Posted Monday, December 02, 2013 10:28 AM
Posted Monday, November 25, 2013 02:43 AM
I’ve spent the last two weeks breaking down playoff
contenders in both the AFC and NFC. But
the playoffs are still a month away.
There are still four more regular season games to be played for every
team in the NFL; a full quarter of the season.
That’s why I’m taking a hard look in the opposite direction this week;
breaking down the bottom feeders.
Bottom feeders in December are a mixed breed. Some squads tank; done with their
season. Other bottom feeders play their
best ball down the stretch, building momentum for next year.
Look at last year for some prime examples. The Lions went 0-5 SU, 1-4 ATS in five
December games a season ago; the lone pointspread cover coming by a single
point in their meaningless season finale defeat. Philly went 1-4 SU at the tail end of the
Andy Reid era, and got blown out in each of their final three games, losing by
a combined nine TD’s in those contests.
Arizona, Buffalo, the New York Jets, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Kansas
City – all teams that were considered ‘bottom feeders’ at this time last year –
each finished with a losing SU and ATS mark in their five December ballgames.
On the other end of the spectrum was a team like the
Redskins, who closed out December with a 5-0 SU and ATS mark after entering the
month with a 5-6 record. Minnesota won
and covered each of their last four, turning a mediocre season into a playoff
campaign. Carolina went from 3-9 to 7-9
over the last four weeks, covering every spread in the process. St Louis won only three of their first ten
games, but they too, were winners SU and ATS in December.
Not every ‘dead’ team is really dead, and there’s money to
be made if we can identify those ‘live’ bottom feeders before the betting
markets do! That’s my goal for this
week’s article. I’ll break down each of
the nine teams currently at 4-8 or worse to see which squads are still fighting
tooth and nail every week and which have already packed it in for the season.
I’ve broken those nine teams down into three basic
categories: ‘Live for December’ ‘Worth
Watching’ and ‘Dead Team Walking’. This
breakdown isn’t based on stats or long term profiles, just my own opinions
about late season effort, talent and market valuation.
‘Live For December’:
Buffalo Bills: The Bills have a first year head coach in
Doug Marrone, so there’s no ‘lame duck’ coaching situation here. Like the Redskins last year, Buffalo has a
rookie QB who’s gone through some injury issues; still improving by the
week. Their defense is still playing
hard, with a solid statistical profile.
And the Bills fast tempo on offense has the potential to give banged up
late season defenses all kinds of problems.
Another team with a first year head coach (Gus Bradley) who has clearly
imprinted his stamp on the team in recent weeks. The Jags were unquestionably the worst team
in the NFL over the first half of the season, leaving residual value to support
them now that their play has dramatically improved. With three SU wins as a TD+ underdog in their
last four games, the Jags are already making money for those with the courage
to back ‘em.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
The Bucs were enormous underachievers over the first two months of the
campaign, dropping eight straight to begin the season. Four of those eight losses were fourth quarter
meltdowns, turning winnable games into defeats.
But like Jacksonville, we’ve already seen the turnaround. While the
national media rips Greg Schiano on a weekly basis, it’s clear that the team
hasn’t quit on their coach.
Houston Texans: Despite
suffering through a truly dismal season, the Texans have as much or more talent
on their roster than any other team on this list. But their defense has been getting gashed;
their quarterback play subpar, and ten straight losses since their 2-0 start
has left this squad shell-shocked. Houston played hard upon Gary Kubiak’s
return to the sidelines against the Patriots this past Sunday. Similar effort should be enough to get them
some December wins, but veteran squads with high preseason expectations aren’t
known for max effort showings on a weekly basis.
Both Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel have been serviceable at the QB position,
and the Vikings have gone 4-1 ATS in their last five ballgames. They’ve fought tooth-and-nail against divisional
foes in each of the last two weeks, showing max effort for Leslie Frazier. All four teams remaining on their schedule
are fighting for playoff spots – if the Vikings continue to battle on a weekly
basis, there will be legitimate overlays to support them because their
opponents will be in those dreaded ‘must win’ spots.
