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2011 NFL Season: Week 5, Ehh…Not So Much!

For the first time in a long time, I can say I was largely bored by the Week 5 action. There simply were not many great games played this week. Perhaps a bit of the separation between teams is beginning. Perhaps conditioning on older teams is beginning to kick in. Are the fogeys starting to get their legs?

If nothing else, I’m fairly certain that you’ll need garlic, silver, and a very, very, very long stake to kill the Packers this season. In fact, that might only kill off a few of them. Last year, they won with 38 guys and 15 “what’s his names.” This year, with 53 guys they’re just pounding the living daylights out of game plans, and opponents and their smack talking fans.

The Lions aren’t scared, but the Lions haven’t played this team.

The Falcons had the Packers by the holes in their Swiss speedos…and they let ‘em off the hook.

Cam Newton threw the worst pass of his career on Sunday. It so happens that it was his first pass of the game. And, it so happens that instead of winding up in the waiting hands of Steve Smith, it wound up in the hands of the New Orleans Saints. The pass was returned deep into the red zone and led to an opening touchdown. The Panthers played uphill for the rest of the day. By the time they mustered up the strength to take the lead late in the 4th quarter, the defense was running on fumes and gave up a decisive score. The Panthers dropped another close game, 30-27. The team seems to be getting close. Losses this season have been by 7, 7, 5 and 3 points respectively. Next up, a desperate Atlanta Falcons team.

We’re going to find out a lot about the resiliency of these teams on Sunday. The Falcons are hosting and should win by 10-14 points, but the Panthers have exceeded expectations all season.

Do you want to play this team?

Frank Gore: Opening Up A Can of Whoop! on the Bucs

The Lions do. The Bucs didn’t. If you had high expectations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, it’s probably time to put those on the shelf until 2011. The team has three marginally impressive wins (I’m being kind) over Minnesota (1-4), Atlanta (outdoors), and Indianapolis (sans Peyton Manning). The Bucs lost an eagerly anticipated matchup with the Lions in their home opener and this weekend, they laid the egg of all eggs. Last year, Tampa was strong enough to go West and return with a 21-0 win over the Niners. This year, the Bucs were forced to walk the plank in an embarrassing 48-3 rout.

In other news around the league:

  • Quick Pass Roethlisberger passed for five touchdowns against the Tennessee Titans. Four different receivers caught touchdowns. Slow Pass Roethlisberger apparently missed the bus. Steelers 38, Titans 17. If he gets rid of the ball on time and uses all of his weapons, the Steelers will score lots of points for the rest of the season. Mike Tomlin’s fake punt call opened the floodgates. Kudos to the coach with the cojones.
  • The Giants figured out a way to do the unthinkable. Big Blue blew a chance to take tremendous strides in the division by losing a home conference game to the lowly Seattle Seahawks. While the Cowboys and Redskins watched at home, and the Eagles stuggled elsewhere in the state of New York, the Giants were busy finding inventive ways to put their guests in unique scoring positions. The Giants also hosted a Coming Out Party for Stanford’s Doug Baldwin (8 rec, 136 yds, 1 td).
  • The Andy Reid Reject Bowl took place between Arizona and Minnesota. There were no winners there, except for Donovan McNabb. Statistically, he did enough to keep the train on the track. Kevin Kolb was abysmal. Thankfully for Kolb, he is benefitting from a media white out that has yet to call for his head. Kolb may well be the NFL’s leading affirmative traction candidate.
  • Kolb, Part Deux.  The national media may have already been instrumental in duping the Cardinals into believing he was worthy of his juicy contract. Kolb is not a proven winner and he faces a significant up hill climb. It’s too bad he only has Larry Fitzgerald. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start reading articles about how Larry has lost a step or doesn’t know the playbook or gives up on plays or something — and if we do, they’re sure to come from ESPN (Chris Mortensen — Week 9?)
  • The Vikings need to get better at the QB and the WR position. McNabb’s not a Back Foot Betty (Favre, Romo, Kolb, etc.), but he just throws too many balls in places that defy explanation. Berrian is fast but he has not used his speed wisely in tight spaces. He isn’t getting separation and has demonstrated poor route running and pass catching over the first month of the season. He has to step his game up.
  • One thing that struck me about the San Diego Chargers is that Philip Rivers has always been blessed with well-rounded backs. LT2, Darren Sproles and Michael Turner were not one-dimensional. LT and Sproles were excellent blockers. Turner has been known to throw a knock-out block or two as well. Tolbert is solid, but he’s not as proficient as Turner across the board. Matthews is on the rise, but he has yet to arrive. The overall versatility of LT2, Sproles, and Turner gave the Chargers a much bigger matchup edge than they have now. The well has not run dry, but it is simply not as deep.
  • Matt Cassel’s ribs are healed. Four touchdowns and a close relationship with Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston mean big things for the Chiefs. Jamaal Charles isn’t there, but Jackie Battle has stepped in and played well. The Chiefs look a little different this season, but they have some pieces and are still in the fight. Following historically bad losses to Detroit and Buffalo, the Chiefs have rebounded with wins over mediocre teams and are in position to challenge in the AFC West.
  • The Chiefs and the Jets are both 2-3. The teams in the AFC West ahead of the Chiefs are Oakland and San Diego. The teams ahead of the Jets are New England and Buffalo. If the Chiefs are definitely out, so are the Jets. Right?
  • The Jets. Ehh!!! The Jets. Losers on the road at New England. Losers on the road at Baltimore. Losers on the road at Oakland. There is a reason why this was called “The Make or Break Portion of the Schedule.” Up next: Miami, San Diego, bye, @Buffalo, New England, @Tebow, Buffalo. And then there’s that Week 15 game vs. the Eagles. It’s early, but this team is going to be CHALLENGED to make the playoffs as a 3rd entry from the AFC East. Put simply, if the Jets get in, it will come at the expense of either the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders or Ravens. They’ve already lost to the Raiders and Ravens. It doesn’t look good.
  • I’ve got nothing on the Eagles.
  • Quiet as it’s kept, the Houston Texans dropped another game in which the performance of QB Matt Schaub was decisive. Last week, Arian Foster did the heavy lifting vs. the Steelers. Schaub has to prove he can get it done in big games. Next up: Rested Rapacious Ravens Relentlessly Ripping Ravaging and Rolling with Ray Rice.
  • Congratulations to the Raiders for beating the Houston Texans 25-20. “Just Win, Baby!” Nicely done.

