Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Week Six Observations

1. OMG Kyle Orton! Where is this coming from? I really thought there was no way he could ever be a successful quarterback in the NFL. I did not think he had the ability. He is really playing well here.

2. But the Bears lost yet another game they could have won. As I wrote last week, letting games they can win slip away may cost them a playoff spot. And this season, as we'll go into later, getting to the playoffs should mean a real shot at winning it all.

3. Looks like the Falcons got the right guy in Matt Ryan. He has "Franchise Quarterback" written all over him. This does not look like a rookie, at least when they are at home.

4. I was very happy to see Jason Elam get a chance at a long game-winning field goal, as he was such a consistent producer for the Broncos for all those years and is their all-time leading scorer. He had made something like forty straight inside of 40 yards before blowing that late chip shot that would have sealed the deal against the Bears. Still, early indications are that the Broncos got the best of that exchange as new Denver kicker Matt Prater costs less and kicks longer.

5. It is not going to be easy for Detroit to win a game this season.

6. Bernard Berrian has been putting up pretty big numbers lately.

7. The numbers and NFL ranks for Drew Brees this season: 159 completions (1) 224 attempts (2), 71% completion percentage (2), 1993 yards (1), 9.02 yards per attempt (1), 332 yards per game (1), 12 TD (4), 6 INT (4th most), 105.0 rating (2). His top wide receiver, Marques Colston, has been out for most of the season but should be back this week.

8. Reggie Bush is averaging 3.1 yards per rushing attempt.

9. Fumbles are HUGE. In fourteen games this week, 26 fumbles were lost. Many teams lost critical game-changing fumbles, none more than the Washington Redskins. The Skins were playing a team so bad there was no way they could lose if they didn't turn the ball over, but they lost three fumbles. The key play of the game was an offensive lineman catching a tipped ball, then fumbling the ball, which was returned by the Rams for a critical touchdown as the clock ticked away in the second quarter. Without that "fumble-six" there is no way the Skins could have lost. Yet another game a team may look back on in December and say, jeez, that game cost us the playoffs (and a shot at a world championship).

10. Andre Johnson is so big and fast, there is no way to stop him - unless he drops the ball before or after he catches it, which he does a lot.

11. The Texans can still turn this around. That was a HUGE win over the Dolphins. Their next four games: Detroit, Cincy, @Minny, Baltimore. A five game winning streak and "Gary Kubiak Coach of the Year" editorials may be coming.

12. Ronnie Brown is a very good running back, and Ricky Williams looks a little quicker than he did at the beginning of the season.

13. Welcome back Indianapolis! This may have been the most meaningful win of the season in terms of The Big Picture - Peyton Manning is once again a top-2 NFL QB, Marvin Harrison is once again a threat, Indy is once again scary. Name one team that would be favored over Indy in a neutral site game this weekend. There may not be one.

14. Maurice Jones-Drew - just a delightful player to watch. Quietly, he has moved up to the eighth best fantasy back despite the platoon with Fred Taylor, though this guy doesn't give a crap about his numbers.

It's not easy to compile a ranking of the NFL's top running backs because of all the injuries, but here is an attempt trying to factor in how often they are injured and what they look like when they are healthy:
1. Peterson
2. Tomlinson
3. Westbrook
4. Jacobs
5. Jackson
6. Gore
7. Turner
8. Barber
9. Portis
10. Jones-Drew
11. Taylor
12. Forte
13. McGahee
14. Lynch
15. Addai
16. Larry Johnson
17. Ronnie Brown
18. Chris Johnson
19. Slaton
20. Bush

By the way, none of the three league leaders in yards per attempt cracked the top twenty. The current leader, Derrick Ward, is averaging 7.4 yards per carry with a season long of just 22 yards. #2 Jerrious Norwood is averaging 6.8 this season and 6.3 for his career. Selvin Young is at 5.7 this season and 5.3 career. Felix Jones is averaging 8.9 per carry but doesn't have enough rushes to qualify for official statistics. It's pretty hard to judge.

15. The Broncos caught a real bad break when Brandon Stokley got knocked out of their game against the Jaguars with a concussion. With no Stokley, Eddie Royal, or Tony Scheffler, Jay "Tunnel Vision" Cutler looked only for Brandon Marshall and forced several throws. If Cutler wants to be one of the best he really needs to improve his progression of reads and stop making desperation throws. If the Broncos want to get back to a high-flying offense, they need to get these targets back and healthy.

16. Mike Shanahan shockingly went with a feature back approach against the Jags, and Michael Pittman looked very good. Expect more Pittman next week. Ryan Torain is looming though.

17. Denver may have the worst defensive line in the NFL. Jarvis Moss is officially a bust.

18. Correll Buckhalter plays just like Brian Westbrook. He is about 90% as effective. The Eagle offense doesn't have to change when he comes into the game. I think generally it is probably better to have more of a "thunder and lightning" change of pace backup RB, but for the Eagles Buckhalter is probably the optimal backup.