Both Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin have been serviceable at the QB
position. The Raiders defense isn’t
good, but they’re certainly not atrocious, capable of getting stops. Each of the Raiders last three losses have
been competitive contests, decided by a TD or less. And frankly, Oakland has been a moneymaker
for their backers from Day 1 this season, suffering only four pointspread
losses in their first dozen games.
‘Dead Team Walking’:
Rob Chudzinski’s revolving door at quarterback isn’t likely to end in December,
with Brandon Weeden facing yet another benching. The lone healthy replacement
behind him is second year pro Alex Tanney out of Monmouth College who has never
taken a snap in a regular season game.
And the once dominant Browns defense has fallen apart in recent weeks,
allowing 100 points in their last three games; 27+ five times in their last seven. Following back-to-back demoralizing
divisional losses, this team has fallen and they can’t get up.
Yes, the Falcons finally snapped their losing streak with an improbable OT win
in Toronto against the Bills on Sunday.
Atlanta was lucky to be playing indoors at the Rogers Centre. And they were even luckier that the Bills
fumbled away the win in regulation and their first possession of overtime,
turning a Bills ‘W’ into a Falcons ‘W’. But for a veteran team with preseason championship
aspirations, playing for ‘pride’ in December isn’t an appropriate motivator
Washington’s locker room is toxic these days, with veteran resentment showing
towards their coach, both coordinators and their underachieving quarterback. RG3 is a shell of the QB he was last year at
this time when the Redskins were rallying.
Each of their eight losses since opening the season by getting blasted
by Philly on Monday Night Football has come by a TD or more, and their defense
is downright awful on a weekly basis. That’s
a trend I expect to continue moving forward; a season with no hope of
Posted Monday, November 18, 2013 03:20 AM
Last week, I took a break from the typical ‘team notes’
column that I’ve been writing here in the Vegas Wiseguy Report since the start
of the NFL season, focusing on NFC Playoff Contenders. I’ll finish that thought process this week,
turning my focus towards the AFC.
I had a spirited debate with a fairly well known
professional bettor on Sunday Night after the games were finished. We were both
having the same problem; trying to figure out somebody – anybody – in the AFC
worthy of support down the stretch as a Super Bowl contender. Frankly, there
aren’t a whole lot of choices, and our debate primarily consisted of finding
fatal flaws in whatever team the other guy brought up.
My power rating numbers have seven of the top ten teams in
the NFL residing in the NFC (Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Carolina,
Arizona, Dallas and Detroit). An eighth
team could join that group after Aaron Rodgers gets healthy for Green Bay. And all three of those supposedly ‘elite’
level AFC teams have problems, which is
why I included a fourth ‘contender’ in my discussion below.
Six AFC teams sit at 5-6 right now, tied for the final Wild
Card spot. I took the liberty of
including all six of those teams in this overview, despite the fact that none
of them is going anywhere in January.
Even though three more AFC teams are 4-7, just a game back, I don’t
expect a late season rally from Cleveland, Oakland or Buffalo. And frankly, if any of that trio makes the
postseason, it speaks volumes about the six teams currently above them in the
Serious Super Bowl
The Broncos offense is as good as any in the NFL, especially
with Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball giving the offense some much needed
balance. That being said, they’ve been shut
down after halftime in each of the last three weeks: 13 punts, three turnovers,
three touchdowns and one field goal on their 20 second half drives. Their coaching situation is in flux, with Jack
Del Rio not commanding the same respect that John Fox did in the locker room.
And the Broncos defense has been spotty at best,
particularly on the highway in games at Dallas, Indy and New England – good passing
teams. Nor should we forget that with
their OT loss against the Patriots on Sunday Night, Peyton Manning’s career
record in games where the temperature falls below freezing dropped to 2-9 SU, including
a playoff loss at home last year. They’ll be playing outdoors in January…..
Yes, Tom Brady showed us once again on Sunday Night how
clutch he can be, rallying the Patriots from a 24 point deficit to pull out the
win against Denver. It was vintage
Brady, like we saw in Foxboro earlier in the year in their last second comeback
win over New Orleans. But before we get too carried away with the Pats, there are
all kinds of flaws with this football team that can’t all be overcome with
coaching and quarterback play.
