Archive for ‘NFL Review’

Thursday: 11.19.2009

NFL: Week 10 – Dallas vs. Green Bay

I know I scrapped part 2 of the Week 10 Review, but I couldn’t let my thoughts on the Cowboys go by the wayside…

Dallas 7 at Green Bay 17
And this is why I hate Dallas. You just can’t trust these clowns. As soon as you start to believe in them, they lay an egg in a game they absolutely should win. Now Green Bay isn’t a tomato can, but they aren’t that great either. They had just lost to Tampa Bay for crying out loud. Speaking of idiotic gameplans regarding running backs, what exactly is Dallas doing? I know I sound like a broken record each week, but how do Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice combine for 11 carries??? It was 3-0 through three quarters so you can’t say that Green Bay put the game out of hand. Tony Romo had a paltry 6.4 yards per attempt through the air so you can’t say the passing game was to effective to go away from. So how on earth does a trio of dominant backs come away from a game with 11 combined carries? Oh and I don’t want to hear that it is because they were facing a tough run defense. They were, but the 11 carries went for four a pop. You can’t just not (sorry for the double negative) try because you’re worried they will stop it. This is why Dallas can’t be taken seriously as a contender.

Hats off to Green Bay for manning up and saving their season. Charles Woodson was a man possessed as he went for nine tackles (two for loss), two forced fumbles, a sack and a pass deflection. He was all over the place and deserves the game ball for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was sacked four times, which he’s used to by now, but Dallas relegated to his worst game of year judging by YPA as he went for just 5.3 and the 189 yards his second-lowest total behind the opening week 184 vs. Chicago. Now at 5-4, they are right in the thick of the wildcard race as they sit tied with Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York.

Statistically Speaking
Despite that awful offensive line, Ryan Grant is 9th in the league in yards with 700. His four touchdowns are fewest amongst those in the top 10 aside from Steven Jackson’s two, but his yardage total is a real feat behind that porous line.

Tony Romo has been sacked nine times in the past two games giving him 22 on the season. It pales in comparison to the 41 Rodgers has sustained, but it is the 6th-highest total in the league. Also from Dallas, all seven of DeMarcus Ware’s sacks have come in four of past five weeks. He was shutout through four and now he is tied for 8th in the league and on pace for 12.

Green Bay – 3rd downs: 7-15 (47%), TOP: 35:58, Sacks: 5
Dallas – 3rd downs: 3-12 (25%), TOP: 24:02, Sacks: 4

Up Next
Washington at Dallas, San Francisco at Green Bay

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Tuesday: 11.17.2009

NFL: Week 10 – Shoot Me in the Face Edition

Part 2 was eaten alive and I’ve yet to re-create the entire thing. I hope to have it up tomorrow morning as I’m a bit too tired to stay up and re-finish it tonight.

For next week, it will again have some tweaks. Since my favorite part is coming up with the statistical tidbits, that will be the meat of the piece. There is no real need for me to generally recount each game. I didn’t see every one of them anyway, so instead I’ll focus on what I think I do best: stats. I will still include some comments here and there, but I don’t want to force commentary on a KC-Oakland game any more than you don’t want to read it. This trimming of the fat will also help with the turn around time. If it’s not 8,000 words, it’ll be easier to put into one part. Or at least if it’s two parts, it won’t be two MASSIVE parts.

Look for part 2 tomorrow as well as a top 24 catchers for 2010 list.

Monday: 11.16.2009

NFL: Week 10 Review (Part 1-The Early Games)

Week 10 had a lot of close games in score, but that didn’t necessarily make them interesting or meaningful. The two that were billed as the best, Cincy at Pittsburgh and New England at Indy, both lived up to their hype. I’ll look at the first one in part 1 and the epic Sunday night battle in part 2 tomorrow.

Chicago 6 at San Francisco 10
The millions of fans without the NFL Network (thanks, Time Warner) weren’t terribly upset to be without on Thursday night, especially those who root for the Bears. The savior, Jay Cutler, threw five interceptions including one as time ran out giving the 49ers the 10-6 victory. Matt Forte continued his struggles on the ground with 41 yards on 20 carries (2.1/attempt), but he did contribute positively with eight catches for 120 yards. Cutler did end up with 307 passing yards, but it is hardly impressive when done on 52 attempts and it comes with the five picks. At 4-4 heading into the game, this would’ve been a key win for the Bears as they hope to notch a playoff berth, but I just can’t see this team emerging as a playoff contender. Their offensive line is bad, their coaching is bad and they desperately miss Brian Urlacher. Maybe next year, Bears fans.

If running backs had win-loss records, Frank Gore would get a win for Thursday for sure. He rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries (4.2/attempt) and his second quarter touchdown stood up as the difference in the game. The defense also played well, of course, but I can’t see the team’s ceiling being very high going forward with Alex Smith at quarterback. He peaked in his first two quarters of the year when he led that near-comeback in Houston three weeks ago. It has been all downhill since with Thursday’s effort the worst yet from a yardage standpoint (118). This team is definitely moving in the right direction with some excellent pieces in place, but they will need much better quarterback play to be legitimate playoff contenders. With their defense and Gore combined with the horribly erratic play of Arizona, they could sneak into the playoffs with a late run this year, but I like them much better in 2010 and beyond. Here is my obligatory Michael Crabtree mention of the week (maybe I can get a sponsor for this): despite what he did to my Longhorns last year and his stupid, worthless holdout to start the season, I have to say that I really like what I have seen from him so far. He has yet to have a real big game, but I think this guy is going to be a star.

