by Eric Paolini
3 passing touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown, blocked punt for a touchdown, interception returned for a touchdown, and 3 field goals. That is how the Bears scored their 51 points. Most impressive in the 31 point win in Tennessee was wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Marshall caught 9 of the 10 passes thrown his way for 122 yards, but more importantly, 3 touchdowns. The Bears, and Marshall, are quietly one of the best teams in the league. Their biggest flaw is their offensive line play. The o-line didn't prove anybody wrong this weekend when J'Marcus Webb was penalized in the end zone causing a safety. Marshall is on pace to have his 6th consecutive 1,000 yard season and his 4th (not consecutive) season of 100 receptions. After two years of anonymity in Miami, and being reconnected with Jay Cutler, it appears Marshall is back among the league's best receivers.
It feels like every week I criticize Baltimore. With the Ravens winning each week unconvincingly it seems like it has become my personal mission to share the truth behind the Ravens. Besides their beat down in the season opener vs. the Bengals, the Ravens allow teams to hang around. After two 1st quarter touchdowns, the Ravens allowed five Browns field goals before getting a touchdown in the 4th to ensure the victory. The Ravens luckily played the Browns who are one of the worst offenses in the league. The Browns inability to score touchdowns while in the red zone allowed another Ravens win. Cleveland should have never been in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Good news Chiefs fans, your team still hasn't had a lead this season. If Kansas City isn't going to fire Romeo Crennel in the middle of the season they should at least make it clear he is not returning. Crennel has been a horrible head coach in Cleveland and Kansas City. I can't think of one possible justification for Crennel to return next season.
Is a monster. 25 carries for 251 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 receptions for 21 yards. The rookie running back's 251 yards only trails DeMarco Murray (253 yards) and Adrian Peterson (296 yards) for most rushing yards as a rookie. Plus, it's tied for 10th for the most yards rushed in a single game ever. And another plus, he did it mostly in the second half. All 4 touchdowns occurred in the second half. Adding to the Raiders embarrassment, Martin's first 3 touchdowns were for 45 yards, 67 yards, and 70 yards. Doug Martin is for real.
Because the Steelers won, the bad play calls near the end of the game won't really matter. But the Steelers were bailed out of two bad offensive play calls that could have cost them the win. A defensive penalty wiped out an ill-advised draw play on 3rd and 7. But the decision for the fake field goal attempt was worse. I am a proponent of keeping the football out of the kicker's hands at all costs. Turning your kicker into a ball carrier typically ends in disaster.
A rough day for Dez. A poorly run route that led to an interception, a fumble during a punt return, and the disappointment of his failed chance at redemption. The Cowboys horrible first quarter leading to a 23 point deficit and subsequent comeback that came up short because it's the Cowboys and this is what they do, is the biggest story of the weekend. The fact that the only part of Bryant's body out of bounds was a few fingers. It's just spectacular. For some reason it's fun to watch the Cowboys choke away wins. They are merciless on their fans. They find new ways to lose games and antagonize their fans.
Kansas City Chiefs
How can Jamaal Charles only get 5 carries?! He didn't do anything with those 5 carries (4 yards) but he is one of the league's best running backs. The truly crazy part was head coach Romeo Crennel's post game comments regarding Charles' lack of carries. Crennel's incredibly unsatisfying answer was "I'm not exactly sure." Crennel came up through the coaching ranks on the defensive side of the ball, but that is no excuse. You are the head coach and you are responsible for your team's game plan and execution. Why did you never tell your offensive coordinator to give your best offensive player the ball more? The truly crazy thing about the 2012 Chiefs is that this comment isn't the craziest thing about their season. In 7 games this season, the Chiefs have never held the lead. They won their only game in overtime. The game ended once they scored. This has to be a new level of incompetence.
