Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NFL Week 3 Bye Report

By Joshua Duffy

Two weeks in, and it's shaping up as a great football season. In the NFL, we've had everything we could have possibly wanted. We have new powerhouses (San Diego, Baltimore), a few absolute train wrecks (Oakland, the Kerry Collins Era, my "Chris Simms for the Pro Bowl" campaign), and the dawning of a new legend in Reggie Bush, perhaps the greatest impact of any two-game start to a career of anybody ever. (I did absolutely no research to back this claim, but did you see that move on the sideline against Green Bay? I don't care if he got paid in college. He deserved every penny.)

It's been an awesome two weeks, and amazingly, four teams are already in their bye weeks: Dallas, Kansas City, Oakland, and San Diego. From this week through Week 9, I'll break down the teams who don't play on Sunday (because, really, it sucks to have your team not play, especially in Week 3).

Dallas Cowboys

(1-1, in a three-way tie for first in the NFC East)

Overview — Everybody got on poor Drew Bledsoe after they got beat up in Jacksonville, but we saw on Monday that the Jaguar defense is going to make a lot of QBs look bad along the way. The running game is still solid with Marion Barber (The Third) spelling Julius Jones, and the receiver/tight end group of Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Patrick Crayton, Jason Witten, and Anthony Fasano is above average. The Redskins' defense only registered one sack, and Bledsoe didn't throw any picks under pressure (which he would have), so the offensive line seems to have recovered from their misery in Week 1.

(One side note: Is there any person more suited to the whole grown-man-dying-his-hair-blonde-to-be-cool-but-just-looks-like-a-douchebag-instead look than Mike Vanderjagt? I bet you even his mom hates him.)

Impact of the Bye Week — With Owens' broken finger, the bye goes from bad timing to great timing. Don't think that just because Glenn is making the catches, Owens is a non-factor. His ability to draw defensive attention will open up every other aspect of the offense. They can still win without him (like at Tennessee in Week 4), but they can't dominate. One fewer game without him is a definite advantage.

Outlook — I'm still not sold on these guys as a real contender. Special teams haven't been a strength (29.3 yards allowed on kick-off returns), and the penalties (NFL-worst 158 yards assessed) aren't exactly the sign of an intelligent/disciplined team. They've got talent, but I just can't see them climbing over Philly or New York in the division.

Kansas City Chiefs

(0-2, tied for last in the AFC West)

Overview — Last drive of the first half against Denver, the Chiefs get the ball on their own 34 with more than three minutes on the clock, two timeouts. Eight plays get them to the Denver 11 with a first down and nine seconds left. There's time for one more shot at your all-world TE or stud RB. Herm Edwards sends out the FG team. No balls. Hopefully for Chiefs fans, "Herm the Worm" slimes his way out of his KC contract like he did in New York.

Impact of the Bye Week — Couldn't be better. One, it means one fewer week with Damon Huard as their starting QB. I'm not as down on Huard as some others, but Trent Green leads this team. Two, with San Francisco coming to Arrowhead in Week 4, the Chiefs have a chance to catch their breath, regroup and try to get some positive mojo going.

Outlook — They better get off the schneid against the 49ers, because this is what they have coming up next: at Arizona, at Pittsburgh, San Diego, Seattle, at St. Louis, at Miami. Then, after a three-week semi-break (Oakland, Denver, at Cleveland), they finish with Baltimore, at San Diego, at Oakland, Jacksonville. Right now, five wins is the best-case scenario.

Oakland Raiders

(0-2, tied for last in the AFC West)

Overview — Just horrible. This Jerry Porter thing is absolutely killing that locker room. They need to end this now.

Impact of the Bye Week — Like Kansas City, this week off couldn't come at a better time. The Raiders have been an easy rip for writers around the nation (me included), and for good reason. They are the worst team in the NFL in quarterback rating (30.9), sacks allowed (15), turnover margin (-6), third-down conversion rate (16.7%), and average kick-return yardage allowed (36.6). With a week off to prepare for a home test against Cleveland, maybe Oakland has a chance to get some positive momentum. Probably not.

Outlook — They're going to crash and burn, with the best-case scenario that they blow up the team in the offseason, have a good draft, and build for sleeper status in 2008.

San Diego Chargers

(2-0, first in AFC West)

Overview — Remember when there was a huge debate over whether Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, or LaDainian Tomlinson should be the first pick in your fantasy draft? The Chargers have outscored their opponents by 60 in just two games (67-7), the largest margin in the league. Philip Rivers is just fine, protected by a great defense and powerful running game. With Green out for KC, Denver on the verge of a full-blown QB controversy, and Oakland reduced to liquid poop, San Diego is sitting as well as anybody in the NFL right now.

Impact of the Bye Week — You never want to have your bye week when you're going good. The Chargers being forced to sit back now could very well slow their momentum. That's especially dangerous considering their next game is at Baltimore, who should be riding high at 3-0 after a road game at Cleveland. Plus, with all the accolades they've gotten after their hot start, there's always the chance for complacency. A bad time for a bye.

Outlook — The Chargers have been grand and all, but it's been against the two worst teams in football. Crushing Aaron Brooks and Kerry Collins is the football equivalent of beating up the blind kid in school. Still, unless Denver somehow turns it around, this division is San Diego's to lose. They have a few tough road games ahead, but even if they lose all of them and a few others (which I don't think will happen), 10 wins still gets this division won. Of course, Marty Schottenheimer is still the coach, so all this winning probably won't mean much when he's blowing a close playoff game in January. (Sorry, but it's true.)

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