This season, time may not permit weekly postings of game predictions or detailed recaps of games. The heart is willing, but the schedule is uncompromising. So, let’s get to it.
A standard barometer for predicting playoff teams has been survival through Week 2. In the AFC, there are 4 teams who’ve managed to get to 2-0: the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans. It’s hard to say which wins have been more impressive. The Chiefs scored a surprising win over the Chargers, but the Chargers are always slow to wake for the season. Kansas City also beat the Browns. The Dolphins beat the Vikings on the road, but the absence of Sidney Rice is more significant than most suspected. Miami also beat the Bills. The Texans, however, have wins over the defending conference champion Colts and at Washington. Houston even mounted a comeback from a 17-point 3rd quarter deficit in DC. Then, there are my Steelers who are down to their 4th string quarterback. (Thank goodness for depth.) The defense has been resurgent and led the way with dominating performances against high-powered offenses from Atlanta (41 points vs. Arizona) and Tennessee (38 points vs. Oakland). Troy Polamalu has interceptions in consecutive weeks and Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Chris Johnson have all run about as far as a toddler on a short leash.
I have a pro-Pittsburgh bias, to be sure, but I am fairly certain that no other team in the NFL has the type of depth at QB that the Steelers have. Also, given that the benchings of Vince Young (as if there was something that he could have done!), Jason Campbell, and David Garrard stood in bold contrast to the extended on field misery of Joe Flacco, Brett Favre and Eli Manning; Pittsburgh’s depth is “remarkably Black.” In and of itself, this would and should mean very little, but it still has meaning in this league where certain failures get glossed over and others become terminal indications of a “need for change.”
In Tennessee, Jeff Fisher is beginning to resemble the director of a soap opera. He appears to have less and less knowledge of why he even has a job. This man was on the verge of hawking tickets in Watts for his alma mater before Vince Young kept him and Kerry Collins off the wagon by winning 9 of 11 games last season. If the wheels fall off of the Titans this season (and they have a tough schedule), it will not be because Vince Young failed to perform much better than Matt Ryan — it will be because Jeff Fisher is an emotional, overly-sensitive, desperate bee-yatch of a coach. This has been a long time coming, but his inner “weepy old man” is beginning to emerge about two decades too soon.
The New England Patriots are who I thought they were. In Week 1, they surprised the Cincinnati Press Clippings (er, Bengals). By the time the Bengals decided to play on both sides of the ball (that means you Carson Palmer!!), the game was effectively over. This week, the Jets were ready. Second-year QB Mark Sanchez was sharp. Bearded Braylon the Dropper was reborn as an actual wide receiver. I can’t wait until the full fledged shit-talking kicks off when Santonio Holmes returns. The former Ohio State Buckeye will be in Edwards’ ear every single time he drops a pass — and Holmes doesn’t drop passes, and the only time he’s covered is when he’s under a blanket. New England cannot run with power or consistency. The Patriots are a two-trick pony: Randy Moss and Wes Welker. When Brandon Tate and Aaron Hernandez become regulars, the Patriots will have an added dimension. They’re not there yet. The Patriots, for all their experience, are going to struggle to make the playoffs this season.
The Miami Dolphins are doing something. Part of what they were doing was fumbling — Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. But most of what they were doing was playing defense and getting big stops. Sure, Brett Favre does not have his favorite passing target. So what. Before Rice emerged as a reliable target, his “absence” didn’t forestall vociferous criticism of Tavaris Jackson who was stuck with trying to force the ball into Visanthe Shincoe against loaded defenses. Remember that 2008 Week 2 game when Jackson threw a red zone zinger to a wide open Shincoe against the Colts? Shincoe dropped the ball, the Vikings lost and Jackson was benched for weeks. Yesterday’s game was eerily similar. In this close, hard fought game against another AFC opponent, the Vikings were unable to move the rock. Will Favre get benched? Of course not — especially after last season, but expectations will have to be tamped down a bit.
Is Jason Snelling the best backup running back in the NFL?
Jahvid Best is much more effective than I thought he would be. I wrote about him after pre-season, but he has exceeded my high expectations. Wow!!
