Touring the NFL dissecting the day’s action…
Those that have been skeptical of Denver throughout their 6-0 start are likely to feel vindicated, but there is no shame in losing to Baltimore on the road. It was their 3-for-13 (23%) third down conversion rate that really did them in. Conversely, Baltimore was 11-for-16 (61%) in their third down situations. It was only 6-0 at half, but Baltimore took back the opening kick and swung the momentum in their favor. Even still, it was only 16-7 going into the fourth quarter, but the Ravens got two touchdowns and held Denver scoreless in the final 15 to make it look like a blowout. No one really expected Denver to go undefeated so now their first loss is out of the way the real test will be how they respond to it. Things won’t be easy with Pittsburgh rolling into Mile High next week. On the Baltimore side, Ray Rice had 108 total yards despite just 3.7 yards per carry on 23 carries. Star DT Haloti Ngata left with an ankle injury, but x-rays were negative. Baltimore is going to be in that AFC North race all season long making things especially interesting as neither Pittsburgh nor Cincinnati appear to be going anywhere either. Right now Houston would have the second wildcard with Baltimore and San Diego both at 4-3 and a game back in the win column.
Statistically Speaking – Kyle Orton had a horrific 4.1 yards per attempt (YPA) today. To put that in perspective, it was worse than Derek Anderson’s league worst 4.4 YPA… Rice has 874 yards from scrimmage this year as a dual threat both rushing and receiving. His league leading pace puts him on track for 1997.
Next up – Pittsburgh at Denver; Baltimore at Cincinnati
The Houston Texans have been known for the enigmatic ways the past few years. Some weeks they will look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders capable of taking their game to the next level. And the next week, they will get bashed up and down the field by a completely inferior opponent. This is how they have ended up with back-to-back 8-8 seasons coming into 2009. It looked like it was going to be the same old story again in 2009 as they followed a lose-win patter for their first six games. After a huge win against a very good Cincinnati Bengals team, the Texans had a chance to break their pattern. They did with a win against San Francisco that they almost let slip away in the end. Next was a trip to Buffalo against an inferior opponent. Could they do the impossible (for Houston) and win three straight? Down 10-6 going into the half, Texans fans were seeing a familiar sight as their team struggled with a weaker opponent they should be beating. With Steve Slaton benched and Owen Daniels out, things looked bleak. A lone field goal in the third quarter made it 10-9 going into the final 15. The Texans offense exploded thanks to Ryan Moats, in for the ineffective Slaton, and his three touchdown effort! Twenty-two points later, the Texans has themselves a walkaway 31-10 win. It didn’t come without cost as they lost Daniels for the season and their star running back may’ve been passed by a third stringer. Three straight wins puts ‘em at 5-3, 2nd to the Colts. The Bills continue to waste Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson as neither reached 10 carries. Terrell Owens got in the end zone, via a 29-yard end around. I can’t imagine a day goes by without him regretting his move to wallow in obscurity in Buffalo. Ryan Fitzpatrick, like Trent Edwards, is not the long-term answer for the Bills. Their defense, which is actually pretty solid, needs to stop winning them games so they can be in position to get a legitimate quarterback next April.
Statistically Speaking – Slaton has 341 rushing yards after eight weeks; he had 343 after six weeks in his rookie season last year. In the final seven games of ‘08, he had 916 yards from scrimmage… Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd had 2+ interceptions for the third straight week. He has seven in that span. The NFL record for most 2+ INT games in a season is four set by eight different players since 1960 including Ed Reed most recently.
Next up – Houston @ Indianapolis; Buffalo has a bye week
There is no better remedy for a struggling team than a tilt against the Cleveland Browns. Chicago got a blowout win beating the Browns 30-6, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. Sure Matt Forte reached the end zone twice, but he only managed 90 yards on 26 carries (3.5 yards per carry). Jay Cutler had a bland 17-for-30 for 225 showing with zero touchdowns and another interception. They crushed a team they were supposed to, but this team still has issues. They will be tested weekly for the next month hosting Arizona, going to Philly, hosting Chicago and going to Minnesota. I’m not sure Derek Anderson would start for one of the UFL teams at this point. He went 6-for-17 for a whopping 76 yards and two interceptions. The Browns clearly have no faith in Brady Quinn because he can barely sniff the field despite Anderson toting a hot 43% completion percentage with nine interceptions in his six games. Jamal Lewis said after the game that he plans to retire after the season. I’m not sure we would’ve noticed had he not made it a point to say something to the media. Cleveland gets a bye before they resume losing in Week 10 against Baltimore.
