Atlanta Falcons

09000d5d822f780c_gallery_600

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.

pg2_i_brady_manning1_300

2011 NFL Season: 10 Early Questions for NFL QB’s (Week 3)

No time like the present to dig in and ask some tough questions about performance.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

  1. Why is Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco currently ranked 28th (tied with Browns’ QB Colt McCoy) with a completion percentage of 54.1%?
  2. Of the three QB’s that have thrown for over 1,000 yards this season (Brady, Brees, and Newton), which one has the biggest “upside”?
  3. Which QB with a lower completion percentage than Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb should be benched first: Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton or Sam Bradford?
  4. Quarterbacks averaging less than 7 yards per attempt include Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb. Only Ryan has offensive weapons as deep and varied as Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is it time for a change in Atlanta — and if so, who stays, who goes?
  5. Why is Chad Henne still playing (and why is Tony Sparano still coaching)?
  6. Should we all expect Kevin Kolb to win close games by now? When does his honeymoon end with the national press? Kolb and Cam Newton are the only 2 QB’s average more than 8 yards per attempt with losing records. The Panthers lost to the Cardinals in Week 1 due, in part, to a dropped pass in the endzone at the end of the game.
  7. How many writers had to trash stories about a “gritty, tough, resilient, smart, heady and really, really gritty, tough, resilient, smart and heady” Kevin Kolb positioning the Cardinals for a playoff run after T. Jax ran over both Cardinals safeties to knock off the red birds? Kolb is as unproven today as he was when the Philadelphia faithful fawned over his every move.
  8. When is Ben Roethlisberger going to stop playing down to the level of his competition and author a blowout defense that allows his aging defense to get some rest?
  9. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Matt Cassel lead the league in pass interceptions. Anyone covering this?
  10. Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in EVERY GAME THIS SEASON; his teams have always underperformed; and the Chargers are a razor’s edge away from an 0-3 start, but it’s crickets ALL AROUND the national media. Can Phil get a check up from the neck up? Is it as simple as the loss of a “security blanket”?

EXTRA CREDIT

  1. Tom Brady throws 4 picks and some analysts, I use the term loosely, are blaming receivers for failing to run routes properly…but missing Brady’s failure to finish plays and convert to defense once he surrenders the ball. Play the game the way its supposed to be played.
  2. If you’re running the Rams right now, would you rather have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ndamukong Suh or Sam Bradford?
  3. The Texans next three games are against the Steelers, Raiders and at Baltimore. Is Matt Schaub the guy? Will we know after this stretch, once and for all?

Just one final note: At some point it will be fitting for the NFL family to remember that Tom Brady has essentially had two careers. In the first stage of his career, as his team won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years by a total of 9 points (three point wins each time), Brady was not a dominant passer. He was efficient. He didn’t throw interceptions. He was a game manager, not a game changer. Young Tom Brady didn’t win games with his arm. He won them with his hand offs, and his execution of play action fakes. He had some big passing games (Super Bowls vs. Carolina and Philadelphia), but each of those games was also punctuated by high carry games from Patriot running backs. He threw for less than 4,000 yards in each of the Patriots Super Bowl-winning seasons…and he had QB ratings of under 93.

Rivals of the Era: Closer than Close

In the second stage of Tom Brady’s career, he has emerged as a dominant passer, but his teams have struggled to win post-season games. The Patriots, with an undefeated team, lost a Super Bowl to the New York Giants in which Brady threw 48 passes for a mere 266 yards. He was throttled, hammered and harassed all night long – and it still took a miracle for them to lose. Still, they lost. His passing was unable to carry the day – in much the same way that dominant passing was unable to garner rings for players like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and others.

It seems as though there is a bit of collective amnesia with respect to these two phases of Tom Brady’s career. The elite passer of the second phase has not won a Super Bowl. Like Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb and Dan Marino and others, he was won a lot of regular season games. However, he has lost a home playoff game to a team that featured an overwhelmed Joe Flacco (4-10, 35 total passing yards, 1 INT). He has lost to the New York Jets and second-year QB Mark Sanchez. And, for what it’s worth, Tom Brady has not thrown for 300 yards in a PLAYOFF GAME since 2005 against the Denver Broncos…and New England lost that game by 2 touchdowns.

It is difficult to separate Brady’s numbers and the regular season wins from his early success as the offensive leader of a team that was actually run by men like Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Lawyer Milloy. It’s hard. I know it is. But the bottom line for Brady and the Patriots is what it is…and the numbers never lie.