Let’s start with the defense that got gashed for 280 rushing
yards against the Broncos; a stop unit that’s missing their core up the middle,
with defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, along with LB Jerod Mayo
all languishing on injured reserve. New England’s
receiving corps is still very much a subpar unit, and it’s paper thin – a key WR
or TE injury would decimate this team. And that Patriots January mystique is long
gone; a team on a 2-8 ATS run in the postseason since the 2007 playoffs, including
five SU losses as favorites during that span.
Despite losing a boatload of talent on the defensive side of
the football due to season ending injuries, the Bengals still have a Super Bowl
caliber stop unit; as the Patriots found out earlier in the year – Mike Zimmer
can coach up a defense! Cinci has gotten
solid offensive line play. Their offense
is loaded with big play weapons; quick strike TD guys that can demoralize
opposing defenses. But Marvin Lewis’ next playoff win will be the first in his eleven
years on the job. And Andy Dalton simply hasn’t developed into a consistent
downfield thrower; not a trustworthy QB in the slightest. Then again if Joe Flacco can get hot in
January last year, who’s to say Dalton can’t get hot in January this year?
I know the Colts are flawed. I know they’ve been outscored
93-12 in the first half of their last four ballgames, and been blown off the
field by the likes of St Louis and Arizona in the last three weeks. I know the trade for Trent Richardson could
go down as one of the worst trades in modern NFL history. And I know that Indy’s
defense is spotty on a good day. But Andrew Luck is that good, and if the Colts
can beat Seattle, San Francisco and Denver in the regular season, they’re
capable of winning some playoff games too.
Not So Serious
Andy Reid was an upgrade over Romeo Crennel. Alex Smith was an upgrade over Matt
Cassel. But given the track records of
those two guys, do you really think KC is going to make noise in January? Their offense doesn’t work for extended
stretches of ballgames. This once elite
stop unit is now injury riddled and they’ve allowed 400+ yards in each of their
last three ballgames. KC’s is 9-2 due to
a remarkably weak schedule, and I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if they
have a losing record from here on out.
Teams that start the season 0-4 don’t make the Super
Bowl. Sure, they’ve bounced back from the
dead with five wins in their last seven games, and the offense has found some
balance now that LeVeon Bell has gotten decent blocking in front of him. But make no mistake about it- person LeBeau’s
defense is no longer capable of shutting down a potent passing game, as we’ve
seen on multiple occasions this season. If you’re going to win in January, you’ve
got to be able to get stops against quality QB’s. Pittsburgh can’t.
Philip Rivers has been an elite quarterback at various
stages of his career, and he’s certainly playing at a pro bowl level again this
year. But on a yards-per-play basis,
this San Diego defense ranks dead last in the NFL; a stop unit capable of
making the KC offense look explosive. This is not a Super Bowl caliber defense,
plain and simple.
Since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for the injured Jake Locker
against the Jaguars, he’s thrown five TD’s without an interception, led a game
winning drive against Oakland, and has a QB rating of 110.7 – elite numbers.
But Chris Johnson has only a single hundred yard rushing game this season, held
under 40 yards on five separate occasions.
A week ago, head coach Mike Munchak was in danger of getting fired. Now
he’s supposed to lead this team to the Super Bowl because they rallied to beat
Oakland? I’m not buying it.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year because Joe Flacco
got hot at the right time; masking their numerous flaws. And while the Ravens
defense is playing at an elite level in recent weeks, this team just can’t move
the football, with poor offensive line play, a bottom tier receiving corps and
a major drop-off from Flacco. On a
yards-per-play basis, only the hapless Jaguars have a weaker offense this year.
The Rich Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying scandal ripped
apart this locker room and exposed the coaching staff as somewhat out of
touch. They’re 2-6 since a 3-0 start,
and were outyarded by more than 100 in both wins during that span. This isn’t a
playoff team, let alone a Super Bowl contender.