19. So every week I wonder why the allegedly well-coached Eagles keep losing fluky close games. Maybe this Bill Simmons column provides the answer (about a third of the way down, look for the Andy Reid picture).

20. Matt Hasselbeck is secretly the NFL MVP. The Seahawks do not have a chance without him in the lineup.

21. Speaking of Hasselbeck, it's funny how all the bad teams are the ones whose QBs get hurt. Detroit, Cincy, and Seattle all have Pro-Bowl QBs who went down after it became clear their teams were horrible. Tony Romo got hurt after the Cowboys started having some troubles.

22. Humongous win for the Cardinals, who should make the playoffs unless Kurt Warner gets injured (which is about 50/50). Even then they will probably make the playoffs. It's crazy to think about but at this point I believe the only team more likely to make the playoffs than the Cards is the Titans.

23. Larry Fitzgerald is a special player. He has surpassed Moss as the guy most you most want to throw the jump ball. On a related note, I have him locked up this season and the next two in my fantasy keeper league.

24. The Cards have been extremely impressive at home: 3-0 with easy wins over the Dolphins and Bills and this OT thriller over the Cowboys. Yet it seemed like half the fans in that game were cheering for Dallas.

Wild sequence of events for Dallas. In order:

25. They make a crazy last-second comeback to tie Arizona, then get a punt blocked for a touchdown to lose in overtime. This drops Dallas to 4-2 having lost two of three with the win being a narrow one at home over the dreadful Bengals. This is not what I foresaw when I made a 40-1 bet on Dallas to go undefeated three weeks ago. It is what I foresaw when I predicted them to go 11-5 despite being the most powerful team in football. Now suddenly for the first time, it is conceivable that the Cowboys could actually miss the playoffs.

26. Felix Jones goes down for 1-2 weeks with a hamstring injury. The timing could not be worse because the electric Jones would likely have gotten more time the next month because

27. Tony Romo breaks a finger and will miss a month. The backup is Brad Johnson, who will likely give them a reasonable dink-and-dunk offense with none of Tony Romo's playmaking flair. This might not be so bad, as Romo's hijinks were costing a high-powered offense 1-2 possessions a game and increasing the variance for a team that has no need for variance. Perhaps now they can get back to pounding Barber and throwing to their possession receivers (T.O., Williams, and Witten, easily the best group of possession receivers in the NFL). But now teams will be cheating up a bit to stop the run and short pass. It is hard to say what this team is going to look like for the next month. They may emerge in six weeks as the Contender they started out as or they may fall back to the pack and miss the playoffs. What a wild season.

28. Pacman Jones gets suspended yet again, and it appears this may be the last straw. His stay in Dallas, possibly the NFL, may be over. I don't believe Pacman was playing at a high level, but Dallas has had major injuries and other problems with their secondary and at least he was a warm body. I think Jerry Jones needed to get some positive spin going, so he then

29. Traded first, third, and sixth round picks for Detroit WR Roy Williams and a seventh rounder. There was some word and speculation that the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles were also looking to spring a deal for Williams. It has been just three weeks since the Lions ended Matt Millen's tenure as GM and they are already getting max value exporting their talent for future considerations. I absolutely love this trade from Detroit's perspective. This seems like Dallas gave up way too much for Williams. I wonder if Philly was in there driving up the price auction-style until it got this high.

The deal doesn't make a ton of sense for the 'Boys, who already have the best big, powerful wide receiver in football. Long-term Williams could be an eventual replacement for T.O., but again, Dallas gave up four picks for him. Right now they already have a "problem" spreading the ball around to all those playmakers. Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, and Felix Jones can't be too excited about this trade.

30. Did Norv Turner just outcoach Bill Belichick?

31. As John Madden pointed out on SNF, San Diego's Mike Scifres is one hell of a punter.

32. I don't think Phil Rivers missed a throw the entire night against New England. This guy is in the zone right now. I never thought it would happen. I am so excited about the development of this Denver/San Diego Rivers/Cutler rivalry. These guys could be shooting it out in 2018.

33. Matt Cassel looks like a guy who hasn't played in eight years.

34. As feared, Randy Moss has decided to check out from the Play Hard Hotel.

35. Never trust your friends to DVR the big game. Do it yourself.

36. The biggest problem the Browns face in trying to recover from that 0-3 start is the schedule. They would be ripe to make a big run here but have to go to Washington and Jacksonville the next two weeks before hosting Baltimore and Denver, then play at Buffalo. It was very unfortunate for the AFC North teams to have to match up against the NFC East this season.

