Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 4 NFL Picks

Ravens over Bills- I'm hoping "Jacoby Jones getting hit over the head with a bottle of alcohol on a party bus"-gate will have the Ravens unprepared today and the Bills steal one at home. I won't hold my breath though.

Bengals over Browns- Dalton has played well against the Browns in his tenure here. Their defense this year is better than it has been in the past, but I think our short passing game will be able to negate their biggest strength in pass rushing. I also think our defensive line should be able to force Hoyer into a bad decision or three. Leon Hall, Reggie Nelson and Dre Kirkpatrick are all out for the game which leaves us vulnerable in the secondary.

Bears over Lions- The better the Bears keep looking, the better our loss to them looks. Also, Nate Burleson deserves some kind of award for sacrificing the bones in his arms to save a falling pizza. I think we all would have did the same thing in his shoes.

Chiefs over Giants- Eek. The Chiefs don't turn the ball over. The Giants can't hold on to the ball. The Chiefs lead the league in sacks. The Giants are tied for last. The Chiefs rushed for 146 yards last week against the Eagles. The Giants have rushed for 133 yards all season. The Giants aren't exactly new territory for Andy Reid either. Chiefs win here and it might get ugly.

Vikings over Steelers- Poor blokes.

Cardinals over Buccaneers- Well, Josh Freeman is outta there and it could pay dividends for Tampa Bay. Not this week though. I also heard something about numerous "off the field issues" Freeman has that we've never heard about. It appears Schiano is trying to ensure that Freeman never throws another NFL pass in his life.

Colts over Jaguars- Every win over the Jaguars should only count as half of a win. They're awful. Blaine Gabbert is back in our lives today, so that should be good for a laugh. The Jags are officially on 0-16 watch.

Seahawks over Texans- Is Ben Tate better than Arian Foster? I know Foster is coming off an injury, but he looks like he's running in sand compared to Foster out there. Would Tate be a better option to start games, and Foster better suited to close out games? I mean it won't matter here because the Seahawks are better, but I think it bears watching.

Titans over Jets- A lot has been made of the Titans #7 defense, but the Jets have a top 3 defense so far this season. The Titans are at home so I'll go with them, but this should be a close one.

Broncos over Eagles- Another 4 TD's for Peyton sounds about right. He'll get Demaryius Thomas more involved today after a quiet last couple of weeks.

Redskins over Raiders- If Pryor was playing, I'd gladly pick the Raiders. I like what I've seen from him this season. Too bad, Matt Flynn is in here. He'll get his job taken again in no time.

Cowboys over Chargers- Going up 3-1 in that dreadful NFC East might be enough to seal the deal for the Cowboys. This could actually be a decent game.

Patriots over Falcons- I'd say that 1-3 is impossible to come back from in the NFC, but it's really not. With Green Bay and San Francisco struggling as well, the Falcons would still have a chance to grab a wild card spot, should the Saints hold strong. I guess we'll find out, because I think the Patriots pull out another one.

Saints over Dolphins- Should be a doozy after a couple of lackluster MNF games. I'll take the Saints at home, but the Dolphins will put up a fight. I'd feel a lot better about them if Mike Wallace was healthy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bengals vs. Packers: 5 Things

Five good things: 

1. Gio Bernard. 14 touches, 99 yards, 1 TD. He's so much better than BJGE that it's not even funny. If he starts to see 15-20 touches per game, he transforms this offense. He's the ultimate check down guy for Dalton, and a threat to get the first down or more at anytime. He's averaging almost seven yards every time he touches the ball, has shown he can convert short yardage situations and his blocking is improving by the week. Love this guy.

2. The defense. Amazing performance considering the hand they were dealt in the first half. Here is a list of the Packers' first half drives:

6 plays, 34 yards

3 plays, -2 yards
4 plays, 3 yards, FG
3 plays, -5 yards
7 plays, 25 yards, FG 
12 plays, 57 yards, FG

35 plays, 112 yards, 3.2 yards per play, 9 points. You can't ask for much better considering that offense was lead by Aaron Rodgers, and the fact that four consecutive Bengals turnovers had the defense out there for a long time. Throw in the last two Green Bay possessions where we took the lead and clinched the victory, and it was an outstanding day overall. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Leon Hall and Terrence Newman all had fantastic days.

3. Penalties. 5 penalties for 43 yards isn't great but it is an improvement. Especially in a game like this where every yard counted.

4. Coaching. Dare I say? Marvin Lewis actually won a challenge. He WON a challenge. His challenge on the spot of that Randall Cobb catch preceded the game winning fumble recovery by Newman. And late in the third quarter after a TD to AJ Green, Lewis decided to go for the extra point to make the game 30-21, GB. An argument could be made that Lewis should have went for 2, potentially making this a one possession game. Somehow, this also worked out in Lewis' favor. If we go for 2 there and miss it, Rodgers gets the ball back for the final drive only down three points. The Packers get into FG range relatively easy and we probably go to OT. I don't think Lewis had this divine plan in mind when he went for the extra point, but it worked out in his favor so whatevs.

5. Andy Dalton. For the second straight week, Dalton has came through in the second half after shaky first half. The first half saw him throw an interception, and lose a fumble that was returned for GB's first touchdown. The second half saw him go 13/16, 168 yards and 2 TDs. He did have two sacks that forced Mike Nugent into a 52 yard FG that he missed, but he was great otherwise. Dalton has four turnovers this season and all have come in the first half. If he starts settling down out of the gate, we're in good shape.

Five bad things: 

1. Turnovers. Ay caramba. Four turnovers on four consecutive possessions in the first half. FOUR. Without a stellar showing by our defense, that easily could have been 20+ Green Bay points and that would have been that. Needless to say, that can't happen ever again in the history of life.

2. Run defense. You have to concede something to the Packers offense so I'm glad it was the run, but still. After giving up 125 yards (2.8 YPC) on the ground to the Bears/Steelers combined, Green Bay rolled up 182 (6.1 YPC). A 51 yarder by Jonathan Franklin inflates that YPC, but they still managed to run the ball very well against our defense.

3. Blocking. Not a great day for the guys up front. We only averaged 3.4 YPC, Dalton was sacked four times and the Packers had five tackles for loss, not including that spectacular forced fumble by Clay Matthews. On that play, a 3rd and 1, we had DT Domata Peko in blocking for Benjarvus Green Ellis. Situations like these are when a true fullback (like I dont know, John Conner? The same John Conner we cut before the season?) would come in handy. Peko was probably told to block anyone in front of him. I feel that a veteran like Conner would have noticed Matthews creeping closer to the line of scrimmage and adjusted appropriately. Though some of that blame should probably go to C Kyle Cook for not making the necessary line adjustments. The justification for cutting Conner was to keep the versatility of Orson Charles, a TE being converted into a FB, so Cincy could run three TE sets. The three TE's in this case would be Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert and Alex Smith and our FB, should we need one, would be Charles. So why not cut Smith, and keep Conner AND Charles? Gresham/Eifert/Charles still let you run your three TE sets and Conner gives you a FB. As is, Charles' versatility has earned him three straight inactives to start the season. Awesome.

