The Week 9 Review continues…
Houston 17 at Indianapolis 20
Houston fought back from a 13-0 deficit to actually own the lead early into the fourth quarter. Down 20-17 midway through the fourth quarter, the Texans drove into Colts territory before quarterback Matt Schaub threw his second interception of the game. The nearly 5:00 minute drive that went naught could’ve sealed Houston’s fate, but Indy took just 0:22 off the clock with a 3-and-out and gave the Texans the ball back with 1:46 left. They drove from their 15 to Indy’s 24, but Kris Brown missed a game-tying field goal moving Houston to 5-4, right on track for their perennial 8-8 record. This isn’t a bad team, but their inability to go mistake-free when it counts and win a huge game is what keeps them from being great and earning consideration as legitimate playoff contenders. Schaub is a very good quarterback and there are few, if any, wide receivers better than Andre Johnson, but the running back situation is a mess. Ryan Moats is not the answer and Houston should be working to fix Steve Slaton as opposed to limiting his work, especially if Moats is just going to fumble the ball away like Slaton did anyway. You might as well go with the FAR BETTER player if both are going to be fumble prone. Out of the bye week, Houston gets Tennessee and Indianapolis at home, a pair of games that will decide their 2009 fate. Tennessee isn’t back to where they were last year, but few teams are playing better the past two weeks and overlooking them for Indy would almost certainly lead to a loss.
Should we be applauding the Colts for their back-to-back close wins or do we express concern for their lack of a running game (29th in the league) and injury-riddled secondary that allowed 311 passing yards to Houston? As long as Peyton Manning remains under center, I’m not terribly concerned about the running attack, but the body count in the secondary is a legitimate concern. They have played without Bob Sanders enough for it to almost go unnoticed at this point, but Kelvin Hayden out for four weeks and Marlin Jackson done for the season leaves them seriously undermanned going into a gauntlet of passing teams the next three weeks: New England (3rd most passing yards), Houston (most) and Baltimore (11th most). When pressed for their first instinct as to who would win the Super Bowl right now, three straight guests on Bill Simmons’ BS Report said Indianapolis. Mike Lombardi of National Football Post, Aaron Schatz of the already heavily referenced FootballOutsiders.com and Cousin Sal from the Jimmy Kimmel Show. This is highly thought of team despite some legitimate flaws. Otherworldly quarterback play can hide a lot of sins.
Peyton Manning had his 7th 300-yard game of the season and he is pacing for his first 5,000-yard season ever. Manning’s seven 300-yard performances is the most of any quarterback through nine weeks and he is four shy of breaking the single-season record of 10 held by Drew Brees (2008) and Rich Gannon (2002). His 5,090 yard pace would be an NFL record and only the 3rd 5,000-yard season ever (Brees, 2008; Marino, 1984)… LB Brian Cushing is on pace for 139 tackles, which would be the most by a rookie since 1988 when Chris Spielman had 153 for the Detroit Lions. Cushing is on pace to top Patrick Willis and his 137-tackle debut. His pace of 14 passes defended would be a new rookie linebacker record topping Lofa Tatupu’s 10. The data isn’t deep (reaches 2001), but it still points to how great Cushing has been.
Indianapolis – 3rd downs: 6-12 (50%), TOP: 25:27, Sacks: 2
Houston – 3rd downs: 10-16 (63%), TOP: 34:33, Sacks: 2
New England at Indianapolis, Houston has a bye week
Detroit 20 at Seattle 32
The Lions finally got a win this year and there appears to be a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel that is MILES away, but on the whole this remains a very poor team. Staked to a 17-point first quarter lead, the Lions wilted over the final three quarters scoring whopping three points while allowing 32 to the Seahawks. Matthew Stafford (5 INTs) seems to be forcing the ball to a still-banged up Calvin Johnson, who likely shouldn’t be playing. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith can’t get enough carries to make a dent in the defense, but he continues to do the most with what he’s allotted (67 yards on 13 carries, 5.2 per carry). Rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was taken where the team should have taken tackle Michael Oher, finally had an impact with seven catches for 70 yards and his first career touchdown. Pettigrew can’t be judged off of his first season and I’ll give him a fair shot to be a star, but I just really wanted to see the Lions address the line with that pick from Dallas.