Bears MLB Brian Urlacher Shows Who's Boss

2010 NFL Season: Week 17 Previews

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in need of help from the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers make the most interesting case for a compelling “must-see” game.  The Young Bucs will be in the Big Easy taking on the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  The Saints survived a sub-par performance by quarterback Drew Brees to win on the road in Atlanta last Monday night.  With the world watching, the Saints made a case for themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.  Today, the Bucs will bring the fight to a team that still has something to play for: a division title.  Both of these teams would love nothing more than for the front runners  to open the door with a loss at Carolina.  Regardless of the outcome of those games, both Tampa Bay and New Orleans have a lot to play for.  Pride!

In other games, the needy and the greedy will be separated for better or worse.  Green Bay just needs a win.  Will the Packers try to go for too many home runs to get the job done?  Will the slow and steady Bears win the race?

2010 NFL Season: Week 15 in Review

A game of inches, obscene noises, and definitive silence.

Antonio Cromartie, aka The Jersey Boy: Nice Grab

And this, too. (And it’s not a replay.)

Antonio Cromartie Masterfully Turns the Inside Shoulder

Um, and this one, too.

Antonio Cromartie Demonstrates Desperation

And this, too.

Dwight Lowery Snuggles Close to Emmanuel Sanders

Jets 22, Steelers 17.   “Emmanuel!! Wait!  Dont’ leave me this way.   I luuuuuuuv you, man!  Don’t go!  I need you.”

No whistles.  No biggie.  It all evens out in the end.

In other news: (more…)

2010 NFL Season: Week 12 in Review

The season is winding down and the significant games for this week are in the books.  Tonite, the San Francisco 49ers play the Arizona Cardinals.  The game may well prove to be very entertaining (Remember last year’s tilt in San Francisco?), but both of these outfits have proven unfit for the rigors of this season.  Big winners this week: the New England Patriots who have found a way to get deep without deep speed; the San Diego Chargers who are serving notice that they are a team to be reckoned with — until the playoffs start; the Chicago Bears who provided a template for beating the high-flying Eagles; the Atlanta Falcons who showed that in the Dirty South, they have just enough to take all comers; and the “Survivors” — Pittsburgh and Baltimore — who were probably peeking around their Week 12 opponents, and thinking about health insurance for Week 13.

Chargers, Chargers Everywhere!

A few random thoughts:

  • As great as Peyton Manning has been in his career, he cannot like living THE LIFE OF MCNABB right now.  Without Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, and Ryan Lilja, Manning is experiencing life on the other side.  He still has Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and others, but this is his first taste in years of getting hammered — with no hope of relief.  Manning, unlike McNabb is not able to make plays with his feet — and it shows.  He’s giving up interceptions for touchdowns.  He isn’t choosing to throw the ball at the feet of his receivers to avoid turnovers.  He’s taking big risks and losing.  Fortunately for Manning and the Colts, they’ve lost 2 games in a row, but moved ahead of Jacksonville in the playoff hunt.
  • In 5 of his last 7 games, Manning has averaged less than 6 yards per pass attempt.  That’s awful.  You cannot win in today’s NFL doing that.  During that span, the Colts are 4-3, with one of those wins coming by 6 points over the Bengals who were “fueled” by Carson Palmer’s 3 INTs.  Manning has thrown 10 picks over the frame — and had two games with no touchdown passes.
  • The national media is articulate, understanding, and acutely accusatory in their analysis of Peyton Manning’s present condition.  Commentators are able to identify injured players at skill positions and along the offensive line.  Many have become Maddenesque with their ability to break down offensive line play (Exhibit A: former wide receiver Cris Collinsworth; Exhibit B: Yahoo.com’s Shut Down Corner column).  THE LIFE OF MCNABB, however, is not about making excuses.  It’s about making plays…even when playing with guys like James Thrash, Todd Pinkston, Hank Baskett, and Freddie Mitchell.  It’s about figuring a way to move the ball on the ground even when your running backs all weigh 180 pounds soaking wet and the last tackle they broke was made by a toddler on the living room floor.  The Colts may make the playoffs, but I suspect Peyton Manning may need what Jay Cutler needed last year if he is to right this ship, right now.

What Can This Brown Do For You?

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Week 13 Picks

After going 13-2 two weeks ago (missing on Oakland over Cincinnati and Kansas City over Pittsburgh) and following that up with a 10-6 week (including a 41-17 prediction of New Orleans over New England), there is no doubt that I am on fire!!

