2009 NFL Football Season: Week 6

October 25, 2009

This is coming really late this week because I was on vacation in Miami and Key West without a computer, but I am posting it anyway.


GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Tennessee Titans, 59-0

“This probably doesn’t mean anything in the long run but I will take the easy win.” – fellow Patriots fan.

Before getting too excited about the great performance the Patriots put on against Tennessee let me say that Tennessee was so bad that it was not really a true test for the Patriots. Brady looked like the Brady of old and maybe this is the kind of game he needed to get his football legs under him. But Tennessee just simply seemed to fold. This was a great win for the Patriots and with the Jets losing puts New England on top in the tough AFC East. I hope we can keep it going.

What has happened to the Tennessee Titans is really beyond me. Even with injuries and weak defensive backs, especially with Courtland Finnegan out, the team on the field just simply seemed to quit, again. I thought they quit against the Colts last week, and I definitely think they quit this week. I thought Tennessee played an excellent game against Pittsburgh in the opening game of the season but lost in overtime. Since then they have regressed to an absolute mess. And it’s not Kerry Collins’ fault. He played reasonably well in the first half. His woeful statistics were a result of numerous dropped balls by his receivers. On the defensive side they simply didn’t compete. I am shocked by how far this team has fallen. A few losses at the start of the season and the team has simply folded. What is really shocking is that it is a Jeff Fisher coached team.

MVP: Tom Brady, QB

Minnesota Vikings over Baltimore Ravens, 33-31

This turned out to be a wildly entertaining game between two excellent teams. Baltimore got behind early but came storming back in the second half to almost win the game, but for a missed 44-yard field goal at the end of the game.

Minnesota played excellent on both sides of the ball for most of the game, especially Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, and Sydney Rice. Defensive end Jared Allen harassed Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco all day, but Joe stayed cooled and brought his team back in the second half.

The telling part of this game was the Minnesota defense collapsed a bit in the second half giving up big plays and scoring drives letting the Ravens back in the game. I don’t know if they got tired or the Ravens’ offense just started clicking, but it never should have been this close, as Baltimore was down 30-17 in the third quarter.

The Ravens have lost some real heartbreakers the last three weeks but they are an excellent team that should be around for the postseason. They competed hard throughout the game and came within a makeable field goal of pulling off the upset. Kudos to Flacco for being cool in the pocket and the entire team for competing hard for 60 minutes.

Adrian Peterson had 143 yards rushing but Favre was the key to the offensive attack in the passing game.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB

Atlanta Falcons over Chicago Bears, 21-14

To me the Falcons and the Bears look like to top tier teams but not teams in the very top tier. This was a reasonably well played game by both teams but the Bears blew their chance at a win with a fumble on the goal line in the third quarter that the Falcons recovered.

Matt Ryan continues to play very well and Roddy White seems to be coming on, although he has been very inconsistent in the past. Tight end Tony Gonzalez has really added a new dimension to this team and it is great to see a mostly receiving tight end who can actually block as well. This is a team I expect to improve as the year goes on.

Meanwhile, I am not sure what to make of Jay Cutler. Talent wise he should be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he’s not. He talks a big game about being a leader, but frankly I don’t always see that on the field. And what happened to running back Matt Forte? The Bears have gotten little out of the running game this year and Cutler really needs the treat of the run to be more effective. The Bears are a puzzling team.

Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux forced the fumble that held the Bears out of the end zone so I am going with him as MVP.

MVP: Jonathan Babineaux, DT

Denver Broncos over San Diego Chargers, 34-23

Denver is for real. They went in and handed their archrival San Diego Chargers a home loss in the division and are in the driver’s seat to win the AFC West. Kyle Orton may not be the flashiest quarterback in the league but he’s proven he is a winner. He is an accurate short to intermediate passer and the down field blocking for the receivers opens up nice holes. The running game is also starting to make progress.

The real star of the game though was Eddie Royal, who had a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns that basically broke the back San Diego’s back, even though Darren Sproles also had a punt return for a touchdown. I believe that is the first time I have ever seen three kick returns for a touchdown in the same quarter.

Denver is on top, I am not sure where San Diego is going to net out. Their defense is not that good and will likely cost them the playoffs if they don’t turn things around.

MVP: Eddie Royal, WR/KR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Lineman: Logan Mankins, G, New England Patriots

Special Teams: Eddie Royal, WR/KR, Denver Broncos

Rookie of the Week: Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans


2009 NFL Football Season: Week 5

October 15, 2009


GAMES I WATCHED

Denver Broncos over New England Patriots, 20-17 OT

This was a well played game by both teams and Denver should have shaken off any doubters that they are as good as their 5-0 record. They have beaten both Dallas and New England at home in back to back weeks and looked good doing it.