If you don’t win a game in which you intercept the quarterback five times, you need to be contract on the spot. The secondary no doubt won this game for the Seahawks. The rushing attack remained inept as Julius Jones managed 36 yards on 16 carries and though Matt Hasselbeck topped 300 yards (329 on 51 attempts), he didn’t exactly carve up the Lions secondary. It was more of a volume attack that led to his high yardage total. I still have no confidence in this team as anything more than a upper-bottom team, which is hardly a brag-worthy distinction. Keeping Hasselbeck upright will remain a challenge with their depleted line.
David Hawthrone, an undrafted free agent from TCU, is making his second Statistically Speaking appearance for the Seahawks. Filling in for Lofa Tatupu, he got two sacks against Dallas last week. This week he got two interceptions and another nine tackles. All told, he has 17 tackles, four passes defended, two sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble in two games since entering the starting lineup… If anyone wants to panic about Brandon Pettigrew, consider that the current crop of elite tight ends did less than Pettigrew’s 478-yard pace in their debut: Antonio Gates: 389, Tony Gonzalez: 368, Owen Daniels: 352, Jason Witten: 347 and Dallas Clark: 340.
Seattle – 3rd downs: 7-15 (47%), TOP: 30:42, Sacks: 2
Detroit – 3rd downs: 6-16 (38%), TOP: 29:18, Sacks: 1
Seattle at Arizona, Minnesota at Detroit
Carolina 20 at New Orleans 30
Carolina landed a few blows, but in the end couldn’t take down the heavyweight Saints. Back-to-back fumbles by Jake Delhomme and DeAngelo Williams in two of the final three drives for the Panthers did them in. It was a 3-point spread when Delhomme fumbled with 2:43 left in the game and though they held the Saints to a 3-and-out, they were pinned at their own two yard line with 2:17 left. Williams fumbled on the very first play and it was covered by New Orleans for a touchdown. Delhomme actually looked a little like he knew how to play the game of football on Sunday, but still not enough to lead a team towards much more than an early first round pick. He has been interception free for two games, but still just 24-for-44 for 291 yards and one TD in that span. Williams has really looked like the 2008 version of late with another 149 yards on Sunday. Of course, his fumble essentially ended the game so while the numbers are nice, it has to be a disappointment for him. Last year, Steve Smith had three games with fewer than 64 yards receiving (which he had on Sunday). This year, he has three games with MORE than 64 yards receiving.
Only once has the same receiver led the Saints in yards in back-to-back weeks (Marques Colston in wks 2 & 3). The trend continued again this week as Robert Meachem took the torch from Colston with 98 yards on five catches… DeAngelo Williams was a lost cause after his team’s first four games, having not amassed more than 79 yards on the ground in any single game. In the over-reactionary landscape of fantasy sports (thanks in large part to the internet), I’m sure he was dumped for pennies on the dollar despite just a quarter of the season having expired. In the four games since, he has 548 yards on 90 carries (6.1/carry) and five touchdowns.