New York Jets
I’ll give Rex Ryan credit, because the Jets were lined at 6
or 6.5 wins prior to the season; the lowest win total for any team in this
group. Ryan turned what looked like a complete disaster of a season back in
August into a mediocre campaign, thanks to a strong defense and some power rushing
football. But Geno Smith’s QB rating
through his first eleven career starts is worse than Marc Sanchez’s was during
his first eleven games. Geno isn’t
leading any team to the playoffs at this stage of his career, let alone the
Posted Monday, November 11, 2013 01:40 AM
It’s late November. Thanksgiving
is next week. And that means it’s time
for me to take a break from my typical ‘team notes’ column that I’ve been
writing here in the Vegas Wiseguy Report since the start of the NFL season.
It’s time to focus on the big boys – teams with playoff
aspirations. Who can get hot down the stretch
and make us some money winning games and covering pointspreads? Which squads are legitimate Super Bowl
contenders; which are pretenders. Let’s
take look through the NFC this week, gauging which squads have ATS value moving
forward, and which squads have already reached their zenith, poised to tumble back
to earth down the stretch.
I did not include notes on Carolina (they don’t play till Monday
Night) and Dallas (on bye this week) due to space limitations. That leaves Philadelphia, the New York
Giants, Detroit, Chicago, Green Bay, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and
Arizona to consider; all of whom remain ‘live’ for the postseason as Week 12
Serious Super Bowl
I don’t think anyone is going to beat the Seahawks at Qwest
Field, where Seattle has won 13 straight here in the regular season (10-3 ATS). I like the character of this squad – loose but
grounded, Pete Carroll’s winning formula from his days at USC. Russell Wilson is a born leader who’s won
wherever he’s been, dating back to his days at NC State and Wisconsin in
college. And now that Wilson has Percy
Harvin to throw too…well, let me use quotes to tell the story of his two
touches (one reception, one kick return) against the Vikings on Sunday.
WR Doug Baldwin: “The glimpse of us having the firepower all
over the field, that's what we've been waiting on this whole season.” Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald: “It was like magic watching that. That's the fastest
guy I've ever seen on a football field." Safety Earl Thomas: “Man, that
kickoff looked like everybody else was in slow motion except Percy.” Russell Wilson: “The thing about Percy is he
draws attention (double teams, opening things up for the supporting cast). He's so fast. He can do it all. He just
elevates our offense.”
The Saints three point win over San Francisco on Sunday was
every bit as impressive as their 32 point blowout over Dallas the previous week. Against Dallas, we saw the Saints at their
best; an offense that can’t be stopped against second tier defenses. But the 49ers win proved that New Orleans
could win a muck-it-up, grind-it-out kind of win that’s not generally their style. And they did it despite three turnovers that
were all extremely costly – two set up the 49ers for scores, and one was a
fumble through the end zone costing New Orleans a sure touchdown.
These quotes tell the story of a very confident team at 8-2.
Brees: “This game means more, the way that we won it. These are the ones that
just sharpen you, just build confidence." Fullback Jed Collins: “The
defense has been playing unbelievable. Each week we gain more and more respect
for them. They just keep proving they're not only here to benefit the offense,
but they're here to win games.” Running
back Pierre Thomas: “We're just on a great level right now. We have a great
attitude. And we're seeing what type of team we can be. And as long as we keep
fighting and keep doing what we're doing in practice, we're gonna be a tough
Anquan Boldin has two touchdown catches this year. Vernon Davis has seven. No other receiver on the team has a single TD
or more than 200 receiving yards. Davis
and Boldin have combined for 19 receptions of longer than 20 yards. The rest of the team has five. Right now Colin Kaepernick and the Niners
passing game is a shell of what it was last year when this team went to the Super
But help is on the way for San Francisco in the form of
Michael Crabtree; potentially an impact player on this offense. And there’s no question that this stop unit
remains a Super Bowl caliber unit now that Alden Smith is back on the field –
heck, they just contained Drew Brees in the Superdome, no easy task.
And I like Jim Harbaugh’s mentality following rare
back-to-back losses for San Fran. “The greater the challenge, the greater the glory. That's the way I look at it. I'm proud of our
guys for the way they fight, and if we continue to do that, we're going to win
a lot of games."
Last year, the Niners had to
win one road game to reach the Super Bowl.