I like Jason Campbell, but I’ve always like Gradkowski. He’s got a lot of Jeff Garcia in him. He can move the offense. The problem is that once teams begin to game plan for him, he doesn’t have another level. He’s a relief pitcher, not a long-term solution as a starter.
Indianapolis opened up a large can of “Whoop Ass!! 101” on the New York Football Giants. This game was reminiscent of the Week 1 Bengals-Patriots game. It was over before it started.
I’m not going to write a premature autopsy on the Dallas Cowboys. They simply need to run the ball. Jason Garrett is continuing to audition for head coaching jobs at the expense of his team. He has one more game to lose before it gets really desperate. Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice are the true “genius” of this team…it’s not Tony Romo or Garrett.
Through 2 weeks of the season, Michael Vick has been the biggest story in the league and he is apparently headed to the bench. Kevin Kolb is poised to return to a job he apparently “earned” by virtue of his je ne sais quoi. Kolb has, from my readings, mixed support in Philadelphia. There are those in the city of madness and brotherly contempt who believe that Vick is the answer, while others believe that he is simply not fundamentally sound enough to win a Super Bowl. Enter Kolb. Is he the genuine article? Is he durable enough? Will he learn to read defenses well enough or are these interceptions really just a mirror into the soul of his Inner Joe Flacco? The jury is still out on Kevin Kolb. But the jury is in on Michael Vick. By all appearances, he is still an elite quarterback in this league. He is capable of making plays with his head, arm and legs…and he is capable of winning in places and under conditions that few can match. The Eagles are not going to a Super Bowl. Their D-lusional fan base blamed McNabb for last season’s failings, while a porous defense emerged unscathed. Yesterday, the Detroit Lions showed just how much work needs to be done by the dirtiest of birds. The Eagles will know where they stand in the NFC East soon enough — and they may not like it one bit.
Andy Reid figures, “I have to have Kolb on the field when we play Washington on national television in Week 4 or I’ll look like an ASS for trading McNabb. If Kolb doesn’t get some game experience before Week 4, the Redskins are going to kill him and I’ll look like an ASS for trading McNabb. McNabb just threw for 4 billion yards yesterday and I’m going to look like an ASS for trading McNabb.” The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is mediocre at best. Kyle Orton looked like Dan Marino — so Kolb should pass for Boomer Esiason! Right?
I really like the way Adrian Peterson totes the rock. His ferocity is impressive. He has great agility and speed. I think he’s a better pure runner than Tennessee’s Chris Johnson. In fact, I don’t think it’s even remotely close. Many of Chris Johnson’s greatest runs are one-cut runs where he simply outruns defenders through boulevards paved by Mike Roos and company. Johnson, however, is going to be more successful because he doesn’t fumble; he takes what the defense gives him; and he plays behind a far superior run blocking offensive line.
In the NFC, only the Bears, Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0. Last season, I wrote several pieces on the Bucs. I thought they had talent at a number of positions and were poised to do some things. Toward the end of last season, they throttled the aforementioned Packers and the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. The Bucs are coached by 2nd-year man Raheem Morris and led by 2nd-year QB Josh Freeman. This team has the look of an upcoming winner. The defense is playing inspired ball and they are more stout up front than they’ve been since 2002. Tampa Bay has to get more help on the outside, but the smart, steady and sometimes spectacular play of Josh Freeman has been the difference. Yesterday, in a tough contest against a familiar opponent, Freeman kept the Bucs alive by not taking sacks, not throwing interceptions, rushing for 43 yards on 4 carries, and allowing the entire team to earn a huge road win. Freeman is flying under the radar, but he is flying.
Where do the Vikings look for a quarterback in 2011 if they miss the playoffs while Chicago and Green Bay duke it out for control of the NFC North? The Bears were blessed to escape with a win against the Lions in Week 1. They bounced back with an impressive win in Dallas. Mike Martz is looking very smart right now. Matt Forte is looking like Marshall Lite. Lovie Smith still doesn’t have much job security, but he is 2-0.
I like the New Orleans Saints to beat the 49ers tonite. I think the 49ers could win this game with a little ground and pound, but New Orleans has had an extended vacation and should be well prepared for this game. Don’t be surprised if Chris Ivory shows up in the end zone. Mike Singletary has something to prove after getting undressed (oops!) last week by the Smoke & Mirrors Seattle Trojans.