Tuesday, October 22, 2013
NFL Week 7 Report
Five Quick Hits
* Sam Bradford, Brian Cushing, Leon Hall, and Reggie Wayne all suffered season-ending injuries this week. At least none of them got hit in the head, or the league might have to worry about player safety.
* The Houston Oilers lost two titans this week, former coach Bum Phillips and longtime owner Bud Adams, one of the original AFL owners who took a leap of faith in 1960. Both men made pro football better.
* Nice show of class by Indianapolis, giving Peyton Manning a standing ovation before the game.
* Steve Young and Trent Dilfer are so good on the MNF postgame, I don't know what Ray Lewis is doing there. They only need two analysts — the third is pointless — and Lewis frankly doesn't have anything to say.
* The Viking coaches did a disservice to fans and to the rest of the team by starting Josh Freeman on Monday night. He obviously was not ready to run their offense. Dilfer called it "a total lack of discretion and wisdom."
Thursday Night Game
Seattle Seahawks 34, Arizona Cardinals 22
* Russell Wilson has taken way too many sacks this year, but he did a nice job on Thursday of throwing the ball away when he was under pressure.
* In the first quarter, Kam Chancellor pancaked a pulling Eric Winston. Chancellor is giving up 70 pounds in that fight.
* NFL Network is a premium cable channel, and most people who subscribe are pretty big sports fans. So why doesn't NFLN offer a product that appeals to sports fans, rather than treating its audience like casual fans or clueless first-time viewers?
On many plays, rather than showing the field and the formations, we get a close-up of the quarterback's head. I think we all know what Carson Palmer looks like. And showing the lineups is so easy, but they don't even do that. You want to know who's on the line, or whether Bobby Wagner is active? Look it up online. The post-game show used to be must-see, but now it's just some former players trying too hard to have fun.
* I actually do like the NFL Network announcing booth, but Brad Nessler repeatedly referred to Larry Fitzgerald as a future Hall of Famer. This after saying the same thing last week about, of all people, Eli Manning. Fitzgerald is a remarkable player. He's had four 1,400-yard receiving seasons. But it is notoriously difficult for wide receivers to make the Hall of Fame, and if Fitz retired today, he would not get in. He didn't do well last season, he's battling injury this year, and he's 30. He's not a sure thing.
Mike Mayock, meanwhile, suggested that Marshawn Lynch "needs 20-25 carries a game." Whoa, there. Twenty-five carries a game? That is reckless and career-threatening. Here are all the players from the last 20 years to average 25 att/gm: Larry Johnson (2006), Shaun Alexander (2006), Edgerrin James (2001), Eddie George (2000), Jamal Anderson (1998), Jerome Bettis (1997). That's five out of six who ruined or seriously derailed their careers. No one should carry 25 times a game with any frequency.
Sunday, Early Games
New York Jets 30, New England Patriots 27 (overtime)
* The Patriots went 1/12 on third downs in this game and lost time of possession by 22:30. They also committed 100 yards in penalties, including two 15-yarders and a 30-yard pass interference.
* It took me forever to understand what Chris Jones did wrong on the controversial penalty that effectively gave New York the game. You watch the play, it looks like he's just ... blocking. That's a penalty now? But he pushed his own teammate forward into an opponent, and that is no longer permitted. I'm sure Jones never knew about the rule — I sure didn't — but it was the correct ruling.
It's unfortunate that the new rule hasn't been enforced until a critical situation like this. That's the same reason people were so upset about the Tuck Rule a decade ago. No one had ever heard about this rule, and then it suddenly appears on a pivotal play in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. There's no way Chris Jones was the first player this season to get behind a teammate and push on a field goal try. It's probably happened at some point in almost every game. I wish it had been called more consistently.
* Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are both out for the season. New England's defense has lost its two best players. At least Aqib Talib is expected back soon.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Detroit Lions 24
* A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson both gained exactly 155 receiving yards in Week 7.
* Andy Dalton passed for 372 yards and 3 TDs. Dalton is on my fantasy team, but I didn't play him this week. I started Tom Brady. Dammit.