This year, they’ll need to win three, because the loss to New Orleans
essentially ended their chance to win the division
Right now, I have the Packers power rated in the range of
Houston, Atlanta, St Louis and Buffalo; a full ten points lower than it was a
month ago. But that’s going to change in
a hurry once Aaron Rodgers returns to the lineup, probably in the next week or
two. One of Rodgers favorite downfield
targets, Randall Cobb should be back shortly as well.
Linebacker AJ Hawk, following
Sunday’s loss to the Giants: “Obviously this wasn’t what we had planned, this
wasn’t what we had envisioned. But I think Coach always says everything’s out
in front of us for us to take. To know we have a chance to get to where we want
is something positive to take from it. We need to get back on track. Three-game
losing streaks are not the norm around here, that’s for sure.”
It’s surely worth noting that last year’s Super Bowl champion
Ravens lost three straight in December before getting hot in the playoffs. And it’s also worth noting that when Aaron
Rodgers guided this team to the Super Bowl only three years ago, the Packers
won three straight on the road in the postseason. If Green Bay can end their slide and reach
the playoffs; they’re live to do some damage once they get there.
Not So Serious
If RG3 hadn’t thrown a miserable red zone interception off
his back foot in the closing seconds at Philly on Sunday, the Eagles ten game
home losing streak might well have become an eleven game home losing
streak. Now they’ve won three straight
and taken over first place in the NFC East. But their non-division wins this
year have come against Oakland, Green Bay with Tolzien at QB and Tampa. Chip
Kelly’s offense reels off plenty of big plays, but they don’t grind clock well
and have struggled in the red zone all year, ranked #28 in the NFL. This defense has improved dramatically since
their 1-3 start, but it’s just not a Super Bowl caliber stop unit.
The Lions are allowing six yards per play on defense. Other teams in that range include
Jacksonville, Atlanta and Washington.
Their defensive hinges on their line, but that supposedly elite unit has
notched only 16 sacks all season.
Detroit has struggled to run the football and they still don’t have a ‘step-up’
receiver on the other side from Calvin Johnson. The Lions last playoff win came back in 1991;
and that’s their only postseason victory since 1957. I’m not willing to call for multiple playoff
wins this year.
Jay Cutler has a grand total of one playoff win in his
career, and he can’t stay healthy. Key
defenders Charles Tillman, DJ Williams, Henry Melton, Kelvin Hayden and Nate
Collins are all on injured reserve, out for the year. Ray Rice just reached nearly half his season’s
total yardage on the ground in one game against this Bears stop unit. And they’ve only got two more games at
Soldier Field, both tough ones: Dallas and Green Bay. I like the direction of this franchise under
Marc Trestman, but the Bears aren’t serious Super Bowl contenders, and they’ll
be hard pressed to make the playoffs at all.
I’m a huge Bruce Arians fan, and the Cardinals 6-4 record
includes signature wins over the Lions and Panthers. But Arizona’s other four
wins came against teams with a combined 7-33 SU record (the Bucs, Falcons,
Texans and Jaguars). They’ve been blown out by double digits in ‘step-up-in-class’
games against the 49ers, Seahawks and Saints.
Carson Palmer has thrown at least one interception in every game except
this past week against hapless Jacksonville. And with the Colts, Eagles,
Seahawks and 49ers still remaining on their slate, it’ll be a very tough
stretch run for a decent, but not exceptional squad.
New York Giants:
I know Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin have two Super Bowl
rings; a coach and a quarterback with an impressive postseason track record.
But even after four straight wins following their 0-6 start, the Giants remain
a fundamentally flawed team. And when we
look at the four QB’s they’ve just beaten -- Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle
Pryor and Scott Tolzien -- it tells us nothing about this suspect stop unit’s
ability to contain the likes of Tony Romo, RG3, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson
and Matthew Stafford over their final six games. Center Jim Cordle summed it up best: “We've
kept the dream alive and got to the game next week. But there is still a long way to go.” A long, long way in my opinion.
Posted Monday, November 04, 2013 03:59 AM
Welcome to Teddy’s
unique look at the NFL. Teddy watches
games all day on Sunday, typing furiously on his laptop while giving you the
key info that the box scores and game recaps don’t necessarily have. This week: AFC thoughts and opinions from
Five key starters are missing from this defense. Geno Atkins, Robert Geathers, Taylor Mays and
Leon Hall are all on injured reserve.