Statistically Speaking

Jay Cutler now has 17 interceptions on the season which is just one fewer than his 18 from all of last season. I’m not going to be one of those idiots that suggests the Bears shouldn’t have traded for him based on nine games, but he is trying to do too much to compensate for his horrible line and the lack of running game to support him.

Speaking of Crabtree, he could very well end up as San Francisco’s best wide receiver by yardage despite missing the team’s first five games. Tight end Vernon Davis will almost certainly lead the team in receiving yards, but Crabtree has 215 receiving yards trailing Josh Morgan (300) by just 85 yards. He only needs to outgain Morgan by 12 yards per game the rest of the season. As he gets more reps under his belt, that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities at all.

San Francisco – 3rd downs: 6-14 (43%), TOP: 31:33, Sacks: 0
Chicago – 3rd downs: 8-17 (47%), TOP: 28:27, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Philadelphia at Chicago, San Francisco at Green Bay

Buffalo 17 at Tennessee 41
Coming off of a 59-0 demolition at the hands of the New England Patriots, things couldn’t get much worse for the Titans. They were 0-6 and seemingly getting worse. Heading into the bye, it was time to seriously assess their situation and make some changes. What they had going simply wasn’t working. Kerry Collins out, Vince Young in. Young has been very effective going 44-for-62 (71%) for 507 yards (8.2/attempt) with two TDs and one interception. Young has also apparently been Chris Johnson’s spinach. The Titans have now reeled off three straight wins during which Johnson has rushed for 495 yards on 75 carries (6.6/carry) with six touchdowns. He also has 14 catches for 136 in the same span. The Titans are now just 2 games back of second place in their division and will be no more than two games back of a wildcard spot (if San Diego wins and moves to 6-3). I’m not sure they have a real shot at the playoffs, but who would’ve thought that there would even be a legitimate scenario for them to make it after the first six weeks?

It’s the same old story with Buffalo. Despite average 5.0 yards per carry with Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, the two combined for a whopping 17 carries. Good thing they fired their offensive coordinator just before the season started. He might have used his best assets and you definitely can’t have that. And you can’t blame the team being down on the lack of running because it was tied through three quarters. It got out of hand in the fourth quarter with two pick sixes. Dick Jauron can’t be long for this job.

Statistically Speaking

Chris Johnson has rushed for 1,091 yards this season which is the most through 10 weeks since 2005 when Shaun Alexander had 1,114. Alexander went on to rush 1880 on 370 carries that year. He was never the same after that. Johnson is on pace 1939 on 302 carries. Keeping that pace would give him 51 more carries than his rookie season.

Jairus Byrd did it again!! He only got one interception on Sunday snapping his streak of three games with two interceptions, but it was his 5th game with a pick. His eight interceptions already rank 4th-best among in a season for a rookie since the merger. Everson Walls’ 11 back in 1981 stand alone as the record.

Tennessee – 3rd downs: 11-17 (65%), TOP: 31:20, Sacks: 2
Buffalo – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 28:40, Sacks: 0

Up Next

Buffalo at Jacksonville, Tennessee at Houston

New Orleans 28 at St. Louis 23
This Saints team sure likes to make things interesting, don’t they? After steamrolling the Giants by 21 in week six, their average margin of victory was 19.4 and they looked unstoppable. They have been tested in every game since as their average margin of victory has dipped to 8.8 per game. That said, they have yet to lose. They have won big, they have won close. They have won with a potent air attack; they have won by dominating the ground. They have reached or topped 45 four times and they have held two opponents to 10 or fewer points. There might not be a more diverse resume in the league. They were without their MVP today (Darren Sharper) and it showed as they allowed the Rams to run 71 plays for 434 yards. This team won’t go undefeated, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t college football. They are still an elite team in the league with a 4-game stranglehold on their division. They could be best served by a little valley in late November/early December only to turn around and get hot again in their final three vs. Dallas, Tampa Bay and Carolina heading into the playoffs.

I don’t know Steve Spagnuolo one bit, but what I gather from his persona we are exposed via the media is a guy that doesn’t buy into moral victories meaning he is as pissed at the five point loss as he would have been by a 20 point loss. Positives included Steven Jackson’s third straight game over 130 yards (131 on 26 carries, 5.0/carry), Brandon Gibson, part of the return package for Will Witherspoon from the Eagles, had seven catches for 93 yards and Donnie Avery caught four balls for 67 yards and two touchdowns. Also, the defense forced three turnovers and they were driving for the win as the clock expired, but in the end they still lost their eighth game of the season. Like so many of these awful teams this year, they desperately need a real quarterback and until that happens they will struggle to be anything than a bottom-feeder in this league.

Statistically Speaking

In his last four games, Drew Brees has six touchdowns against seven interceptions after posting a 13:2 ratio in the first five games. He needs to get back to his early season level before the New England Patriots make their way to New Orleans on November 30th or their undefeated record will be out the window in a hurry.

With nine catches for 45 yards added to his 131 yards on the ground, Steven Jackson accounted for 176 of the Rams 439 offensive yards (40%). As their only real offensive weapon, you know defenses have to be keying on Jackson which makes his performance that much more impressive.

New Orleans – 3rd downs: 6-10 (60%), TOP: 27:58, Sacks: 2
St. Louis – 3rd downs: 5-13 (38%), TOP: 31:02, Sacks: 1

Up Next

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Arizona at St. Louis

Tampa Bay 23 at Miami 25
Tampa Bay joins their bottom-feeding brethren in the quest to add an “s” in front of the adjective usually used to describe to them: crappy. Like the Rams, they fell just short. In the end, penalties held the Bucs back as they were dinged nine times for 77 yards. Josh Freeman used Kellen Winslow almost exclusively en route a 16-for-28 for 196 yards performance with a touchdown and interception. Winslow accounted for 102 of the yards on seven catches. Freeman was also the most effective runner for the Bucs grabbing 36 yards on seven carries while Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward could only muster 86 yards on 24 carries (3.6/carry). This team actually impressed me because I thought for sure they would get crushed a week after their first win of the season. They were 19-6 at halftime, but battled back by outscoring Miami 17-6 in the second half.