Statistically Speaking – Maybe Forte’s tumble isn’t such a surprise considering he had just 3.6 yards per carry (90 for 322) in his final five games last year which is virtually identical to his performance in the first six this season (92 for 318) prior to today’s game… Joshua Cribbs, easily Cleveland’s most explosive player, has four catches in the last six games including two with none. You can’t tell me he wouldn’t be effective with a series of Wes Welker-like routes designed for him and put into the playbook. It would even benefit Anderson because he wouldn’t have to throw the ball more than five yards in the air.
Next Up – Arizona at Chicago; Cleveland has a bye week
Dallas kept their momentum running high by tearing apart a far inferior Seattle Seahawks in the Jerry Dome on Sunday. Tony Romo, Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware have led the Cowboys on their 3-game winning streak. The Romo haters haven’t been heard from in awhile and don’t expect him to get any credit for kicking some serious butt, either. He’s 62-for-99 for 918 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions in the three victories. Austin’s five catches for 61 yards look downright pedestrian when compared to his previous two weeks in which he totaled 16 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns. Ware was held sackless in the first four games, but has since exploded for five including another one today. The Cowboys got to Matt Hasselbeck three times giving them 17 on the year after being shutout in their first two games. Seattle’s offensive line is ravaged and they are without their best defensive player for the rest of the season (Lofa Tatupu) making it unlikely that they get many more than the two wins they already have.
Statistically Speaking – Marion Barber (14 for 53, 3.8 ypc on Sunday) hasn’t topped 4.0 yards per carry in his past four games. And 4.0 is just acceptable, the top 10 in a given season are approaching 5.0. He hasn’t been right since coming up lame on a long run against the New York Giants in week 2. Since he is non-existent in the passing game too, he might be better off not playing and resting up so fantasy owners can commit to finding a replacement without the risk of missing a big week… Seattle is now without their two starting tackles from the beginning of the season as well as a backup leaving their line simply decimated. If you can sell Hasselbeck, TJ Houshmandzadeh or Julius Jones for anything worthwhile, I definitely would act on it.
Next up – Dallas at Philadelphia; Detroit at Seattle
I think I could watch the Jets and Dolphins play each every week. After being dead-locked at 3 through a half, the two teams combined for 49 second half points resulting in a 30-25 win for Miami powered by two Ted Ginn kickoff returns for touchdowns. Miami has to be especially pleased with the win because they did it without any contributions from their two-headed running back: Ronnie Ricky Brown Williams. The two managed just 27 yards apiece of 19 total carries. Football is a funny game. New York had 13 more first downs than Miami, Mark Sanchez was much better than Chad Henne and Thomas Jones rushed for 102 yards yet they couldn’t overcome three non-offensive touchdowns from the Dolphins. As this division continues to knock each other around, it lessens the chances of one of them taking a wildcard spot. Despite losing, the Jets have to be pleased with the bounceback by Mark Sanchez in his first real game since the five interception debacle.
Statistically Speaking – Miami is 7-2 in their last nine division games dating back to the season opener in 2008 (a 20-14 loss to New York). Ginn’s two 100+ yard kickoff return TDs set an NFL record. It was the 8th time someone took two kickoffs back in the same game, but the first time they were both 100+ yards… Shonn Greene followed up his breakout performance with 18 yards on eight carries including a lost fumble. He will likely be cut by many as quickly as he was picked up. That, of course, would be stupid, but it won’t stop many from overreacting.