Rey Maualuga was out today, as was fellow LB Michael Boley. That's one heck of a lot of talent to be
missing! So for this stop unit to shut
down the Ravens for the better part of the last three quarters speaks volumes
about their depth and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s schemes.
All the questions about Andy Dalton's ability to guide this
team to postseason success continue to linger.
Dalton won the AFC Offensive Player of the Month award in October, but
here in November he could win the 'biggest downgrade of any QB this month'
award. Dalton was awful last Thursday
against the Dolphins and he was even worse today.
Dalton held the ball too long, taking sacks instead of
making quick decisions. His accuracy was
way off all afternoon, completing less than half his passes. And he threw three interceptions for the second
week in a row. On a day where Cincinnati
was able to run the football effectively, some of Dalton’s struggles may have
been gusty wind related, but it was the type of performance that could get a QB
If the Bengals are the favorites to win the AFC North (which
they are, leading by a game and a half), I want some money on longshot
Cleveland to win the division.
Every team gets a mulligan or two throughout the course of a
16 game season. After facing Seattle,
San Diego on Monday Night Football, Denver with Peyton Manning's return to
Indy, a huge Sunday Night TV game against division rival Houston with another
divisional game on tap for Thursday Night, yes, this was a real flat spot for
the Colts. And it showed, from the opening possession, by far Indy’s worst game
of the year.
Indy's defense is not loaded with playmakers, but they've
still got one real difference maker after all these years -- DE Robert Mathis,
who blew up the Rams first drive with yet another tackle-for-loss and had a
pair of sacks. Mathis certainly isn't
living on past reputation; every bit as effective now as he was five years
ago. Unfortunately for the Colts, he’s
probably the only impact player on this defense.
The Colts spent a fortune in draft picks to acquire Trent
Richardson from the Browns. Richardson
is no better in Indy than he was in Cleveland -- no explosiveness, few broken
tackles and a miserable yards-per-carry average. They completely gave up on the run by midway
through the second quarter, and Andrew Luck finished the game with 17 of Indy’s
18 rushing yards. The injury loss of
Reggie Wayne as Luck’s favorite weapon probably was a factor as well – there’s
no need for double coverage against any healthy receiver on the roster.
Complete disaster on special teams here. The Colts allowed a punt return touchdown, and
their own return game was nothing short of awful. Three of their first six drives started
inside their own ten yard line after poor decisions to run deep kickoffs out of
the end zone.
We've seen modest improvements from the Jags offense since
the beginning of the season; but their defense has been horrific since Week
1. Today, we saw legitimate defensive
improvements; a winless team playing their ‘Super Bowl’ – a post bye week game
against a divisional foe. Just having an
early lead seemed to improve their energy level; and a halftime lead is
something they haven’t come close to having all year before today.
Still, make no mistake about it – the Jags rank #32 out of
32 NFL teams. Their offensive line play
is nothing short of awful. Maurice
Jones-Drew didn’t see much daylight, consistently hit at or behind the line of
scrimmage. Chad Henne connected on a
handful of downfield throws, but watching him trying to protect a lead was
downright ugly. His fourth quarter interception
was truly awful, a ‘bench me immediately’ kind of throw. The Jags had five fourth quarter drives with
a lead, but managed to run more than 1:30 off the clock on only one of them.
But the Jaguars defense made some plays today, something
this playmaker-deficient unit has struggled to do all year. It’s a lot easier to win games when your
defense forces four turnovers.
I don’t often include post-game quotes in this column, but I
thought this one was too good to leave out.
Offensive guard Uche Nwaneri: “Getting this win today, it did feel like a
breath of fresh air. It was kind of like [giving the] middle finger to all the
people who want talk about the Jaguars not winning the game or being the worst
0-8 team in history. It’s kind of,
‘Eat this.’ That’s kind of how it feels."
This offense won the Super Bowl because they took lots of
'big play' shots down the field throughout the playoffs last year. This year, they consistently haven't been
able to connect on deep balls. Joe
Flacco was firing away downfield in last week's loss at Cleveland, but he was
under duress throughout, taking big hit after big hit.