Roddy White and Julio Jones
While watching football this weekend my cousin Andrew pointed out an unusual stat. This year the Atlanta Falcons stud receivers have significant differences in their home/road splits. Julio Jones' best games have taken place during road games and Roddy White's best games have taken place during home games. This season the Falcons have played four of their seven games on the road. Jones has 15 more receptions in road games, 285 more receiving yards, and all 5 of his touchdowns have been on the road. White has 4 more receptions at home despite the extra road game, 95 more receiving yards, and all 4 of his touchdowns have been during home games. White's splits are a little more even, consistent of his career home/road splits. However, Jones' splits aren't' really that flukey. In his rookie year, with one less home game than road, Jones' had 26 more receptions on the road, 529 receiving yards, and 2 more touchdowns. That trend continues with Jones in college. This doesn't mean much for White going forward, but for Jones? Maybe. It might be more interesting than something used for analysis. Although it has caused my cousin to think about benching Jones this week in fantasy.
The Buccaneers rookie running back was absolutely terrifying Thursday night as a Vikings fan. Minnesota has had good run defenses in recent years, but Martin was able to run at will. 135 yards on 29 carries plus 79 yards on 3 receptions getting into the endzone twice (1 rushing 1 receiving). After a solid performance in his career debut, Martin went quiet for a few weeks. Most notably only rushing for 33 yards vs the Redskins in week 4. But since then his carries, rushing yards, and receiving yards have all increased. Martin had a lot of buzz surrounding him in the pre-season which went away after a few mediocre games. But now his name is back on the radar, at least a little bit.
Robert Griffin III
RGIII submitted his worst performance in an otherwise stellar rookie season. His 47.1 completion percentage is the lowest of the season by far (61.8% was his previous low). RGIII only averaged 5.21 yards per attempt which is 3 yards lower than his average entering the week. The takeaway from this game/performance is not the struggles of RGIII. The takeaway is the success of the Steelers defense and how the team looks to be a serious playoff contender. But more importantly, Robert Griffin III has had a tremendous rookie season without any quality receivers. His best receiver, Pierre Garçon, has been out with injury issues all season. It seemed the likes of Josh Morgan, Logan Paulsen, Santana Moss, and Leonard Hankerson dropped every other pass. The Redskins hit it big with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris in this year's draft. Maybe next year's draft will be focused on getting a quality receiver to complement their two young offensive stars.
Notes from the NFL: week 5
Thoughts, opinions, questions, and facts from the week's games.
San Francisco 49ers- After losing to the Vikings, the 49ers have been on a mission to embarrass teams. The Niners have beaten the Jets and Bills by a combined score of 79-3. There four wins have each gone about the same way, get a lead and hold on to it. By getting a small lead they force their opponents into passing against their second rated pass defense. Even if you wanted to run, it would be against their 7th rated rush defense. To put it simply, their defense is really good. The way to beat the Niners is exactly the way the Vikings did. Get a lead and force Alex Smith to beat you, which is not the strength of the 49ers.
San Diego Chargers- I am not a believer. How can you lose to a winless Saints team in the midst of a lost season? Oh yeah, they're a mediocre team. They have beaten three bad teams (I think the Raiders are mediocre at best), lost to a bad team (the Saints), and been blown out by a really good team (the Falcons). Even though they are 3-2, I want to see them beat a good team. And I want to see Ryan Mathews run the ball effectively against a decent rush defense. The Saints defense is so atrocious I could have a decent day against them.
Green Bay Packers- Quick question on the NFC North, who would had have thought the Bears and Vikings would be the best teams in the division? You could have talked me into the Bears over the Lions for number two. The struggles of the Packers are serious. Even with the Seattle debacle where they should have won, the problem is that they put themselves into that spot. They were a complete no show in the first half. Their two wins are not impressive in the least. They beat the Bears in the battle of bad offensive lines and snuck past the lowly Saints. They have real issues. Their offensive line is terrible. Only Arizona has given up more sacks. The off-season addition of Cedric Benson has done nothing and now he's out with a Lisfranc injury.
Baltimore Ravens- If I was a Ravens fan, my spirits wouldn't be that high. Their defense isn't what you think it is. This isn't the shut down defense of old. The loss of Terrell Suggs certainly hurts, but how much would he have changed? Besides the blowout of the winless Browns in week one, they've had all close games. Letting the Browns and Chiefs hang around is inexcusable if you're one of the best teams in the league.