Miami’s running attack is decidedly better than Tampa Bay’s and that of many teams to be honest. Ricky Williams (20 for 102, 5.1/carry) and Ronnie Brown (12 for 82, 6.8/carry) continued their excellent seasons combining for 184 yards on 32 carries (5.6/carry) with Brown finding the end zone for one of Miami’s two touchdowns. At 4-5, this team has the faintest glimmer of hope for the playoffs which is dimmed further by their inconsistent play from week to week. Chad Henne is still learning on the job and doesn’t have any real weapons in the receiving game to help him. And the defense should be better than it is, too. They don’t play 60 minutes which has led to losses by 4, 10, 10 and 12 points. The 12-point loss was against New Orleans when they were up 24-10 at half. The final was 46-34.

Statistically Speaking

The Dolphins are on pace to become the sixth team since 2004 with two 900+ yard rushers. Two of the previous five had both guys top 1,000, but Ricky Williams would need to up his pace a fair bit to reach that mark. He is currently on pace for 912 yards while his cohort Ronnie Brown is on pace for 1,132. Maybe Brown can share a few of those yards so both can reach 1,000. Brandon Jacobs (1,089) and Derrick Ward (1,025) were the last pair to hit the mark and they did so just last season.

Among the three 1-8 team (St. Louis & Detroit), the Bucs have “best” point differential at -99. Yep, that’s my stat for Tampa Bay. That’s the best I’ve got, folks. I’m sorry if any of you are Bucs fans. I’m a Lions fan, but at least we have Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. Tampa Bay has NOTHING going for them.

Miami – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 31:14, Sacks: 3
Tampa Bay – 3rd downs: 4-13 (31%), TOP: 28:46, Sacks: 0

Up Next

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, Miami at Carolina

Detroit 10 at Minnesota 27
For the second time this season, the Lions defense hung in against the Vikings, but their offense just failed to put points on the board despite running 76 plays. Yes, Brett Favre had 344 yards passing and Adrian Peterson rushed for 133 yards, but Minnesota only had 10 points at half and 17 through three quarters. A pair of Peterson turnovers helped Detroit hang around, but Matthew Stafford and company just couldn’t capitalize. Stafford was brutalized throughout the afternoon as he was sacked three times and hit 12 times in all. He threw the ball 51 times for just 224 yards (4.4/attempt – yikes!), but he didn’t turn the ball over which is an improvement. Between two horrible weeks and two weeks not playing, Calvin Johnson had his first real game in over a month. He caught eight passes for 84 yards finally giving his fantasy owners something to cheer about. Kevin Smith rushed well in his 12 carries, but I’m not sure why he only got 12 carries.

The usual suspects had another great week in Minnesota. As I mentioned, Favre threw for 344 completing 20-for-29 while Peterson rushed for another 133 including two touchdowns. Favre’s shiny new go to toy, Sidney Rice, had another career best afternoon this time racking up 201 yards on just seven catches. Percy Harvin only had three catches for 53 yards while being relegated to just one kickoff return. I’m honestly not sure why Minnesota hasn’t been my #1 team in the Awards section each week. Top flight defense: check, elite rushing attack: check, superb quarterback play: check, explosive weapons for said quarterback to utilize: check. What exactly doesn’t this team have going for them? Yes their secondary is banged up, but as Tennessee showed last year, you don’t need the best personnel back their if you’re getting pressure up front, which the Vikings do extremely well. I think there will be a changing of the guard at both the #1 and #2 spots for my rankings this week.

Statistically Speaking

The Lions haven’t won a game in Minnesota since 1997 and this loss was their 17th straight road loss. The team is 1-24 in their last 25 games.

Adrian Peterson has fumbled four times this year and lost all of them, matching his fumbles lost total from a year ago. Three of the fumbles have come against the Lions. The Lions haven’t been able to punish Peterson for those fumbles, but playoff caliber teams will. If there is another chink in this team’s armor, it would be Peterson’s propensity to put the ball on the turf.

Minnesota – 3rd downs: 3-11 (27%), TOP: 30:23, Sacks: 3
Detroit – 3rd downs: 6-17 (35%), TOP: 29:37, Sacks: 1

Up Next

Cleveland at Detroit, Seattle at Minnesota

Jacksonville 24 at New York Jets 22
One of the less heralded games coming into week 10 was this one between Jacksonville and New York which essentially decided who had the last glimmer of playoff hope. Trust me, it’s a very faint glimmer, almost invisible. It was a back-n-forth game, but the Jags prevailed with a Josh Scobee field goal as time ran out. Maurice Jones-Drew continued his domination with 145 totals yard, but more on that later. The Jags, at 5-4, are now over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2007 season.

I still can’t help but laugh at gaga everyone was over the Jets after three weeks this year. Yes they were playing well, but they were still trotting out a rookie quarterback and we were only through 19% of the season. The Jets are 1-5 since with a win over Oakland, which barely counts. Mark Sanchez had five touchdowns and two interceptions in the first three games; he has five more touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the six games since. It was clear that the injury to Kris Jenkins was going to be huge as soon as it happened and it’s played out that way perhaps even more than predicted. The Jets could lose as many as five more games (at New England, vs. Carolina, vs. Atlanta, at Indy and vs. Cincy) while trips to Buffalo and Tampa Bay won’t be easy, either.

