Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Week Two Observations

1. Chris Johnson of the Titans may end up being the most important rookie of the 2008 season.

2. Carson Palmer eats it.

3. Doesn't look like the Packers miss Brett Favre too much.

4. Calvin Johnson is a monster. It will be interesting to see what system/team /QB he winds up with. If he slips into the right situation I would expect him to eventually become the top wideout in football.

5. The Saints cannot run the ball up the middle. With a nine point lead over the Skins, they couldn't keep the chains moving, kill clock, and book a win. The Saints will always have a chance to put a bunch of points on the board but they cannot be relied upon to put bad teams away. They averaged just 2.9 yards a carry against the Skins (and only 5.9 per pass attempt).

6. Clinton Portis is right. Put him on a team with a decent line and he is respected as a top-5 back.

7. I love the way the Bears are playing. There is no shame in losing to Carolina. They are going to need Devin Hester to win a game or two for them this season though.

8. The Panthers are already looking like that funky team that wins 11-12 games and substantially overshoots their expected win total. They've already snatched two games from the jaws of defeat, games they were supposed to lose without their best offensive player. With Smith coming back next week I really like their chances to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC South.

9. The Titans are the snake in the grass of contenders. There is a dichotomy developing between the contenders that have an explosive offense (Cowboys, Broncos, Eagles, Chargers) and those that have a sterling defense (Titans, Patriots, Bears). The only teams I see that have balance are the Steelers and Panthers. The Pats may eventually have a strong offense too, and the Cowboys do have a lot of big names on D.

10. As much as I like to see the Bills win, I'm not sold on them as a contender yet. They beat a godawful Seattle team and then snuck by a Jacksonville squad missing four offensive linemen. They play solid D, solid O, and great special teams, but do not have the firepower of the top teams.

11. There are a number of teams that got screwed in the opening schedule. There is so much momentum and emotion in football, I think it's crucial to start with a light schedule. Starting with 2+ losses is devastating. Check out some of these opening schedules:

Minnesota: @Green Bay, Indy, Carolina, @Tennessee, @New Orleans
Chicago: @Indy, @Carolina, Tampa, Philly
Cleveland: Dallas, Pittsburgh
Dallas: @Cleveland, Philly, @Green Bay

The team that really got screwed is Houston. They started off with the brutal @Pittsburgh. Instead of getting Baltimore at home in week 2, Hurricane Ike pushed that game back to week 10 (their bye week). So now the Texans basically lose their bye week and have to play fifteen games in a row. The sickest part of this is that their next two games are road games - rough ones @Tennessee and @Jacksonville. This is especially unfortunate because the Texans (at least last year) played much better at home than on the road. Now their opening slate looks like this:
@Pittsburgh, BYE, @Tennessee, @Jacksonville, Indy. Not fun times.

12. The injuries that Seattle has sustained at the wide receiver position are almost unfathomable. Just two weeks into the season they have lost six of their top seven at the position, including their top three, including three season-enders (which rarely happen to WRs). Matt Hasselbeck is becoming one of my favorite QBs the way he is handling this. No whining or bitching, even publicly taking the blame for losing to the Niners. He might be the most mature QB in the league.

13. NEVER make your lock of the week a bad team starting a rookie quarterback in his first road game!

14. Atlanta's play-calling against Tampa was horrific. I will be watching their future games closely to see if this continues.

15. The Jets may now be emerging as my #1 team to bet against. They still haven't done anything respectable and it's quite possible that they suck. They have the worst kicking game in the league, a so-so defense, one of the worst starting tailbacks, and, IMO, a mediocre QB.

16. It's funny how quickly I have forgotten my hatred for the New England Patriots. How quickly they went from a lovable bunch of overachievers to the Most Evil Team Ever back to that likable band of scrappy warriors. I remember talking to my friend David Hoedeman two years ago (when they went to the AFC Championship and barely lost to that Colts comeback) about how this was secretly the most amazing Cinderella run in NFL history and nobody knew it because it was the Pats. The Pats never stopped being a contender, because they have by far the best coach in football.

17. That was the best the Cardinals have looked in years. They should cruise to that division title and then get beaten soundly in the first round of the playoffs.

18. How ridiculous is it that we can sit at home watching CBS and know a call needs to be overturned, but the refs at the stadium can't overturn it because the replay system is malfunctioning?