(more…)

2009 NFL Season: Week 9’s Biggest Losers

The week isn’t over yet, but on Sunday, some teams lost more than a single game.  It’s still early enough that anything can happen, but some teams may be watching their seasons fall apart.  Let’s take a look at the early casualties.

  • San Francisco 49ers. You knew the Titans were a dangerous opponent.  With Vince Young quarterbacking and Mike Heimerdinger calling plays, the Titans were sure to rely on a conservative attack  and their ability to pound the rock and force turnovers.  That’s exactly what happened.  The Titans won 34-27 on the road and forced Alex Smith into a sloppy, hurried game.  Frank Gore was dynamic and versatile, but he didn’t dominate the action like he did before the Viking game.  Suddenly, a team that began the season 3-1 with quality wins over division opponents is sitting at 3-5.  The bad news is that first-place Arizona won at Chicago on the strength of a 5 td performance by Kurt Warner (without Anquan Boldin).  The good news is that the Niners only trail them by 2 games — and already have a win at Arizona.  Mike Singletary has changed quarterbacks.  They score more points with Smith, but have less ball security than under Hill.  Next up: the Bears, Packers, Jags, Seahawks.  There is no reason this team can’t be 7-5 in a month.  Book It: If they’re +8 or better in turnovers over that time frame, they’re going to the playoffs.
  • New York Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the New York Giants would have the same vantage point as the New York Yankees, and you and I.  They’d be watching from home.  The Giants have lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.  They’ve lost on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.  There really is no shame in losing to any of these teams.  The Saints finished in last place last season, but they’ve been remade and have yet to lose a game this season.  Arizona and the Eagles played in the NFC Championship game last year.  San Diego is a perennial playoff contender.  That the Giants have lost to these teams in consecutive weeks is surprising.  That the Giants have failed to score more than 20 points in any of these games is shocking.  The Chargers have been an enigmatic bunch all season.  They’re 5-3, but could be 7-1 or 2-6.  They’re inconsistent and have been unable to stop the run since the injury to Jamal Williams in September.  All of that sounded like a recipe for resurrection in the Meadowlands.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, the same depleted secondary that was undressed by Drew Brees was dissected by Philip Rivers.  The Giants could do “soul-searching” or any number of things on their bye week, but the answers (like the problems) are on the field.  The execution is simply what it has been — on either side of the ball.  When the sun rises tomorrow, the Giants will be 2 games behind the leader of the NFC East.  Next up: Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.  This could get much worse before it gets any better.  Book It: If the Giants are not able to defeat second and third tier quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton, the season will be over before they meet host Dallas and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
EliManning_Scramble_JacquesCesaire

Eli Isn't the Only Man On the Run (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are kicking themselves tonite for taking the Bengals lightly.  I don’t know why they continue to do that.  It seems they forget that they have a 3-8 record vs. Carson Palmer.  They don’t scare him.  He torches them more regularly and scars them more deeply than any QB in the league.  Really, if they think about it, they’re his bird bitches.  They probably don’t like to admit it, but 8 wins is 8 wins.  The Ravens know they will not be winning the AFC North this season.  They will not be beating the Steelers twice.  They may not even beat them once.  The good news, though, is that they hold tie breakers over the Broncos and Chargers.  Only 1 of them can win the division.  If the Ravens can somehow manage to get to 10 or 11 wins, they can sneak in as the 3rd in the AFC North.  New England, a probably division winner is the only team they’ve lost to in the AFC aside from Cincinnati.  It means their destiny is still in their own hands.  Baltimore can win 6 or 7 of their final 8 games.  If they do, they’re in because of their wins over the AFC West.  Next up: Browns, Colts, Steelers, Packers.  They get Indy and Pitt at home.  Book It: If Baltimore finds a way to win these 4 games and wins out until their Dec. 27th game in Pittsburgh, they’ll beat whomever they play in the Wild Card round.

Teams like the Bears, Texans and Packers lost games yesterday that likely surprised their die-hard fans.  What Bears fan doesn’t expect to beat the Cardinals in Soldier Field?  In all honesty, the Bears simply are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season.  The Bears were fortunate to beat the Steelers this season — and that win has been the cause of all “great expectations” since the signing of Jay Cutler.  It was a quality win.  It was something the Vikings were unable to do.  Still, there hasn’t been much for the Monsters of the Midway to hang their hats on.  Without Urlacher and Hillenmeyer, I don’t expect much.

For all their talent and perennial promise for unleashing potential, the Texans simply cannot be expected to win at Indianapolis.  I expect them to do what they did — play tough, play a little less than smart, and lose.