Robert Griffin III- The mobile quarterback suffered a concussion against the Falcons. His running habits had risen concerns of injury over the last couple of weeks. RGIII has a propensity to take unnecessary hits just like the one that knocked him out of the game. By all reports he seems to be showing no signs of symptoms and might be able to play next week. Hopefully this will be a lesson learned for the young quarterback. Risking his body for an extra yard is not beneficial for his team.
Rashard Mendenhall- While the Steelers did not play great against the Eagles, Mendenhall's performance in his return is a good sign moving forward. 2012 may be remembered as the year of the Mayans, a virtually silent movie winning the Best Picture Oscar 80 years after silent movies died, Clint Eastwood's empty chair discussion, and running backs returning from bad knee injuries really quick. Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall both tore knee ligaments late last season and both have made speedy recoveries. In his absence, the Steelers have struggled running the ball, 31st in the league. In his first game back, Mendenhall ran for 81 yards on 14 carries and was able to find the endzone. He also had a few good runs called back because of holding penalties. A more successful running game may lead the Steelers to being more like the Steelers.
New York Giants- I don't care that they dropped 41 on the Browns. That should be expected. They let the Browns get a 14 point lead before realizing they were playing the Browns and then outscored them 41-13 the rest of the way. They haven't played great so far this season and play in San Francisco next week. It's like the Giants enjoy being only okay during the season so their deep playoff run as a wild card team looks more impressive.
Thoughts, opinions, questions, and facts from the week's games.
Rex Ryan and the New York Jets- Late last week my dad asked me who the first NFL coach to be fired would be this year. My answer was Rex Ryan despite the Jets being 2-1 at the time. After a 34-0 shellacking handed to them by the 49ers, that answer looks a little better. While you never fire a coach after one bad loss, Rex Ryan's job may be in more jeopardy than before. At what point does all of the attention Ryan brings to the Jets become too much? Mark Sanchez has played incredibly poor this season, except for a blowout win vs the Bills in week one. Tim Tebow doesn't add anything but attention and controversy. Ryan pretends to be a Super Bowl winning coach when he isn't. The Jets have zero offensive weapons and a defense that is okay. I'd be tired of his routine if I were a Jets fan.
San Francicso 49ers- Once again looked dominate. Controlled the game from the opening kickoff. The defense was smothering. They never allowed the Jets to do anything. After the loss to the Vikings raised a few questions, the Niners quickly dispatched those questions. The 49ers are easily one of the best teams in the league. While every team is beatable, the 49ers have a way of forcing teams to play their way. At that point, it is just execution.
Atlanta Falcons- One of other best teams. Improve to 4-0 after a last second field goal. The incredible thing about the win was that the final drive started from the 1 yard line. The Falcons got incredible help from Cam Newton's horribly timed fumble followed by the Panthers ultra-conservative decision to punt. (This point needs its own paragraph in just a second). Last note on the Falcons: Roddy White is an absolute beast.
Carolina Panthers- Specifically their decision to punt late in the game. The Panthers have four players worthy of carrying the football a half a yard, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, and Cam Newton. Best case scenario: first down and win. Worst case scenario: Falcons get the ball with 35-40 yards to go for field goal range. They had a chance to end it and didn't take it.
Oakland Raiders- They are officially a bad team. I don't buy the "punter blew week one, then short week and humid game wearing black in Miami week 2 so write em off" mentality. They were a complete no show against the Dolphins and let Reggie Bush run all over them. They were also blown out by Peyton Manning this week. Their only win was against a Steelers team that was missing two key defenders (Harrison and Polamalu), they have a really bad offensive line, and were missing their best running back (Mendenhall), and were stuck with two mediocre backup running backs (Redman and Dwyer). And the Steelers may not be that good to begin with.
Minnesota Vikings- I'm ready to officially call them a good team. Call it a homer pick but they are 3-1 without any flukey wins. Not a lot of offense vs the Lions, but enough to win. Plus some serious help from the special teams with a kick return and punt return. The addition of Jerome Simpson as a deep threat could open things up for Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Are you asking whether I stretched a bit to include the Vikings again this week? Maybe a little but they are truly a good team.