4. Geno Atkins. Atkins currently has one more tackle than I do through three games. I've been rehabbing a bum hammy, but he's been on the field all three games. I don't think it's a case of him taking plays off and it's easy to say that double/triple teams have minimized his statistical impact, which is true to an extent. But he was seeing double/triple teams last year and still putting up numbers. 12.5 sacks every year from your defensive tackle probably isn't sustainable, but I've hardly heard his name called this season outside from mention of his new contract. 

5. Third down conversions. After converting 50% (14/28) of our third downs against the Bears/Steelers, a rate good enough for fifth in the league, we only converted 4/11 third downs against Green Bay. We turned the ball over to Green Bay too much to give them any more possessions by punting. Not surprisingly, we also lost the time of possession battled (~32 minutes to 28).

Week 4: On the road against the Browns

1. I'm glad the Browns won today. Hopefully, this will keep Cincinnati from overlooking the Browns on the way to a week 5 meeting with New England. The Browns usually play us pretty well, so I'm a little nervous about this one.

2. Brian Hoyer threw 54 passes. I like our chances if he does that again. Minnesota hit him seven times and sacked him thrice. I'd like to double those number if he drops back 54 times next Sunday, and it's not out of the question. Through Brandon Weeden's first two games, he was sacked 11 times and hit 28 (!)  times.

3. On the flip side, the Browns lead the league in sacks with 14, while the Bengals have only surrendered five sacks. Some delayed handoffs and plenty of check downs to Bernard/Gresham/Eifert should be able to keep the Cleveland pass rush from disrupting things.

4. Covering Jordan Cameron will be a priority. I like the matchups of Cincy's DBs against Browns WR's, but Cameron may be an issue. Jermichael Finley went out on early on a play that could have been flagged, and Andrew Quarles/Ryan Taylor were unable to make us pay. Cameron can.

5. Though we're in no position to judge anyone about turnovers, Cleveland turned the ball over four times against Minnesota and three times against Miami. We should be able to create a couple of turnovers to keep the ball on offense and tire out their defense. Also, us holding onto the ball and not turning it over four times would be equally beneficial.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Week 3 NFL Picks

Packers over Bengals- I'd love to pick us at home here, but that first half from Andy Dalton against the Steelers is still fresh in my mind. Gruden has said that Gio Bernard will get more touches going forward which is good, but it won't be enough to get the victory coming off of a short week.

Cowboys over Rams- Still don't trust Sam Bradford. Not even a little bit. Regarding Jason Witten, I agree with Rodney Harrison (God, please don't let me ever say that again). Let's take a look at Witten's numbers over the first ten years of his career with Tony Gonzalez's.

Witten: 806 receptions, 8946 yards, 11.1 YPC, 46 TDs
Gonzalez: 721 receptions, 8710 yards, 12.1 YPC, 61 TDs

Granted, their situations were different while Gonzalez was in KC but outside of TDs, the numbers aren't that far off. I was shocked to find out that Witten is only 31, and hasn't missed a game since his rookie year so he'll probably produce well into his late 30s like Gonzalez. Also, he plays for the Cowboys. Fair or not, doing it for one of the league's marquee teams will get him in the Hall of Fame. The Owen Daniels comparison is a little much. While I've always liked Daniels and think it's a shame he's trapped on a running team, he and Witten are the same age and his numbers pale in comparison. Witten is a lock for the Hall of Fame, in my eyes.

Chargers over Titans- Phillip Rivers has looked great thus far. That SD defense hasn't but I don't think Jake Locker and crew will be able to take advantage of it on offense. Chargers win.

Vikings over Browns- I've done a complete 180 on the Trent Richardson trade and now think the Browns came out victorious. Of course, that won't help them here. But it will help them. Somewhere.

Patriots over Buccaneers- I really wanted to pick Tampa Bay here with the upset, but Josh Freeman. I think Tampa should start kicking the tires on a Ben Roethlisberger trade. He could probably be had for very cheap, if they're willing to take his contract. Not sure if Pittsburgh would give him up, but I'd at least inquire.

Saints over Cardinals- Carson Palmer shooting it out with Drew Brees in New Orleans is all I need to hear.

Lions over Redskins- Washington's schedule sure isn't doing RG3 any favors. This seems like another game where Washington gets down early, before coming back late with some garbage time points. I could also foresee a borderline "dirty" hit from Suh on RG3 and Skip Bayless yelling loudly about it.

Giants over Panthers- What is going to take to get Ron Rivera fired? Cam Newton taking a knee on every offensive snap? DeAngelo Williams refusing to suit up? Steve Smith resting on the owners car, flipping a coin like Harvey Two Face? I have a feeling we will find out soon.

Texans over Ravens- Need Houston to take care of business here to keep our claim to first place in the AFC North safe. What do you think it would have taken for the Colts to get Ben Tate off of the Texans instead of giving up a first for Richardson?

Falcons over Dolphins- If two teams are relatively equal, give me the NFC team. I think the Falcons are better but they're on the road without Steven Jackson. This will be a good test for the Dolphins at home against a quality team.

Bills over Jets- Know how Dwyane Bowe gets credit because all he's played with is terrible quarterbacks? Stevie Johnson isn't impressed. Trent Edwards, JP Losman, Brian Brohm, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen and EJ Manuel are the QB's he's been burdened with. Stevie might be Cris Carter for all we know.

49ers over Colts- This might get ugly. Aldon Smith is geeked out of his mind and looking for blood. No really, he's looking for blood.

Seahawks over Jaguars- Gus Bradley, head coach for the Jaguars is the old defensive coordinator for the Seahawks so Pete Carroll won't run it up too badly on him. I'm thinking a respectable 31-9.

Bears over Steelers- Agreed completely on Polamalu. They kept showing a play last week when Ike Taylor had clearly brought down AJ Green, and Polamalu comes flying in as Jon Gruden praised Polamalu. Ray Lewis to the tee.

Broncos over Raiders- I actually think Terrelle Pryor makes this one interesting. You know, once they're down by four scores and whathaveyou. 

Week 3 Picks

Before I get to my picks, I have a question to ask.  While NBC was desperately trying to fill time during the lightning delay during the Sunday Night Massacre last week, Rodney Harrison uttered the line "future Hall of Famer Jason Witten," and no one batted an eye.
That blew me away.  I mean, Witten is good (and has been for quite some time), but a no doubt Hall of Famer?  I don't know about that.  His stats are good, but we're currently in an age where tight ends are putting up stats that put older tight ends to shame.  If Witten is a no doubt Hall of Famer, does that mean Owen Daniels is as well?  Where do we draw the line on this?
Where do you stand?  Witten a Hall of Famer or no?
One of these days, I'm going to go through every team and pick out the guys I think are Hall of Famers.  But not right now.  I'm tired, ya know?

To the picks.

Packers over Bengals
I've been really impressed with the Packers defense.  Sure, they got shredded by the 49ers in week 1, but that was more due to their gameplan than their personnel.  They look strong.  They look fast.  I'm very excited.  And their offense hasn't seemed to miss a beat with the loss of Greg Jennings.
The Bengals have looked decent.  Not great, but pretty good.  They lost a heartbreaker to a good Chicago team, then beat a bad Pittsburgh team.  The defensive line hasn't looked as dominant as I thought it would be, and Dalton doesn't seem to be taking the next step.
A couple Dalton picks will be the difference here.