Statistically Speaking

After accumulating just 18 carries in two games back in weeks 4 and 5, Maurice Jones-Drew has blown up for 530 rushing yards on 94 carries (5.6/carry) with seven touchdowns in the subsequent four games. They Jags are 3-1 in that stretch and the other was a loss to Tennessee in which MJD got just eight carries. He managed 177 yards, but it’s ridiculous that he got so few carries.

Braylon Edwards had a key fumble today, but he did managed 79 yards on three catches giving him 271 yards on 16 catches since joining the Jets. As Roy Williams showed last year with the Cowboys, it’s not easy to change football teams midseason making Edwards’s solid production a legitimate accomplishment. He and Sanchez should be a very nice hookup for the next few seasons.

Jacksonville – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 31:07, Sacks: 0
New York – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 28:53, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Buffalo at Jacksonville, New York at New England

Cincinnati 18 at Pittsburgh 12
Billed as the game of the afternoon, this AFC North battle lived up to its hype as the Bengals stunned the Steelers and got the season sweep on the reigning Super Bowl Champions. It was a field goal fest with just one touchdown (and a special teams one at that) being scored all game. The Bengals defense really stepped up to stifle both the running and passing attacks of Pittsburgh. Cedric Benson left the game early with a hip injury leaving the Bengals short-handed and making their win that much more impressive. I’m not sure who was still doubting Cincinnati coming into today (or why they would be), but this game has to have eliminated all doubters. They grabbed season sweeps of both Pittsburgh and Baltimore making them a mortal lock for the division title. Bernard Scott was the star of the game with his 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a defensive tug-o-war that was exciting throughout despite the lack of offensive fireworks.

Few teams were riding as high as Pittsburgh coming into this week. They have looked excellent for the five weeks and especially the last two games against Minnesota and Denver. Rashard Mendenhall was locked down for the first time since becoming the full time starter as he managed just 36 yards on 13 carries (2.8/carry). Ben Roethlisberger had his worst game of the season going 20-for-40 for 174 yards (4.4/attempt) without a touchdown along with one interception. Hopefully this will curb the absolutely ludicrous “best QB in the league” talk that has been floated around a bit here and there. He is a very good quarterback and his career is turning out better than anyone would have guessed, but there is no way he is better than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are probably better, too while a case can be made for Aaron Rodgers and yes, Brett Favre. Big Ben is definitely top 10, but not even close to #1.

Statistically Speaking

The Bengals swept the season series from the Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time since 1998. That’s incredible. This has all of the makings of a special season. Teams could be fighting to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks in the summer of 2010.

A couple of TD facts about Pittsburgh: this was the seventh straight game that they have allowed a return TD. Seventh! Also, though they are often associated with defense, this Pittsburgh offense holds their own week in and week out. In fact, Sunday was the first time since week 11 of last year (11-10 W vs. SD) that the offense was held touchdown-less.

Cincinnati – 3rd downs: 4-14 (29%), TOP: 29:08, Sacks: 4
Pittsburgh – 3rd downs: 3-15 (20%), TOP: 30:52, Sacks: 2

Up Next

Cincinnati at Oakland, Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Denver 17 at Washington 27
It’s easy to say in hindsight, but my cashed ticket on Washington will back up that I thought this was an easy one to call. The sky falling around the Broncos and they had to travel east to face a massively underachieving team, but still one with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. Throw in an injury to Kyle Orton, who had been having a great game, and you have a recipe for a third straight loss. Knowshon Moreno got back on track with 97 yards on 18 carries (5.4/carry) while Brandon Marshall had his second big game in a row, but it wasn’t enough. Chris Simms, in for Orton, struggled mightily going 3-for-13 for 13 yards (1.0/attempt!) with an interception. The Broncos essentially didn’t play offense in the second half which of course resulted in no points.

Meanwhile, Ladell Betts looked better than Clinton Portis had in almost any game before Sunday as he rushed for 114 yards on 26 carries (4.4/carry) and a huge second half touchdown that gave the Skins the lead for good. More importantly, the Skins offense was turnover-free on the afternoon. Defensively, their ends, Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, made life hell for the Denver tackles. The two each notched a sack and a half while combining for five tackles for loss (Orakpo 3, Carter 2), 13 tackles in all (Carter 7, Orakpo 6) and six QB hits (Carter 4, Orakpo 2). The Skins played well enough to beat the Broncos with Orton, but his absence certainly made overcoming the three point halftime deficit much easier.

Statistically Speaking

Washington’s 27 points served as their highest total of the season and the first time they topped 17. In their previous two wins, they had scored 9 and 16, respectively.

Rookie running back Knowshon Moreno is on pace for 924 yards this season. That is solid for a first year player splitting carries, but he is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. His timeshare mate, Correll Buckhalter, is averaging 5.5/carry but has just 66 carries to Moreno’s 132. The team’s 4.2/carry average is the worst for the franchise since 2001 (3.9), Terrell Davis’s final season. From 2002-2008, they averaged 4.7 yards per carry.

Washington – 3rd downs: 8-16 (50%), TOP: 35:43, Sacks: 3
Denver – 3rd downs: 5-12 (42%), TOP: 24:17, Sacks: 3

Up Next

San Diego at Denver, Washington at Dallas

Atlanta 19 at Carolina 28
This is another one that will look like hindsight when I pump my chest, but I love Carolina in this game (You’ll have to trust that I’m not bragging with my back-patting on these past two games. If I opened my betting logs for public view, you would know that I have NOTHING to be bragging about. I have my weeks though). What made me like the Panthers was how well they played against New Orleans despite the loss and the big win against the Cardinals two weeks ago. Plus, playing at home in a divisional game is always nice, especially when there isn’t a massive talent disparity. Jake Delhomme is awful, which always makes betting on the Panthers a risky proposition, but I really like their two-headed monster at running back. And DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart did not let me down. They combined for 174 yards on 30 carries (5.8/carry) while Stewart incensed fantasy owners worldwide by stealing both rushing touchdowns leaving Williams empty-handed. Didn’t he learn about sharing in kindergarten? Speaking of touchdowns, Steve Smith found the end zone two times making his otherwise pedestrian four catch/34 yard showing more palatable. After averaging 88 catches for 1,288 yards the past four seasons, Smith is on pace for 68 and 910 this season.

