Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Week Five Observations

1. I know the Bears won 34-7 on Sunday, but their play-calling is horrendous. It is like watching a third-grader play Madden. Deep balls on second and four. Deep balls on the ensuing third and four. Inside running plays on second and goal from the ten. Outside running plays on second and one. This has already cost them games this season. The Bears appear to be one of those teams that is going to be in a fight to make the playoffs. With this hideous playcalling, Devin Hester' taking a Dante Hall career path, and the inevitable upcoming Matt Forte injury, I don't like their chances (although two paragraphs from now I will present the opposite argument).

2. Detroit's problems are numerous of course, but their biggest weakness is linemen. This is what happens when you draft nothing but wide receivers in the first round year after year. They do not protect the quarterback and they do not get after the quarterback. They focused on bottling up Matt Forte on Sunday, and they did, but the rest of their defense is so weak that they allowed The Neckbeard to throw for 334 yards and 2 TDs without a turnover.

3. It is exactly these sort of games against terrible defenses that could build the confidence of The Neckbeard and get him to the level the Bears need to win the division. There is no way the Bears could win a game against an NFC East opponent on the road in the playoffs, but what if they all eat each other and the Bears win all their games against bad teams? January playoff games in Soldier Field are not out of the question. The Bears have a favorable schedule with no obvious losses the rest of the way.

4. The Falcons love throwing deep to Roddy White the first play of the game, and it has been working. White is one of the most underrated players in the game. I feel like he gets grouped into that third tier because his name sounds like and his hair looks like all those other crappy guys. This is no Roydell Williams though. This guy can play.

5. Speaking of guys that can play, Michael Turner sure is good. It's funny that his nickname is "The Burner" because he is obviously not the fastest of backs. But his vision is fantastic. He chooses the right holes and the right cutbacks and he runs over people. They should create one of those jolting virtual reality 3-D rides called the Michael Turner Experience, then force Reggie Bush to ride it for six hours every day.

6. So Atlanta's core is Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, and Roddy White. It is amazing how quickly it can turn around in the NFL.

7. In consecutive games, the Dolphins have knocked off the two teams that played in the AFC Championship last January. Check out these stats:

Vs. Patriots
Score 38-13
First Downs 23-14
Total Yards 461-215
Rushing Yards 216-78
Yards Per Pass 11.7-3.9
Posssession 32:33-27:27

Vs. Chargers
Score 17-10
First Downs 23-10
Total Yards 390-202
Rushing Yards 167-60
Yards Per Pass 7.7-5.1
Possession 36:41-23:19

I don't want to go totally overboard here...the Dolphins did lose 31-10 to the Cardinals...but wow those numbers are impressive. These have not been scrappy, fluky wins of variance, turnovers, and special teams. These have been systematic dominations of upper-tier squads. Observation #6 noted "it is amazing how quickly it can turn around in the NFL."

8. The obligatory softball analogy of the week:
I have this problem with my elbow. It is probably tendonitis. I should find out for sure today. It has been an issue for years, and has been particularly aggravated playing softball. The amount of pain it causes me goes up and down from day to day and week to week. When it is hurting, it never hurts so bad that I can't make one more throw or take one more swing or anything. It hurts afterwards but it never renders the elbow incapable of action. But I am always thinking about it. It is in the back of my mind on every throw, every action.

Last week it was hurting pretty bad and I had a horrendous game. I'm not blaming everything on the elbow, just saying that it is something that is constantly in my mind when it is bothering me. This is how injuries are. They fester. Just because a player is back in the lineup does not mean he is truly back. Devin Hester is listed as Devin Hester, but he is not really Devin Hester. Right now LaDainian Tomlinson is not really LaDainian Tomlinson. They are expected to play at less than 100%. The coaches may not even be aware of what kind of shape they are in.

9. Let's have a little discussion about the Giants here. They beat an obviously unprepared Redskins team in the season opener (we'll call that team Redskins 1.o), crushed the worst team in the league the next week, eked by the 0-5 Bengals, had a bye, and then pasted the also-terrible Seattle Seahawks. This is the NFL, so 4-0 always needs to count for something (especially when three of the wins came easily). But I am not prepared to call the Giants the best team in football, not when the Cowboys have played at the Browns and Packers and hosted the Eagles and Skins 2.0, not when the Skins have gone into Dallas and Phily and won.

The Giants play at Cleveland Monday night, then host San Francisco. So they have a good shot at getting to 6-0, but then take a look at their last ten:

@Pittsburgh
Dallas
@Philly
Baltimore
@Arizona
@Washington
Philly
@Dallas
Carolina
@Minnesota

After the Giants lose 6-7 of their last ten and miss the playoffs in a brutal NFC, remember we had this conversation.

10. Speaking of potential frauds, the Titans have beaten the following teams: Jacksonville, Cincy, Houston, Minnesota, Baltimore (a combined 6-17). Unlike the Giants though, the Titans should have no problem making the playoffs in an overrated AFC South and may contend for homefield advantage. They are more of a contender than the Giants in my eyes, though they might not be as good a team.