Cowboys over Rams
The Rams have a terrific defense, so I could see them giving the Cowboys some trouble here.  I can't imagine Murray will have a lot of running room, and the secondary is extremely talented.  It'll be tough sledding.  But I also don't have enough faith in the Rams offense to score many points on this Cowboys defense.

Chargers over Titans
Is Philip Rivers good again?  I have no earthly idea.  I'm going to give him a couple more weeks before I decide for sure.

Vikings over Browns
This is less that I like the Vikings (I don't) and more that the Browns are going into this game putting their faith in an offensive unit made up of Hoyer, Rainey, Bess and Little.  That's an NFL team?  Jeepers.

Patriots over Bucs
Both teams will play ugly, but the Bucs will find a new and creative way to lose this game in the final 5 minutes.  As in, Freeman throwing a pick-six on purpose to get his coach fired before the game actually ends.

Saints over Cardinals
This is a tough one.  The Cardinals have a really good defense.  But I have to believe the Saints will put up more points than they did last week, and I don't think the Cardinals (with a hobbled Fitzgerald) will be able to keep up.

Lions over Redskins
I'm actually really excited about this game.  Two potentially terrifying offenses against two terrible defenses.  This could be a ton of fun.
I know Griffin can bounce back from this rough start.  I don't think it has anything to do with his lack of running.  I don't think he's psychologically ready to be back on the field yet.  He's terrified of having someone run into his knee again.  It happens.  It's not easy to recover from that.  He'll be fine.  He just needs time.

Panthers over Giants
I just keep picking the Panthers, and they just keep losing games in the final minute.  But I think the Giants are terrible this year, and the Panthers win this one handily.

Texans over Ravens
I didn't think the Ravens would be good this year, but I didn't think they'd look quite this bad.  Texans are solid if unspectacular.

Falcons over Dolphins
The way both of these teams are looking, I should probably be picking the Dolphins here.  What can I say?  I believe in Jacquizz Rodgers.

Bills over Jets
Big fan of EJ Manuel to Stevie Johnson.

49ers over Colts
Luck is going to feel the wrath of the 49ers terrible loss last week.  He's already getting hit quite a bit.  The 49ers are going to tee-off on him.

Seahawks over Jaguars
The Seahawks defense will outscore the Jaguars offense.  Easily.

Bears over Steelers
The Steelers look really, really old and bad.  The MNF crew was really praising Polamalu last week, but, to me, he looks like the new Ray Lewis.  Capable of making a big play from time to time (that sack on Locker in week 1 was terrific), but, for the most part, he comes into a play late and hits a guy after he's already down.

Broncos over Raiders
I'm hoping this will be close, but I very much doubt that will happen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bengals vs. Steelers: 5 Things

Five Good Things

1. The run defense looked excellent again. For the second straight week, the defense held the opposition to under three yards per carry. The line gets its fair share of credit for the pass rush, but their defense against the run has been outstanding thus far.

2. The defensive line looked better. It's always hard to measure defensive line success by only sacks, especially on a guy like Roethlisberger, but Cincy was able to sack Roethlisberger twice, hit him six times and keep him on the move when they weren't able to hit him. Not quite up to last years standard, but an improvement on the zero sacks and four QB hits they got against Jay Cutler last week.

3. Gio Bernard. 9 touches, 65 yards, 2 touchdowns. Nearly 5 YPC running the ball, that great catch and run for the touchdown and he even picked up the blitz very well on a couple of occasions. He keeps blocking like that, and single digit touches will be a thing of the past.

4. Andrew Whitworth is back. Whit came back from a knee injury and looked good sharing some series with Anthony Collins. Dalton wasn't sacked at all, and the run game was able to pick up yards when they needed them. Good to see him back out there.

5. Tight ends. Again. Gresham/Eifert combined to catch 9 of their 14 targets for 132 yards. More impressive to me though, is the way they were used. Gresham lined up a tight end, split out as a WR and caught a screen on a play that helped set up Gio's second TD. Eifert split wide, lined up beside the tackle and even came out of the backfield as a fullback at times. He also got wide open for a 61 yarder that set up Gio's first TD. Their versatility makes things much easier for Dalton.

Five Bad Things

1. As you're reading this, Andy Dalton just overthrew another receiver. My goodness. That first quarter by Dalton is some of the worst football I've seen from him in his tenure here. He had clean pockets, wide open receivers and was overthrowing guys time after time. He settled down to go 9/14 for 115 yards in the second half, but that first half is concerning. I was going to re-watch the game to count the number of overthrows, but I love myself too much to purposefully subject myself to such. Dalton went 17/20 of his passes thrown within five yards of the line of scrimmage, 5/8 on throws between 5-10 yards downfield and 3/17 on passes targeted over 10 yards downfield. And it wasn't particularly good coverage by Pittsburgh. Just bad quarterbacking. He has to do better.

2. Giving up big plays on defense. The defense gave up three plays of 30+ yards, and had a fourth one negated after a bogus timely tripping penalty on the Steelers. It's nitpicking in a victory, but those three plays counted for nearly 40 percent of the Steelers total yardage. And they coughed the ball up at the end of one of them. We won't get those type of breaks against the Packers.

3. We still can't cover out of the slot. As long as Harrison, Maualuga and Burfict are the starting linebackers, I may as well pencil this in here weekly. Burfict is the best of those three, but coverage isn't his strong point. Thank goodness Heath Miller was out, and Roethlisberger threw more bad passes than Dalton.

4. Penalties. This may be a weekly occurrence as well. Cincy followed up an 8 penalty/84 yard day against Chicago with....a 9 penalty/84 yard night against Pittsburgh. None were as crucial as against the Bears, but this can't go on. It probably will though.

5. Dalton and receivers on the wrong page. There were a number of times where Dalton and his receivers clearly weren't on the same page. He'd throw the in, as the receiver cut out just in time to watch the pass sail incomplete. I'm not here to speculate whose fault it is. That's irrelevant. It has to be cleaned up.

Week 3- Home against the Packers.

1. The defensive line has to show up. Against the Skins, Aaron Rodgers got rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds or less on 72 % of his dropbacks. Unreal. We won't stop Rodgers, but we do have to get in his face to try to block his passing lanes if he's getting rid of the ball that quickly.

2. On the flip side, the Packers pass rush has been pretty weak thus far. Hopefully, we keep up with the short passes to get the ball out of Dalton's hands quickly and keeping a guy like Clay Matthews from having a destructive day.

3. There's a great chance I'll eat these words, but I think that Packer's 3 WR sets favor us. I trust an extra CB on the field in coverage WAY more than I trust one of our linebackers in coverage. We can live with Hall/Newman/Jones and Burfict/Illoka on tight ends if it means that Rey Maualuga isn't attempting to stick with Jermichael Finley.

4. Turnovers/Penalties. It goes without saying, but we can't give Rodgers any additional opportunities with turnovers, drive killing penalties on offense or drive extending penalties on defense.