Not much went right for Atlanta on Sunday. Michael Turner was off to a remarkable start with 111 yards on nine carries (12.3/carry) but went down with an injury early in the 2nd quarter and did not return. It’s being called a high ankle sprain preliminarily, but we will know more as the week progresses. It’s about the last thing the Falcons can afford as Matt Ryan hits a rough patch and Turner was positively on fire (317 yards in the two games prior to Sunday’s as well as a 7-game TD streak). Despite Ryan’s struggles, the defense has been holding the Falcons back the past month. They have allowed 37, 35 and 28 points in three of their last four games. The other was against Washington, who scored 17-which is high for the Skins. The run defense has been the Achilles heel as their 130.3 yards allowed/game is the most amongst teams with a winning record and ranked 26th in the league. No one seems interested in stepping up to get the two wildcard spots in the NFC, so Atlanta remains in the thick of the race, but without defensive improvements it won’t matter when Turner comes back for them.

Statistically Speaking

I talked earlier about Miami’s great backfield as both of their backs head towards 900+ yards, but Carolina’s is even better despite the fact that Stewart is pacing just short of the 900-yard mark. He’s on track for 828 while Williams is pacing toward 1,529 which would set another career high. Their 2,357-yard pace tops Miami’s 2,044 pace.

Tony Gonzalez was supposed to be a huge addition for the Falcons this past offseason giving Matt Ryan a second elite target to take pressure off of Roddy White. He has yet to reach 90 yards in any one game and he is on pace for 891 yards which would be his lowest yardage total since 2002.

Carolina – 3rd downs: 7-13 (54%), TOP: 28:09, Sacks: 0
Atlanta – 3rd downs: 6-14 (43%), TOP: 31:51, Sacks: 0

Up Next

Atlanta at New York Giants, Miami at Carolina

Tomorrow: the late afternoon games, plus the Sunday & Monday night games. Also, the Not So Secret Sauce Standing, Key Stat Correlation Win Totals, Awards, Playoff Predictions and College Prospects.

Wednesday: 11.11.2009

NFL: Week 9 Review (Part 2)

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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.

Statistically Speaking

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

Up Next

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

nsss9

Awards

Duh Player of the Week–
Kurt Warner

Off the Radar Player of the Week –
Tyrone Carter

Best Team in the League–
New Orleans

2nd-Best Team in the League–
New England

Worst Team in the League (Talent/Performance Ratio) –
Washington

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

AFC

N: Cincinnati
S: Indianapolis
E: New England
W: Denver
WC1: Pittsburgh
WC2: San Diego

NFC

N: Minnesota
S: New Orleans
E: Philadelphia
W: Arizona
WC1: Dallas
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

Tuesday: 11.10.2009

NFL: Week 9 Review (Part 1)

Back again with the weekly review of the NFL, but the format is going to change a bit. It got a bit lengthy last week so first off, I’m breaking it into two parts. Part 2 will run tomorrow. Baseball content will be back up again tomorrow, too.

Washington 17 at Atlanta 31

Up 24-3 at the half, the Falcons took their foot off the pedal in the second half and were outscored 14-7 in the final two quarters to make the game look a tick closer than it was, but rest assured that it was never in doubt. It was the Michael Turner Show on Sunday afternoon as he enjoyed his second straight better than 150-yard performance notching 166 yards on 18 carries (9.2/carry) with touchdown runs of 30 and 58 yards. It was also Turner’s second straight 20+ points game in fantasy football boosting all the way up to a 4th-place tie (Ray Rice) among running backs with 127 points. Rice and Turner are a cut below the top three of Maurice Jones-Drew (149), Chris Johnson (146) and Adrian Peterson (141), but Turner and his supporters (namely ESPN’s Matthew Berry) drew a lot of criticism after Turner notched a meager 29 points in the first three weeks of the season. I doubt Berry hears much from that contingent anymore. I will admit that I gave him hell for standing by Peterson over Turner, but halfway through the season it’s neck and neck as Peterson has a meager 1.8 points per game advantage. Matthew, I know you’re NOT reading this but, I apologize for criticizing far too quickly. We’ll see how the two stack up after another eight games. That said, Turner HAS to beat AP for the prediction to be a win. Sticking close doesn’t count for anything in this instance.

In other news, the Skins lost Clinton Portis to a concussion after just four carries (for four yards) adding to their disastrous season. Ladell Betts came in and managed 70 yards on 15 carries (4.7/carry) with a touchdown and will likely be a premiere pickup across leagues this week. Portis is already listed as doubtful and if the Skins are smart at all, they will sit him out regardless of how good he claims to feel. These concussions are getting a lot of attention and they NEED to be taken more seriously by football teams. According to Will Carroll on Jeff Erickson’s Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour podcast, rugby clubs in Europe have instituted a month layoff for concussion victims. Unfortunately, that has merely changed the diagnoses of players who were actually concussed, but at least they have the right idea. Meanwhile, Mike Sellers led the team in receiving. Isn’t this the team that spent high picks on Malcolm Kelly (2nd rd, ’08), Devin Thomas (2nd rd, ’08) and Fred Davis (2nd rd, ‘08)? Those three combined to match Sellers’s three catches. This team is broken throughout.