Tony Romo- Everybody needs to calm down a little with Romo. The reason for the disappointment with Romo is due to the high expectations everybody has for him. People look to him and expect him to be among the quarterback elite of the NFL with Rodgers, Brady, Brees, and the Mannings. Yes, 5 interceptions is way too many. And yes, Romo has had a shaky track record in the postseason. At this point it's common knowledge. What baffles me is why the Cowboys haven't realized this and built the team accordingly. The Cowboy's can't solely rely on Romo to get wins. He is going to have brutal moments or even whole games that are rough. Ideally, the Cowboy's would have other players to lean on if Romo doesn't show up. Romo is one of the better quarterbacks in the league. If I were a Cowboys fan I wouldn't be completely at ease with Romo in the playoffs, but that is rare. Every team can't have a top 5 quarterback.
Week 3This week will be focused on the replacement referees.
Each week more time is spent talking about the ineptness of the replacement referees. After week 1 I thought the criticism was a little harsh. While they didn't do great, and totally mangled time out rules in the Seattle and Arizona game, they performed respectfully for the position they were in. But all hell as broken loose since then, especially this last week. These replacement refs are controlling games in which they don't have the full knowledge of the rules. Football isn't the same in different levels. College football is very different from the pros. Depending on level slight rule changes exist. But the NFL is so discussed and broken down the officials need to truly know the game. Even then, mistakes will be made and fans will be outraged. A referee should NEVER decide the outcome of the game. A good referee is never noticed. Now the referees are noticed constantly. Good calls are met with shock and incredulousness. Even without the Green Bay-Seattle controversy, there would have been enough to criticize the refs for.
While watching the fourth quarter of the 49ers-Vikings game many times I yelled obscenities at the television. Thankfully, no one else was around to hear what was flying around. For full disclosure, I am a Vikings fan. Twice Jim Harbaugh was allowed to challenge a play (both Toby Gerhart fumbles by the way) when he had no timeouts. With 3:35 left in the 4th quarter, the 49ers used their second timeout. On the following play, Toby Gerhart ran up the middle and the football came out. No fumble was called on the field. The 49ers used their last timeout to stop the clock at 3:29. At some point during the timeout, Jim Harbaugh challenged the play. Here's the problem, he didn't have any timeouts left making it impossible to challenge. The refs ruled in favor of San Francisco and pretended they never called the timeout. 75 seconds later, the EXACT SAME THING happened. A clear misunderstanding of the rules. In this game, it turned out to be meaningless. The Vikings had a large enough lead late enough in the game to finish their upset. But then during Monday Night Football a misunderstanding of a rule cost the Packers a win.
A ruling that got Twitter all riled up for hours. It got non-sports fans like Patton Oswalt to dedicate tweets to the call. The refs missed Golden Tate's blatant push off. Then missed Tate grabbing for the football after the defender already caught it and was coming down (a Rachel Nichols tweet had the perfect angle showing this) and two refs had different rulings. Side by side two referees stood, one signaling interception and touchback and the other signaling touchdown. The referees completely misunderstood what constituted a simultaneous catch. The regular refs make bad calls all the time. I don't think they would have every screwed up that play. That's what is so frustrating about having the replacement refs. There are a group of refs, who are talented enough and trained to referee NFL games that are sitting at home.
The replacement refs have been put into an impossible situation. They are not to be blamed. In order to save a little money NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is letting the league become tarnished. Officiating is a crucial aspect of the game. But because people are still attending games and watching them from the couch, the referees are meaningless to Goodell. It is more important for the league to save a little bit of money even though it generates billions of dollars. Hopefully Goodell will learn his lesson. It is worth eating into the profits to pay an important aspect of the game.
Week 2Thoughts, opinions, questions, and facts from the week's games.