5. Control the clock. We held the ball 11 minutes longer than Pittsburgh, and we need more of the same against Green Bay. The more our offense is on the field, the more that Rodgers is not. Ideally, we control the ball for 55-57 minutes of the game. Ideally.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 2 Picks

Didn't even watch that Patriots/Jets game.  Looks like I'm a better man for missing that.

Packers over Redskins
The Packers went into Candlestick, gave up 400+ passing yards, turned the ball over twice (once in their own territory), made some bad decisions (the Matthews penalty sticks out), and still almost pulled that game out.  They went mainly zone in their defense to better defend against the read option and got torn up with the pass.  I look for them to mix zone and man coverages this week.  It'll be close at the half, but the Packers will pull away by the end of the game.
By the way, here is what I said last week in relation to the 49ers offensive attack:

"With the Packers talking about spending so much time figuring out how to defend the read option, I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers don't run it a bit here.  Set up in the full house pistol, but execute no fakes and just throw it over the top.  Seems like something Harbaugh would do."

Sometimes I look pretty smart.  Of course, I picked the Packers to win, so I guess I'm not as smart as I think I am.

Falcons over Rams
I'm with you on the Rams.  Not impressed with Bradford, and not impressed with them.  They have a good defense, but they don't have enough offense to keep up with the Falcons.  By the way, I love how the Rams drafted Tavon Austin and completely misuse him.  It's a crime.

Panthers over Bills
In regards to your "Cam Newton loses a lot of one score games", I will simply point out that his coach is Ron Rivera.

Bears over Vikings
Ponder is terrible.  The defense isn't much better.  Vikings get shredded here.

Colts over Dolphins
I started listening to Dameshek's podcast again, now that football season is back.  I still have issues with it (too many guests, too much Black Tie, etc.), but this past episode had me finding other reasons to be upset with it.  Someone (I think it was Elliot Harrison) talked about how everyone overlooks Andrew Luck's athleticism.  This is simply not true.  I remember this being a huge selling point on him when he was drafted.  Totally right though, fellas.  Kicked that straw man right in the teeth.
And I remember your Wallace comments.  It made perfect sense at the time.  And, honestly, I still think Cincinnati would've been a great fit for him.  Green and Wallace on the outside would open up so much.

Chiefs over Cowboys
I am not a fan of Alex Smith.  I do not thing he's going to have a good year.  He had his best years when he was not asked to throw often.  Reid likes to throw a lot.  This will not end well.
But I think they'll win today, anyway.  Romo has bruised ribs, and was sailing a high number of passes after taking the hit that did that.  Combine that with the Chiefs talented secondary, and I don't think they'll get much going through the air (a couple interceptions seems about right).  Smith won't have to do too much today.

Ravens over Browns
Guess what?  Weeden isn't very good.

Texans over Titans
A Bengals fan telling me that Fitzpatrick is better than anybody?  Now I've heard everything.
You're right, though.  Locker is terrible.  He's capable of making some big throws, but he's just not accurate enough to head up a consistent attack.  I like the idea of throwing in some read option.  That could help out Chris Johnson a lot, too.

Eagles over Chargers
I rewatched the Eagles/Redskins game last night, and I didn't think the Eagles offense looked nearly as impressive as I had heard (I missed the first half when it was on TV).  The Redskins offense looked a bit rusty and gave away a couple turnovers, and those led to huge points for the Eagles.  But they looked far from unstoppable.
Still, Shady McCoy looked great, and the Chargers defense is awful.

Lions over Cardinals
Totally with you on this one.  This could be a lot of fun, or it could just be terrible.  Maybe a little of both.

Saints over Bucs
Glad to see you're finally off the Freeman bandwagon.  I tried hard to talk you out of his corner during the offseason, but you weren't having any of it.  Only took one game into the season to finally convince you.
Saints big.

Raiders over Jaguars
I never thought I'd give "Terrelle Pryor" as one of my reasons for a team winning an NFL game, but here we are.  It's either backing Henne or Pryor.  *shudder*

Broncos over Giants
As you may have noticed, I haven't actually put up my post on Manning's 7 TD game yet.  I usually break down the film through Game Rewind on my iPad, but it's been acting funny this year, so I haven't finished it yet.  But here's the gist of it (as you pointed out): he didn't look sharp.  A lot of wobbly and off-target throws.  Combine that with the Broncos absolute refusal to run inside the 5 yard line (two TD passes to Welker from inside the 5) and a WR screen that went for 78 yards, and that 7 TD game looks better than it should.  Not taking anything away from the Broncos offense (putting up 49 points is an impressive feat), but, if all you're focusing on is the number of touchdowns he threw (as opposed to how he got them), then you're doing it wrong.
Not that it's going to matter much.  The Giants secondary doesn't look great this season, and their pass rush doesn't look much better.  The Giants will put up some points, but it won't be enough.

49ers over Seahawks
You're right in saying that Kaepernick won't throw for 400 in this game.  But he won't need to.  They'll get their running game going, and they'll be fine.  It'll be close, but the 49ers will pull it out.  Should be a good game.

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh
Part of me thinks that this will be pretty close, being division rivals and all.  But that part of me is being beaten down by the other part of me that says, "These Bengals are pretty good, and the Steelers look terrible."  Geno Atkins and company are going to absolutely MURDER the Steelers line.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Week 2 NFL Picks

I missed out on the Week 1 picks, but don't you worry. I've still got terrible predictions aplenty.

Jets over Patriots- The Patriots didn't look great last week, I like Geno Smith and I think the team gets a boost by the news of Mark Sanchez being out for the year. They might run the table.

Falcons over Rams- I'm not buying this Rams hype one bit. Mainly because Sam Bradford is involved. I think the Falcons win here and it might get ugly.

Panthers over Bills- The Panthers lose more one possession games than any team I can remember. Cam Newton has started 33 NFL games. He has last 20 of those games. He has lost 13 of those games by 7 points or less. That can't keep up, right? They lost a close one to Seattle last week, but I think they right the ship here.

Bears over Vikings- Very impressed with the Bears last week, namely their offensive line. They kept Cutler upright against a great Bengals D-line, so they shouldn't have much trouble here against the Vikings. Also, Christian Ponder stinks.

Packers over Redskins- I don't think RG3 is 100%, but a lot of his issues against Philly looked to be chemistry related to me. Missing an entire summer of work and preseason games is enough to make any QB look rusty, nonetheless one entering his second year. He and Alfred Morris look better this week, but it's not enough. Packers win.

Colts over Dolphins- I love Mike Wallace bitching about touches after a week one victory. I had a friend that thought the Bengals should trade for Wallace when it was apparent Pittsburgh wasn't going to bring him back long term. What a dope.

Ok, you got me. The friend was me.

Chiefs over Cowboys- A last second touchdown by the Giants made the score closer than it appears, but the Giants turned the ball over six times and possessed the ball nearly 15 minutes less than the Cowboys, but only lost by 5. In Dallas. They won't get that luxury in Kansas City with Alex Smith at the helm. I like Smith and the Chiefs here, and I think they'll have a good season.

Eagles over Chargers- Holy smokes, the Eagles were fun to watch when they had everything clicking Monday Night. Bill Barnwell had a good look at things here, and I agree with him. The Eagles going vanilla in the second half after jumping to a big lead doesn't concern me much. I think they work their magic again here against the Chargers. Also, Manti Te'o will probably want to sit this one out too.

