Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Week Nine Observations

1. Tyler Thigpen played wonderfully on Sunday against the Bucs. He also played well the week before in New York. If Thigpen continues to display that high level of play,
  • He will nail down the starting quarterback job for '09
  • The Chiefs will be able to spend their next first round pick and/or free agency dollars on someone other than a quarterback
  • The Chiefs can no longer be considered a doormat and might grab a few wins the second half of the season
2. Unfortunately the Chiefs lost a heartbreaking game, then lost Brandon Flowers and Derrick Johnson, two of their best players on defense, and running back Kolby Smith. They now face the unenviable task of heading to San Diego to play a rested and pissed off Chargers team. It's too bad all this happened suddenly because they might have been able to turn a corner, get out of the basement, and start building towards a brighter future.

3. I've always liked Dwayne Bowe. Maybe his production will increase now that they may have found a quarterback.

4. This was really a remarkable win for the Bucs over the Chiefs. Kansas City played very well except for a few critical mistakes. The Bucs got clutch plays from Antonio Bryant and a timely kick return touchdown from Clifton Smith just when it seemed they were out of it. Smith, called up from the practice squad a week ago, is an exciting player who has some trouble taking care of the ball. The importance of this victory for Tampa cannot be underestimated. It would have been very difficult to make the playoffs if they had lost.

5. The key to the Bears comeback win over the Lions was their second half defense and running game. Rex Grossman looked terrible, missing several throws by more than five yards. The Kyle Orton injury may kill the Bears.

6. Devin Hester has actually devolved into one of the league's worst returners.

7. I was happy to see the Bengals get a win, as they outplayed the Jags from the opening snap and controlled the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. A few unfortunate plays turned what should have been an easy win into a close one.

8. Do not be fooled by Curtis Benson's 100 yard day. He sucks.

9. Tennessee ranks 21st in yards per game, but 9th in points per game. They never make big yardage plays in the passing game, so their yardage totals are low. But their offense is consistent, dependable, and efficient. They pick up first downs when they need to. They control the game with their ability to run the ball, wear teams down, kill clock, get first downs, and score touchdowns. They don't turn the ball over much. Three times now they have been in close games in the fourth quarter needing to score and all three times they have.

10. Tennessee's defense ranks a surprisingly low 7th in yards per game, but easily leads the league in points giving up less than 13 per contest. Tennessee's O and D have a symbiotic relationship. The O does not put the D in bad spots and keeps them off the field. The D allows the O to play slow and run the ball, never needing to score a bunch of touchdowns. When you look at the Chargers, Saints, and Broncos, their defenses force the offenses to play super aggressively. This leads to a lot of yardage especially through the air but also more turnovers and less running. In the NFL, it is more important now than ever to move the ball through the air but the best way to win consistently is still to run the ball and stop the run.

11. Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins is the best and most important player on his team.

12. Trent Edwards' level of play has slipped a bit the last couple weeks.

13. Baltimore was able to come back from a 14 point deficit against the Browns because Joe Flacco made all the big throws, they ran the ball down Cleveland's throat, and Braylon Edwards dropped yet another critical pass.

14. Lock up that playoff berth for the Cardinals. Now they can set their sights on home field advantage. Games against the Giants and Eagles in a five-day span at the end of the month will determine their seed.

15. Tim Hightower might be better than Edge James right now, but he is not a top running back.

16. Don't expect a big dropoff for the Texans with Matt Schaub going out. Sage Rosenfels might be the best backup in the league - Schaub could have a hard time getting his job back. Sage played well coming in for Schaub against Minnesota.

17. The Vikings won on Sunday playing the brand of ball they were effective with last year. They ran Peterson a ton and eventually he got loose in the secondary. The Texans played quite well on offense but the Vikings managed to limit Andre Johnson and the big plays while making a few of their own. They had five sacks and forced three turnovers. Also, Minnesota's atrocious special teams did not kill them for once.

18. Calm down on those Ray Rice fantasy waiver claims. Willis McGahee is still the best back there and should be back next week. Le'Ron McClain will keep banging in the TDs.

19. This quote from Brandon Marshall on Denver's defense (particularly backup corner Karl Payham, subbing for injured Champ Bailey) pretty much sums it up: "I mean, I don't even know that [Miami] receiver's name who caught all those balls," he said. "It's simple. Tighten up the coverage and just play ball. It's simple. It's real simple. They don't need to be 10 yards off. Tighten it up. You see they don't do that against us. The reason why is because a receiver will kill them. I don't even know the name of that receiver. Don't know it."

20. The Broncos have been screwed on a number of calls since the Ed Hochuli Game. The latest was a 77 yard touchdown to Brandon Marshall wiped out by a questionable pass interference call. The scales of justice have tipped near even.

21. The Broncos rushed for 14 yards against Miami, the second-lowest total in franchise history. Still, it is worth grabbing Ryan Torain in your fantasy league if he is still available. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were both placed on injured reserve Monday.

22. How pissed off must those Oakland fans have been watching rookie Matt Ryan stroll into town and toss out a 17/22, 220 yd, 2 TD, 0 INT game while second year QB JaMarcus Russell went 6/19 for 31 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT?

23. Stats from Atlanta/Oakland:
First downs: Atlanta 30, Oakland 3
Total yards: Atlanta 453, Oakland 77
First half yards: Atlanta 302, Oakland -2
Passing yards: Atlanta 201, Oakland 10
Time of possession: Atlanta 45:15, Oakland 14:15

Statistically this was the most lopsided game of the season. It has been eight years since a team has held the ball as long as Atlanta did Sunday afternoon.