New Orleans – 3rd downs: 6-12 (50%), TOP: 27:34, Sacks: 2
Carolina – 3rd downs: 8-16 (50%), TOP: 32:26, Sacks: 1
New Orleans at St. Louis, Atlanta at Carolina
San Diego 21 at New York Giants 20
Two teams that desperately needed a win locked up in a nail-biter at Giants Stadium on Sunday as the Chargers came back for the thrilling win with 0:21 left. Neither team did anything particularly well throughout the game, but Philip Rivers did manage three touchdown passes despite just 209 yards on 36 attempts (5.8/attempt). Another nail was hammered into the football coffin of LaDainian Tomlinson (22 yards on 12 carries, 1.8 YPC), but at this point it’s like the ninth staple in a 2-page worksheet of homework. The brightest spot for the Chargers is that Shawne Merriman had two more sacks giving him four in his last two games. I guess the other bright spot that gives this team hope week in and week out is Rivers and his group of targets. With LT cooked and Darren Sproles nowhere near an every down back, it’s nice to have an elite quarterback with many capable targets such as Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd and the aforementioned Sproles. Will it be enough to overcome atrocious head coaching by Norv Turner for the balance of the season? I severely doubt it. So while I could actually envision a scenario where this San Diego team takes the AFC West crown (not predicting it, just saying it’s not a definite no either), at some point they will get Turnered when they can least afford it and it will end their season.
The Giants have now lost four straight after sitting atop the league’s elite weeks ago. I keep hearing people ask what is wrong with Brandon Jacobs as if it’s somehow his fault he’s been given a whopping 51 carries in the past four games combined reaching 20 just once and failing to reach 10 in another. He’s done all he can with those 51 carries, accumulating 262 yards for a 5.1 average per carry that is right on par with the 5.0 he’s sustained the past two seasons. So shouldn’t the question be what’s wrong with the idiot offensive coordinator who isn’t giving his horse more carries? Ahmad Bradshaw has 92 yards on 35 carries (2.6/carry) the last three games. Perhaps those carries ought to be funneled Jacobs’s way. Inconsistent play by Eli Manning has been a big culprit during the tailspin, too. He’s drawn some criticism (rightfully so, of course), but I’ve most of the blame heaped on Jacobs and the secondary. I exonerated Jacobs, but the secondary got fat on awful competition which has allowed them to have a 168 passing yard/game average despite being diced up for four straight games. In short, both sides of the passing game need to get better immediately if this team wants to make the playoffs let alone move far into January.
I hate to beat a dead horse (or running back in this instance), but the Chargers have amassed a mere 557 rushing yards as a team this season (eight games) while Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams has nearly matched that in his last four game (548). I just hope LT walks away gracefully and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller falls to them in the first round of next April’s draft… More on Eli Manning’s topsy-turvy first half. Against the high school portion of his schedule (i.e. the first five games), he went 87-for-135 (64%) for 1212 yards (9.0/attempt) with a 10:2 TD:INT ratio. The Giants were of course undefeated in that run. Since then, he is 78-for-140 (56%) for 858 yards (6.1/attempt) with a 5:6 TD:INT ratio.
San Diego – 3rd downs: 3-10 (30%), TOP: 22:13, Sacks: 5
New York Giants – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 33:50, Sacks: 2
Philadelphia at San Diego, New York (mercifully) has a bye week
Tennessee 34 at San Francisco 27
Like the Giants, the 49ers are in a state of free-fall having also lost four straight starting with the pounding that Atlanta administered several weeks ago. Since then it has been three losses by a combined 14 points which has just got to be eating away at head coach Mike Singletary. This just in, Alex Smith is still Alex Smith. He hasn’t come close to the numbers he put up in that remarkable second half in Houston. He average 9.4 yards per attempt in the near-comeback only to post game of 6.2 and 6.4 yards per attempt in his first two starts of the season. He’s been sacked four times in each game, too. I was firmly entrenched on the 49er bandwagon at the beginning of this season but even when they got out to a 3-1 start that included that crushing last second loss to the Vikings, I was still realistic enough to see them as a team that should stay in a lot of games and perhaps mess around and win enough to get to 9-7, which could be good enough to take the NFC West title. Despite losing four straight to move to 3-5, I still feel that way. The remaining schedule is: Chicago, at Green Bay, Jacksonville, at Seattle, Arizona, at Philly, Detroit, at St. Louis. Can you not see them winning all of the games except Philly and maybe the Arizona rematch? This team isn’t out of the playoff picture. He had his worst game of the year (3 catches, 30 yards), but Michael Crabtree appears to be acclimating to the NFL very well despite all of the mess he went through to finally get on the field and I feel like he will win a game for them at some point in this season. He will have something like an eight catch, 147 yards with two touchdowns performance. Mark it down.