Ravens over Browns- I'd love to pick the Browns here, because the Ravens looked awful last week. I'm looking forward to your review of Peyton Manning's 7 TD game, because I don't think he was at his sharpest. The Ravens just looked bad. Unfortunately, the Browns still employ Brandon Weeden so I don't think they'll be able to capitalize here.

Texans over Titans- Ryan Fitzpatrick is better than Jake Locker and will be starting by seasons end. Let's get that out of the way. Shouldn't the Titans look into a little read option in an attempt to make use of Jake Locker's strengths, i.e. not throwing the football?

Lions over Cardinals- If we're lucky, this one turns into a shootout and we get to see Matt Stafford and Carson Palmer trading touchdowns! Or overthrown passes. Whatevs.

Saints over Buccaneers- I think I was the last one left on the Josh Freeman bandwagon, but I've come to my senses. Egad. Imagine if they had a competent QB surrounded by Martin, Jackson and Williams. That Saints defense got some help from the Falcons offense with dropped passes late in the game, but they held a great offense to 17 points. They'll be able to keep the Bucs in check.

Raiders over Jaguars- Teddy Bridgewater is watching this game with bated breath.

Broncos over Giants- Denver wins by double digits. The Broncos schedule isn't terrible for those first six games without Von Miller. If they get past the Giants this week, they have the Raiders and Eagles at home, before going to Dallas, before coming home to face Jacksonville. That's 4-2 at the absolute worst, with Miller out of the lineup and Champ Bailey still on the mend.

Seahawks over 49ers- What a game this should be. I'll take Seattle because they're at home, but nothing here would surprise me. Kaepernick looked fantastic last week, but I don't think that Seahawks secondary will let him go for another 400 in the air. The 49ers will have to get the run more established this week, as the 2.6 YPC they had last week against Green Bay won't cut it here. It may not mean much, but Seattle beat the pants off San Fran in their last meeting a year ago, 42-13. It won't be that bad, but I do think the Seahawks get the victory.

Cincinnati over Pittsburgh- The last time we had a Monday Night Football game against a division rival, we got our asses handed to us 44-13 by Baltimore. That was opening week last year, so I won't get too confident here. But I can't think of a single reason that we should lose to Pittsburgh this week. I feel like we match up very well with this Steelers team, and we're at home here. Heath Miller may be returning, but I don't think he's enough to swing the game here. If we lose here, it's going to be a long season.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

AFC East Preview

I've got thoughts on the Packers and Peyton Manning and so many things.  Need to get done with this series first.  Nothing like previews after the season has started.  I'm such a smart person for doing this.

New England Patriots
Less because I think they're amazing and more because I don't know who is going to challenge them.  Their receiving corps has been depleted (even more so if Amendola misses any amount of time), and their defense isn't good enough to make up for the decrease in their offense.
But Brady still has a little bit left in the tank, and great quarterbacks make do with whatever receivers they have around them.  They'll find a way to score points, if not quite as many (or quite as efficiently) as they have in the past.

Buffalo Bills
I guess?  I don't really have a strong feeling about this.  I could easily put the Dolphins in this spot.  But I won't.
I like the potential of their offense.  I think Manuel will be good, but not great.  Still, with Spiller and Jackson in the backfield and Johnson at receiver, this is a team that should be able to put up some points.  Provided Manuel stays healthy (a dicey proposition, seeing as how he missed time in the preseason), they should get better as the year goes on.  In another year or two, they should be able to compete for the division.

Miami Dolphins
Tannehill isn't terrible (he's already  better than I ever thought he would be.  I guess that's on me for having such low expectations), Wallace is very fast, and Hartline is pretty good.  The defense is solid, with a good pass rush.
The offensive line, however, is terrible.  Good thing Tannehill is mobile, because he's going to be running for his life this year.  I could easily see this offense being one that stalls a lot, but hits on a handful of big plays every game.  All or nothing.
The problem is that this hinges on your big play guys (namely Wallace) actually catching the ball, which is something he seems to have trouble with on a regular basis.

New York Jets
This team could easily be better than this.  The defense is stout, and that will keep them in a lot of games.  If the game is close, one or two plays can swing you from a loss to a win in a hurry (as seen this last week, when a late hit put the Jets in field goal position).
In the end, though, I just don't think the offense will be good enough to win a lot of games.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bengals vs. Bears: 5 Things

Five good things:

1. Andy Dalton looked great. 26/33, 282 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. The two picks jump out at you but they weren’t 100% on him. The first one was debatable, as AJ didn’t exactly box out Tillman much for the ball on a quick slant route. But to Tillman's credit, he made a great play on the ball. The second was a tipped ball, but a great pass. AJ got two hands on it and bobbled it, and the Bears came down with it. The throw was into coverage but a great pass nonetheless. If Brees makes that same pass, he’s threading the needle. But because Dalton made it, he was forcing a pass. Life. He also made two great long passes to AJ. On the 45 yard TD, a good pump fake held Tim Jennings up just enough for AJ to get past him. Dalton hit him in stride for the score. A 42 yarder saw him pump fake again, and put a beautiful throw to the inside shoulder of Green away from Tillman. Very encouraging stuff from Dalton.

2. AJ Green.  9 catches on 13 targets, 162 yards, 2 TDS. The two picks were passes to him. Shame he couldn’t come up with them, but I’m not worried about him at all. Caught a TD a piece matched up with each of the Bears All Pro cornerbacks.

3. Tight ends. 10 catches on 10 targets, 82 yards for Gresham/Eifert. That 8.2 YPC could be better, but I love that 10/10. The yards and touchdowns will come in time

4. Backup LT Anthony Collins. He looked great in pass protection in Andrew Whitworth’s absence. He was able to keep Julius Peppers off the box score entirely. He struggled a bit more in run blocking, but to be fair he was blocking for BJGE who takes longer to hit the hole. Shutting out Peppers is quite the feat though. Great work.

5. The debut of Gio Bernard: 5 touches, 30 yards. He also had an 8 yard catch and a 14 yard run negated by penalty. Yet he didn’t touch the ball in the fourth quarter. 

Five bad things:

1. Turnovers. The two interceptions were bad but the fumble by Sanu in the fourth quarter was killer. Due to Burfict’s interception, we had our best starting field position of the day. Just completed a first down to AJ, and the pass to Sanu got us inside the red zone. Then he fumbled and that was the beginning of the end. The score was 21-17 at the time, and with the way the offense was looking, we get at least a FG there to go up 7. As is, the Bears went 80 yards the other way on the ensuing drive and that was that. 

2. Penalties. The one at the end of the game by Maualuga was big as it gave the Bears the first down when we had no way to stop the clock, but Kirkpatrick’s flag before the half was big also. After a punt, a 15 yard personal foul on Kirkpatrick put the Bears in FG range. With no foul there and 37 seconds, no timeouts and 60 yards to go, Chicago may just take a knee. As is, the 15 yards put them in a position to end up with a 58 yard FG before the half. From an illegal block in the back on our first possession that killed a 50 yard return, to Rey’s foolish fighting at the end of the game, we shot ourselves in the foot from beginning to end.