This was a very disappointing regular season loss for Patriots fans (but every loss really is). How did the Patriots’ defense let Denver drive the ball 98 yards for a game tying touchdown?! That is simply unacceptable. I thought the game was wrapped up after we pinned Denver at their own two yard line, thinking we’d eventually get the ball back in decent field position and do something with it. Instead it was a steady march down the field and a game tying touchdown for the Broncos.

I never thought I’d say this but the difference in the game was Tom Brady’s inability to hit open receivers. Besides the obvious easy touchdown we should have had when Brady overthrew Moss near the end zone, he also missed some key throws in the second half that could have extended drives. Brady is still way off on his accuracy and reads. In his postgame press conference Brady indicated he and Wes Welker weren’t always on the same page, which is not a good sign. I hope he has not hit an impasse and continues to improve as the season progresses. If he starts throwing the ball like the Brady of old, then watch out, because that’s what was missing from the offense on Sunday.

Other than the long drive for the game tying touchdown and field goal in overtime, the young defense is playing reasonably well, but nobody will mistake then for the 1985 Bears or even the 2009 Ravens. This is a unit that should also improve as the season progresses. But giving up a 98 yard drive to let the Broncos tie the game and gain momentum is simply not something good defenses do.

Denver, meanwhile, has proven that their 5-0 record is no chimera. They play well on both sides of the ball and have nicely balanced offense. Kyle Orton is the second coming of John Elway. Just kidding! But Orton is making the throws he needs to make and keeps his errors to a minimum. In fact, as to now, he looks like a better quarterback than Tom Brady. I am impressed by this new Denver team.

I am hopeful that New England gets back on the winning track. The AFC is not going to be an easy conference to make the playoffs this year.

MVP: Brandon Marshall, WR

Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 17-14

The Bengals versus Ravens matchup was another excellent game between two playoff caliber teams, one a surprise in the Bengals, and one many think is a Super Bowl contenders in the Baltimore Ravens. Like the New England loss to Denver, this was a regular season loss that Ravens fans have to lament. Not only did they lose to a division rival at home, they lost on an 80 yard scoring drive in the last minutes of the game lead by the Bengals’ Carson Palmer. This vaunted Ravens defense played very well most of the day, but gave up some yards on roughing penalties, and the Bengals usually took good advantage of it.

The most surprising thing about his game is that the Bengals and Ravens both played excellent football. This was not a case of the Ravens playing down to perennially losing squad. This looked like two top notch teams going at it. And but for a fluke play against Denver, the Bengals very well could be sitting on a 5-0 record today.

Two other notes, Palmer played with his non-throwing hand taped up after getting it stepped on in the second half but still had an outstanding game. And where did Bengal’s running back Cedric Benson, the would have been bust of a first round draft choice out of Texas, find his rhythm and toughness? Having seen him play poorly for the Bears I never thought I’d see Benson make anything of his career. He ran tough and hard against a stout Ravens defense, and set the tone for the game early. While Benson deserves a nod for MVP, Palmer led an 80 yard drive for a winning score so he gets my vote.

MVP: Carson Palmer, QB

Indianapolis Colts over Tennessee Titans, 31-9

Peyton Manning is playing as good as I have ever seen any quarterback play in my lifetime in these first five games. That may sound like hyperbole, but I am completely serious. The man is a machine. He completely picked apart the Titans and this really never was much of a contest.

What has happened to the Titans? I thought they played an excellent game against Pittsburgh to start off the season in a loss, but they can’t seem to win a game.

I hate to say this, but I felt the Titans basically gave up in the second half. Yes, I think they quit. Not a good sign for the Titans.

I really wanted the Titans to pull off the upset against the Colts, because they are desperate team and desperate teams are dangerous. They play the Patriots next week. I hope they look just as bad as they did this week.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Miami Dolphins over New York Jets, 31-27

After losing their first three games of the season, the Dolphins are now sitting at 2-3, just one game behind the New York Jets and New England Patriots for the AFC East division lead. The division could turn into a dogfight this year as the Patriots continue to struggle on offense and the Jets and Dolphins are playing even better than they did last year.

This was a very entertaining game which went back and forth several times. I really liked the Dolphins offense game plan. Not only did they use the Wildcat and the running game to great effect in general, they ran screeners and up the gut runs to slow down the aggressive pass rush of the Jets. They did exactly what the Patriots did not do in their loss to the Jets a few weeks ago. Ricky Williams’ 51 yard screen play was the perfect call for a blitzing Jets defense. Then later in the game when the Jets didn’t blitz, CB Darrelle Revis got burned by the speedy Ted Ginn, Jr. (who has not lived up to his 1st round draft pick status to this point).

The Dolphins running game is scary to watch and should serve them well the rest of the season. Despite being 2-3 with an inexperienced QB, the Dolphins look to be in the mix this season. They won’t be an easy to team to beat.