* Cincinnati's top CB, Leon Hall, tore his Achilles and is out for the season. Big loss.
Washington 45, Chicago 41
* Kudos to the NFL for suspending Brandon Meriweather for two games. Meriweather is a headhunter, and he injures someone almost every game. Fines aren't enough. The league has to get this guy off the field. Permanently, in my opinion.
* Jay Cutler will miss several weeks with a groin injury, and Lance Briggs is out for 4-6 with a fractured shoulder. The Bears started 3-0 and looked like they might challenge Green Bay for the NFC North title. They're 1-3 since, and injuries are mounting.
* Look out, NFC East. Robert Griffin III is RG3 again. Griffin rushed for 84 yards, and if you double Pierre Garçon, he will complete 100% of his passes to TE Jordan Reed.
* This was only the second time in the last decade that the Bears have allowed 45 or more points. The Bengals beat them 45-10 in '09, and before that you have to go back to the Dick Jauron days.
* Not a great defensive performance for Washington, either. With Cutler injured in the second quarter, Josh McCown passed for 204 yards, a TD, and a 119.6 passer rating. On McCown's eight offensive drives, the Bears only punted once, with no turnovers. When your defense makes Josh McCown look like a superstar, you've got problems.
* That said, Washington scored its fourth defensive touchdown of the season. The defense has more first-half TDs (4) than the offense (3).
* In the first half, Chicago ran only 17 plays, with 7:59 time of possession. Out of 30 minutes!
* Washington's special teams woes continued. Joshua Morgan let a punt bounce at the 14-yard line and roll to the 1, then fair caught a punt at the 5. Uh, reverse those, Josh. Devin Hester scored his first return TD in two years, and the Bears recovered an onside kick that was overturned by one of the closest offsides penalties I've ever seen.
Perhaps most disturbing for Washington fans, Special Teams Coordinator Keith Burns doesn't know the difference between a kickoff and a punt. Even before the punt return TD, the team was kicking away from Hester on kickoffs. In his career, Hester has 13 PR TDs and 5 KR TDs. There is no kickoff returner in history who is so dangerous that you should kick away from him, and Hester is a much better punt returner anyway. He has one KR TD in the last six years. He's more likely to fumble than to reach the end zone.
Burns is the same guy who got called for a 15-yard penalty last week when he wandered onto the field during a play. Washington misses special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander (Cardinals), but it also misses longtime Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith (Steelers). Burns is not doing a good job.
Dallas Cowboys 17, Philadelphia Eagles 3
* Michael Vick is rehabbing a hamstring, Nick Foles got a concussion, and Matt Barkley isn't ready for the NFL. It sounds like Vick will start Week 8, though he probably won't be totally healthy yet.
* The loss dropped Philadelphia to 0-3 at home, compared to 3-1 on the road. The Eagles haven't had homefield advantage since Donovan McNabb was the quarterback. The last time they won more games in Philly than on the road was 2009. Collectively, you have to go back to 1998 for the Eagles to have a better record at home than on the road. From 1999-present, they're 65-50 at home (.565) and 68-47-1 away (.591).
Buffalo Bills 23, Miami Dolphins 21
* The Bills won with defense. They held Miami to under 300 yards and under 20 first downs, with three turnovers. The critical play was Nickell Robey's interception return for a touchdown, one of five pick-sixes this weekend.
There have been 30 INT return TDs this season. Even as interception rates decline, the pick-six is more common than ever. I agree with Chase Stuart, who believes that the prevalence of short passing, and especially passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, explains the rise in INT TDs. You throw an interception downfield, the guy has to get through your whole offense to reach the end zone. Get picked on a one-step hitch to the sideline, and there's daylight — plus the defender probably caught it on the run. I don't think most coaches have realized how dangerous that play can be. It doesn't get intercepted a lot, but when it does, it often goes all the way.