3. BJGE. 15 touches, 29 yards. Of course, the less talented RB should get three times the touches. OF COURSE. 1.9 yards per touch is bad, but it was worse to watch. A bulk of that came on a 10 yard carry. Bernard HAS to get more touches going forward. Not 30 a game, nothing crazy, but he should be getting the ball 15 times per game minimum. Bring in BJGE for short conversions and 3rd and long for his pass blocking skills if you must, but that should be the extent of his contributions.

4. Covering out of the slot. Bennett had a nice game there out of the slot and Marshall had a couple of big catches lining up inside. Covering tight ends/slot receivers has killed us for some time now. It doomed us against the Texans last year and it kills us against any team that has the tools to exploit it.

5. Discipline. We were out of timeouts with 8 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. On the road. In a one possession game. And picked up penalty for roughhousing while we’re fighting for our life at the end of the game. Unacceptable.

Week 2 things- MNF against the Steelers:

1. The Steelers scored nine points against TEN: two on a safety and seven on a late game drive when the Titans were playing vanilla. The run game was nonexistent, with 32 yards on 15 carries. We held the Bears to 2.9 YPC on 28 carries, and that’s skewed by a 18 yard rush by Cutler. Forte had 19 carries for 50 yards and he’s much better than anyone the Steelers have.

2. Roethlisberger was sacked 5 times by a TEN defense that finished 9th in the league in sacks last year. We finished second. Chicago's line did a great job against our defensive line. I don't see them being shut out two straight weeks.

3. The Steelers sacked Locker once and hit him only three times. Locker more mobile than Dalton, but I think our line is better in pass protection. Dalton should have plenty of time. Our quick passes should render the Steelers pass rush irrelevant.

4. Heath Miller probably won’t play so hopefully they won’t have a tight end to make us pay for out inability to cover the middle.

5. Pittsburgh lost C Maurkice Pouncey and LB Larry Foote for the season. They are ripe for a slide and we have to take advantage.

Basically, there’s no reason we should lose this MNF game at Pittsburgh. NONE. The Bears game was a good test for us. Solid team on the road, and we failed. Luckily, the AFC North went 0-4 this weekend so we’re still in first place. Or last. Whatevs. The point is this: We need to win this game. And I can’t think of a reason that we won’t.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

NFL Picks: Week 1

It's here!  It's here!  It's really here!  The NFL season is upon us!
I've got thoughts about the Broncos/Ravens game, but I won't get into them here.  I plan on doing an All-22 look at each of Manning's 7 TDs later this week.
But, for now, it's pick time.

Buffalo over New England
Going with an upset first.  How daring am I?
The league doesn't know what it has yet in EJ Manuel, and the unknown is always scary in the NFL.  Manuel has a decent game here, and Spiller goes nuts.  But the real story is how bad the Patriots offense looks. I have no doubt in my mind that they'll get better as the season goes along (they'll absolutely house the Bills the next time they meet), but, in this first week, they'll look like a below-average offense.

Cincinnati over Chicago
There's been talk of the revamped Bears line, and that's all well and good.  But it can be an improvement over last year and still be terrible.  Which it will be.  Geno Atkins and the rest of the Bengals line will be in the backfield all day.

Miami over Cleveland
It must be the fresh scent of a new season and the promise it holds, because even this game interests me a little.  I'm wondering if Tannehill can improve on his shockingly decent rookie year.  He has a terrible line, but he has Mike Wallace now.  Looking forward to watching him throw it 30 yards downfield with a man in his face on every possession.
Also, I've heard Weeden looks better than he did last year.  I refuse to believe that, but I kind of want to see it for myself.

New Orleans over Atlanta
It'll be a high-scoring game, but, in the end, I see the Saints pulling a way a bit in the fourth quarter.  This should be an exciting one.

Tampa Bay over New York Jets
A low scoring game.  I'm interested to see what Geno Smith will do, but I'm pretty sure he's going to be terrible.  But at least Josh Freeman won't be any better.

Pittsburgh over Tennessee
I love watching Jake Locker.  He's like a pitcher with a 103 mph fastball he can't control.  Locker just winds up and throws the ball as hard as he can, but he has no idea where it's going to go.  It's thrilling.  If I were a Titans fan, I would hate him.

Detroit over Minnesota
Peterson will have a decent game, but it'll be hard sledding up the middle.  Ponder won't be bad, but that has more to do with the Lions secondary than him.  Still, it won't be enough.  The Lions will put up a lot of points, and Reggie Bush will have a pretty good game (150+ combined yards).

Indianapolis over Oakland
I'm really looking forward to the Terrelle Pryor era in Oakland.  Should be entertaining if nothing else.  I feel kind of bad for Matt Flynn, but it's not overly surprising that he keeps getting bumped.  I'm hoping that he makes his way back to Green Bay to back up Rodgers.

Carolina over Seattle
The Panthers have a stout defense, so they'll hold the Seahawks down a bit.  Cam Newton and the running game put up some big numbers.  The Panthers announce that they'll be a team to be reckoned with this year.

Kansas City over Jacksonville
I was looking into who was starting for the Jaguars today, but I guess it doesn't really matter.  The Chiefs won't be great this year (throwing Alex Smith into Andy Reid's pass-heavy offense seems like a terrible plan), but they'll be better than last year, and they'll certainly be better than Jacksonville.  Especially since Jamaal Charles is currently healthy.  (He is, right?  He didn't break a bone getting on the team bus or anything, did he?)

Green Bay over San Francisco
With the Packers talking about spending so much time figuring out how to defend the read option, I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers don't run it a bit here.  Set up in the full house pistol, but execute no fakes and just throw it over the top.  Seems like something Harbaugh would do.
Still, I think the Packers are winning this, read option or no read option.  The defense is better (they'll miss Hayward while he's out, but Hyde looked really good in the preseason), and the offensive line is better.  Should be a close game, but the Packers will pull this one out.
Did you see Rodgers quoting Tombstone this past week?  I love that man.

St. Louis over Arizona
Palmer will put up some pretty big numbers, but he'll also throw a couple picks.  Still, Larry Fitzgerald will be smiling all day.  "A quarterback with decent accuracy!"

Washington over Philadelphia
This is the game I'm most excited about this week (Non-Packers Division, of course).  What will Chip Kelly do in the NFL?  How will Griffin look?  I'm downright giddy for this game.

Houston over San Diego
Unless Rivers can revert to his former glory days (like, 3 years ago), this is going to be a long year for the Chargers.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

NFC South Preview

The season is here!  The first game starts in a little less than 12 hours.

Let's finish up the NFC previews with the South, the strongest division in the NFL.
Honestly, I wouldn't be shocked if the top three teams end up making the playoffs.

New Orleans Saints
It's no secret that the Saints struggled last year, and it's not hard to pinpoint why.  They had a historically bad defense, and Brees threw 19 interceptions.  They started the season 0-4, losing all of the games by one score.  When you dig yourself an 0-4 hole, it's hard to climb out of that, and they never really did.
There's no way their defense will be that bad again (it just can't...right?).  Payton is back, so I would imagine their offense will be a little more consistent that it was last year.
This is a tough division to call.  You could make a case for any of the four teams to finish at the top.  But I'm going to roll with the Saints, as they'll do everything in their power to make up for their lost season last year.  They're going to come out of the gates firing, and they won't let up.  This team terrifies me.