The Packers simply are not a good team.  They play unevenly and had to be flatter than week-old Coke after playing against Brett Favre under the national spotlight at home last week and then traveling in anonymity to lifeless Raymond James Stadium for a late game vs. a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach.  Teams that lose games like this don’t really belong in the post-season.  Green Bay will find their way out.

Addendum:

  • Philadelphia Eagles. Anytime you lose at home to a division rival, it’s painful and it adversely impacts your playoff positioning.  This version of the Eagles is losing games they are supposed to win.  They’ve lost at Oakland…and now this.  If you don’t think the Eagles are going to regret this loss, consider that over the next four weeks, they will be on the road at San Diego, at Chicago and at Atlanta.  The Eagles could lose every one of these games.  The last time the Eagles played on the West Coast, they lost to Oakland.  Against Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 23 times.  They didn’t run many plays overall.  Philly only converted 4 of 12 first downs, including some notable failures on 3rd and 4th down with short distances to go.  Jason Peters was injured.  Asante Samuel was roughed up.  Sheldon Brown was toasted.  Brian Westbrook was inactive.  Michael Vick was ineffective (He’s got time.)  McNabb looked like his ribs are still sore…and he also looked like he always looks.

2009 NFL Season: An Early Peek at Week 9

Some games are already taking on a playoff atmosphere.  The Week 8 Falcons-Saints game on Monday night was one such game.  The one thing that is painfully clear to me (and probably to the Atlanta Falcons general manager) is that the Falcons really miss Harry Douglas.  If you don’t live in Atlanta or didn’t go to Louisville, you’ve probably never heard of him.  Douglas is a speedy wideout who was injured and lost for the season during pre-season.  He had two of his best games in 2008 vs. Chicago (5 catches, 96 yards) and Carolina (4 catches, 92 yards).  Douglas is a young guy, but he can stretch the field and create space for Roddy White.  That’s what’s been missing as teams exploit the absence of Jerrious Norwood and the presence of Michael Jenkins.

Next week, we’re going to see who gets off the mat…and who rolls over.

A month ago, if you told someone that the Chargers had the remotest chance of beating the Giants in New York, you’d have been run out of town.  Yet, after overpowering losses at New Orleans, home vs. the Cardinals and down in Philadelphia, the Giants may have shrunk the betting line to 2 or 3 points.  The Chargers are still a shell of their former selves, but anything is possible — especially in a game where Philip Rivers and Eli Manning will be playing for bragging rights.

Around Christmas time, when the Arizona Cardinals get the final confirmation that their 9-7 record is not good enough to get into the playoffs, they’re going to be kicking themselves for losing at home to Carolina.  They’re going on the road to Chicago.  The Cardinals have the perfect personnel to throttle the Bears all up and down Lake Shore Drive.  But, if Kurt Warner has his mind on other things, they can lose just like Cleveland did last week.  And if they do that, they’ll be watching the 49ers in the post-season.

Dallas travels to Philadelphia for what should be a classic confrontation of high-powered offenses.  The Cowboys have proven to have a stronger preference for running than the Eagles.  Too often Andy Reid get enamored with the beauty and grace of their passing game.  If that happens again this week, Dallas will leave town in first place.

The Miami Dolphins have had an interesting few weeks.  They lost a tough, tough game to the New Orleans Saints.  The offense could only muster 3 points vs. the Jets for much of the game, but the special teams unit exploded behind Ted Ginn, Jr.  The New England Patriots are coming off a bye and this could be the end of the ride.

The Baltimore Ravens play at the Cinncinati Bengals.  This is a game of the week candidate.  The Bengals have a one game lead over the Ravens and have already won in Baltimore.  A win here forces the Ravens to turn their attention to beating the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers twice…and they haven’t played this season.  If Baltimore loses, the chances of them making the playoffs, to me, drop considerably.

Don’t the Texans have something to prove?  When are they going to prove it?  They get to play the Colts in Indy this week and prove they can run and pass and stop the run and slow down the pass.  If they can’t do it, Indy gets to 8-0 and holds all the cards.  If Houston can find a way, a much deserved bye week is just around the corner.

NOTE: It had occurred to me that very little was probably said with respect to “race” last week as Mike Singletary’s 49ers faced off against Jim Caldwell’s Colts.  The NFL still has a long way to go, but it is worth noting that 5 of the last 6 teams to compete in the Super Bowl have had either a Black head coach or general manager.  The lone exception to this new trend is the New England Patriots.