Most pick-sixes by active players:
1. Peyton Manning, 25
2. Carson Palmer, 20
3. Drew Brees, 19
4. Ben Roethlisberger, 17
5. Eli Manning, 16
I know you were wondering ... Matt Schaub has 12, tied for 7th among active QBs. Ryan Tannehill has three, which is about average over the last two seasons. Chase posted an interesting chart which you can sort by pick-six percentage. Helpless Blaine Gabbert is the worst of any regular starter, but the real surprise is Matthew Stafford, who has thrown 11 pick-sixes in just 42 career games.
Carolina Panthers 30, St. Louis Rams 15
* Best point differentials in the NFC ... (1) Seahawks, +75, (2) Saints, +58, (3) Panthers, +56. All of Carolina's wins are by at least 15, and two of the three losses by less than 6.
* Sam Bradford tore his ACL and is out for the season. Kellen Clemens is the only other quarterback on the roster. There are rumors the team will sign Tim Tebow, but I'd rather they go with Vince Young, just to reunite him with coach Jeff Fisher. Those two get along great.
* The Rams do not have a rushing TD this season, only team in the league.
Atlanta Falcons 31, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
* The severity of Doug Martin's shoulder injury is not clear, but the team insists it won't end his season. Rookie Mike James is the backup, but don't expect big numbers in fantasy.
* After three games, it has become apparent that Mike Glennon and Vincent Jackson are in love. In the past two weeks, Jackson has 19 catches for 252 yards and 4 TDs.
San Diego Chargers 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 6
* Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 37 yards. For the season, MJD has 316 yards on 103 attempts (3.1 avg). The Jags as a team are averaging 2.9 yards per carry, which actually is not the worst in the NFL (Ravens, 2.8).
Sunday, Late Games
San Francisco 49ers 31, Tennessee Titans 17
* Following the 49ers' fifth punt in a row, Darrius Reynaud muffed the catch and Kassim Osgood recovered for a TD. We've all accepted for years that Steve Tasker is the greatest special teamer in history, but Osgood has to be in that discussion.
Kansas City Chiefs 17, Houston Texans 16
* Houston lost its fifth straight, but at least Case Keenum didn't throw a pick-six. Brian Cushing all kinds of messed up his leg and is out for the season again.
* Arian Foster also left the game with injury, a pulled hamstring. The Texans have a bye next week and his status going forward is not clear, but it's not a long-term injury.
Pittsburgh Steelers 19, Baltimore Ravens 16
* Let's be honest: there is only one playoff spot up for grabs in the AFC. The Bengals, Broncos, Chiefs, and Colts have spots pretty much sewn up already, and the Patriots are heavy favorites in the AFC East. That leaves one wild card. The Ravens are 3-4, a game behind the Chargers and Jets. The schedule is pretty forgiving until Week 15 or so, but the Ravens need to win their close games.
Green Bay Packers 31, Cleveland Browns 13
* I hate when throwback uniforms don't look at least a little like the current ones. I mean, at least the same basic color idea.
Indianapolis Colts 39, Denver Broncos 33
* Nice job by NBC identifying the three stars of the game: Andrew Luck (4 TDs), Robert Mathis (2 sacks, FF), and Vontae Davis. It's tough to evaluate defensive backs by traditional statistics, but Davis, who spent most of the night covering Demaryius Thomas one-on-one, was thrown at eight times, for a total of 4 yards.
* This was a weird game, with lots of punts and lots of points. The teams combined for 16 punts, including 12 three-and-outs, but also for 72 points, including 8 touchdowns.
* The Colts suffered a ton of injuries during the game, enough so I stopped keeping track. Two were noteworthy: Reggie Wayne tore his right ACL and meniscus. His season is over. There was no contact on the play, and Luck blamed himself for throwing behind Wayne, but it was a freak play. Samson Satele's third-quarter leg injury was not, caused deliberately by Denver's Kevin Vickerson. On the replay, it actually looked like Vickerson threw a punch, but Satele seemed to indicate that Vickerson twisted his leg. Either way, umpire Undrey Wash and side judge Laird Hayes — those two should get a sitcom — were both right there, and I don't know how neither one noticed.
* The Broncos, not used to losing, seemed to lose their composure in the third quarter. Denver committed 12 penalties for 103 yards over the course of the game. Even Peyton Manning seemed flustered. He didn't look like himself until the fourth quarter.