Atlanta Falcons
I love watching this team.  They're still a balanced offense, but they seem to get a little more explosive with each passing year.  One of the things slowing them down was their insistence on running a run-down Michael Turner into the line 25 times a game.  With their signing of Steven Jackson, defenses will have to respect the run a bit more (I understand that Jackson is not the back he once was, but he's still solid and is a great receiver out of the backfield.  Turner is neither of those things), which will open up the passing game even more.  This team is going to be a lot of fun to watch this year.

Carolina Panthers
I would feel a lot better about this team if they would grab some receivers for Newton to throw to.  He has Steve Smith and a bucket of spare parts.  The Panthers have a solid defense and a pretty good running game.  If they actually invested in a couple receivers they would have the potential of being great.  As it is, I still think they'll have a pretty good season (as I said at the top, I wouldn't be shocked to see them make the playoffs), but they've been so obviously wide receiver deficient for years that it's amazing they haven't made a serious attempt to upgrade.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I know we've talked about this before, but it bears repeating: I just don't like Josh Freeman very much.  He had one good season 2 years ago (mostly on the back of an unsustainable TD-to-INT ratio), and has been below average since.  He'll have a couple huge games each year, but, for the most part, I just don't think he's very good.  He's in a contract year, and he doesn't really have any competition for the starter's job this year (I thought Glennon looked good in preseason, but he won't see a start unless Freeman gets injured or completely melts down for 6 straight games), so there's a chance he'll put up some decent numbers.  But even decent numbers for him would be something like 62% completion, 3500 yards, 23 TDs and 16 INTs.  I don't have high hopes for him.
They have a pretty good running game, so they should be able to win a couple games on the back of that.  But there's only so far a team can go without good quarterback play, and I just don't see the Bucs getting that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

NFC West Preview

Welcome back to my NFL preview series.  Doubt I'm getting done with these before the season, so maybe I'll shoot for getting the NFC done by Sunday, and the AFC done by next weekend.  Which makes this a potentially useless preview series, but, since I doubt anyone is reading these, it doesn't make a big difference either way.

San Francisco 49ers
A tough call with this division, and I had a hard time deciding to put the 49ers here.  But here we are.  No turning back now.
My major issue with this team is the receiving corps.  Crabtree is gone for the season (I hear there's a chance he could be back, but he wouldn't be 100%).  Boldin has his moments, but he's not a game-changer anymore (he had a big playoffs, but a less-than-stellar regular season.  I put more stock in the regular season Boldin).  Vernon Davis had far superior stats with Alex Smith throwing him the ball (that's not saying Smith is a better QB, just that he seemed to look Davis' way a little more than Kaepernick does).
And that's about it.  I guess they traded for Baldwin, but he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire in Kansas City.
But that's my only gripe, really (well, they could use a bit of depth on defense, but that's just nit-picky).  They're a solid team with a terrific coach and an exciting QB.  I think Kaepernick is going to be a monster this year.

Seattle Seahawks
Try as I might, I can't summon any excitement for this team.  As you know, I've been watching Wilson games from last year (I stopped posting about them because I got lazy, but I'm still watching them), and, while he looks pretty good sometimes, I just can't shake the feeling that he's severely overrated.  I wouldn't be surprised to not see a great year out of him.
Still, I guess they don't need him to have a great year (after all, it's not like he had a monster year last year.   He was just better than most people thought he was going to be).  They have a good running game and a very good defense.  They don't need Wilson to go for 300 every game to win.  They just need him to be steady and not make too many mistakes and they should be in good shape.
Then again...
Lynch had a great year last year, but they ran him pretty hard.  I wouldn't be surprised to see his numbers tick down a bit from last year.
As good as their defense is, they base a lot of it around their two corners: Sherman and Browner.  And they're very good, especially if they can jam receivers at the line.  They're big, but they're not overly fast.  Offenses can certainly exploit them with a good gameplan.
Lastly, they have had quite a few defensive players suspended for performance enhancing drugs (Bruce Irvin is out for the first 4 games because of this).  All it takes is one of their prominent defenders injecting himself with bull steroids (and telling everyone he took Adderall, of course) to derail their defense.

Arizona Cardinals
It's pretty sad when you can trade for a late-career Carson Palmer and have him be a significant upgrade over what you've been throwing out the past few seasons, but that's exactly what happened here.  He's not very good, but he still has a decent arm, and he'll put up some pretty big numbers (he went for 4,000+ last season with the Raiders).  And now he's playing with Larry Fitzgerald.  Both of those guys have to be happy to see each other (but I bet Fitzgerald is quite a bit happier.  "Anyone but Skelton and Lindley.").
They have a terrific defense, which should keep them in games (provided Palmer doesn't throw those games away).  They're not a particularly good team, and their future is extremely murky.  But they're better than they were last year, so that's something.

St. Louis Rams
I love Tayvon Austin and Daryl Richardson.  And that's about it.  Pead is decent, I guess.  Sam Bradford might not be terrible, but he's a long way from good.  This offense is going to have a few exciting plays per game, and look terrible for the rest of it.
This is just not a very good team.  And that's about all I can say about them.

Tomorrow I finish up the NFC, and I'll make my picks on Sunday.  Football is here!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

NFC North Preview

Just got done listening to the new EP from the Pixies and the new album from Janelle Monae.  Seems like the perfect time to preview the division featuring my team.  As with the last one, this preview is devoid of anything resembling research.  Teams are in order or how I think they'll finish.
(Listening to: Leif Vollebekk's Borrowed Time EP and North Americana)

Green Bay Packers
Looking in pretty good shape.  Bulaga went down for the season, which sucked, but Bakhtiari stepped into the LT spot in the preseason and looked pretty good.  At the very least, he looked better than Newhouse, which is all I really wanted.  Lacy looks like a monster, and I think Franklin is going to be a great third down back.  The top three receivers (Nelson, Jones & Cobb) are about as good a trio as you're likely to find.  I'm slightly concerned about the depth at receiver after those three, but Boykin and Ross look pretty good.  I think they'll be fine.
The defense will be much better than it was last year.  Perry should be fantastic.  Jolly looked good in preseason.  I think Jones will be great.  They have a great trio of CBs (Williams, Shields & Hayward), and a great set of safeties in Burnett, McMillan & Jennings.
All of that without even talking about Rodgers, the best QB in the league.  If he goes down they're kind of screwed (I've always liked Seneca Wallace, and I kind of like BJ Coleman, but that's a pretty steep drop-off from Rodgers), but I have faith in him staying healthy.
In short, this offense should be tremendous, and I wouldn't be shocked to see the defense end up in the top 10.

Chicago Bears
Still a terrible offensive line, but they should be slightly better than last year.  The defense should be solid, even with Urlacher retired (I know he was in a pretty obvious decline, but I don't know who they currently have that can do what he could).  At some point the wheels will fall off, but not this year.
The offense should be inconsistent.  Any offense boasting Forte and Marshall will have moments of greatness, but it all hinges on Cutler, who can be great, but can also be terrible.  Really, it should be business as usual for this team.  Something like 9-7 sounds about right.