Statistically Speaking
Jonathan Babineaux went off with 10 tackles, three for loss and two & a half sacks. You don’t often see defensive tackles rack up that kind of tackle total… Rookie defensive end Brian Orakpo grabbed two more sacks on Sunday giving him 5.5 on the season, tied for 7th overall and best among rookies. He’s been a rare bright spot for the Skins in 2009.

Atlanta – 3rd downs: 4-11 (36%), TOP: 26:28, Sacks: 5
Washington – 3rd downs: 9-16 (56%), TOP: 33:32, Sacks: 3

Up Next
Atlanta at Carolina, Denver at Washington

Miami 17 at New England 27

Miami was game yet again, but came just a bit short again. Ask any of your football friends what they think Miami’s record is and see how many different answers you get off the top of their heads that don’t come anywhere near 3-5. I don’t think they’ve been routed in any game except the San Diego one where they scored with 2:51 left to bring it to 10-point margin it ended up being. On Sunday, they held the lead late into the third quarter after a Ronnie Brown touchdown pass to Joey Haynos. You can also ask your football friends who Joey Haynos is and what they think he does for a living and I bet fewer than 30% say that he plays football. You have to throw to someone like Haynos when the guy who was supposed to become your franchise receiver turns into what Ted Ginn Jr. has become. After his 11 catches for 108 yards in that Monday night thriller against Indianapolis, he really began fooling people into thinking he was ready to come on and be a force. Maybe even earn his 9th overall draft slot. Since that game he has six catches for 84 yards… COMBINED! He did win the Jets game last week with his returns, but he is a Grade A failure at his primary job which is (was) pass catching.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Tom Brady is back. In fact, he has been for three solid weeks. It took him some game action to get the feel for everything, but there was no reason to think he was going to be forever scarred. We had a blueprint for this with Peyton Manning during his return from injury. Through the first five games, Brady went 127-for-207 (61%) for 1344 yards with six TDs and two INTs. His 6.5 yards per attempt was nearly two yards off of his amazing 2007 pace (8.3) and nearly a full yard from his career mark of 7.3. Starting with the destruction of Tennessee and the two games after, he is 77-for-103 for 1020 yards with 10 TDs and three INTs. His YPA is a gaudy 9.9. Yes, Tampa Bay was with Tennessee in that trio of games, but he had to get his mojo back against someone and these three teams were perfect entering the game of year at Indianapolis. Randy Moss was the game-changer with 147 yards on six catches including an amazing 71-yard touchdown followed by a 2-point conversion catch. On the TD, he threw a huge stiff arm to spring himself on what was a slant route that went long. His catch of the day was earlier when he made a brilliant one-handed catch that took the Pats down to the 1 and set up Laurence Maroney’s touchdown in the first quarter. Simply put, the passing ménage a trois that is Brady-Moss-Wes Welker is back to clicking on all cylinders. A big reason why is the semblance of a running game. Maroney has two 100-yard games in his last three and the Pats haven’t lost when topping the century mark as a team.

Statistically Speaking
New England is crushing the field in FootballOutsiders.com metric known as Weighted DVOA. I won’t pretend to have a concise of way explaining it, rather I’ll direct you to their site for the standings as well as explanations on their construction… Sticking with FootballOutsiders.com, Miami has 5.3 Estimated Wins according to their numbers which uses something called the Forest Index (Click each term for its definition). It’s the biggest differential between actual and EW implying that the Dolphins might be a good bit better than their record would suggest. If you like second and third level analysis of the game, you need to start making FO a regular stop on your web surfing.

New England – 3rd downs: 6-13 (46%), TOP: 28:53, Sacks: 2
Miami – 3rd downs: 9-17 (53%), TOP: 31:07, Sacks: 2

Up Next
New England at Indianapolis, Tampa Bay at Miami

Green Bay 28 at Tampa Bay 38

Having seen a 16-0 and 0-16 team in the past two seasons has led some (many?) to believe that this something that will become commonplace. A few weeks into the season it wasn’t uncommon to hear pundits and talking heads suggest that perhaps two teams might go winless while also believing that someone could go undefeated, too. Time for a reality check: the seasons that Detroit and New England had were incredible. They stand out because they are so rare. There is a reason we hear about ’76 Buccaneers and the ’72 Dolphins EVERY SINGLE year. It’s easy for me to say now because it looks like hindsight, but from day one I didn’t think anyone would go winless. I honestly didn’t believe my Lions would last year until it was clear that Green Bay had the game locked up. Tampa Bay was the last to get on the board this year, but they found a very vulnerable team and used a special teams as the springboard for their initial win. Rookie quarterback Josh Freeman wasn’t great, completing fewer than 50% of his passes, but he ended up tossing three touchdowns against just one interception.

Aaron Rodgers owes his offensive line an apology. Yes, they do suck, but he has let them absorb ALL of the blame for his 37 sacks for several weeks now when it is apparent that his tendency to hang onto the ball FOREVER has led to plenty of those sacks. Tampa Bay wasn’t getting pressure on anybody as they sat tied for 3rd-fewest sacks in the league last week with just 11 and Rodgers & his horrible line allowed them to rack up six. And then when Rodgers finally did decide to throw it, he landed it in the hands of the creamsicle-uniformed men three times. He had thrown just two interceptions all season prior to Sunday’s collapse. Ryan Grant (21-96) and Ahman Green (6-45) combined for 141 yards on 26 carries which is amazing considering the line, but regardless of that this team is in some serious trouble. The upside is that the Chicago Bears suck and the Packers are just one win behind New York, Philadelphia and Atlanta in the wildcard race. They are thought to have the easiest remaining schedule according to Aaron Schatz of FootballOutsiders.com, who said as much on The B.S. Report on Monday. They will need to make serious improvements, starting with Rodgers, if they expect to a) contend for wildcard spot and b) do anything in January if they do happen to scrounge up a berth.