11. I wrote a lot about the Redskins last week. This week I will keep it short: they are an excellent team. They have above average players at almost every position on the field, they have good chemistry, and they play hard. They do not play another division road game, and their next three games are against the Rams, Browns, and Lions.

12. Like I said last week, Clinton Portis no longer has that breakaway speed in the secondary. However, he is one of the best at the first five yards of his carry. That Joe Gibbs "three yards and a cloud of dust" strategy and all the mileage has changed him from an explosive Tomlinson type to a more pedestrian grinder, which he can also pull off quite well.

13. Ladell Betts is no good.

14. For once Philly did not lose a game they should have won. They lost to a better team this time.

15. Every year there is a decent team that gets off to a nightmarish start with a bunch of heartbreaking losses. This year it is the Houston Texans. I will be looking for attractive spreads they should cover.

16. The Denver defense looked much, much better. They have been experimenting with a 3-4 defense rather than their usual 4-3, and it is a better fit as they have very poor defensive linemen compared to mediocre linebackers. The Broncos do not play many high-powered offenses the rest of the way.

17. Do a google image search for "Jay Cutler." What more does he need to do to crack the top ten?

18. Michael Pittman looks like a man on a mission every time he gets the ball. He may actually be Denver's best back.

19. Tony Scheffler is currently 14th in the NFL in yards per catch at 16.2, easily best amongst tight ends. Unfortunately he may have a serious injury.

20. Felix Jones averaged 9.1 yards per carry last season at Arkansas. Through five games in the NFL, he is averaging 9.0 yards per carry for Dallas. And yes, he had zero carries in the Cowboys' loss to the Redskins.

21. Earlier in the year I had Tony Romo ranked as the #1 healthy QB in the NFL. I think I was focused too heavily on fantasy football at the time. This guy makes 1-2 humongous mistakes per game, the kind of mistakes that swing a game by 7 points.

22. In their two home games, the Cardinals have outscored solid AFC East opponents 72-27. Their third home game is a very intriguing matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

23. Lee Evans, who last week became the league's third-highest paid wide receiver, is averaging 27 yards a catch.

24. The Patriots threw deep to Randy Moss on Sunday. Shockingly, good things happened. The Patriots have two similar, wildly intriguing games coming up - a Sunday nighter at the Chargers followed by a Monday nighter at home against the Broncos. Lose both and they are probably out of it. Win one and they have a reasonable shot at the playoffs. Win both and they will once again be a Contender.

25. There is no reason to believe the Jaguars are any good at all. For some reason their defense is regarded as tough and physical. It is not. Their running game is stuck in the mud because of all their injured linemen. It is going to be fun to bet against this team, starting next week in Denver where they will be lucky to avoid a blowout.

26. Ahhhh, Ben Roethlisberger. He is such a special player. He does things that no one else does, which is a big reason we watch sports and the NFL. Pittsburgh buddy Dave Hoedeman thinks he is the best quarterback in the NFL. It is probably an impossible argument. He is not as accurate as Brees or Manning but he makes so many plays that other quarterbacks cannot dream of. He may be the ultimate bad offensive line QB. John Elway was one of the best; Big Ben is probably unmatched in his ability to turn a negative or zero play into a positive one. Sometimes he turns a zero play into a negative one of course, but to win games you need to make plays. This is what is so nauseating watching half the teams in the NFL play offense. Their quarterbacks almost never throw it more than seven yards...unless of course they are throwing it away. I love watching the Steelers because Big Ben does not have the throwaway programmed into his brain. He is going to try to make a play every time, and he does not care about getting pounded. I just pray he does not get hurt. It would seem the blows he is taking will eventually catch up with him. Luckily his head is not Trent Green's.

27. Again, Mewelde Moore - not that bad. But they could use Fast Willie back in the lineup.

28. That Saints defense looked awesome Monday night. Where has this been the last two years?

29. Reggie Bush is the worst running back in the league on handoffs. Not just the worst starter - I believe he must actually be the worst in the NFL when he receives the ball on a handoff. Fourth-stringers like Pittman and Moore are much better. Bush runs the ball like I would if I was forced to play NFL running back. He appears absolutely petrified of getting tackled. He takes the ball and does everything possible to avoid taking a hit. This is a good thing on punt returns and just deplorable on handoffs. He runs sideways. He runs out of bounds. He falls to the turf before he gets hit. He does not break tackles. He fumbles the ball. Someone needs to tell him that the NFL is not a flag football league. You can get touched by someone's arms and the play is not required to be over. It is laughable watching him try to run the ball.

Now when he catches the ball or returns punts, it's a completely different story. Bottom line - Reggie Bush would be one of the greatest players in the history of flag football. When he gets in the open field he is a great player. His problems arise when people are threatening to actually touch him. With the sad demises of Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs and Roscoe Parrish's injury, Bush is currently the best punt returner in the league. He does not cut and run vertically as well as a healthy Hester, but then again no one does.

The ultimate flag football team:

QB Michael Vick
RB Barry Sanders
HB Reggie Bush
WR Randy Moss
WR Dante Hall
TE Kellen Winslow Jr.

