Last week, I wrote about the three strongest prevailing angles
for the 2012 NFL season. Let me update the
numbers from a week ago.
NFC Underdogs – any underdog in any game – have gone 37-12-2
this season. But that angle has now
suffered back-to-back losing weeks, looking like it’s come and gone as the
market has adjusted to reflect the NFC’s dominance -- just 3-5 ATS in Week 8
after a 2-3-1 ATS mark in Week 7.
Teams heading into the bye week are now 1-14 ATS,
discounting the games where one pre-bye team faced off against another. The Jets were the only team to fall into this
category on Sunday, with the 49ers pending on Monday Night. This trend is still very live; 0-3 ATS over
the past two weeks.
And teams coming out of the bye are on a 9-5 ATS streak;
again discounting the games where one post-bye team faced another. But that
trend seems to e flatlining: 2-2 ATS in Week 7 followed by another 2-2
performance in Week 8.
What’s really going on with these pre-bye or post-bye squads? For the second straight week, I focused my
attention on five teams in one of these two roles.
I like coaches who take some chances to get their team some positive
mojo (the anti-Ron Rivera). Here, Dolphins
head coach Joe Philbin pulled the trigger on a surprise onside kick following
their opening field goal drive. Miami
recovered, but they couldn't move the ball. Still, it was a strong momentum
boost for the road team. And that was
only the start of a complete special teams mismatch that overshadowed every
other aspect of the game. This was not
the type of game where yardage numbers from the box score are going to be
meaningful in any way.
Philbin and special teams coach Darren Rizzi coached up a masterful
special teams performance. When your team recovers an onside kick, blocks a
punt for a touchdown, blocks a field goal and has a 57 yard kick return in the same
game, you’ve clearly done something very right!
As I’ve written many times before, attention to details on special teams
equals good coaching, plain and simple.
However, before we anoint the Dolphins as serious contenders to
unseat the Patriots in the AFC East, there are definitely offensive concerns to
consider. Miami lacks big play
potential; not a well-oiled unit by any stretch of the imagination. With Matt Moore replacing the injured Ryan
Tannehill, Miami struggled to move the football with any consistency; a
potential issue moving forward.
Philly's defense looked much worse after firing defensive
coordinator Juan Castillo during the bye week and replacing him with Todd
Bowles. They were bullied at the line of
scrimmage, couldn't stop the run, couldn't get off the field on third down and
left receivers running wide open downfield; a truly miserable showing.
The worst part about it for the Eagles was their defensive superstars
were complete no-shows. Dominique
Rodgers Cromartie blew the coverage on the Falcons first touchdown, then got
called for pass interference and defensive holding on the same play to set up
the Falcons second TD. Remember, DRC was
the same guy who was vehemently defending Castillo in the media during the bye!
Nnamdi Asomugha got beat on Julio Jones long TD bomb. Either these
cornerbacks are wildly overrated or there are bad schemes here! And with no pass rush – Philly has a grand
total of two sacks since Week 3 – this situation may not turn around anytime
soon. Talent does not equal victories in
Michael Vick's rushing totals are the lowest in his career -- he's
primarily a pocket passer these days, and not a great one either. Homefield edge? You could have heard a pin drop in this
stadium well before halftime.
Maybe I’ve been selling this team a little short thusfar, because the
only victory the Falcons have against a team above .500 came in Week 2 against
the 4-3 Broncos. All six of their other wins
have come against opponents that are sub .500 squads as we reach Week 9 – the halfway
point of the season. And the Falcons came
in the game with an NFL worst -1.5 yards per carry (gaining 3.7, allowing 5.2;
#28 in the NFL in defending the run); a very rare case of an undefeated team
being outgained on a yards per play basis.
Here, the Falcons ran the ball effectively, and there's no
question that this passing game is explosive.
Most impressive, however were the offensive schemes that created
repeated mismatches, like star WR Roddy White cruising downfield guarded by a
This team has lots of different weapons on offense, and not just
the big boys. Their first two TD's were scored
by relative unknowns Drew Davis and Jason Snelling. Seven different receivers caught Matt Ryan's
first eleven passes (ten of them completed).
When any teams scores on every possession for the first three quarters
of an NFL game, clearly, they’re doing something very right!
This pass defense is getting the job done. A Calvin Pace sack killed a Dolphins drive, knocking
Miami’s QB out of the game, and the downfield coverage was excellent all
afternoon. But that’s about the only
positive from another dismal showing for the last place Jets; the third time they’ve
lost by three scores or more already this year.
They seemed like a team more worried about the weather and getting out
of town before the bye week than a team interested in winning the game;
basically a complete no-show.
New York’s run defense is not effective -- Miami ran well between
the tackles all afternoon. The offense
was largely non-existent against a ‘real’ defense – they weren’t facing off
against New England this week! This is
not an effective start to the first half: punt, blocked punt, fumble, punt,
punt, punt, with a grand total of two first downs and four 'three and outs'.
Didn't this team spend all training camp working on the wildcat
which was supposed to revolutionize this offense? We haven’t seen much creativity from Tony
Sparano’s offense all year, and Mark Sanchez had yet another rough game here. RB Shonn Greene busted through the line for
what should have been an easy TD run, but he got caught from behind; lacking
that extra burst of speed for a feature back.
If there’s one team in the NFL that you can expect to have full
focus before the bye week, it’s Belichick’s Patriots. And boy, this was a complete annihilation. Gronk was beating double coverage for touchdowns;
Brandon Lloyd was making sick receptions in the end zone -- I'd really hate to
be a defensive coordinator trying to design a plan to stop these guys. When Brady has time to throw, he's the best
QB in the world.
After some early season struggles, this OL is playing like an
elite unit right now, blowing open holes for the backs and giving Brady all day
to throw. And the Pats leaky secondary sure
played better once the team started blitzing effectively; their best defensive showing
since Week 1 at Tennessee. The Pats
looked like a Super Bowl team here!