The Raiders, Rams, Bills and Browns are all on a bye week.  Television programmers have never been so happy!

Monday night — Steelers vs. Broncos.  That’s a big one, even though the Ravens subjected Denver to an old-fashioned AFC North chin checking.  Denver will show up to play the Steelers and their fans will be juiced.  This game will get all the hype that probably should go to two teams who’ve already outdueled these two (Baltimore and Cincinnati).

2009 NFL Season: A Look Back at Week 7

So, how’d I do?

After going 5-8 last week, it couldn’t get any worse could it.  Let me get this out of the way first.  I was wrong about Miami being able to hang on and beat the Saints.  I was wrong about Chicago at Cincinnati…really, really wrong.  Sorry Cedric.  I was a believer at the end of the preseason.  I just slipped.  Next time you all are in New York to collect rent from the Jets, holler!

I wasn’t perfect this week, but I was better.  Heading into the Monday night game featuring the heavily-favored Eagles vs. the seriously-sedated Redskins, I had a record of 7-5. Let’s get to the good.

The Classics

Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Minnesota Vikings 17. I have maintained two things since the beginning of Brett Favre’s flirtations with the Vikings…that this team is going to be a tough out in the post-season and that if the Vikings play teams that Adrian Peterson does not dominate – teams that force Brett Favre to beat them, he’s not going to do it.  I don’t dislike Favre.  For me it’s simpler than that.  Since 1997, he hasn’t won more than one playoff game in any season.  To play in a Super Bowl, the Vikings will need to win 2 or 3 playoff games.  The Steelers allowed 69 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson and the game was put in the hands of Favre to win or lose.

He threw 51 passes.  The chances of losing increase exponentially for most QBs after 45 passes (at least in the post-season).  Favre, for much of the game, did a masterful job of mixing up plays.  The Vikings attacked short and deep.  There are were a few plays where only good fortune and a very strong sun prevented Percy Harvin from dominating the action.  He is a very impressive young player.   The hamstring injury to Bernard Berrian significantly impacted the game.  Berrian did drop an easy pass, but he was otherwise having his way with William Gay.  Berrian’s speed forced Gay to play off — leaving room for underneath routes.  When Berrian went out of the game, Favre was reduced to throwing to Harvin, Sidney Rice (another great game) and Visanthe Shincoe.

The Steelers still have issues.  Rashard Mendenhall is a fumbler — until proven otherwise.  He’s not a nice back who happens to fumble.  He’s not a young power back with great speed and agility who happens to fumble.  He’s a fumbler.  He is a player who jeopardizes possessions each time he touches the ball.  After his Red Zone fumble yesterday, Coach Mike Tomlin went to former Viking Mewelde Moore to hold down the fort.  Moore, of course, is not a powerful between the tackles runner, but he is not a fumbler.

Adrian Peterson Runs Over Steeler RCB William Gay

(more…)

Furious Competition For “Genius Points”

Quick!  Name that Offensive Coordinator.

Some offensive coordinators names are heard every week throughout the national media.  The names are heard when the teams perform well and when the teams are shut down.  The names are heard, in some instances, more often than that of the head coach.  It’s as if national reporters are collecting kickbacks from coordinators looking to ascend the final rung of the ladder.

Do offensive coordinators have agents that work tirelessly on their behalf so that they can get name recognition and keep their hat in the ring for the next Looking For Gruden search for genius coaches?  If not, what gives?

How does it happen that average fan hears more about Jason Garrett than Miles Austin or Marion Barber?  Can’t someone just hire Garrett to run their team and end the suspense?  Couldn’t Dallas just get it over with?  What would change?  Not much.  What about Darrell Bevell up in Minnesota?  Isn’t it time someone gave him a real job?  If Bevell is such a genius, what is Brad Childress doing?  And how is what Childress does different from what Norv Turner does?  What about Mike Mularkey?  Hasn’t he learned enough, now, from Mike Smith to warrant another shot at the top job?

In 2008-2009, the man pictured above called the shots for the #2 scoring offense in the NFL.  The man who led the number 1 scoring offense is working at Syracuse University trying to mold a winner.  Both are as anonymous as hooded monks in the Alps.

In my book, they’ve accumulated far more “Genius Points” than their over-exposed competitors in Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta whose offenses have routinely stumbled in December and January.  Perhaps 2009 will be different.  Perhaps the coordinators who get results will get the credit they deserve…then again, not everyone can call the shots in a billion dollar stadium or craft the game plan for America’s favorite feel-good story.