Which team has been the consistent outlier atop the Not Secret Sauce standing the past several weeks? That’s right, the previously winless Titans. They’ve continued their sacking ways and voila, back-to-back wins. They have notched eight sacks while allowing just one in those contests. Having one of the game’s best home run hitters at running back doesn’t hurt things either. Chris Johnson has notched his two highest carry totals of the season (24 and 25) and racked up 363 yards (7.4/carry). Next is the obvious argument: get Johnson the ball and win games, but it would be foolish to equate the two automatically. Do you win because run or do you run because you’re winning? I feel like the latter is most true, especially in the NFL we’re seeing today. Regardless, Vince Young has been strong in his two games coupled with excellent play from Johnson and a defense more closely resembling the one we’ve gotten used to the past few seasons as opposed to the abomination that allowed an average of 33 points per game over the first six games. Some have toyed with the idea of this team going off and running the table for a 10-6 record, but I wouldn’t rush out to bet on that. Games against Houston, Arizona and Indianapolis still loom while there are no guarantees they will beat Miami, San Diego and Seattle to close out the season. It’s nice to see them playing much better football though.
Chris Johnson has four rushing touchdowns of 50 yards or better this season. That stands as the best mark since 2000, but Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore are right on Johnson’s tail this year with three apiece… Vernon Davis had another great game (10 for 102) despite not reaching the end zone for the third straight week. However, his pace of 14 touchdowns would set a record for tight ends in the fourth season or fewer, breaking Antonio Gates’ record of 13.
Tennessee – 3rd down: 4-12 (33%), TOP: 26:10, Sacks: 4
San Francisco – 3rd downs: 4-13 (31%), TOP: 33:50, Sacks: 1
Buffalo at Tennessee, Chicago at San Francisco
Dallas 20 at Philadelphia 16
How many games can you watch where Wade Phillips outcoaches his counterpart? Not many, but Sunday was such an occurrence. Of course, Andy Reid is brutalized yearly for losing a game or two with poor clock management or some other coaching gaffe. Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal came up with a great solution on The B.S. Report on Tuesday and that is to get a “closer coach” to finish out the final eight minutes of the game. Reid will roam the sidelines until the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter when someone else, ANYONE else, will take the reins and Reid will leave the field. This could be a supplemental coach, maybe a coordinator takes over, just someone other than Reid. I thought it was sheer brilliance. Apart from coaching breakdowns, the Eagles continue to live and die by the big play so if they don’t get a 50-yard touchdown somewhere in the game, it seems like they can’t win. Neither team seems even remotely interested in running the ball despite the presence of a legitimate back, or ninety in the case of Dallas but more on them in a minute. Philadelphia needs to realize that the Brian Westbrook era as we all know it is over. Let the LeSean McCoy era begin. He has averaged a healthy 4.2 yards per carry so far this season, but the Eagles seem reticent push him to 20+ carries in a game. They do keep him involved in the passing game though with 12 catches in his past three games meaning they are grooming him to be almost exactly like Westbrook, except hopefully without a fragile LIFE. This was a tough loss for the Eagles, but it shouldn’t derail their season. The Cowboys got the better of them at home, but they still another matchup against them to close out the season and it should carry a lot of weight.