30. So the Saints have now lost two games because they couldn't convert a 3rd and 1, and two games because Martin Gramatica blew field goals (one of those games overlapping). The Saints are 2-3. They are not going to make the playoffs. They are in the NFC South, which is a tough division they are not going to win, and they have little hope of grabbing a wild card over those NFC East behemoths.

To recap: The Saints have the best quarterback in the NFL, the #1 fantasy running back in the NFL, a reasonable defense, and they are not going to make the playoffs.

31. I cannot remember a team going on the road as an underdog against a solid team, winning, and looking so terrible. The Vikings are a bad football team, simple as that. I remember last year they were expected to be so bad but exceeded all expectations because of their offensive and defensive lines and Peterson. This year they supposedly upgraded the defensive line even more but they are not doing the job. I remember watching games last year just marveling at the way Pat and Mike Williams were moving people around and swallowing up the offense. This year the Williams boys and Jared Allen (who led the NFL in sacks and pass knockdowns in '07) are not doing anything. I have no idea why this is not working; the talent is obviously tremendous.

32. The Vikings O-line has been equally disappointing. There was nothing there all night for Peterson. Last year they had incredible success running to the left, behind LT Bryant McKinnie and left guard Steve Hutchinson. McKinnie had been suspended the first four games due to his involvement in the party boat scandal. His return against the Saints did not yield positive results.

33. Not only did the Vikings have a rough game blocking for Peterson, they also did not offer Gus Frerotte much protection. Gus's courage was obvious in this game as he had little time to throw and repeatedly got thrown to the ground on vicious hits. He hung in the pocket admirably, often waiting till the last second before heaving it in Bernard Berrian's direction. I think it is safe to say the Vikings would not have won this game with Tarvaris Jackson behind center.

34. On a doubly-related note...I have huge doubts about Brad Childress's abilities as an NFL coach. The Vikings did absolutely nothing to improve their quarterback situation in the offseason, and it is costing them dearly. Every game I watch I imagine what their team would be like with Chad Pennington throwing those dinkers. He would be a perfect fit for their offense - which is just awful. I cannot stress enough how painful it is for me to watch this offense. Gutless is probably the most accurate description. They refuse to throw the ball down the field.

35. When they did actually throw it down the field, they had tremendous results in this game. Berrian is a viable deep route receiver. Frerotte to Berrian is not exactly Brady to Moss or Romo to Owens in terms of potency, but they are good enough to make some plays with the defense always overcrowding the line keying in on Peterson.

36. I hope the Vikings will realize how much success they had throwing deep in this game and implement it even further in the future, because I cannot stand watching Adrian Peterson running into those nine-man fronts any more. He is the best running back in the NFL, there is no doubt in my mind. He hits the whole so incredibly powerfully. No one else is running like this right now. In this game he never once got to the second level of the defense. When he does, the defense looks like a bunch of hobbits trying to tackle a rabid stallion.

So again to recap...the Vikings have the best running back in the NFL and the best defensive line on paper, but they will not be making the playoffs either. They will also be the first and probably only team of the year to win a road game over a decent team and drop in the power ratings.

37. There is a lot of discussion going on right now about who is the best team in the NFL. You know it, I know it, and Vegas knows it. If you had to pick one team to win one game at a neutral site, we all know who it would be. I am certain they would be favored in this game over all other teams in the league, probably by at least three points.

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

7 Comments:

Blogger Matt said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I love the comparison between you and Hester. After thinking about it, we can't really compare. You play softball. He plays football. One thing I can agree with is that spectators at your softball games are probably saying the same thing as those watching Hester: "That's just not Tom Fuller out there right now."

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Truman said...

"They should create one of those jolting virtual reality 3-D rides called the Michael Turner Experience, then force Reggie Bush to ride it for six hours every day."

Best sentence on this blog evar. Seriously.

Ok let's talk power rankings.
- Chargers over Broncos? Nope.

- Carolina over Pittsburgh? Come, on.

- Indy over Atlanta, Miami, and Arizona? WTF?? This Colts team should be 0-4, not 2-2 right now. Teams they play are finding incredible ways to lose.

Great post.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Spencetron said...

Top three teams form the NFC East?

On another note, I have the second flag football game of the season this week, and we're hoping to rebound from a mercy ruling in week one. I like Reggie Bush, but surprisingly not Barry Sanders. Despite being the shiftiest back in the history of the NFL, handoffs are just not a part of flag football, and grabbing a flag even on a shifty guy is a lot easier than tackling him. The other comment I would make is that you need a QB who is not going to flip off the refs or fans, although mobility is certainly key.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Jaheed said...

Moon, you are finally giving the Skins the recognition they deserve.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous toph said...

An impressive post, I just wanted to keep on reading as I felt like I learned more from your post than all the bullshit I normally read from web sports writers. Longer next time tho, come on now, haha, j/k bud

2:17 AM  
Blogger Zach said...

Per your final note, note 37.

What if you took that team, put them at home instead of a neutral site, put them against their main rival so they were all fired up and the crowd was wildly in their favor, and then they got absolutely smoked, losing by 2 in a game that was never, ever close.

Would they still be the best team?


(I think they are, can't help giving them shit though)

8:54 PM  

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