MVP: Ronnie Brown, RB

Atlanta Falcons over San Francisco 49’ers, 45-10

The San Francisco 49’ers
appeared to revert back to their old losing ways against the Falcons. I watched this game on tape and it was an ugly sight to behold, unless you’re a Falcons fans. The first half was simply a mistake filled, sloppily played, embarrassing performance by the 49’ers on both sides of the ball. Running back Glen Coffee looked like the rookie he is and didn’t seem to know what he was supposed to be doing out there. Quarterback Shaun Hill was ineffective. And the defense lost its composure.

Roddy White had a career day running all over the 49’ers secondary. In the second quarter he burned Nate Clements for a 90 yard touchdown reception after Clements went for the ball instead of the tackle. Earlier, after a San Francisco timeout to calm the team down, he ran right through the defense for his first long touchdown grab of the day. His 210 receiving yards (on 8 receptions with 2 touchdowns) set the franchise record.

A perfect example of the 49’ers dysfunctional, childish mistakes was Dre Bly intercepting the ball in the third quarter and then having Matt Ryan catching him and knocking the ball out of his hands while he was celebrating. Foolish.

I can’t image practice is going to be very pleasant this week for the 49’ers. If they keep playing like this, they are in for another miserable, losing season.

MVP: Roddy White, WR

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys (250 yards receiving sets franchise record)

Defensive Player: Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens

Offensive Lineman: Justin Smiley, G, Miami Dolphhins

Special Teams: Sam Koch, P, Baltimore Ravens

Rookie of the Week: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (6 catches, 142 yards, two touchdowns)


2009 NFL Football Season: Week 4

October 6, 2009


OBSERVATIONS

Roughing the Passer Calls: Officials are calling roughing the passer calls closer than ever. The Ravens got tagged for one that was rather questionable against the Patriots, and later the Patriots got tagged for one that was an even worse call on what should have been a sack by the Patriots. Over the first few games I’ve seen very, very touchy calls on roughing the passer. I can only say that at least they are being consistent about it, but I don’t like it.

DeMarcus Ware: What has happened to Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware? He is easily being handled by single tackles and is getting no pass rush.

Brett Favre: Favre really knows how to step it up on the biggest stage. Once again we witnessed an otherworldly performance by Favre against his old Green Bay Packer teammates. I just wonder if he can keep it up all year long. With the best running back in the league, a good offensive line, and a stout defense, this team could be scary in the postseason. While I am a bit tired of the off season Favre drama, he sure is fun to watch when he gets revved up.

Aaron Rodgers: And on the other side, Rodgers is clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He was not protected very well against the Vikings but still played well and put points on the board. If the Packers can get their offensive line woes straightened out Rodgers will be phenomenal. If they don’t he won’t even be upright at the end of the season.

LaDanian Tomlinson: I was not one who subscribed to the idea that LaDanian was on his last legs. But is he?

Washington Redskins: The Redskins eked out another close victory over a bad team. It will be interesting to see how many games they lose when they play their NFC East opponents. The offense is anemic and uninspired.

GAMES I WATCHED

New England Patriots over Baltimore Ravens, 27-21

First let me get this off my chest. I am sick and tired of hearing the Ravens and their fans whine about the officials every time they lose a game. This time they were whining about the roughing the passer call when Suggs brushed Brady’s knee, which eventually lead to a touchdown. While I agree the call was close and probably not a good one, later in the game the Patriots sacked Flacco and got called for roughing the passer, which was an even more ridiculously bad call than the one on the Ravens. So at least the officials were calling it consistently. The Ravens did not lose because of the officials they lost because they were outplayed.

This was a very hard fought game and had a playoff like atmosphere with two upper tier teams battling it out. The Patriots offense looks like it is starting to come together after looking mostly pedestrian the first three games of the season. While they didn’t look like the Saints or Colts, at least Brady had a bit more rhythm and we ran the ball successfully. The one thing I still have a very hard time understanding is why the Patriots are not running more screens and draws to slow down the pass rush. Other teams are using these staple plays to great effect, including the Ravens against us. The Patriots lived by the screen pass in their three Super Bowl runs. It would be nice to see it utilized more in 2009.

Also promising is the way the young defense is coming together and playing reasonably well. While nobody will mistake them for the Ravens or Vikings defenses, at least they are making plays and not getting completely outmatched. The big worry with the defense is the inability to get a decent pass rush going, although even here they were slightly improved against the Ravens.

Two interesting personnel notes. First, Laurence Maroney was booed by the fans. His dancing and prancing behind the line of scrimmage is getting annoying. Maroney thrives in open space but you can’t put Maroney in the game just on screens and halfback passes because you would end up tipping off defenses. But on short yardage situations he is the last person you want to see handling the ball in the backfield. I can’t imagine he will be a Patriot next year if he doesn’t improve, and I have seen nothing that would indicate he will. More surprising is that Joey Galloway was inactive for the game and was not injured. He has not done much this year and it makes you wonder if he will be cut this year. That would be shame because he does seem to have some legs left and could be a valuable player down the stretch. Maybe this will be a wake up call for him.