Raise your hand if you think Roy Williams’ eight targets are directly related to the whole T.O.-comparison dustup from last week. Good, I see a lot of virtual hands. At least the clown managed to catch five of them for 75 yards, but he’s only fooling himself if he truly believes he doesn’t have many T.O. properties when it comes to the complaining and carrying on. Where the two differ is in the talent arena. Terrell Owens is so far and away better than Roy Williams could ever hope to be that it’s not even funny. Not even chuckle-worthy, or smerk-worthy. It’s bigger than the chasm in hotness between Scarlett Johansson and Rosie O’Donnell. Bigger than the chasm in skin darkness from early Michael Jackson to the ghost that recently left us, may he rest in peace. Roy Williams sucks. Sucks relative to all other receivers atop their team’s depth wide receiver depth chart and relative to most of those holding the #2 spot. But enough about him. The Cowboys got a huge win and have won four straight to move to 6-2 yet I still worry about their longevity. As I mentioned earlier, they inexplicably hate running the football despite the presence of three guys who start anywhere in the league. Now, Marion Barber wouldn’t start OVER Adrian Peterson in Minnesota nor would Tashard Choice start ahead of Chris Johnson in Tennessee, but if those two weren’t with their respective teams then the Cowboy backs mentioned would easily be slotted in at starter and the teams would barely miss a beat. So why has Barber failed to top 15 carries save once this season? How does Choice win the Carolina game with an 18 for 82 performance and then get 29 carries over the next five games? Though fragile, why has Felix Jones yet to top 10 carries in any single game? You might as well use him while he’s available to you. If When he gets hurt, you just move onto the next one. Tough to criticize a team on a four game winning streak, but if they want last through December and into January, they will need to establish their running game.
You haven’t heard much from the Tony Romo hating trolls lately, huh? Believe me, I am the furthest thing from a Cowboys fan, but the criticism this guy takes is often just flat out absurd. He takes ALL the blame when they lose and gets very little of the credit when they win. Tough gig, but it comes with the territory (so does dating Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson so I’m hardly shedding tears for Mr. Romo). In the first four games of the season, Romo had 990 passing yards on 131 attempts (7.6/attempt) with a 58% completion percentage and pedestrian 4:4 TD:INT ratio. Since then he has 1225 yards on 133 attempts (9.2/attempt) with a 62% completion percentage and insane 9:1 TD:INT ratio… The Eagles rate second to the Patriots in the FootballOutsiders.com DVOA rankings thanks to a punishing defense that rates the best by a significant margin over the 2nd place Jets. They are also propped up by the 3rd-best special teams unit while their offense sits in the middle of the pack at 15th.
Dallas – 3rd downs: 7-15 (47%), TOP: 31:44, Sacks: 4
Philadelphia – 3rd down: 4-12 (33%), TOP: 28:16, Sacks: 4
Dallas at Green Bay, Philadelphia at San Diego
Pittsburgh 28 at Denver 10
Ouch, that was a rough one for Denver. I was really eager to see how they would respond to the league’s first counterpunch to their hot start and they took another one on the chin. Now they are back on the heels and in desperate need of a big response before things really spiral out of control. There is little shame in losing to the reigning Super Bowl champions, who are really firing on all cylinders, but the Broncos were creamed and there didn’t appear to be a single point in the game where I felt like Denver had a shot, even though it was just 7-3 at half. The running game was completely off the map as Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno combined for 27 yards on 14 carries. Kyle Orton, meanwhile, was picked three teams as the Pittsburgh secondary, playing a man down as Mike Tomlin correctly sat Ryan Clark, prevented the Broncos from spreading the field. Brandon Marshall torched them in the first half for 82 yards on eight catches, but nothing came of it on the scoreboard so it really didn’t faze the Steelers. Both teams sit at 6-2, but you’d never know it the way they are talked about. The Steelers are trending upward while the Broncos are reeling and in need of a confidence boost.