Statistically Speaking
Donald Driver has been Mr. Consistent this year despite deferring the spotlight to his teammate, Greg Jennings. In PPR-leagues, Driver has notched double digit point totals in six of eight games and still managed 7.9 and 9.5 in those other two games. He has been the 14th-best WR in such leagues, while Jennings checks in as the 23rd-best… Josh Freeman became the 10th quarterback since the merger to throw for three or more touchdowns in his first start ever matching Jim Kelly, John Fourcade, Mike Hohensee, Ed Rubbert, Kevin Sweeney, Mark Rypien, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tommy Kramer and Todd Marinovich.

Tampa Bay
– 3rd downs: 3-12 (25%), TOP: 24:43, Sacks: 6
Green Bay – 3rd downs: 5-14 (36%), TOP: 35:17, Sacks: 1

Up Next
Tampa Bay at Miami, Dallas at Green Bay

Kansas City 21 at Jacksonville 24

Quiz your friends on Jacksonville’s record the way I suggested with Miami. I’d be surprised if one person, who didn’t already know ahead of being asked because they studied the standings or something, would guess 4-4. This piece of garbage team is at .500! I’ll admit that I am bitter towards the Jags because they have screwed me over several times due to their gross inconsistency from week to week. After their debacle in Seattle, I swore off of betting on their games. I really like David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew, but Garrard has randomly falls apart (at Seattle, at Tennessee) while MJD is horribly underused. I realize he’s of slight build, but how has he gotten just 14 carries against the Titans in two games this year? The Titans defense that is giving up 112 yards per game, mind you. I have no doubt that the public outcry over his eight carry game a week ago helped spur his 29 carry workload on Sunday. He wasn’t great with just a 3.3 average per carry, but that shouldn’t be used as a reason to trim back down below double-digits this week. If he touching the ball fewer than 20 times in a game, whether on the ground or through the air, someone needs to be fired. If he’s touching it fewer than 10 as was the case in those Tennessee games, then someone needs to be shot.

Matt Cassel was hurling the ball all over the field against the Jags including two touchdown passes to newcomer Chris Chambers. Dwayne Bowe tied for most yards with 74 on four catches, but it was Lance Long who caught my attention (no pun intended). This random guy, who started the season with Arizona, was not only targeted 11 times in his third game ever, but caught eight of them for 74 yards. I wouldn’t rush out to get him in anything but the deepest PPR leagues, but he looks like Wes Welker, he’s built like Wes Welker and Cassel could be relying on him as his Wes Welker which would give him value in all PPR leagues at that point. The Chiefs have jettisoned the problematic Larry Johnson but still appear reticent to run the ball. Their leading rusher has topped 80 yards just once in a game this year and it was Johnson’s 83-yard performance against Washington three weeks ago. Jamaal Charles has averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 96 career attempts yet he still managed to get a whopping six carries against Jacksonville’s lame run defense. It’s not very hard to see why KC is 7-33 since the beginning of 2007.

Statistically Speaking
Jones-Drew isn’t the only hyphenated last name tearing it up for the Jags this year. Mike Sims-Walker had his third 100-yard game of the season and set single-game career best with 147 yards. In the six games he has registered at least one catch, he has 81 or more yards in all but one (2 catches, 9 yards vs. TEN in week 8)… After averaging 85 tackles per season in his first four years, Derrick Johnson has fallen off of the map for KC with just 13 tackles this year thanks in large part of losing his starting gig to Demorrio Williams. He was available for trade around the deadline and could be moved in the offseason, a trade the Chiefs would no doubt regret in time as Johnson isn’t close to done as an upper crust linebacker in this league.

Jacksonville – 3rd downs: 9-16 (56%), TOP: 36:13, Sacks: 3
Kansas City – 3rd downs: 4-13 (31%), TOP: 23:47, Sacks: 1

Up Next
Jacksonville at New York Jets, Kansas City at Oakland

Arizona 41 at Chicago 21

Our first road team victory amongst the early games wasn’t a huge surprise. The Cardinals are hardly a lock to do perform to their potential week to week, but at least they possess a ton of potential. Larry Fitzgerald managed just his second 100-yard game of the season with 123 yards on nine catches including two touchdowns, while Steve Breaston continued his strong follow up to last year’s breakout season. He has risen to the #2 option with Anquan Boldin struggling to stay healthy and not at peak performance when he does play. Breaston caught five for 66 with a touchdown and four or more catches in all but one game this year. Kurt Warner was lifted for Matt Leinart when the game appeared in hand, but Leinart promptly threw an interception which led to a touchdown and Warner’s return. Though he lit up the scoreboard, Warner’s 22-for-32 (69%) for 261 yards wasn’t the top flight performance you’d expect from someone with five touchdown passes. The Cardinals owned the game because their two-headed running back of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells combined for 149 yards on 28 carries (5.3/carry). While nice for this week, it must continue if they expect to make much noise in the playoff picture. They are still ranked 31st overall in rushing yards per game with 79.5.

