Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Week Fourteen Observations

1. You have to wonder where the Chargers season would have gone if LT had suffered a season-ending injury early and they had been forced to give Darren Sproles the ball.

2. How do you keep a bad team in the game? Commit four defensive offsides penalties in the first quarter like the Vikings did vs. the Lions.

3. The Vikings would not have won this game without the Williams boys, as they stopped Detroit on two middle runs on critical 4th and 1s.

4. The Vikings hit some clutch challenges against the Lions to save their asses, including a questionable overturn of a key completion to Calvin Johnson late in the game.

5. Jared Allen seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses.

6. Well played game by Daunte Culpepper. The Lions would have won a game if he had played for them the whole season.

7. For the 800th time this season, I’m wondering what Kevin Smith is going to do when he gets behind a decent offensive line.

8. The Lions were rather unfortunate that Tarvaris Jackson decided to play so well and snuff out their last chance at a win.

9. I’m surprised Ryan Fitzpatrick is still standing. He is taking a beating.

10. Houston’s powerful offense is third in the league in total yards, but they can’t take care of the ball. Gary Kubiak’s schemes lead to lots of big plays but players like Sage Rosenfels, Matt Schaub, and Jacoby Jones don’t show enough discretion with the ball.

11. One of the most interesting stats over NFL history is that there is no correlation between defensive penalties and losing. The theory is that defensive penalties are often mistakes of effort, whereas offensive penalties are mistakes of ineptitude. There is a strong correlation between offensive penalties and losing – and the Green Bay Packers lead the league in offensive penalty yards.

12. Three weeks in a row the Jaguars have gotten off to disastrous starts. They spotted the Vikings a quick two touchdowns three weeks ago, then got in a quick 10-0 hole at Houston. On Sunday they force-fed the Bears an early TD. Jacksonville is not a team that can afford to dig itself a hole.

13. Against the Bears, Jacksonville was unable to convert third and short via the pass. Then they tried to run it on third and short, and that didn’t work either. The Jags finished the first half with 33 passing yards and four first downs.

14. Kyle Orton has not been the same since coming back from injury.

15. Tight end Greg Olsen might be Chicago’s best pass catcher.

16. If the Browns could just put the ball in the hands of Josh Cribbs every play, they might have a chance. You can tell this is a poorly coached team by how long it took them to get Cribbs into the offense.

17. Tennessee and Pittsburgh have very smart defenses. They are always aware of the situation and what sort of plays they should be expecting. The Titans are great at coming up and stuffing runs and short passes on third and short.

18. Highlight of the Titans-Browns game: A rare caught deep ball to Braylon Edwards is ruled out of bounds on a close play with the Browns down 28-9 with eight minutes left. Cleveland elects not to challenge the play and an enraged Dan Fouts screams “It’s a fifty yard gain and you’re not gonna challenge it!? Somebody’s asleep on the sidelines!” The Browns then run it on 2nd and 10 for a loss of four, check it down for a short pass (incomplete) on 3rd and 14, then punt the ball down 19 with seven minutes left.

19. Lots of punt returners are being real squeamish on short punts, letting them bounce instead of rushing up to make the catch. Far too often they let the ball bounce and it ends up bounding another 10+ yards, or occasionally glancing off a teammate to create a potential turnover.

20. The Saints averaged 6.1 yards per carry against Atlanta, but went 0 for 2 running the ball on third and one and barely eked out an essential fourth and one. This has been the Achilles heel for an offense leading the league in yards.

21. Roddy White is now leading the league in receiving yards and sits atop NFL Outsiders’ WR rankings. He deserves a lot of the credit for Matt Ryan’s amazing season along with Atlanta’s underrated offensive line. There is no wide receiver I’d rather have locked up for the next couple years in a fantasy keeper league, even my boy Larry Fitzgerald.

22. Philadelphia finally realized Brian Westbrook is their best player with three minutes left in the third quarter against the Giants, and that realization may have saved their season. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb got bailed out of another long week of scrutiny by Jim Johnson and the Philly defense.