Next up – Miami at New England; New York has a bye week
The least the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions could’ve done for the 40,857 fans who suffered through this debacle is bring the offenses. But instead the two horrible teams went toe-to-toe in a slugfest that saw a mere 27 points scored, including a safety. Even after breaking their streak of futility, no one thought the Lions were off and running towards viability. They are still going to take their lumps and they let a winnable game pass them by today. Matthew Stafford played, but was ineffective and clearly missed his best target, uber-receiver Calvin Johnson. I’m glad he’s back under center, though. I want him taking as many snaps as he can in his debut season. The Rams broke their Lions-esque streak with their first win in a loooong time while Steven Jackson stayed hot with another big game. After 134 yards against the Colts last week, Jackson followed it up with 149 on the ground against the Leos including his first touchdown of the season. What’s lost in this disastrous season for the Rams is that their defense isn’t half bad, but any defense is going to be exposed when they are on the field all day. If they ever get an ounce of sustainable offense (which won’t come until they get a real quarterback), they will begin to make some noise with Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Adam Carriker, Oshiomogho Atogwe and company.
Statistically Speaking – Long got his first sack since week 8 of last year when he had two against the New England Patriots… Brandon Pettigrew had his 13th and 14th catches of the season for 17 yards giving him 169 on the season. I stand firm that the pick used to get him should’ve been spent on left tackle Michael Oher, who spent the day shutting down football’s sack leader, Elvis Dumervil (10) [Check that, sack leader coming into Sunday… Jared Allen tore up Green Bay again and pushed his season sack total to 10.5]. Even if Pettigrew pans out as an Owen Daniels-type of tight end, I will remain steadfast in my belief that Oher was the pick, without question.
Next up – St. Louis has a bye week; Detroit at Seattle
Like the New Orleans Saints, the Indianapolis Colts are showing that they can win in many different ways. They were down 14-9 at halftime to the upstart San Francisco 49ers, which is 10.4 points below their halftime average this year and well below the 21 they have had at halftime in each of the past four games. The scoring didn’t really come on in the second half either, but the defense turned it up a notch. Frank Gore, who busted off a 64-yard run for a touchdown in the first half, managed just 27 yards on his remaining 12 carries. And the 49ers were just 2-for-10 (20%) on third down conversions while the Colts were 8-for-19 (42%), including 5-for-9 (56%) in the second half. This is second low scoring slugfest that Indy has battled through, the first coming on opening week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The amazing thing about the 18-point total for the Colts is that Peyton Manning had 347 yards, but he couldn’t find the end zone. The lone TD pass for Indy was thrown by Joseph Addai. Alex Smith and the Fightin’ Singletarys have now lost two back-breakers in a row and their third by four or fewer points this season. Gore racked up 134 total yards while Vernon Davis found the end zone again, but it just wasn’t enough.
Statistically Speaking – There was concern that Reggie Wayne might miss the game. Not only did he play, but he caught 12 balls for 147 yards including the TD from Addai. Despite the presence of several targets on the Colts, Wayne is on pace for a career high 1575 yards this year… Michael Crabtree had another strong game (6 catches for 81 yards) despite the lost fumble in the third quarter. This only makes his holdout decision that much dumber. He could’ve been racking up numbers from the jump and showed that he was the best receiver in the draft instead of just talking about it. His pace from his first two games over a whole season comes out to 88 catches for 1096 yards, figures good for 4th and 6th best since 1980 amongst rookie receivers. Hey at least you got… nothing with that holdout!
Next up – Houston at Indianapolis; Tennessee at San Francisco
The Giants suck. They built their record up against awful opponents like Washington, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland. Their lone worthwhile win in the early season was against the Cowboys in Dallas. Dallas was playing horribly at the time, but I will give them credit for it. They are now 0-3 against three teams with a combined record of 15-5. Today’s blowout loss to Philly was even more embarrassing because the Eagles were without their best player. That didn’t prevent Donovan McNabb and backup running back LeSean McCoy from pummeling the hapless Giants. The talk of the two in the early season was either an All-New York Super Bowl or All-Manning Super Bowl. Injuries have decimated the New York secondary, but the loss of Steve Spagnuolo has been a lot more important than most recognize. It’s the same effect of Jim Schwartz leaving Tennessee. I think the combination of Schwartz and Albert Haynesworth leaving is what has left the Titans SO reprehensible, but in a league so focused on coaching, losing an elite coordinator is big. They could really use a bye week to regroup and get focused, but instead they host San Diego next week. Another reason I don’t want to hear the injuries excuse for New York is because the team they played today is as banged up as any in the league. I already mentioned that Brian Westbrook was out, but their linebacking corps have been gutted with season-ending injuries and their line has struggled to come back from the Shawn Andrews injury as evidenced by their weak running game. But they continued to live off of the big play with touchdowns of 17, 23, 41, 54 and 66 yards today. McNabb and his no-name crew owned their division rivals setting up a battle for first place against the Dallas Cowboys next week.