37. It is ridiculous how often we have seen fumbles from guys who are not used to carrying the ball this season. It has gotten to the point that when you see an interception, you expect the new ball-carrier to lose the ball during the return. Tons of defenses are throwing away turnovers by handing the ball right back to the offense. If I was an NFL coach, I would make every player on the team practice handling and running with the ball.

38. Guys are getting banged up, going down for the season, moving less quickly. Games are getting uglier. You are seeing teams put up fewer points as the season rolls along. Running backs are not as fresh. Quarterbacks are laboring to pass the ball. Wide receivers are not sprinting and cutting quite as quickly. We probably won't be seeing another "Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37" or "Denver 39, San Diego 38" the rest of the way.

39. Just when we thought the NFC East might be the best division in sports history, they drop three games to teams outside the division.

40. How wild is this season? There is only one undefeated team left, which is crazy, but even crazier is that there are only three teams with one loss! Tennessee and the three one-game losers have all had a bye week. No team has won six games, and only one has won five games...and we are six weeks into the season.

The idea this season has to be just to get into the playoffs and hope variance is on your side. There is no favorite. There is no dominant team. If a team gets into the playoffs, it has a shot to win it all.

Only four teams are completely out of it six weeks into the season. Think about that. Just one eighth of the league is finished a third of the way in.

Power Ratings:

I almost eschewed the power ratings altogether, as it has grown so muddled and confusing. Last week I had the Cowboys at #1 and the Colts at #15 and now I have the Colts ranked higher than the 'Boys. It would be better not to rank Dallas at all, as they probably won't look too good the next few weeks but must still be considered one of the most likely to win the Super Bowl even if they lose their next few games. Making power ratings for all 32 teams at this point is pointless and has no predictive value. It is more reasonable to group the teams in broad categories, which I have also done.

First there is the team you have to put at the top right now, but only by default. They have not blown a team out and have not yet beaten a team with a winning record. I'm also not sure they would be the favorite in a one game neutral site matchup against any of the next seven teams:

1. Tennessee (4)

Then there are the maniacs, teams that have looked great at times and weak at other times, teams that all have huge problems, teams that you wouldn't be surprised to see win the Super Bowl OR miss the playoffs entirely:

2. New York Giants (2)
3. Pittsburgh (6)
4. Washington (3)
5. Indianapolis (15)
6. San Diego (8)
7. Philadelphia (7)
8. Dallas (1)
9. Buffalo (12)
10. Tampa Bay (14)
11. Chicago (10)
12. Carolina (5)
13. Denver (9)
14. Arizona (19)
15. New Orleans (21)

Then a muddled group with a Lower Upside:

16. Atlanta (16)
17. Miami (17)
18. New York Jets (18)
19. Jacksonville (22)
20. Green Bay (20)
21. Baltimore (13)
22. New England (11)

One totally frisky wildcard who might finish 6-10 but could be in the top five in two weeks:
23. Cleveland (24)

And then some Bad Teams That Have Not Given Up Completely because a) schedule b) circumstancial evidence of a potential revival and c) division rivals ahead of them that could spring leaks down the road

24. Houston (23)
25. Minnesota (25)
26. San Francisco (27)
27. Seattle (28)
28. St. Louis (32)

And finally the four Drawing Dead - teams planning for next year.
29. Oakland (26)
30. Cincinnati (30)
31. Kansas City (29)
32. Detroit (31)


Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

Great post as has been the standard for these but WHERE IS THE SOFTBALL ANALOGY?!?!?

4:04 PM  
Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

Also, highly recommend you never start another post, "OMG Kyle Orton!".

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I think you're undervaluing the Jags, whose 3 losses were to your #1 Titans, #3 Steelers and #9 Bills. Not to mention that their previously devastated O-line is starting to heal.

9:17 PM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Good point alex.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moon how can you rank the Dolphins higher then the Jets. I remember the Jets beating them in Miami. Also you have Buffalo ranked to high, they will regress back to the mean soon.


12:24 AM  
Blogger GambleGambel said...

Funny how Atlanta sports fans are notoriously poor, yet in the past few years home court/field advantage has been enormous for the last big dozen games.

1:31 AM  
Anonymous GmorningSun said...

Your post is mundane. I read it and then it was like, "next", "next".

You state/recap the obvious. Make some observations that maybe not many people are talking about but may have thought about. Not a read for a die hard NFL fan, that's fo-shure!

I do agree though, wtf is with Kyle orton, I don't think he threw for over 200 yards in a game when he started a couple years ago, now a potential fantasy stud??? Nah, lol!

7:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Detroit Lions = Macalester Scots

9:56 AM  
Blogger Champ said...

Personally, I think your NFL post are fantastic. I don't know what the fuck GmorningSun is talking about.

Sure, you might not be Peter king or David Dorey, but I enjoy your writes a ton.

Please keep up the good work. go Broncos!


11:36 AM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

If Champ Bailey is reading my posts, I must be doing something right.

4:21 PM  

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