franks, and Marcus Pollard.  Pollard is old, and Alge and Bubba just look old on the field.   Not a lot left here.  As expected, teams are keeping their Tight Ends.
Offensive Line – Ok, let’s be realistic here.  I’m some schmuck writing a blog, not an NFL analyst with hordes of game tape, and Offensive Linemen are the hardest players to know a lot about.  You don’t get too many good looks at O-Linemen.  From what I have seen, the O-Line FA pool wasn’t that great either.  There are A lot of guys with 10 plus seasons, including probably the biggest name (Alan Faneca).   

Defensive Line – Probably the biggest move of the offseason came in the form of Jared Allen.  He makes the Vikings line pretty scary.  Corey Williams moving to the Browns from the Packers could help out a team with a pretty bad defense.  Javon Kearse COULD be interesting if he is actually healthy and can stay healthy.  It’s been a LONG time since he’s been “The Freak”.  Terrell Suggs and Albert Haynesworth are franchised and don’t appear to be going anywhere.  Justin Smith, a former #4 overall draft pick, isn’t the superstar he was expected to be but he’s a decent enough player.  This position probably had the most interesting players but the Franchise tag kept some bigger names at home.

Linebacker – “SHOW ME THE MONEY!” Lance Briggs finally hit the free agent market after throwing a fit about the Bears franchise tag last season.  He realized in retrospect that the deal they offered was fair and signed with them anyway.  Zach Thomas is now a Cowboy but after 13 seasons with the Dolphins, who knows what he has left?   There were some decent players that moved (Kawika Mitchell, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Boss Bailey) and perhaps some decent but aging (Takeo Spikes, Jeremiah Trotter) still out there.  Not a bad group of free agents compared to the other positions.

Defensive Backs – Asante Samuel was a big acquisition by the Eagles but there isn’t too much more to say here.   If you need a D-Back at this stage in the game you are either look at a 12 year vet like Ty Law, or thinking “It wasn’t Adam Archuleta, it was the Bears and Redskins that were the problem!  Sign this guy now!”  Good luck with that.

That’s all for now!  Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I write up long and boring outlooks for each division.  

Carnage
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com