23. Shaun Hill is now 5-2 in his career as a starter.

24. Jets wide receivers have not gotten separation against some pretty suspect secondaries the last couple weeks. I may have to go with Davone Bess over Laveranues Coles for the fantasy playoffs.

25. The Jets have been able to run the ball very effectively the last couple weeks, but they don’t call enough running plays. And they aren’t getting the ball into the hands of their one dynamic player, Leon Washington.

26. Chad Pennington has quickly transitioned to Davone Bess as his favorite target after the loss of Greg Camarillo.

27. J.P. Losman didn’t get much help from his receivers on Sunday, who dropped numerous passes. You see receivers drop a lot more passes when the backup quarterback comes in.

28. Play-by-play man Kevin Harlan has become hilariously obsessed with hang time on punts and kickoffs, but he is still one of the best in the business. The top ten play-by-play guys doing NFL games right now:

10. Kenny Albert
9. Matt Vasgersian
8. Dick Stockton
7. Thom Brennaman
6. Gus Johnson
5. Kevin Harlan
4. Jim Nantz
3. Al Michaels
2. Joe Buck
1. Dick Enberg

29. Hard-earned season-defining win for the Patriots up in Seattle. The Seahawks played one of their best games of the season and New England was just barely able to overcome that unexpected effort thanks to some timely third down conversions and a classic performance from Wes Welker.

30. Kevin Faulk is averaging 6.1 yards per carry this season, tops in the league.

31. PiMaster had an astute observation on Marc Bulger: most of the time his crappy offensive line doesn’t give him any time to throw, so he has to rush it and he makes poor throws. He has been so conditioned to expect a hit that when the line actually does protect, he still rushes it and makes poor throws. We’ve seen this phenomenon from just about everyone except Ben Roethlisberger, including Peyton Manning throughout his career and Tom Brady in the Super Bowl against the Giants.

32. Arizona’s rush offense is so bad they averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against the pitiful St. Louis run D despite passing the ball with their usual effectiveness.

33. People touting Kurt Warner for MVP are not watching the games. He is very accurate of course, but his offensive line, wide receivers, coaches, and schedule are responsible for those gaudy statistics.

34. Rookie left tackle Ryan Clady of the Broncos is playing so well in such a crucial role that he’s emerged as a candidate for my 2008 NFL MVP. An estimate of the importance of positions in the NFL:

1. Quarterback
2. Left tackle
3. Defensive tackle (particularly nose tackle if the defense uses a 3-4 alignment)
4. Middle linebacker
5. Right tackle
6. Center
7. Defensive end
8. Running back
9. Guard
10. Free safety
11. Strong safety
12. Cornerback
13. Tight end
14. Outside linebacker
15. Fullback
16. Wide receiver
17. Kicker
18. Punter
19. Punt returner
20. Kickoff returner

35. If you could sum up Denver's season in one play, it would be the crazy throw by Jay Cutler and even crazier catch by Peyton Hillis (at 2:24) that converted a third down and ended Peyton's legendary rookie season. Despite having his leg bent back enough to rip his hamstring, Hillis held on to the ball and the Broncos were able to go down and get a key touchdown before the end of the half. Selvin Young appears to finally be getting healthy just in time to give the Broncos another tailback.

36. Dallas coaches did a nice job gameplanning for Tashard Choice, calling plays suited to his skill set rather than relying on the same stuff they set up for Marion Barber.

37. It was rewarding and a little disappointing to see the Ravens smack the Redskins around on Sunday Night, since Baltimore has been one of our most lucrative ponies this season. We don't expect the lines to be as favorable after that impressive performance on national television. John Madden talked a little about the symbiotic relationship between their offense and defense. The Ravens are good enough to win the Super Bowl this season.

Offensive MVP of the Week: Roddy White, Atlanta
Defensive MVP of the Week: Ed Reed, Baltimore
Breakout Player of the Week: Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay
Head Coach of the Week: Mike Singletary, San Francisco
Assistant Coach of the Week: Jim Johnson, Philadelphia Defensive Co-ordinator

Power Ratings:

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


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