This was a nice win for the Patriots. The Ravens are one of the best, most well rounded teams in the league and will certainly be around once the postseason rolls around. They are team that I could easily see making it to the Super Bowl this year.

Finally, while his stat line does not stand out, Sammy Morris made some key plays down the stretch. And it’s those little important plays that are often the difference between winning and losing.

MVP: Sammy Morris, RB

Denver Broncos over Dallas Cowboys, 17-10

What a difference a year makes. The Bronco’s defense last year was abysmal and this year looks like one of the best in the league. The combination of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and the addition of a leader like free safety Brian Dawkins has really turned the defense around. Dawkins was fired and played extremely well against the floundering Cowboys. And while Kyle Orton may not be the best quarterback in the league, he’s doing just enough, along with Brandon Marshall, to get the job done. While I have nothing against Kyle Orton, had Cutler still been in the fold this offense would be even better. Denver’s 4-0 start and a win over a quality, if somewhat struggling Cowboys team, puts a stamp of legitimacy on their surprising 4-0 start.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, and Tony Romo in particular, appear to be in free fall. They have played terrible this season. Romo is inconsistent and a makes poor decisions and Flozell Adams can only block people with dirty tactics. I think it’s about time for a one game suspension for Mr. Adams. And DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas defense can’t seem to get pressure on the quarterback. Maybe Terrible Terrell really wasn’t the entire problem in Dallas.

And what happened to Bronco’s wide receiver Eddie Royal?! After a promising rookie season he has completely disappeared from the offense. Unfortunately he is on my fantasy football team and has done nothing for me.

For player of the game I have to go with Brandon Marshall for his 91 yards receiving and outstanding touchdown. Brian Dawkins is a close second.

MVP: Brandon Marshall, WR

Pittsburgh Steelers over San Diego Chargers, 38-28

The Chargers are another team that came into the 2009 season looking like it had a real shot at a championship. Instead the team is floundering around on both sides of the ball.

For the Chargers injuries to their defensive line has simply decimated the unit. Teams are running all over them and simply dominating their defensive unit. And while their offense is good enough, it’s not so prolific as to make up for their lack of defense, especially with the time of possession is so heavily skewed in the opponents favor. Rashard Mendenhall rushed the ball hard, picking up 165 yards and two touchdowns, but I want to see him do that against a stouter defense. The Steelers offensive line thumped the Chargers, whose defense simply couldn’t get off the field. The Chargers had a nice comeback, but really didn’t come that close to winning the game.

Adding to the Chargers misery, LaDanian Tomlinson is ailing and ineffective and receiver Chris Chambers clearly has seen his best days. I am surprised he is even still in the starting lineup.

The Steelers have seemed to right their ship, at least for one game. Their defense has remained stout and when Troy Polamalu comes back they will be even better. The Steelers are still an elite team in the league.

MVP: Rashard Mendenhall, RB


Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers, 30-23

There was a lot of hype surrounding this game with Brett Favre facing his old team for the first time. The game certainly lived up to its hype. It was a playoff like game with a lot of hard hitting and great plays by both teams on both sides of the ball. As fantastic as Favre played, it was really the Vikings defense that won the game. They forced some turnovers and Jared Allen’s 4.5 sacks and safety was the key difference in the game. But he did take advantage of the Packers’ playing their second string, and then third string left tackle because of an injury to Chad Clifton.

But let’s start with Brett Favre. As bored and annoyed as I am with the drama king’s offseason will he retire, won’t he retire routine, he is fun to watch play football. He had just an amazing game. Amazing. And he had to be with the Packers’ defense mostly shutting down Adrian Peterson. Sometimes Farve is painful to watch, like when he throws multiple and sometimes dumb interceptions in the postseason. At other times he is simply awe inspiring. In this game he was awe inspiring.

And the Vikings defense really took advantage of the banged up Green Bay Packers’ offensive line. Jared Allen and the rest of the defense had eight sacks against Aaron Rodgers, including one for a safety. The Packers really need to straighten out their offensive line if they hope to have a decent season and a healthy Aaron Rodgers. Another standout for the Vikings was Antoine Winfield. This undersized cornerback can really blast running backs and receivers. It’s refreshing to see cornerbacks that can, and will, hit like Winfield.

Aaron Rodgers had an absolutely amazing game himself, maybe even better than Brett Favre given that Brett had plenty of time in the pocket an Aaron had defenders in his face all day long. Other than a few miscues he handled the pressure and played very, very well. I was most impressed with his ability to keep his team moving in face of the fierce pass rush by the Vikings. And despite getting behind, the Packers never quit on either side of the ball and gave themselves a chance to win at the end. If the Packers give Rodgers more time to throw the ball, their offense will really start to click.