Week 6 is sure to provide more fireworks. Looking forward to the Lions-Niners, Cowboys-Patriots, Panthers-Dirty Birds, among others.

10 comments

  1. It seems like the Packers are even better this year, at least on offense, than they were last year. Incredibly, the team that came closest to beating them was a team with a rookie QB, no running game, and a defense that has been even more suspect than the Packers’ D this season. I don’t know what you could gather towards beating the Packers from that game or any other this season rather than try to jump on them early, and watch out for Charles Woodson!

    The Panthers are going to be very good if they can continue to surround Cam with some talent in the coming years and can upgrade their defense. Losing is eating Cam up, though. And the critics talked about he was selfish, didn’t care about anyone but himself, etc.

    I thought this was the year that Raheem & company down in Tampa would take a quantum leap. They never even woke up after the flight to San Francisco. I did agree with something that you said on TSF. Freeman needs an elite receiver. This team has too many games where they shouldn’t have to come from behind against mediocre teams.

    About the Steelers….An NFL Network analyst, Deion or Irvin said that the Steelers play better when they get Hines involved early. This has been true for a while. The game against the Texans, 1 catch. He’s not getting the yards to go along with the catches like he used to, but he takes the hard hits over the middle and keeps drives alive better than any receiver in the league. With Hampton, Smith, Harrison, and McFadden out on d, guys really stepped it up. In particular, Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward showed that the line does have some young guys ready to step in to the starting lineup in a couple of years.

    From what I saw of the Giants, Eli reverted back to his old self. Careless with the ball and lucky that he has some great, tall receivers that can catch to bail him out from time to time. He put the ball in bad spots too many times, putting his receivers in a position to have to make too many adjustments to catch his badly thrown balls.

    Kolb will get a lot of time to fail. His team doesn’t have a lot of expectations. He’s better than what Arizona had last year. Folks based his “greatness” on a couple of teams with bad pass defenses, although if I remember correctly, even though he threw for over 300 against New Orleans, they picked him off 3 times.

    McNabb seems to have been more erratic the past two years with his throws than at any other time of his career. Don’t know if it’s age, or switching teams, or something else, but if he doesn’t fix it fast, he’s going to be making backup appearances. It would definitely help if he had someone to throw to besides Harvey. Berrian reminds me of Nate Washington in Pittsburgh, all that speed, but has the “hands of stone” like Ronnie Garvin, which is good for a pro wrestler, but not for an NFL receiver.

    I’m just wondering how the Chargers have managed to be 4-1. They’re -5 in turnovers. It does help however that their 5th in offense and 7th in defense.

    I thought the Chiefs were the worst team in the league at the beginning of the season, especially after Charles & Berry got hurt. They’ve beaten a couple of teams that they should have beat, but it looks like the AFC West is going to be a lot more competitive this year. The Raiders are still undefeated over the past 2 seasons in division games. San Diego actually started fast this year. The injuries early are probably going to be the reason the Chiefs stay home this season.

    The AFC West is suspect. Even though I think it’ll come down to the Raiders and Chargers, the Chiefs still stand a chance. Not much of one mind you, given that they are playing a first place schedule this year, but they have a chance. The Jets on the other hand playing in the AFC East, starting out the way they have, with Brian Schottenheimer calling plays, have a much smaller margin for error. They do have 5 games left in the division, but they are going to need some help in addition to playing better to make the playoffs.