Do you think Willie Parker even shows up to the Pittsburgh training facility anymore? His tenure as a primary back in Pittsburgh is done. Without question. Rashard Mendenhall has used this five game stretch to show that he should be someone worth investing in both now and in the future. During the winning streak, he has rushed 93 times for 528 yards (5.7/carry) with six touchdowns. Bye, Willie Parker. That said, the catalyst for their jump back into the spotlight has of course been Troy Polamalu. He has only been back for three of the five games, but that included the two most important: Minnesota and Denver. They lost two games by a total of six points when he was out. I have to believe they would be undefeated if he plays the entire season. And finally, how about Hines Ward? He was voted the league’s dirtiest player, but it’s hard to have a problem with the way this guy plays. He doesn’t carry on and cry like most of the upper tier receivers. He doesn’t call out his coaches and quarterback publicly if he’s not getting the ball thrown his way. He just goes out and leaves 100% of what he has on the field for 60 minutes every single Sunday. Oh and he just so happens to be an excellent receiver on pace for his 2nd-best yardage total at age 33. I love Calvin Johnson and he hasn’t shown any prima donna qualities, but I’d love to get a Hines Ward-type to line up opposite Johnson for my Detroit Lions. If you have a problem with how Ward plays, find a different game. If he were truly a problem putting player’s lives in danger, he’d have been run out of the league already in this day and age of scrutinizing everything in sports.
How much does Troy Polamalu mean to that Pittsburgh defense? In four games without him, they allowed an average of 22 points per game and went 2-2. In four games with him, they allowed an average of 13 points per game and went 4-0. I don’t know if a player has ever won Defensive Player of the Year despite missing a quarter of the season, but halfway home Polamalu deserves serious consideration… Is the shine wearing off of Kyle Orton? He was flying high at 6-0 with a solid 7.6 yards per attempt and 9:1 TD:INT ratio, but in the two losses he’s dipped to an ugly 5.0 YPA with a 0:3 TD:INT ratio. The league has adjusted, now let’s see what Orton and head coach Josh McDaniels do for a counter-adjustment.
Pittsburgh – 3rd downs: 7-12 (58%), TOP: 33:03, Sacks: 2
Denver – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 26:57, Sacks: 3
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Denver at Washington
Key Stat Correlation Win Totals
You may have noticed this week that I included each team’s 3rd down conversion rate, time of possession and sack total in the Statistically Speaking section. The first two are stats you will hear announcers and talking heads reference ad nauseum as keys to victory week in and week out. I’m not against either stat, but as you have probably already guessed with the Not Secret Sauce Standings, I much prefer to look at sacks both for and against. So each week I will tabulate how many teams won when winning each of the three statistics. Some teams will sweep and put a tick mark in each column while there will also be several ties. Here is how week 9 turned out:
Sacks: 9 wins
3rd downs: 7 wins
Time of Possession: 6 wins
ESPN might shut down after finding out that TOP had the lowest correlation to the winning. Of course, it is just a one week sample, so little can be made of it just yet. Not only will I be tabulating the individual weeks, but I’ll also keep a running total. This weekend I hope to go back and count the first eight weeks so we can get the full picture.
Not So Secret Sauce Standings
Duh Player of the Week–
Off the Radar Player of the Week –
Best Team in the League–
2nd-Best Team in the League–
Worst Team in the League (Talent/Performance Ratio) –
Worst Team in the League (Least Talent) –
tie: Cleveland/Tampa Bay (TB’s win is more an indictment of Green Bay than anything else)
My Playoff Predictions After 53% of the Season
E: New England
WC2: San Diego
S: New Orleans
WC2: San Francisco
With the 1st pick in 2010 Draft…
the Kansas City Chiefs select Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State – the tiebreaker that lands the Chiefs atop the heap would appear to be their winless record in conference. Several 1-7 teams have gone winless in their division, while all but KC notched their win in conference. A quarterback is out of the question with Matt Cassel being signed this past offseason. And my #1 prospect, Ndamukong Suh, would appear off the table as Glenn Dorsey is in just his second season. That leaves Okung. Drafting him would allow the Chiefs to move Branden Albert back to guard where he belongs and it’s always a great place to reinforce when you have someone you believe to be your franchise quarterback under center and a blossoming running back behind him.
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. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama$
$ – eligible juniors
Next 5 Prospects for 2010 Draft
11. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame$
12. Earl Thomas, S, Texas$
13. CJ Spiller, RB, Clemson
14. Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech$
15. Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State$
$ – eligible juniors