Statistically Speaking – DeSean Jackson has a 50+ yard reception in each of the past three weeks and in five of the last six. He is now on pace for 1145 yards… Eli Manning had a 10-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio through five weeks; he has a 3-to-6 ratio since.
Next up – Dallas at Philadelphia; San Diego at New York
And then there was one. Vince Young and Chris Johnson teamed up for a spectacular performance on Sunday and brought their team its first win of the 2009 season leaving just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only winless team left. Young, in for Kerry Collins, bought himself at least another week of good favor with a 15-for-18 for 125 yards showing. He also had a touchdown pass and no interceptions. The real star was Johnson, who rushed for 228 yards including touchdown runs of 52 and 89 yards. Not to be outdone, Johnson’s counterpart, Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 177 yards on a mere eight carries most of the yardage coming on touchdown runs of 80 and 79 yards. That is the single best performance on 10 or fewer carries since 1960, with only Michael Vick’s 173 yards on 10 carries coming close. Meanwhile, Jags quarterback David Garrard did a complete 180 from the last time these two teams met. Back in week 4, he went 27-for-37 for 323 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. On Sunday he was 14-for-27 for 139 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Jacksonville is a tough team to figure out. They have talent, but they are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. It’s probably time for Jack Del Rio to be let go. A home loss to Kansas City might be the impetus.
Statistically Speaking – This was Young’s 2nd-best game ever from a passer rating standpoint (114.1) and his best in efficiency (83% completion percentage)… Sunday was the third time a running back had two 79+ yard touchdowns in a game, and the second this season. Frank Gore matched Jones-Drew’s feat with 79 and 80 yard touchdowns in week 2. Barry Sanders was the other back in 1997 when he had 80 and 82 yard touchdowns in a 215 yard performance against Tampa Bay. It came in the midst of his 2053-yard season. A sidenote about that incredible season for Sanders is that he had just 53 total yards through the first two games of the season.
Next up – Tennessee at San Francisco; Kansas City at Jacksonville
LaDainian Tomlinson stayed fantasy relevant with two touchdowns, but that doesn’t change the fact that he managed a meager 3.1 yards per carry on his 18 carries (totaling 56 yards). He was also non-existent in passing game again. There’s no need to belabor the point, but Tomlinson is toast and it’s sad because he’s a surefire Hall of Famer who will probably hang on for 2 more seasons when he’s been done since last year. I’d like to see him retire after this season and save his body a little bit before he reaches the 3000 carry mark. Only 14 backs have topped his 2736 carries and all are Hall of Famers or likely headed there soon. You know you’re a terrible quarterback when you post a 56.8 passer rating and it ranks as your 3rd-best game of the season. JaMarcus Russell had his best completion percentage of the season (14-for-22, 64%) and broke his streak of two interceptions per game with just one, but he was sacked five times. He sucks and he sucks hard. The worst part isn’t his lack of skill, it’s his attitude. He actually doesn’t see himself as a reason the Raiders are so bad. In fact, he thinks he didn’t do too badly on Sunday. Delusional much? Denver has a stranglehold on the AFC West lead, but San Diego is still in the wildcard hunt. They have the 2nd-worst rushing attack in the league at 74.7 yards per game, but that doesn’t prevent success. The Colts are 3rd-worst at 87.3 and they are 7-0. That said, Philip Rivers isn’t exactly Peyton Manning, but each has a similar group of weapons.