And while Green Bay’s defense was victimized by Favre, given the lack of a pass rush I didn’t think they were absolutely terrible. They need to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback to protect their defensive backs better. So far the defensive guru Dom Capers schemes aren’t working that well for the Packers. Aaron Kampman, their best pass rusher last year, dropping back into coverage just doesn’t make sense to me.

Overall this was an amazing game, and as much as it was Brett Favre’s night, it was the Vikings night too. Nobody needs to question why they so desperately courted Favre in the offseason. With the best running back in the league, a solid offensive line, speedy receivers, and a top five defense, they were close but not close enough, to being a Super Bowl contender last year. With Brett Favre, they may be the best team in the league. Let’s face it, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels were not the answer at quarterback. Brett Favre may well be.

MVP: Brett Favre, QB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Lineman: Willie Colon, RT, Pittsburgh Steelers

Special Teams: Johnny Knox, KR/WR, Chicago Bears

Rookie of the Week: Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Cleveland


2009 NFL Football Season: Week 3

October 4, 2009

OBSERVATIONS

Chad Pennington: Chad Pennington is one of the classiest players in the NFL and I hated to hear that he has yet another shoulder injury. I strongly suspect we’ve seen the last of Pennington as a viable starter in the NFL, which is a shame because he is a real winner.

The Wildcat: So far I have only seen the Miami Dolphins run the Wildcat offense successfully. I think the Wildcat is a passing fancy, although we continue to see it in certain situations. We’ve already had versions of this in the past with players like Kordell Stewart, so I limited situations this will continue. As a viable, oft used offensive set, I just don’t see it having legs in the long run.

Felix Jones: The Cowboys exciting, fast, play making running back, who injured his ACL last year, has yet another knee injury. This makes me wonder if he will ever stay healthy enough to have a consistent impact for the Cowboys.

New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons, 26-10

New England’s offense is still a work in progress. Brady is clearly still rusty with his timing, rhythm, and accuracy, but I am confident this will improve throughout the year. We finally got our running game going. As I mentioned last week, we really need to utilize the backs on our roster and establish a successful running game to keep defenses from pinning their ears back and going after Brady. Look what happened to the Cardinals against the Colts!

The young defense is playing surprisingly well so far. It will be interesting to see how this unit progresses as the season unfolds.

We really, really needed this win given we have the Baltimore Ravens coming to town.

MVP: Fred Taylor, RB

GAMES I WATCHED

Detroit Lions over Washington Redskins, 19-14

I have to admit I loved watching the Redskins lose and the Lions finally win a game. Matthew Stafford did a great job in the pocket and appears to be a player, with improvements in accuracy and touch, who will be around for a long time. What was most impressive to me about the Lions is that they did not fold late in the game when the Redskins hit a big play to Santana Moss for a touchdown. Last year the team would have probably folded up the tent and lost but they did not panic and closed the show. This was a very impressive showing for the Lions.

The Redskins, on the other hand, continue to look lost on offense and are not generating big plays on defense. And even though Albert Haynesworth is not playing like a $100 million man, his loss to injury in first half hurt the defense.

Congratulations Detroit.

MVP: Matthew Stafford, QB

New Orleans Saints over Buffalo Bills, 27-7

The Saints may be the best team in the NFC but I was not quite as impressed with them in this game. As with most teams this year, it’s really the teams that run the ball effectively that have had the most success on offense, even if its’ a team that still ends up passing far more than running. It was really Pierre Thomas’s second half 126 yards rushing that salted away the game for the Saints.

The Bills are an enigma to me. On the offensive side of the ball they have the personnel to score more than they are. The Saints may have an improved defense but they are not stalwarts on that side of the ball. Their two best receivers, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, were not even factors in the game. They have an effective running game but they have to get points. I think the Bills need new leadership and Dick Jauron should be out after this season if they don’t show some improvement.

MVP: Pierre Thomas, RB

Indianapolis Colts over Arizona Cardinals, 31-10

I know Arizona is a passing team but they did just the opposite of what you need to do to beat the Indianapolis Colts – run the ball. Granted, Tim Hightower and Chris Wells have fumbleitis but going into a shot gun formation and passing every down plays right into the hands of the Colts’ defense. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are not that great against the run (and therefore I do not consider either a premier defensive end) but they are outstanding pass rushers. By getting behind and not running the ball, they allowed Freeney to run free, and harass Kurt Warner. It was ugly. Wayne Gandy, the left tackle assigned to Freeney, is the goat of the game and was schooled. Why the Cardinals didn’t give him help when they realized Gandy was not going to be able to block Freeney is a real head scratcher. And to top it off the Cardinals turned the ball over twice in the red zone that the Colts turned into points for huge swings in momentum.