Dallas Cowboys- Get ready for some major overreaction. The Cowboys may top the list for team that people overreact to the most. After beating the Giants in New York, everyone was singing the Cowboys praises and questioning the defending champs. Now they have lost to Seattle in the Seahawks difficult stadium. While the Cowboys didn't look wonderful in Seattle, Jason Whitten's performance is a positive sign. A spleen injury is not the lightest of injuries. Trailing in the second half forced the Cowboys the throw much more than usual which allowed one of their best offensive weapons, running back DeMarco Murray, to not add anything.
San Francisco 49ers- The Niners keep rolling along. They looked impressive again against another NFC North opponent. The additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham have helped the passing game. They have a few weapons for Alex Smith. The Niners focus will always be there defense. But now they have enough offense to give their defense a lead to hold onto, something they do very well. They had the ability to score last year, remember the playoff game vs the Saints, but they have certainly improved the offense this year. While Alex Smith will never be a top-10 quarterback, he does enough for this team to be successful. Their biggest test will probably be week 6 vs the Giants. At this moment, the 49ers are a scary good team.
New York Giants/Eli Manning- Despite the sloppiness and turnovers in the first half, the Giants still won. Good teams find ways to win even when playing poorly. A rough second quarter for Eli put the Giants behind. In the second half, Eli turned the interceptions into touchdowns in what became a shootout. Ahmad Bradshaw's neck injury could be tough for the Giants to overcome, but his backup, Andre Brown, played well in his absence. With only two previous carries in his career, there are still question marks around Brown.
New England Patriots- Quite the shocker. Arizona could very easily be 0-2. If Braylon Edwards could catch and Stephen Gostkowski doesn't miss a makable field goal, they're 0-2. While the Pats didn't look great, there isn't any concern yet. However, this is a great opportunity for Bill Belicheck and the Patriots to play the disrespected card, something they do better than anyone. I love it when teams play the disrespect card. Especially when they've won three Super Bowl's, have one of the best coach/quarterback combos in NFL history, and get picked to go to the Super Bowl almost every year. Yet they will still feel disrespected.
Larry Fitzgerald- Who would have thought the Cardinals would beat the Patriots, in New England no less, with Fitzy having one reception for four yards? For Arizona to keep winning, Fitzgerald needs to be involved more which is bound to happen. Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the league, even when he has crappy quarterbacks throwing him the ball.
Danny Amendola- Dominating performance from the Rams wide receiver. From muffing punts with the Cowboys on Hard Knocks to getting 15 receptions. Amendola is the guy in St. Louis. He had 11 more targets than Steve Smith who had the second most. He cooled off in the second half but the damage was already done. Amendola being a trustworthy receiver will only help Sam Bradford's progression. I'm buying Amendola's performance. I don't think this was a fluke.
Christian Ponder/Andrew Luck- Both young quarterbacks looked really, really good. Even with the crappy offensive line, and lack of a run game, Luck was able to move around and make things happen. The Vikes had a stretch of stupidity. Lapsed at the end of the second quarter and let the Colts score a touchdown. The real problem was with the penalties, especially in the third quarter. Vikings almost squeezed out another late win thanks to Ponder. Got a bunch of help when a ball that was tipped twice somehow landed in Stephen Burton's hands in the end zone
More Vikings- They are a player away from having a really good offense. Adrian Peterson didn't have the greatest game, but still played solidly as he works back from his knee injury. Percy Harvin is breaking out into one of the most dangerous weapons. Kyle Rudolph is slowly emerging as a nice weapon for Ponder. If the Vikings can get another wide receiver, they can be scary. Michael Jenkins and Devon Aromashadu don't strike fear in anyone. You completely forget they are on the field. That might be Jerome Simpson who is currently suspended. The Vikings are hoping he will be.
Week 1Thoughts, opinions, questions, and facts from week's games.
Robert Griffin III- Dominated from start to finish in his NFL debut. He controlled the offense and did whatever he wanted to against the Saints defense. I am fully onboard the Redskins bandwagon. If they can just duplicate the "just enough rushing from the running back to keep the defense honest so RGIII can have time to do what he wants" offense for the rest of the season. Obviously it isn't quite that simple. But it is exciting. Before making playoff plans for the Skins we'll have to wait until teams get a good sample of RGIII. Last season Cam Newton declined throughout the season when teams had enough tape to game plan against him.