Statistically Speaking – Vincent Jackson continued his breakout season for the Chargers with an 8 catch/103 yard performance pushing his season total to 664 and putting him on pace for 1518, which would easily be a career high. Only Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne have more total yards while only Wayne and Wes Welker are averaging more than Jackson’s 94.9 yards per game… Last year, Oakland had the 10th-best rushing attack which they parlayed into a 5-11 record. This year they’ve tumbled to 25th with 93.6 yards per game which has made it more difficult to overcome Russell’s suckiness. Their 78 points are tied (w/Cleveland) for 2nd-worst in the league (St. Louis, 77).
Next up – San Diego at New York Giants; Oakland has a bye week
There are a lot of teams in the mold of this Arizona team this year: teams that you just can’t get a read on from week-to-week. When it looks like they have a “can’t-lose” game against an inferior opponent, they lose. When they appear overmatched on paper by an opponent, they go out and steamroll them. There is no way this team should be losing to a piece of crap team like Carolina, but turnovers are a great equalizer and Kurt Warner threw FIVE interceptions. It was the second 5-INT game of Warner’s career, the first coming in December of 2007 at Seattle. Carolina’s rushing attack looked 2008esque as both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart rushed for better than 5.0 yards per carry while Stewart found the end zone twice. Jake Delhomme remained positively JaMarcus Russelly with a 7-for-14 for 90 yards performance. He did manage to finally get Steve Smith his first touchdown of the season and was interceptionless for the first all year. I’m still not sure why he is starting for them. Matt Moore hasn’t shown much in his very limited time since 2007, but he’s 25 and he can’t be worse than Delhomme, so why not get him a bunch of snaps and see if there is anything there?
Statistically Speaking – After peaking at 79 yards in the first four weeks, Williams has weeks of 152, 89 and 158 yards the past three weeks. His 399 yards have come on 69 carries (5.8 yards per carry) while Stewart has amassed 222 yards on 41 carries (5.4 ypc) in the same span… Warner’s 5 INT isn’t rare (145 instances since 1960) and he’s not the only Hall of Fame caliber quarterback to achieve the dubious feat. Both George Blanda and Joe Namath have done it FIVE times apiece and Johnny Unitas had four such games.
Next up – Carolina at New Orleans; Arizona at Chicago
The game of the day was the one everyone pegged as such all week. It lived up to the hype, though by halftime it didn’t look like it would. Minnesota took a 17-3 lead into halftime in Lambeau against Green Bay and it looked like a runaway win for Brett Favre in his old stomping grounds. Favre got his second passing touchdown of the day early in the 2nd half extending the lead to 24-3, but Green Bay answered with 17 straight points and cut the Vikings leads to 24-20. The two teams traded touchdowns, but Green Bay failed on a two-point conversion pushing the margin to five. Favre’s fourth touchdown pass would seal up a sweep of his former team. Adrian Peterson had 141 total yards, but just 97 on the ground on 25 carries. It was the second straight game in which Peterson averaged fewer than four yards per carry, but he was facing the 1st and 10th rated rush defenses, too. Green Bay locked him up for just 55 yards on 25 carries in their first meeting leaving him with just 3.0 yards per carry against the Pack this season. I guarantee that only number that Peterson cares about the two wins for Minnesota in those games and he did manage to score in each game, too. Neither quarterback was intercepted, but Minnesota lost two fumbles for the game’s only turnovers. Everyone was eager to see how this Vikings team would respond to their first loss to gauge their chances as legitimate championship contenders. They went into Lambeau and asserted themselves as the NFC’s second-best team (behind New Orleans) with a convincing one against their biggest rival. They took Green Bay’s best counterpunch and still won by 12. Minnesota extended their league leading sack total to 31 (Denver & Philly, 23) by taking down Aaron Rodgers six times, including three from Jared Allen. Meanwhile, the Packers are toting arguably the league’s worst offensive line which seriously limits how seriously they can be taken as playoff contenders let alone anything beyond that. Rodgers has been sacked four or more times in all but two games and he’s stayed upright all game just once (last week vs. Cleveland). The FOX telecast spent a lot of yesterday blaming Rodgers for his fair share of the sacks, but this line is garbage and I have no problem placing the blame directly on them. Ryan Grant has felt the effects of the line as well with just one 100-yard game (last week vs. Cleveland, 148).
