Over the last few weeks, I’ve been watching the contenders
from both conferences closely. This
week, I turned my focus towards the bottom feeders; teams that some folks have
been calling ‘dead’ in recent weeks.
With six games remaining on the slate for every NFL team,
there’s still plenty of time to make money fading the teams that have quit on
their coach and their season. And there’s
most definitely an opportunity to make money with last place teams IF they play
with passion and precision down the stretch.
Here’s my take on four teams that entered Sunday’s games in
last place in their respective divisions.
We're eleven weeks into the season, and this sorry Chiefs
offense hasn't improved one iota.
There's talent to work with -- Jamal Charles and Peyton Hillis make a decent
'thunder and lightning' duo running the football. Dwayne Bowe, Tony Moeaki, Dexter McCluster
and Steve Breaston have all enjoyed past success as playmaking pass catchers,
although Bowe got hurt early and wasn’t a factor here.
But the same two issues that have plagued KC all year
haven't gone away -- turnovers and red zone offense. Hillis’ first half fumble here negated a
scoring opportunity. And KC was settling
for field goals -- just like they have all year - instead of finding a way to
punch the football into the end zone.
This defense is really wearing down. When plodding RB Ben Jarvis Green Ellis is
ripping off big gainers all afternoon, it's a statement of effort and one of
horrible tackling. Flat, lifeless and
lethargic -- this team isn't likely to give good effort two weeks in a row, and
they gave good effort last week.
Arrowhead Stadium is bringing out the worst in the Chiefs!
Only one of their five opening day OL starters started in
the same spot today. And that one, left
tackle Brandon Albert, left the game with a bad back. His status is uncertain moving forward. The Chiefs have had three different starting centers,
while rookie Donald Stephenson got his first start at guard here. Both Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn struggled
once again, but weak offensive line play was certainly a contributing factor.
This offensive line is a bottom tier unit right now; unable
to protect their rookie QB and unable to blow open holes for LeSean McCoy to
run through. OL depth was a problem
coming into the season, and the steady stream of injuries has left this unit
substantially depleted. Rookie Dennis
Kelly (Purdue) started at tackle here, flagged for a key holding penalty as the
Eagles were approaching the red zone. On
the very next play, just signed Jake Scott (this week, off the waiver wire) had
a false start. Instead of scoring, Nick
Foles threw a desperation INT on third and 21.
While the game was still competitive, offensive coordinator
Marty Mornhinweg made a concerted effort to protect his quarterback with a
steady diet of running plays. It didn’t
help very much – Foles was pretty green in his starting debut. He had problems with tipped balls at the line
of scrimmage, including a tipped pass that resulted in an INT, leading to a
Redskins score. And Foles struggled to
get his playmaking wide receivers involved – DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin
were complete non-factors in this offense today.
Bobby April is a two time ‘Special Teams Coach of the Year’,
and he coached up one of the best special teams groups in the NFL during his
tenure at Buffalo. So why do the Eagles special teams return units and coverage
units stink? The players aren't buying
This secondary continues to get confused repeatedly in their
coverage schemes, this time allowing a 49 yard bomb to a receiver who was open
by about 20 yards; another Nnamdi Asomugha blown coverage. So much for the thought process that it was
former coordinator Juan Castillo causing the problem. It might be a very long final six weeks of
the season for Philly….
Blaine Gabbert took a whole bunch of big hits -- no wonder
he's banged up, giving way to Chad Henne before the first quarter was through here. It reminded me of the first meeting between
these two teams, when the Jaguars gained only 117 total yards and held the ball
for less than 17 minutes; a complete annihilation. But Henne was an instant
spark, leading the team down the field into the end zone. Then Henne did it
again on the next drive; a simple catch and run quick strike TD.
There’s absolutely no comparison between how this passing
game worked with Henne and didn't work (hasn't worked) with Gabbert. Gabbert has one 300+ yard passing day in his
two year career, and he needed 49 attempts to get there. Henne threw for 350+ here while averaging
more than ten yards per throw. It wasn’t
all big shots fired downfield –there’s lots of ‘catch and run’ in those yardage
totals. But the fact remains – this was the first time
in the last two seasons that the Jags legitimately looked explosive on offense,
in large part, thanks to rookie WR Justin Blackmun’s first breakout game. Of
course it helped that the Texans’ defense was as flat as a pancake here.
Typical Jags though – they scored a season high, but their
defense also gave up a season high, unable to protect a two TD lead with less
than six minutes remaining. When you don’t
force a single punt after the first quarter, and/or you allow a whopping 39
first downs and 640 total yards of offense, you’re not going to win many NFL
games. Can the Jags show similar effort
moving forward, even after their crushing third OT loss on the road this year?
The Jets enjoyed a mid-game morph here, their first positive
performance in weeks and an indicator that IF New York can play up to their
potential, they can still be a factor in the AFC Playoff race. That being said, this offense is still
broken, with only two plays longer than 20 yards for the entire game.
Joe McKnight is healthy again (sat last week) and remains a
dangerous kick returner – some of the best offense the Jets have right
now. He made a great over the shoulder
catch out of the backfield to set up the Jets first scoring chance. But this passing game still has major issues. Mark Sanchez is not at his best under pressure
and he’s facing a steady stream of blitzes as a result. And this WR corps
remains extremely limited – when CB Antonio Cromartie is lined up as a wide
receiver, it speaks about the Jets lack of receiving playmakers.
But Sanchez had a great touch on his longer throws today,
far better with his downfield throws for big gainers than he was with his dink
and dunks. When he finds a rhythm, he's
a decent QB - the problem is that there seem to be periods on a weekly basis
where he's not in rhythm and looking ugly.
And the Jets pass rush was there all afternoon - the defensive line was
their best unit today, repeatedly blowing up the line of scrimmage.
The Jets had a failed fake punt, and a blocked field goal
too -- lots of miscues, and a lack of attention to detail. After their special teams debacle against
Miami a few weeks back, I'd expect the kick blocking schemes to have been
fixed, but clearly they weren’t.