Detroit Lions
You and I have had many conversations about Matt Stafford, both on this blog and in person.  I didn't like him in college.  I don't like him in the NFL.  But, thanks to Calvin Johnson, the man puts up some pretty big numbers.  For that reason (Johnson, not Stafford), this offense will always be capable of scoring a lot of points.  Add Reggie Bush to the mix (another guy I don't love, but had a pretty good season last year, and is a pretty massive upgrade over the Lions running game the last few years) and the offense should be good.
The defense, however, won't be good enough.  The middle of the line with Suh and Fairly will be great, but it's not overly difficult to neutralize a couple DTs.  The linebackers aren't great and the secondary is terrible.  They'll find themselves in quite a few high scoring games, but they'll find themselves on the wrong side of a lot of them.

Minnesota Vikings
Common sense says that Peterson won't come close to duplicating last season.  Of course, common sense also said that he wouldn't rush for 2000+ yards coming off knee surgery, so what does common sense know, anyway?
Still, I can't imagine him coming close to those numbers.  Something like 1500 sounds about right.
With Peterson not producing at an insane clip, this offense will be pretty terrible, mainly because Ponder is at the helm. Defenses will stack the box and dare Ponder to beat them deep.  From time to time, he'll connect on a deep pass, but not often enough to soften them up.  The defense will be okay, but not great.  The magic they found last year will dry up this year.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Look at Andy Dalton against the Cowboys

Back at it with our third and final look at Andy Dalton's preseason snaps. Of course, there are four preseason games but Dalton threw just two passes in the preseason finale against Indianapolis. One went for 18 yards to Mo Sanu, and the other drew a defensive pass interference flag which set Cincy up for 1st and goal from the 1.He led a 7 play, 49 yard touchdown drive and that was his day. Here's what I saw in the third preseason game against Dallas.

For quick glancing: First down plays are in green, third down plays are in red and penalties are italicized.

Play 1: Benjarvus Green-Ellis off LT, 1 yard loss.

Play 2: Quick slant to AJ Green. 10 yards. A nice throw in tight space and it's great to see Gawd Green back on the field after missing the first two preseason games.

Play 3: BJGE up the middle for 6 yards. (1/1)

Play 4: BJGE off RG, 3 yards.

Play 5: Quick throw to Gresham for 11 yards. Solid catch and run. First down.

Play 6: Screen to Sanu, 4 yards.

Play 7: Quick outs to AJ Green, 7 yards. First down. Dalton looks very good getting rid of the ball quickly here.

Play 8: BJGE dropped for a 3 yard loss. The difference between he and Gio Bernard in hitting the hole is striking.

Play 9: PA pass to Gio Bernard for 6 yards. Nope. An illegal formation flag on Anthony Collins brings this one back. Starting LT Andrew Whitworth will be welcomed back with open arms.

Play 10: Another quick throw across the middle to Gresham, 7 yard gain.

Play 11: No quick throw here as Dalton drops back, has plenty of time to throw and completes a pass to Marvin Jones, for a gain of 16... but Jones fumbles 4 yards away from the end zone. He wasn't necessarily trying to do to much there, but he has to wrap up. Cowboys recover, bummer. (1/2)

Play 12:  Toss off RT to Bernard, 3 yards.

Play 13: Quick slant to Sanu, 12 yards. First down. Dalton is 7/7 here and looking fantastic.

Play 14: BJGE up the middle, no gain.

Play 15: Another slant, this time to Gresham. Brandon Carr is draped all over Gresham and knocks the pass down, no flag. Incomplete pass. A solid throw, but you have 6'5 Gresham on the 6'0 Carr. Put that pass a little higher, and you give Gresham a better chance to go up and get the ballor the contact is more noticeable and he probably gets the PI flag. 

16th snap:  False start, Marvin Jones. Not a good game for Marvin Jones.

17th snap: Dalton goes over the middle looking for Sanu, picked off. (1/3) Terrible pass. There are three Cowboys in the vicinity and only Sanu for Cincy. These are the throws that worry me. Third down and not only do you miss the conversion, but you turn it over and give a Cowboys offense that just cooked our defense the ball back with great field position. As you'll see below, the only throw to make there if you're going to Sanu, is to overthrow him a bit and try to drop the pass in between the coverage. But the worst part of this play? The three men in the area on Sanu were his corner and both Cowboys safeties. Know what that means? AJ Green was on the outside single covered by Orlando Scandrick (usually the 3rd CB for Dallas) and no help over the top. Marvin Jones also had Brandon Carr beat on the other side, but more importantly, AJ GREEN WAS SINGLE COVERED ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE FIELD AND WE DIDNT GO TO HIM. Ugh. 

Play 17: Green at the top of the screen, Sanu to his right, Jones at the bottom of the screen (1/2)

Play 17: 2 Bengals and 4 Cowboys here means AJ Green has 1 on 1 coverage somewhere (2/2)

18th snap: Pass complete to Bernard, 6 yards. I love the decision to pass this much on first down.

19th snap: Bernard runs into his own blocker, loss of 1.

20th snap: Crossing route to Jones, 4 yards. (1/4) Too bad we needed 5.

21st snap: Bernard off LT for 7 yards.

22nd snap:  11 yard screen pass to Bernard.

23rd snap:  End of half pass is almost intercepted. 

24th snap: Gio powers up the middle for 6 yards. Love this guy. He's much stronger than he's given credit for.

25th snap:  Draw to Bernard, he stumbles after getting the handoff and still picks up 18 yards. Plus a 15 yard facemask penalty. If you can't tell, I am extremely excited for the Gio Bernard era.

26th snap: Slant to AJ Green, 26 yards. AJ hasn't missed a beat despite sitting the first two games recovering from an injury.

27th snap: Gio breaks the tackle of a LB at the line of scrimmage, gains 6 yards.

28th snap:  Fade play to AJ. Marvelous catch, but cant get that second foot down in the end zone. Incomplete.

29th snap: Gresham bobbles a screen pass, but pulls it in before bringing it in for no gain. (1/5)

And scene. Field goal time. Four drives, three points, two turnovers. The worst run of our first string offense in the preseason by far, but there were still bright spots. AJ looked to have no lingering effects from his knee injury, which is huge. Outside of that interception, Dalton looked pretty good. He hit on his first seven passes and finished 12/16. His four incompletions were the pass to Gresham where PI could/should have been called, the interception, an end of the half heave and fade play to AJ where Green gets all but the heel of his second foot in the endzone. Not too shabby. Games like this are the reason why I wanted to look at every snap. Looking at the box score and seeing 12/16, 113 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT with a 68.0 QB rating isn't impressive. I hope I was able to show that he looked better than the box score would indicate.

More #DeepStats: 1/5 on third down conversions, including the two turnovers. 4.75 yards on first down plays, but it's 5.2 if you take out end of half deep pass. Not bad on the surface, but 26 of that was on the slant to AJ Green. Remove that and the end of half pass, you're looking at 3.1 yards per play on first down which isn't good enough.

Rejoice, football that actually matters is upon us!