Peyton Manning was his usual brilliant self. He appears to be playing about as well as I have ever seen him play. The Colts offense took advantage of the Arizona turnovers and the defense took advantage of the Cardinal game plan with their excellent pass rushing ends. The Colts offense looks to be the best in the league at this juncture.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

Dallas Cowboys over Carolina Panthers, 21-7

This was really kind of sloppy looking game for the most part. The Panthers are not impressive on offense and gave up huge running plays on defense. The Cowboys won the game, but they too don’t look like the offensive juggernaut some expected them to be. Both Tony Romo and Jake Delhomme have had rough starts to their season. I don’t think we will see Romo benched but I won’t be surprised to see Delhomme benched in favor of Matt Moore, or even A.J. Feeley, before the season is out.

MVP: Tashard Choice, RB

 

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis

Defensive Player: Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis

Offensive Lineman: Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints

Special Teams: Darren Sproles, KR, San Diego Chargers

Rookie of the Week: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions


2009 NFL Football Season: Week 2

September 26, 2009

OBSERVATIONS

Tom Brady: I don’t know why the press is beating up on Brady so badly after two games. He is coming off a very serious ACL injury and has not played in a year. Of course it is going to take some time to get back to where he was before. Anyone who thought Brady was going to waltz in and be the Brady of old from the first snap is seriously delusional. Peyton Manning had a knee surgery and only missed preseason last year and looked very out of sync at least for the first quarter of the season if not longer. Carson Palmer never played particularly well his first year back after ACL surgery.

The Running Game: For the most part the most successful offensive teams are the teams that are running the ball effectively and utilizing their running backs.

Mark Sanchez: Like Flacco and Ryan last year, Sanchez has started off the season looking like the real deal at quarterback. And what do all three have in common? Good teams around them, and solid defenses. It’s too early to evaluate Matt Stafford.

Jim Zorn: Is a terrible head coach. The Redskins look lost on offense.

Jake Long: I am sick of people saying how good a tackle Jake Long of the Dolphins is. I have not seen anything that overly impresses me about him yet. He’s good, but he’s not great. Maybe he will be. He gave us some sacks and struggled in his first game, and had a lot of help against Dwight Freeney of the Colts on Monday Night. And Freeney is not that good against the run anyway.

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 16-9

The scariest part of the Jets win over the Patriots for Patriots fans is the realization that we should be 0-2. We have no real leaders left on defense and Tom Brady is struggling early in the season, as one would expect coming off a serious knee injury. With a hot Atlanta team coming to Foxborough, mounting injuries, and the tough Baltimore Ravens on the horizon, we could be looking at a 1-3 start if we don’t right the ship.

The Jets talked the talk during the week leading up to this game, and they certainly walked the walk. In fact their defense walked all over the Patriots. The most intensely frustrating part of this game was that the Patriots squandered excellent field position throughout the first half, either settling for field goals or not scoring at all when they had chances on the Jets end of the of the field.

Brady clearly is still working to regain his form after coming off a year long layoff and ACL surgery. His footwork, timing, and accuracy are all off the mark. It doesn’t help that Wes Welker was on the bench, but rookie Julian Edelman did decent job in his place, although he had a few rookie mistakes. Meanwhile Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shut Randy Moss down all day long, and Brady had no time throw. It was a long, long, day for the offense.

Defensively the Patriots have gone from old to very young, and lack natural leaders on and off the field. Dan Dierdorf, who I usually think is an idiot, said it best. Needing a stop in the second half to get the offense back on the field, Dierdorf said (paraphrased) “no Harrison, Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, and now no Jerrod Mayo. There are no real leaders left on this team that you just expect to step up and make a play in situations like this.” And of course the Jets get a first down. The defense didn’t play terribly, but in the second half they made rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez look like a savvy veteran.

Despite all this you can also lay part of the blame for this loss on a horrendous offensive game plan. There is no way in a two close games Brady should be throwing the ball around 50 times a game. That is ridiculous. Even if he were fully healthy the pass happy game plan in these tight games is head scratcher. We have five serviceable running backs, use them! Most of the time we bothered to run the ball against the Jets we mostly had success, but we didn’t stick with it enough. The best way to slow down an aggressive pass rush is a successful running game, play action passes, and screens. I saw none of that on Sunday and I think that cost us the chance to win the game.

The Jets had a very good season last year and tanked toward the end of the season. This year they again look solid. Mark Sanchez so far looks like the real deal at quarterback and their defense looks very stout.

For the Patriots, I am not hitting the panic button yet. I do think that Brady and the offense will find their rhythm as the season progresses and the defense will continue to improve. But we better not fall into a big hole early in the season or we may be chasing the Jets all year for the AFC East title.