* The 2013 Broncos set the record for most points in the first seven games of a season, and will probably rank among the top single-season offenses in history. What interests me is that they are almost certainly the best offense ever for a team with a subpar offensive line. Every year, I make my Pro Bowl ballot public and I name an All-Pro team. I take both very seriously, and every game, I pay attention to offensive line play. No one on Denver's line is having a real good year.
* Awful game by Denver return man Trindon Holliday. He fumbled twice and lost one. He returned a kickoff to the 13-yard line. He let a punt bounce at the 12 and it was downed at the 2.
Monday Night Football
New York Giants 23, Minnesota Vikings 7
* Three hours of my life I will never have back.
* There's been some discussion this week about Minnesota trading Adrian Peterson. It's interesting, but it's probably not realistic. The Vikings aren't going to trade him just for a 1st-round pick and a throw-in, probably not for two 1st-rounders. They'd look to replicate the Herschel Walker trade, and no sane GM would risk the backlash that made the Vikings a decade-long laughing-stock when they traded for Walker.
Many people don't remember that Walker was a very good player after the trade. But the Vikings gave up so much to get him that he wasn't nearly worth the price. This is Peterson's 7th NFL season. How many RBs did enough after their first seven years that with the benefit of hindsight, you wouldn't give them up if you were offered a bounty comparable to the Walker trade? Only one, I think: Walter Payton. You could argue for Jim Brown or Barry Sanders, maybe Tiki Barber or John Riggins. But probably only Payton. Peterson's a special player, but history suggests that he doesn't have a lot of great seasons left.
The Vikings would face a backlash for trading Peterson, so any trade offer would have to blow them out of the water, an equivalent to the Walker deal 24 years ago. Thus, the only trade the Minnesota would accept is one no other team would make. I'd love to be wrong on this, because a Peterson trade would be fascinating, but I don't see it happening.
* After the trade, Walker rushed for almost 5,000 yards, with a 4.2 average, and led his team in rushing six times. He caught 300 passes for 2,500 yards, and gained over 1,300 yards from scrimmage in each of his next five seasons. He scored 52 touchdowns. He became one of the best kickoff returners of his generation, with 5,084 yards, 2 TDs, and a 23.6 average — better than Deion Sanders (22.7), Desmond Howard and Rod Woodson (both 22.2), Dave Meggett (22.1), or Eric Metcalf (20.8). Walker, in the 5-6 years immediately following the trade, was still one of the top five RBs in the NFL.
* Peterson's stated goal this season is 2,500 rushing yards. He's currently on pace for 1,363. He'll have to average 198.9 per game to meet his goal.
NFL Week 7 Power Rankings
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Denver Broncos
4. Kansas City Chiefs
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. San Francisco 49ers
7. Green Bay Packers
8. Cincinnati Bengals
9. New England Patriots
10. San Diego Chargers
The Broncos haven't been impressive the last three weeks. They barely beat Dallas, played somewhat close against the awful Jaguars, and lost to the Colts. They have a sensational passing game, but everything else is below average.
Knowshon Moreno is a terrific blocker and a capable runner, but he's not explosive. Ronnie Hillman can't hang on to the ball. The offensive line is average. The pass rush is non-existent, though maybe that will change with Von Miller back. Wesley Woodyard's out, and the other linebackers aren't making plays. The defensive backfield is poor. All they have are the offensive "skill" players.
30. New York Giants
31. Minnesota Vikings
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
Suzy Kolber insisted after the Monday Night failure, "It's still football," and Steve Young immediately responded, "No, it's not." I'm with Steve.
Game of the Week
Cowboys at Lions
1:00 PM Eastern, FOX
With six teams on bye, there are no obvious must-see games in Week 8. Both of these teams are 4-3 and in the playoff hunt. The real appeal is the possibility of offensive fireworks. Tony Romo and Matt Stafford. Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. Reggie Bush, Jason Witten, the emerging Terrance Williams. Plus, you never know when Ndamukong Suh might assault someone.
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