19. What happened to the Chargers on Sunday was sickening, because that game will likely have profound effects on the playoff picture. I'm glad this happened early in the 16-game season. The Chargers can come back from this 0-2 hole, and I believe they will. Their offense looked smooth, their receivers are actually decent for once, they play in a division with two pushovers, and they even have an answer if this LT turf toe thing continues to be a problem. They were in just as ugly a spot last season before turning it around.

20. Having said that, the Broncos had 34 first downs against the Chargers. San Diego got no push from their front seven and the Broncos passing game feasted on them.

21. I never thought I would see a Mike Shanahan team run the most aggressive passing offense in the league. Given the personnel, it is the right way for them to play. It will be interesting to see how the Broncos offense fares against a team with a serviceable defensive line. That is really the only questionmark facing this offensive juggernaut.

22. The ages of some of Denver's key offensive contributors:
QB Jay Cutler - 25
WR Brandon Marshall - 24
WR Eddie Royal - 22
RB Selvin Young - 24
RB Andre Hall - 26
TE Tony Scheffler -25
LT Ryan Clady - 22
RT Ryan Harris - 23
This is very bad news for the rest of the AFC West. It also means that the Broncos, barring injury, should not draft a skill position player in the first three rounds of the draft for several years.

23. I had been singing the praises of Darren Sproles for weeks. It will be interesting to see how much he gets to play this season.

24. The football prospectus reports that teams have converted 55% of 2 point conversions since 2003. I had always heard that going for 2 usually failed. The way the Broncos were moving the ball, especially on short passes, they had to be a favorite to convert that deuce. It was a ballsy call to go for it, but it was also mathematically correct.

25. Going for two there was basically Mike Shanahan's version of confirming his belief in the "John Elway is God, Jay Cutler is Jesus" theory.

26. I think Cutler will be a top 3 QB by the end of the season, but right now he still makes a few too many mistakes to crack the top . The quick top 10 of healthy QBs right now looks like this:
1. Romo
2. Roethlisberger
3. P Manning
4. Brees
5. Hasselbeck
6. Cutler
7. McNabb
8. Rivers
9. E Manning

27. The Cleveland Browns have four major problems:
  • Their defensive line puts absolutely no pressure on the QB (and just lost a starter for the season)
  • Braylon Edwards, one of the NFL's top wideouts in '07, is playing like crap
  • Donte Stallworth has been injured and they do not have serviceable backup WRs
  • Their offensive line is not run-blocking well
The Browns have lost to what currently appear to be the two best teams in the league the first two weeks. Their next two games are against the Ravens and Bengals, so there is hope.

28. Pittsburgh seems to be in cruise control too much. They seem to be completely dominating the game yet you look up and there are four minutes left and it is a one-possession game. I'm not sure why they often struggle to finish teams off.

29. For such a loaded list of defenders, the Cowboys seem to give up a lot of points. They always seem to get a lot of sacks, turnovers, and other big plays, but never shut teams down.

30. Marion Barber's hair makes him look more barbarian than he is. I'm not saying he isn't a physical runner though - amongst starting RBs, only Brandon Jacobs is harder to tame.

31. Donovan McNabb looked like the healthy, explosive McNabb and the hobbled, beaten-down McNabb in the same game.

32. We learned it last year and we are relearning the lesson now - the single most important thing in today's NFL is putting pressure on the quarterback.

Power Ratings (last week's rank in parenthesis)
1. Dallas (1)
2. Pittsburgh (2)
3. New York Giants (3)
4. Green Bay (4)
5. Denver (12)
6. Philadelphia (8)
7. Tennessee (11)
8. New England (9)
9. Carolina (10)
10. San Diego (6)
11. Chicago (13)
12. Buffalo (15)
13. Indianapolis (5)
14. Minnesota (16)
15. Jacksonville (7)
16. Tampa Bay (20)
17. New Orleans (17)
18. Arizona (23)
19. Cleveland (18)
20. Houston (19)
21. Baltimore (21)
22. New York Jets (14)
23. Washington (28)
24. Oakland (31)
25. Atlanta (22)
26. Detroit (24)
27. San Francisco (29)
28. Seattle (25)
29. Miami (26)
30. St. Louis (32)
31. Cincinnati (30)
32. Kansas City (27)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

McNabb number 7? Are you serious? And no I am not a Eagles fan I am a Bucs fan.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Hoedeman said...