And for me the player of the game is Leon Washington. Although his stats don’t look impressive at face value, his kickoff returns consistently gave the Jets good field position and he made some key offensive plays to keep drives alive in the second half (his lost fumble excepted).

MVP: Leon Washington, RB/KR


Baltimore Ravens over San Diego Chargers, 31-26

The San Diego Chargers are another playoff caliber team that should be 0-2. The loss of Jamaal Williams on the defensive line, along with other injuries, really seems to have put the Chargers defense in a tailspin. Despite their solid play the last two weeks, the Ravens are not a high scoring team generally but they mostly had their way with the Chargers.

Like the Patriots, beyond Rivers two interceptions, their biggest problem was scoring in the red zone. You can’t get into the red zone and settle for four field goals and except to win the game. And once again little Darren Sproles was a one man show but it wasn’t enough.

The Ravens, meanwhile, have picked up right where they left off last year. On offense Flacco is playing well and they are utilizing their three running backs, McGahee, Rice, and McClain very effectively (hear that Bill Belichick?). And defense the old veteran Ray Lewis continues to be a disruptive force.

MVP: Ray Lewis, LB

 

New York Giants over Dallas Cowboys, 33-31

It is funny hearing Eli Manning touted as the second coming by the pundits when Romo gave up three gift interceptions which doomed the Cowboys to losing their home opener in their new gaudy stadium. They say things are bigger in Texas and Romo seems to be the biggest choke artist of them all. Maybe he’ll take Peyton’s spot in that category. Romo has a great deal of potential but he made poor throws and mistakes in the passing game, and tends to do so on the biggest stages.

Don’t get me wrong, the Giants played well and so did Eli Manning. But he Cowboys helped them out quite a bit. The Giants, in fact, are clearly now the team to beat in the NFC East, if not the entire conference. They have an excellent if inconsistent quarterback, a solid running game, and maybe the best all around offensive line in the league. And now they have found two receivers who have stepped up to the plate and had a coming out party of their own in Steve Smith and Mario Manningham who had nearly 300 yards between them. And as usually, the Giants defense has sketchy defensive backs, but their defensive line is one of the best in the league.

MVP: Mario Manningham, WR

Indianapolis Colts over Miami Dolphins, 27-23

This is one of the most bizarre games I have ever seen. Miami holds the ball almost the entire game, running the ball right now the Colts throats, but still lose. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes but scored a touchdown on big plays on nearly every possession to win the game. Unbelievable!

On offense Miami did everything right, rushing for 239 yards, using the “Wildcat” formation effectively, and throwing when they needed to. But the defense gave up big plays, and fast, nearly every time the Colts touched the ball. The first play of the game was an 80 yard touchdown pass from Manning to tight end Dallas Clark and they didn’t slow down or get out of rhythm, they just kept doing it when they had the ball. Manning was just brilliant in this game. If you cut Manning open you would probably find wires because he is a machine.

Miami’s defense should be ashamed. As should Miami wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. who dropped a catchable ball at the end of the game that could of won it for Miami. I think Ted Ginn, Jr. is a bust of a first round draft pick at this point. I have seen nothing in his career that has impressed me.

After the game Steve Young said Miami lost because they do not have a big play offense. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard him say. Had Miami scored on big plays that would have likely meant that the Colts just score more points and end up winning anyway. 99.999999 percent of the time a team rushes the ball as well as Miami did, scores touchdowns, and keeps the other team off the field for 45 minutes of the game, they will win. And the best way to beat the Colts is to control the ball, get some points, and keep Manning on the bench, just like Miami did. Few teams are going to win a scoring race with the Colts. It was Miami’s defense that lost this game.

Dallas Clark had 7 catches for 183 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage, but I have to go with Peyton as the MVP because he was just brilliant in this game.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49’ers (207 yards rushing)

Defensive Player: Antwan Odom, DE, Cincinnati (5 sacks)

Offensive Lineman: Jake Grove, C, Miami

Special Teams: Leon Washington, KR, New York Jets

Rookie of the Week: Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets


Josh McDaniels: Off on the Wrong Foot

April 3, 2009
Getty Images

Getty Images

Now that Jay Cutler has been traded to the Chicago Bears for Kyle Orton, two first round draft picks, and a third round pick, the biggest drama of the offseason so far is over.

Regardless of whether you blame Jay Cuter for being immature and petulant (like I do), Josh McDaniels for a lack of communication, or spread the blame around equally, Josh McDaniels has had an inauspicious start to his head coaching career.

When Pat Bowlen fired Mike Shanahan and brought in Josh McDaniels, the Broncos, with Jay Cutler, were poised to continue to improve and make the playoffs. And the one key ingredient Denver had was an emerging elite quarterback in Jay Cutler. There are too few really good quarterbacks in the National Football League today, and while still room for improvement, Cutler already was one and is possibly on his way to being even better.