    The Eagles are a train wreck. A defensive coordinator that was an offensive line coach???!!! What was Andy Reid thinking?! No protection for their franchise QB. A bunch of 220-235 lb linebackers. Playing zone with some of the best cover corners in the league?! Receivers that are afraid to get hit. An unwillingness to run the ball. All of this spells 1-4 for an Eagles team way too talented to be under .500 with the competition they have faced. Wonder if this will be the end of Eagles’ fans love affair with Andy Reid.

    You’re right. Even though the media would have you to believe that Schaub is an elite QB, so far, he’s only shown himself to be a game manager. In tight games, he tends to tense up. At this point in his career with the weapons that he has, it’s pretty much that’s who he is and is going to be.

    Was glad to see the Raiders win against the Texans. A big win for Hue. A win for Al. Al was definitely the eleventh man on that play where Huff intercepted Schaub (the Raiders only had 10 men on the field that play.)

  2. BD:

    That’s all well and good, but I just need to see the algorithm behind all this fixin’, so that I can get my gamble on. The big fixes are predictable enough, but it’s the week-to-week shenanigans that get me going. I’m looking for predictive value, not the after-the-fact stuff.

  3. Here’s how it works: The mafia has a computer program that takes all the betting dollars and corresponding point spreads for each game, and then immediately prior to kickoff, derives the outcome winner and score that will maximize gambling profits from that game. This required result is then communicated to all the officials who have been bought off. It is easy to see this happening in real time when you understand how it works…

  4. I bet, no pun intended, there is a great story in there involving the mob, Wall Street (Cantor Fitzgerald), Congress, big bond traders, and a whole bunch of other types. One of the most egregious plays I can recall involved a heavily bet game between the Steelers and Chargers. Both teams were playing well and the line was only a few points. At the end of the game, Pittsburgh’s safety Troy Polamalu scored a TD that would have made the final score 18-10. That outcome would have caused a lot of folks some anguish. The play was overturned for some absurd reason – I think they ruled that the ball touched the ground, though it clearly did not. The final score of 11-10 has occurred only once in league history.

  5. T3 –

    That game was in 2008. I remember it, but I didn’t remember why the points came off the board. Just read on Wikipedia that the refs ruled that it was an illegal forward pass by the Chargers that Troy recovered the fumble on. One of the refs actually admitted after the game that the TD should have counted, but of course the league isn’t going to do anything about it. The Steelers were favored by 5 points. Over $32 million was lost with that final score.

  6. @kos: Thanks. I knew you remembered that game. During ’08, the Steelers played a bunch of close, heavily-bet games: vs. Baltimore, Giants, Colts, Dallas. Those were big $$ makers and all were national games, plus the Chargers game. They were on nat’l TV almost every week. Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night vs. Washington.

    @BD: Do you think the rise of the Steelers in the 70’s and the rise of the Niners in the 80’s was/is tied to horse racing, money laundering and the rest of what you suggest? I haven’t read that elsewhere, but I made the argument in a piece on the Steelers last year. Thoughts???

  7. BD has no idea about the Steelers and 49ers. Just a casual observer, not a bettor. But you certainly seem to see more bad calls in the second half, particularly the 4th quarter, as the officials are “adjusting” the final outcome (happened to the Seahawks in their one SuperBowl). Would love to be a fly-on-the-wall wherever it is that the officials go during halftime, maybe you could bug all the officials cell phones…that would be a hoot!

  8. T3 –

    I remember that season fondly, and not just because of the Super Bowl at the end. The Steelers had one of the toughest schedules in NFL history based on what their opponents had done the year before and came out winning the division with a 12-4 record. I remember never thinking that team could pull it off, because of injuries (seems like the O line hasn’t been able to catch a break in the past 5 years!), and Bruce Arians’ playcalling.

    BD –

    Well we know it went on in the NBA, despite David Stern’s claim that it was “one rogue official”. Notice no one ever mentions that Donaghy would always call another official (the same one every time) for less than 20 seconds before a game he would officiate. If that’s not a scandal, I don’t know what is.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised at all. What better way to launder money than through a sports franchise. No one is going to blink when they see large transactions.

    I do love how the media plays up the Steelers, Giants, Jets and a lot of the older teams as being a family owned team, when no one with any smarts is going to have a family owned team. They are going to form a corporation, where said family is going to make sure that they are in charge. Even Green Bay is a corporation! If you don’t, then you end up with the mess in Washington when Jack Kent Cooke died (the last football owner I can remember who built a stadium with his own money, and only asked for improvements to roads and the area around the stadium), leading to Daniel Snyder buying the team, and landing them into mediocrity.

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