24. McNabb and the Eagles seem to start slow a lot. You can get away with that against Seattle, San Francisco, and maybe even Atlanta at home if you are as talented as the Eagles. But that is not going to cut it against most of the future teams on they will be facing.

25. Having said that, the Eagles really put the hammer down after the first series and dominated an inferior team like they are supposed to. The Eagles are one of the only teams in the league that seems to be getting healthier as the season moves along. I am really looking forward to watching them Sunday night against the Giants - both teams will be looking to make a statement. There should be a lot of big hits.

26. There are a few keys to New England's superdink offense. Matt Cassel doesn't turn the ball over much. They commit the fewest penalties in the league so they stay out of second or third and long where Cassel is too scared to make a play. And they have pieced together a running game using a lot of nontraditional plays. Other than that it is a stomach-churning, teeth-grating, cringe-inducing potpourri of dinks and dunks. So when the one time Cassel actually throws it deep and actually throws it on target, they need Jabar Gaffney or Randy Moss to make a play and come down with the ball. And they absolutely cannot have guys committing 15-yard personal foul penalties on crucial drives.

27. Wes Welker has caught at least six passes in every game this season.

28. That Indy run game is pretty atrocious right now. Don't expect it to get any prettier next week in Pittsburgh.

29. Dwight Freeney, my preseason pick for Defensive MVP, has disappeared. He has just 13 tackles and 3 sacks on the season. Freeney is a good example of the symbiotic relationship between a football's offense and defense. Most of his damage comes in the pass rush. In past seasons, the Colts have built big leads and pass rushers like Freeney have teed off knowing the pass was coming. Now the Colts are usually in close games so teams are running the ball against them.

30. It's amusing watching all these other teams try their hand at the Wildcat offense. The original, Miami, is still the best.

31. It was with great pleasure that I watched the Steelers paint a defensive masterpiece Monday night in D.C. Watching all the games you see a lot of teams struggle to move the ball and put points on the board, but most of them have huge deficiencies on offense. Usually the poor offensive outputs, such as Oakland's against Atlanta, are due in large part to incompetent quarterback play or some other glaring offensive flaw. The Redskins, on the other hand, have a powerful offense. They have a strong line leading a balanced attack with an efficient quarterback throwing to playmaking receivers and handing off to the top rusher in the league. The Steelers completely shut them down. Time after time the Skins got the ball with great field position and Pittsburgh kept throwing them back. The way this game started for Pittsburgh on offense, they easily could have gotten down 14-0 a few minutes in. It takes a good defense to stop a team for a whole game. It takes a great defense to do what the Steelers did - to hold a strong offense to nothing with all that great field position, to sack a competent West Coast offense quarterback seven times, to force turnovers. Most of the low scoring games are painful to watch, but this one was pure pleasure for a serious football fan. The Steelers played with great intensity, flying around to the ball, knocking down passes, crushing the quarterback, and sticking tackles all night long. You could see the pride on display, especially when they stepped up twice more in the closing minutes to thwart Washington from a garbage time touchdown.

No one - including the Steelers coaches and the broadcasting team - noticed that on one of the sacks Jason Campbell lost the ball before he was down and the Steelers recovered for what should have been a defensive touchdown. This was a seven point mistake by the officials. Luckily it didn't cost the relevant parties - the Steelers and my fantasy team - the game.

Pittsburgh has the complete package on defense. They have talent at all the positions. They have instituted a system and draft players that fit the system. They are guided by one of the best coordinators in the game, Dick LeBeau, who has been on an NFL team as a player or coach every year since 1959.

The top ten assistant coaches in the NFL:

1. Monte Kiffin, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator
2. Dick LeBeau, Pittsburgh defensive coordinator
3. Jim Johnson, Philadelphia defensive coordinator
4. Rex Ryan, Baltimore assistant head coach and defensive coordinator
5. Alex Gibbs, Houston assistant head coach and offensive line coach
6. Tom Moore, Indianapolis offensive coordinator
7. Steve Spagnuolo, New York Giants defensive coordinator
8. Joe Bugel, Washington assistant head coach and offensive line coach
9. Cam Cameron, Baltimore offensive coordinator
10. Bobby April, Buffalo assistant head coach and special teams coach

32. Byron Leftwich made several big throws and was flawless in relief of Ben Roethlisberger, but I worry that his slow delivery coupled with Pittsburgh's terrible pass protection could lead to a lot of sacks and turnovers for them if Big Ben misses any more time.

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


Blogger TheGraveWolf said...

33. POY

7:01 PM  
Blogger GambleGambel said...

Seems like all the power rankings have ATL in top ten and the Saints barely in top 20. Why is spread -1 for ATL at home? Bad match ups?

10:03 AM  
Blogger GnightMoon said...

Spread is -1 because Vegas wants me to make some money this weekend.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Champ said...

Great post very good NFL commentary.

1:13 PM  
Blogger Nappy said...

One of the better observations post of the year. No factual errors.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Tru said...

This post was a dramatic improvement on the Weak 8 one. A few thoughts:

30. "It's amusing watching all these other teams try their hand at the Wildcat offense. The original, Miami, is still the best."

Perhaps, but Baltimore and even Denver kept the 'cat in the bag all game.

I'd like to see the wildcat used more in conjuction with the no huddle offense, especially early in games when the first 10 offensive plays are often scripted.

Also, Steve Spagnuolo should top your list. I'd bet the 07 "perfect season" Patriots would put him there.

5:39 PM  

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