This week, the Ravens first TD was set up on a deep throw
that got a pass interference penalty.
Still, Flacco was under pressure and he underthrew the pass, which would
have been an easy TD if he could hit his receiver in stride. He's just not the same QB right now,
struggling with his accuracy badly, unable to complete a single loss pass all
afternoon; 0-fer the game on attempts longer than 15 yards.
To make matters even worse for this offense, there’s still
no running game whatsoever. Ray Rice is
a complete non-factor these days; so is Bernard Pierce. Poor offensive line play is haunting this team. Despite another solid defensive showing, this
is simply not a playoff caliber offense these days.
Talk about flat! Chris
Johnson fumbled away the football deep in Tennessee territory on the Titans
first play from scrimmage. From there,
the offense went ‘three-and-out’ on their next three drives, followed by an
interception, another ‘three-and-out’ and a fumble. That’s a team not ready to play!
Chris Johnson was the difference between winning and losing
at St Louis last week; his best game of the year. This week, after that initial fumble, Johnson
dropped an easy dump off pass that would have been a first down and didn’t have
a single rush longer than six yards. The
offensive line in front of him did NOT have a good game, and that’s putting it
Jake Locker couldn't stay healthy in college at Washington,
and he hasn't been able to stay healthy as an NFL starter either. Initial reports called his injury today
another season ender. Ryan Fitzpatrick
was solid off the bench; one of the better NFL backups. But Fitz throwing in the red zone is a
mistake waiting to happen; hence the Rob Bironas field goals.
The Titans management brought in Bernard Pollard in to
toughen up their defense in the offseason. Here, Pollard had two key penalties on the
Jags lone touchdown drive in the second half, both major mistakes. The secondary as a group didn’t tackle well
either, but that hasn’t been a consistent problem for this team.
The Titans are starting to get some production out of young
WR's like rookie Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright. For Mike Munchak’s squad to remain in playoff
contention, they're going to need big plays out of that WR duo and fewer
mistakes from Fitzpatrick in the red zone.
Welcome to Teddy’s
unique look at the NFL. Teddy watches
games all day on Sunday, typing furiously on his laptop while giving you the
key info that the box scores and game recaps don’t necessarily have. This week: NFC thoughts and opinions from
Dallas had faced four top notch QB's this year heading into
the game: Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford. All four threw for more than 400 yards against
Monte Kiffin's defense. Here, Christian
Ponder had consistent success throwing downfield. This defense just can't stop the pass,
especially with DeMarcus Ware out again, negating any semblance of a pass rush. And there were no shortage of defensive
breakdowns either – missed tackles, missed assignments and blown coverages.
Not impressed with the offensive line play today one
iota. The Vikings got pressure on Tony
Romo all afternoon. They signed former
pro bowl guard Brian Waters out of retirement a few weeks ago as a desperation
move, but he couldn’t stay healthy; already on IR. Back-to-back sacks killed a red zone chance
here, forcing Dan Bailey's legs to get points, not Romo's arm.
The Cowboys completely gave up on the run, giving DeMarco
Murray only four carries; with only eight rushing attempts on their 63 snaps. Dez Bryant had another on-field meltdown on a
day where he had multiple drops.
Terrence Williams poor route running was the key factor in a fourth
quarter interception from Romo. Yes, the
Cowboys currently have a tenuous hold on first place in the NFC East, but they’ve
yet to beat an opponent with a winning record and their schedule toughens
considerably down the stretch.
The Rams in this game made me want to quote Charles Dickens.
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” There were so many positives for Jeff Fisher’s
squad here. The Rams ran the football
effectively all afternoon for the second straight week against a solid stop
unit, with Zac Stacy bulling his way to another 100+ yard game on the ground. The much maligned offensive line blew open
holes for Stacy, and gave Kellen Clemens solid protection.
Clemens was accurate and played mostly mistake free
football; all you can ask from a backup QB.
They scored touchdowns, not settling for field goals. Their pass rush
was tremendous, forcing Jake Locker into numerous poor throws while notching
four sacks. And coming off a
disheartening loss on Monday Night, the Rams bounced back positively from
adversity on several occasions, immediately responding to Tennessee touchdowns
with TD drives of their own.