Saints offense- Looking at the stats may lead you to believe Drew Brees played better than he did. In the end he got the passing yards and touchdowns. Brees, and the offense in general, were never able to get much going. Their leading rusher only ran for 17 yards. This forced Brees to throw it a lot and allowed the Redskins defense to focus on the pass. Brees is one of the best QB's in the league and the Saints love to throw it. But Brees, a normally accurate passer, only completed only 24 of 52 passes, a subpar 46%. The last time Brees completed less than 50% of his passes was in week 16 of the 2006 season. The Saints passing and rushing woes on Sunday is most likely a fluke. Inaccurate is not a proper adjective for Brees and last season the Saints ran the ball quite effectively. But unlike last year, the Saints head coach is suspended for the year and the interim coach suspended for 6 games.
Falcons passing- After dropping 40 on the Chiefs are the Falcons finally opening up the offense like we've been hearing? It seems every off-season the story surrounding the Falcons is whether they will throw it more. But it turns out they throw it a lot. Since Mike Smith became head coach in 2008, the Falcons have become more pass oriented. Over the last three season, the Falcons are a top 10 team in passing attempts per game. A top 15 team (top 10 last season) in passing yards per game and passing touchdowns (top 10 last two seasons). Will they be as successful as today? Probably not. Sunday was Matt Ryan's 12th highest yards per attempt average (63 total games). But do not be surprised if a healthy Julio Jones increases Ryan's stats a little.
DeAngelo Williams- What a struggle for Williams. 6 carries for -1 yard. Only two of his carries were for positive yardage. Most likely a fluke. All ball carriers for the Panthers struggled. Their leading rusher had 5 yards on 1 carry. As for Williams, only one other time in his pro career has he averaged negative yards per carry for a game (as a rookie in 2006). I expect him to bounce back from this.
Referees- A lot has been said about the replacement referees. Many questions have been raised about whether or not they will hurt the game. Being a referee is an incredibly hard job. Sitting at home with multiple camera angles and replay available it is easy to point out bad or missed penalties. The replacement refs will make mistakes just like the regular refs do. The time out misunderstanding between Seattle and Arizona could have been disastrous. Everybody calm down.
Adrian Peterson- When AD claimed a week ago he would play I did not believe him. Nobody plays less than a year removed from ACL and MCL surgery. But how dare I doubt Peterson. As a diehard Vikings fan, I was very worried Minnesota would overwork him unnecessarily. On paper, the Vikings seemed like a 5 or 6 win team. Certainly an improvement after last years 3-13 campaign, but still not a very good team. But after the win vs. Jacksonville, spirits are high. They are still a 5 or 6 win team but seem to be moving in the right direction. It should be noted that the Jaguars are not a playoff team as well. A win is a win, and the Vikings looked alright doing it.
The ugly QB bowl in Cleveland- The combination of horrendous efforts from Michael Vick and Brandon Weeden is astounding. Weeden's performance isn't totally shocking, but it's still really, really bad. Browns fans couldn't have had that high of expectations entering this season, but Eagles fans should be worried.
Michale Vick: 29/56 for 317 yards, 2 TD's, 4 INT's
7 carries for 32 yards, 2 fumbles (recovered)
Brandon Weeden: 12/35 for 118 yards, 4 INT's
2 carries for 25 yards, 2 fumbles (recovered)
A combined 8 turnovers, almost 12, is absolutely amazing. At what point do we have to declare Vick as someone who is exciting to watch but not the guy to lead a team to the Superbowl?
Patriots rushing- How scary will it be if Sunday's performance running the ball is legit? 21 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown for Steven Ridley vs. the Titans. The Pats success throwing the ball is well documented but they really struggled last season running the ball. When the Patriots set offensive records in 2007 passing they also had the 13th most rush yards per game. Before totally overreacting please note the Titans gave up the 9th most rush yards last season. The Patriots are difficult enough to beat with Tom Brady and their passing attack, but if Ridley can be relied on and have to be taken seriously by opponents, watch out.
Here you can find all of our articles up to 2018.