I think (hope) that the Steelers middling performance had a lot to do with that absurd weather. 60 mph gusts are of out of control. For 'Berger to go 12-19 with no turnovers in that was a solid performance. He did not make a single poor decision, he took his downwind shots when he had the chance, and he threw for some big first downs when they needed them. Hines also had two very uncharacteristic drops.

Also, they absolutely put the Browns away when they needed to. Crennell settles for a FG with 3:30 left and all his timeouts. The Steelers bludgeon home the win with a clock-killing drive that ends deep in Cleveland territory.

I'm (possibly foolishly) expecting them to go into Philly and make a serious statement this weekend. Of course, there's always the pass D to worry about...

11:18 PM  
Blogger steeser said...

Hasselbeck #4 is blind. He is a product of the WR corps that they have had. Now that they lost everyone, he is a shell of himself.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

Still too much love for the Gmen at #3. They beat a Skins team that would have lost to Middle Tennessee State Week 1 and the Rams Week 2. We'll see when they play real competition, but I'm not sold yet.

I am, however, completely sold on the Eagles. I like that team a lot (as an NFC East team I don't personally like them), but I really liked what they threw at Dallas, and I've always loved their blitzing style, as you mentioned at the end of the blog. Losing to Dallas by 4 on the road, even in an annoying way with the fumble - these guys are good.

NFC East
Skins (could move up this week!)

6:32 AM  
Anonymous Truman said...

Browns have another problem: They failed to realize that jamal lewis seriously overperformed last year.

9:13 AM  
Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

Great post Moon. Read through the whole thing and was entertained by each point whether I agreed or disagreed (mostly agreed).

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

32. We learned it last year and we are relearning the lesson now - the single most important thing in today's NFL is putting pressure on the quarterback.

For this reason, you should change your quarterback rankings to read: Quarterback and Offensive line rankings. With equivalent offensive lines, there's no way that Rothlisdingleheimmer is as good as Peyton. Just because Peyton's offensive line has been playing with four backups doesn't mean he has regressed. He's still the same beast he has always been. If they switched offensive lines, Peyton would rake and Benjamin would plummet.

Having said that, this was a great post - nice job.


2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coincidentally, I left that comment and then went to and saw this:

Benjamin is atop the list of quarterbacks to unseat Manning and Brady.


2:13 PM  
Anonymous Truman said...

Priceless Palmer Pic.

He does eat it.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous said...

steeser - "Hasselbeck #4 is blind. He is a product of the WR corps that they have had. "

When have they EVER had a healthy, top tier receiving corp? If he's a product of anything, it's Mike Holmgren and his West Coast offense.

zach - "Still too much love for the Gmen at #3."

Definitely--the Giants depth chart is paper-thin at every position.

Moon, I'm surprised you rank them this high given your other statement that, Justin Tuck aside, "the single most important thing in today's NFL is putting pressure on the quarterback." The easiest non-divison schedule in football will pad their record, but this team is going to be in big trouble down the stretch.

There are some awesome matchups this weekend that will tell us a lot about the top of your power rankings, but New York vs. Cincy isn't one of them. I'm looking forward to finding out if Green Bay's D can slow down the Dallas juggernaut, and if the Steelers can hold off McNabb.

By the way, don't you think Dallas resembles the old Colts teams just a bit with their high-octane O and big holes on D?

4:22 PM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Actually, the team that resembles the '03ish Colts is the Denver Broncos.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Hoedeman said...

"If they switched offensive lines, Peyton would rake and Benjamin would plummet." - john


So False. The Steelers allowed more sacks than anyone last year... Roethlisberger responded by posting a 104 QB rating.

Roethlisberger is one of the best QBs under pressure in the NFL. If not the best. Manning has always had happy feet whenever the pressure starts to come. He's just so rarely faced pressure in his career that it's not been a major issue. We're seeing what he looks like with a mediocre offensive line for the first time, and it's not good.

Also, by all accounts, the Steelers have a miserably average O-line. It is by far considered to be the major weakness of their team.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Pedro_in_Wyoming said...

Tom... For what it's worth, I say that Brandon Marshall is a top 5 receiver in the NFL and may be the best post-catch receiver. What he catches is amazing. What he does after a catch — i.e. break tackles, dozens and dozens and dozens of tackles — is unbelievable. The Broncos are a dangerous team.

10:42 PM  

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