But for all the positives, there were nearly as many
negatives. For as good as the Rams were
against the pass, they were awful against the run, allowing Chris Johnson to
match his season total of six 10+ yard rushes in one game. They didn’t get a red zone stop all
afternoon: four tries on defense, four touchdowns. Kicker Greg Zuerlein missed his first attempt
from inside 50 yards all year; something that’s not supposed to happen in the
Clemens lone big mistake came at the absolute worst time,
fumbling the ball away deep in Rams territory with less than three minutes left
in the game. And, for the second straight
week, with a chance to score a late TD, the Rams crapped out after a promising
drive got them in position to score.
With the Colts, Bears, 49ers, Seahawks and Saints still ahead on their
schedule, if the Rams can’t win on a day where they had so many positives,
imagine what could happen on a day when they don’t play as well as they did
Has any team in the NFL had worse special teams than the
Redskins this year? First year special
teams coach Keith Burns has seen everything go wrong, with his units allowing
punt return touchdowns, kickoff return touchdowns, getting called for penalties
every week – the works. Today, they
allowed a pair of field goal blocks from a team that hadn’t blocked a field
goal in eleven years; another shoddy showing.
RG3 didn’t throw a touchdown or run for a touchdown, but it
was his best game of the year; including that Bears game three weeks ago where
he put up gaudy stats despite a bevy of mistakes. Griffin was accurate with his
downfield throws. He was savvy when
scrambling out of the pocket. He was
gutsy, making huge plays on Washington’s game winning drive in overtime. He was at his best on third down – Washington converted
a dozen third down tries on the afternoon.
And he produced touchdowns on each of his last four red zone tries. It certainly helped that Alfred Morris looked
great running the football today, his best game of the year too!
Washington’s defense has talent, but they’ve been getting
gashed all year. They didn’t force a ‘three-and-out’ all afternoon. With the game on the line in the fourth
quarter, they couldn’t get a stop. The
mainstream media will be sure to highlight the ‘Skins goal line stand to save
the game in the final seconds, but frankly, that was more about poor play
calling and poor execution from the Chargers than it was about anything
Washington’s defense did right.
This offense is clearly built for domes, not for outdoor
venues. They were completely out of sync
offensively early, using all three timeouts and getting a pair of delay of game
penalties in the first quarter alone.
And this high octane ‘can’t stop ‘em’ offense was held to just two field
goals and one third down conversion after halftime, reminiscent of their road
showing at Tampa Bay (only one offensive touchdown) and Chicago (also only two
field goals in the second half).
Jimmy Graham is pretty much an unstoppable receiving threat,
with a Calvin Johnson type performance again here – get the ball near him and
he’ll find a way to catch it. But he’s
the only elite receiver on the team with Marques Colston unable to suit up and
Darren Sproles knocked out of the game early with a concussion.
came into the game with the worst yards per carry differential in the NFL; -1.4
yards per rush between what they gain and what they allow. Today it was even worse, with Pierre Thomas
and Mark Ingram combining for on 43 yards between them, while the Jets had three
25+ yard gainers on the ground as part of a 198 yard rushing afternoon. After their hot start in September, Rob Ryan’s
defense seems to be getting worse by the week.
The biggest difference between last year's playoff squad and
this year's 1-7 bottom feeder has nothing to do with the Vikings offense. Yes, their quarterback play has generally been
lousy, but guess what -- Christian Ponder didn't exactly light up opposing
defenses in 2012. And yes, Adrian
Peterson hasn't come close to matching last year's record setting season, but
it's not like AP has morphed into a second tier back in 2013. Both Ponder and Peterson enjoyed great games
Minnesota had a quality stop unit last year, holding foes
under 20 points per game. This year,
their D has allowed more than 30 points and 400 yards per game. Quite simply, they can't stop anybody. And that was on full display against Dallas. The Vikings struggled to get off the field on
third downs. And with the game on the
line in the fourth quarter, they dropped into a ridiculous three pass rusher ‘prevent’
type defense, allowing Tony Romo to pick them apart; a disheartening loss for a