Kyle Orton’s success in Denver (we’ll see how far that goes as they nurse wobbly wheel on their bandwagon) combined with Jay Cutler’s perceived failures in Chicago will have shortsighted fans believing the trade was a bust. Quarterback is no doubt the most important position on the field, but you still have to have a team around him or else he just won’t have consistent success. Matt Forte’s tumble back to earth helps show just how poor the Chicago offensive line is which of course also severely impacts Cutler. He actually played pretty well in this game as he and Greg Olsen hooked up for three touchdowns and 71 of Cutler’s 369 yards. The real problem is this vomit-inducing defense that we knew would struggle after losing Brian Urlacher in week 1, but it was hard to see this big of a fall coming. Lovie Smith is calling the defense at this point so he has no one to blame but himself for their immense shortcomings. Despite finally having the elite quarterback they’ve lacked forever, this team isn’t going to contend for a playoff berth without some serious improvements on both lines and the defense as a whole.

Statistically Speaking
Kurt Warner is the second quarterback since 1990 to have separate games with five touchdowns and five interceptions in the same season. Warren Moon did the same thing back in 1992. Moon ended up with an 18-to-12 TD:INT ratio that season; Warner is currently sitting at 16-to-11… Greg Olsen’s 71 yards on Sunday were the most he has had in a game since Week 7 of last year when he had 74 against Minnesota. For the past two years he has been a favorite to breakout at tight end, but he has yet to jump to that next level yet.

Arizona – 3rd down: 8-14 (57%), TOP: 33:16, Sacks: 4
Chicago – 3rd downs: 5-13 (38%), TOP: 26:44, Sacks: 1

Up Next
Seattle at Arizona, Chicago at San Francisco (on Thursday)

Baltimore 7 at Cincinnati 17

Who still questions the legitimacy of Cincy? The answer, unfortunately, is many people. They definitely don’t care, though. A week after Baltimore was anointed as “back” and the best 4-3 team in the league, the Bengals wiped the floor with them to complete the season sweep. Cedric Benson became the first back since Jerome Bettis back in 1997 to rush for 100+ yards against the Ravens twice in one season. It was a grind-it-out kind of game as his 117 yards came on 34 carries (3.4/carry), but that shouldn’t take away from his amazing accomplishment. Like Tom Brady, Carson Palmer is returning from a big injury in 2008 and his first several weeks weren’t terribly impressive as he got used to game speed and being back under center. Since Week 5, the first game against Baltimore, Palmer is 81-for-123 (66%) for 987 yards (8.0/attempt) with eight touchdowns against two interceptions. Prior to that his completion percentage was just 58% (79-for-137) with a 6:5 TD:INT ratio and 6.2 yards per attempt. He’s back and this team is for real.

With a different makeup (offense first), Baltimore has shown a distinct inability to play consistently week over week. A second year quarterback no doubt plays into that for sure, but the real problem is the fact that they have gone to an offense-first philosophy because their defense has lost several steps. The secondary is garbage and the front seven isn’t the polished force it has been for several years coming into 2009. Cincinnati’s rising stars at cornerback, Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall, shut down the Baltimore receivers leaving Ray Rice as the leading receiver with eight catches for 87 yards. Derrick Mason was targeted 13 times but managed just three catches for 31 yards. If teams start scheming to shutdown Rice on the ground and through the air, I’m not sure Baltimore will move the ball into the red zone. I’m not counting this team as they can look like Super Bowl contenders on some weeks, but their week-to-week to transformations from excellent to trash are infuriating.

Statistically Speaking
Ray Rice has caught fewer than five passes in just two games this year which has led to his ranking 2nd-best amongst running backs in PPR leagues. He is well on his way to becoming the next Maurice Jones-Drew, right down to their similar statures… Hall and Joseph each notched their fourth interception on Sunday and also rate tied for 2nd (Hall, 12) and 3rd (Joseph, 11) in passes defended. Their improvements in the secondary was a big key to Antwan Odom’s hot start before going down with a season-ending injury and their continued success is why the Bengals haven’t missed a beat without Odom. I could eventually get to the quarterback with those two covering in the secondary.

Cincinnati – 3rd downs: 8-18 (44%), TOP: 40:00, Sacks: 4
Baltimore – 3rd downs: 1-10 (10%), TOP: 20:00, Sacks: 1

Up Next
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh, Baltimore at Cleveland

Part 2 will finish up the rest of the recaps as well as include all the extras… it should be up Wednesday evening.

Monday: 11.2.2009

NFL: Week 8 Review

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 SpeakingKyle 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 SpeakingMarion 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 SpeakingDeSean 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 SpeakingVincent 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 SpeakingPercy 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
1 Indianapolis 20 5 15 7
2 Minnesota 31 18 13 7
3 Denver 23 11 12 6
4 Tennessee 15 6 9 1
5 NY Giants 18 10 8 5
6 Atlanta 12 6 6 4
7 Cincinnati 17 11 6 5
8 Philadelphia 23 17 6 5
9 New England 13 8 5 5
10 New Orleans 14 9 5 6
11 Baltimore 16 12 4 4
12 Dallas 17 13 4 5
13 Arizona 17 14 3 4
14 Carolina 17 16 1 3
15 Pittsburgh 21 20 1 5
16 San Diego 17 16 1 4
17 Chicago 15 15 0 4
18 Seattle 18 18 0 2
19 NY Jets 14 15 -1 4
20 Miami 19 21 -2 3
21 St. Louis 14 16 -2 1
22 Cleveland 16 19 -3 1
23 Houston 11 14 -3 5
24 Tampa Bay 11 15 -4 0
25 Buffalo 18 23 -5 3
26 Washington 18 23 -5 2
27 San Francisco 16 22 -6 3
28 Oakland 17 25 -8 2
29 Detroit 15 24 -9 1
30 Jacksonville 5 19 -14 3
31 Kansas City 9 27 -18 1
32 Green Bay 12 31 -19 4

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:
AFC
N: Baltimore, S: Indianapolis, E: New England, W: Denver, WC1: Cincinnati, WC2: Pittsburgh

NFC
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.