The whole point of firing Mike Shanahan was to shake up the organization and bring some new thinking and new blood to the organization to get over the hump and into the playoffs now. They were that close. Bowlen must be second guessing that move, and possibly even kicking himself, now. When he made this move, the furthest thing from his mind must have been that he would lose his franchise quarterback and wind up with mediocre talent instead.

While Denver got a great deal with some high draft picks and Kyle Orton, the bottom line is the Denver Broncos will not be a better team than they were last year. Yes, Denver might make out nicely in the draft, and possibly even snag a potential franchise quarterback if they are really lucky, but chances are they are looking at a few years before they see how that pans out. The Broncos could still sneak into the playoffs in the AFC West, but contenders they are not. And that was the whole point of Bowlen’s move.

I don’t mean to disrespect Kyle Orton at all. I like him and he is easy to root for. But frankly, I think he is an average quarterback, with enough smarts and moxie to be a decent starter. But he certainly does not have the arm or potential of Jay Cutler. And Chris Simms has not played in a few years, and his abilities as a starting quarterback in the NFL were already being questioned before he suffered his spleen injury in Tampa Bay.

Only time will tell how this move will pan out. Maybe Denver will bring in some stellar players in the draft and wind up in the thick of the hunt a few years from now. If they don’t, Josh McDaniels’ first head coaching gig will likely be a short lived one.


Why the NFL Should Not Expand the Regular Season

March 25, 2009
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

There has been a lot of talk coming from Commissioner Roger Goodell about increasing the number of regular season games from 16 to 17 or 18. Most of the scenarios I have seen are that the league would reduce the number of preseason games from four to two, and add two games to the regular season to make it an 18 game regular season. Unfortunately it’s not a matter of if it will happen, it’s just a matter of when.

I am STRONGLY and EMPHATICALLY opposed to increasing the number of regular season games to 17 or 18 games. I think it’s fine if the league cuts the preseason to two or three games, but increasing the number of regular season games is only about one thing – MONEY. It’s not about the fans and it’s definitely not about the players. I am strongly opposed to increasing the number of regular season games for two key reasons.

First, and most important, is injuries. Football is a very violent sport and injuries are common. If there were two more regular season games we would inevitably see more star players, who we watch the game to see, hurt during the season. In the first week of the 2008 regular season we saw many star players get hurt, the most obvious being Tom Brady. In just week one of 2008 we saw injuries to Tom Brady, Brodie Croyle, Vince Young, Jeff Garcia, Nate Burleson, Marques Colston, Marion Barber, Joseph Addai, Todd Heap, Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, and even LaDainian Tomlinson. Now not all these injuries were season ending, but they certainly had an effect on players’ games the rest of the year.

More games means more injuries. The season, I think, is already too long and it is more a game of attrition and who is left with more healthy bodies at the end than it is the best team wins. More games would just exacerbate the situation.

Add to that, according to the National Football League Players Association, the average career of a football player is 3 ½ years. Now I have seen averages slightly higher than that so let’s say it’s 4 ½ years. And let’s face it, a lot of this short career span has to do with injury. If you add two games to the regular season, a player will have played an entire extra half season after four years, assuming he didn’t make the playoffs. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the violent game of football, the career suddenly just got a wee bit shorter. The more games you add, the shorter the stay in the league, and the greater the chances of a career ending injury.

Secondly, anything that cheapens in the importance of individual regular season games is a mistake. Each game now is very important in making the playoffs and getting home field advantage, at least until toward the end of the season once you have it wrapped up. If each individual game becomes less important, will the players try as hard week in and week out? Will fans even care?

Counter to that is the end of the season. We already have at least one week, and for some teams two weeks, were they have things all wrapped up and they play their second string guys and give the game a pass. If there were more games, then we would likely see two and maybe even three or four weeks where teams have their division and seeding decided and have to figure out how to manage the rest of the season while resting their star players and avoiding injuries. And this gets really messy when you have one bubble team playing a team of second stringers, and another bubble team playing a losing team giving their all, or another bubble team. So while one team gets a pass and a better chance of making the playoffs, the other team still has to fight for their spot. It’s not really fair. And more games likely means more of this at the end of the season.

And then we have the problem of bad teams making the playoffs. You can already guess that if they expand the regular season I can almost assure you they will expand the number of teams in the playoffs. We already have had 8-8 teams in the playoffs and on rare occasions have had the possibly of a losing team making the playoffs. I don’t want 8-8 teams in the playoffs, even if it’s my own. But if the league expands the regular season and then adds teams to the playoffs, that is what we will get, watered down less important regular season games, and mediocre teams, or worse, making the playoffs. Even for a fan as avid as I am, I’d be less enthusiastic about regular season games if this were to occur.