Statistically Speaking – Percy Harvin is on pace for 1720 kickoff return yards, which would be the 2nd-best total by a rookie returner since 1970. His four kickoff return touchdown pace would be a rookie record. His pace of 2458 all-purpose yards would be a post-merger rookie record, too (Tim Brown, 2317)… Aaron Kampman had the 3rd-most sacks from 2006-2008 with 37 (DeMarcus Ware 45.5, Allen 37.5), but has just 2.5 so far this season. Allen had more than that on Sunday alone while Ware has topped that total in the past two weeks with three including one on Sunday.
Next up – Minnesota has a bye week; Green Bay at Tampa Bay
NOT SO SECRET SAUCE STANDINGS
|RK||TEAM||SK FOR||SK AGNST||DIFF||WINS|
Protect your quarterback and get to opposing team’s and you will have a great shot at winning. The top 10 in sack differential has an average of 5.1 wins this season while the bottom 10 has just 2.4 wins per team. Tennessee, Houston and Green Bay are the outliers on each end of the spectrum. Obviously many things going into a winning team, but getting and preventing pressure is definitely a big key.
Duh Player of the Week – Chris Johnson
Off the Radar Player of the Week – Michael Oher
Best Team in the League – New Orleans
2nd-Best Team in the League – Indianapolis
Worst Team in the League (Talent/Performance Ratio) – tie: Tennessee/Washington (one win doesn’t elevate Tennessee that much)
Worst Team in the League (Least Talent) – tie: Cleveland/Tampa Bay
My Playoff Predictions After 50% of the Season:
N: Baltimore, S: Indianapolis, E: New England, W: Denver, WC1: Cincinnati, WC2: Pittsburgh
N: Minnesota, S: New Orleans, E: Philadelphia, W: San Francisco, WC1: Dallas, WC2: Atlanta
With the 1st pick in 2010 Draft…
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska – I don’t think they’ll take Sam Bradford only because they have Josh Freeman and they have to give him a legitimate shot, right? Only the Rams (221), Titans (211), Browns (209) and Lions (205) have given up more points than the Bucs (203) so they need to start fixing that D if they ever hope to get back to where they were when their D dominated. There have been 4 DTs selected #1 overall since 1975 – Dan Wilkinson, Steve Emtman, Russell Maryland and Kenneth Sims – so it wouldn’t be unprecedented. Eric Berry might be the best player available from a grading standpoint, but defensive backs don’t go #1 overall. Other options include Russell Okung (OT) from Oklahoma State and Carlos Dunlap (DE) from Florida.
Top 10 Prospects for 2010 Draft
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
2. Eric Berry, S, Tennessee$
3. Jake Locker, QB, Washington$
4. Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
5. Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss
6. Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida$
7. Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma$
8. Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma
9. Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma$
10. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State$
$ – eligible juniors
Next 5 Prospects for 2010 Draft
11. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame$
12. Earl Thomas, S, Texas$
13. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama$
14. Taylor Mays, S, USC
15. CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
Week 9 Game(s) of the Week –
Baltimore at Cincinnati – the two AFC North stalwarts rematch after a thrilled 17-14 Cincy win in Baltimore back on week 5.
Houston at Indianapolis – if Houston wants to have any chance at the AFC South crown, they will need to win their biggest game of the year on the road against the Fightin’ Peytons. It won’t be easy without star tight end, Owen Daniels.
Dallas at Philadelphia – the Eagles have a chance to get a vice grip on the NFC North as they play their third straight divisional game. The surging Cowboys have found their #1 receiver and have gotten back to their QB pressuring ways. The games are always amazing and this one should be no different next Sunday night.
Pittsburgh at Denver – it is Denver’s turn to respond to their first taste of failure in 2009. The Vikings bounced back with a convincing win against their rival and Denver gets a shot to respond against a very tough opponent at home.