by NFL Gimpy (Follow him on Twitter here…just a suggestion, not an order)
Two weeks are in the books (minus tonight’s Denver-Atlanta matchup) and we’ve learned so much, yet, so little. Why so little? After tonight, there will be twenty 1-1 teams (assuming there’s no tie…it’s a pretty safe bet, right Donovan McNabb?). There will be six 2-0 teams and six 0-2 teams. Going along with what I said in my season preview column, the NFC looks much better than the AFC and that resonates when you consider 5 of the 6 winless teams are in the AFC. I believe (if I mathed correctly) the NFC is 6-1 vs. the AFC at this time. The only winless team in the NFC? The New Orleans Saints. Granted, the Saints have looked a lot worse than expected (especially on defense and Tommy will have something on that later) but I can’t foresee them winning any less than 6 or 7, even with all of the drama.
I want to go over a few things that we have definitely learned so far in 2 games. It’s certainly too early to crown anyone, but it’s safe to say Jacksonville won’t make a playoff push.
1) The Cowboys continue to be one of the most crazily inconsistent teams you’ll ever see. After a great win in the season opener against the Giants, the Cowboys didn’t show up against the Seahawks. 2 turnovers, only 7 points on offense, critical special teams mistakes, useless running game. Marshawn Lynch was able to go into beast mode and he punished the Cowboys in the 2nd half. If anyone has a read on this team please do tell because it looks like you’re best bet is flipping a coin to see which Cowboys team shows up.
2) Most of the teams believed to be contenders have looked like it so far. The Texans, Ravens, 49ers, and Eagles have all looked Super Bowl good, but the Texans and 49ers have really separated themselves. The Patriots, Packers, and Giants have all looked good at times and certainly are still in the hunt, but each of them have some big question marks going forward.
3) The bottom dwellers have looked like it so far as well. The Raiders have no offense and despite good stats, Carson Palmer has not been effective. The Jaguars don’t even have good offensive stats. After a good debut in Week 1, Blaine Gabbert looked lost against the Texans defense before leaving with an injury. I expect the Carson Palmer trade will go down as one of the worst in NFL history and Hue Jackson will be a curse word in Raiders folklore.
4) Rookies continue to make impacts on playoff teams as the difference between college and the NFL narrows. I’m not saying any college team could beat an NFL team, but the gap between high end college players and NFL players has never been closer. College teams are more sophisticated, faster, and complex than ever. How else could a legit contender like the Eagles essentially have 3 rookies starting on defense (Fletcher Cox at DT, Mychal Kendricks at LB, and Brandon Boykin at Nickel CB)? Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones are starting for the Patriots. We obviously have 5 rookies at QB. Every single top 10 pick is starting.
With that said, let’s look at Week 2 of the Year of Rookie QBs!
Andrew Luck: 20/31 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 4 rushes for 21 yards and 2 sacks for 30 yards. QB Rating 107.5.
Robert Griffin III: 20/29 for 206 yards, 1 touchdowns and 1 interceptions. 11 rushes for 82 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 sacks for 9 yards. QB Rating 86.3.
Ryan Tannehill: 18/30 for 200 yards, 1 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 3 rushes for 14 yards 1 touchdown and 1 sacks for 11 yards. QB Rating 91.0.
Brandon Weeden: 26/37 for 322 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 2 rushes for 13 yards and 2 sacks for 6 yards. QB Rating 114.9.
Russell Wilson: 15/20 for 151 yards, 1 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. 4 rushes for 28 yards and 2 sacks for 18 yards. QB Rating 112.7.
What a difference a week makes! Brandon Weeden was pathetic last week and turned in the best passing stats this week. RG3 was hands down the best last week and certainly was not this week. So, we take RG3’s crown away? Of course not. RG3 still had a decent game and you could easily put this loss on the defense which gave up 452 yards and 31 points to a Rams team who only scored more than 20 twice all of last season. Every QB but RG3 saw a big jump in QB rating.
The real difference for Luck, Tannehill, and Weeden was the running game. In week 2, the Colts ran the ball 26 times to Luck’s 31 pass attempts and 4 runs. That’s compared to week 1 with 13 rushes to Luck’s 45 pass attempts and 2 runs. The run game wasn’t that effective, but it took the heat off of Luck and he showed everyone why he was the #1 overall pick. Anyone who plays fantasy football knows what Reggie Bush did on the ground for the Dolphins and it made life easy for Tannehill. Trent Richardson looked like a top 5 pick against the Bengals and enabled Weeden to look like a real NFL QB unlike last week.
Russell Wilson took a huge step forward as well. I think he gained a lot of confidence from his almost game winning drive against the Cardinals. He had a nice “I can do this” kind of moment and it showed against the Cowboys. Wilson was confident, decisive, and didn’t make any big mistakes.
My favorite play was his 22-yard touchdown pass to TE Anthony McCoy in the 3rd quarter. Wilson has obviously been criticized for his height, but this throw shows that it’s not as big of an issue as critics think. He threw a seam route to McCoy about 20 yards downfield. This is not a touch throw where he can loft the ball over the line. It’s not an outside route where he can look around his blockers. Wilson had to look over the line and throw the ball hard into a window that would not stay open long. He dropped back, found his man, stepped into his throw and hit McCoy right in the hands. A split second later and the play doesn’t work.
Those are the type of throws you expect NFL QBs to make. It wasn’t a frozen rope, but it had good velocity. Due to the game he had and beating the Cowboys (want an award from me? Beat the Cowboys, it’s that simple) I’m giving Russell Wilson the coveted Week 2 Rookie QB of the Week Clipart Certificate (trademark pending). That ties him up with RG3 for most Rookie QB of the Week Clipart Certificates. Who will win next week? Stay Tuned!
Overpaid/Underpaid Players of the Week
Overpaid: Jay Cutler, QB Da Bears. As much as I hate to give this award to a QB 2 weeks in a row, was there a worse player in Week 2 than Jay Cutler? 11/27 for 126 yards 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. I won’t include the 7 sacks because a lot of this loss was on the OL, but to be frank, Cutler deserved the sacks for the way he treated LT J’Marcus Webb. After Webb got beat, Cutler gave him an earful and intentionally bumped into him. I read numerous people say “Webb should have yelled at Cutler for each interception” and it’s hard to argue against that. A QB is the leader of the team.
A QB can get in a player’s face IF (and that’s a big IF) he has the respect of his teammates. If Tom Brady gets in your face, he’s earned that right. 5 Super Bowl appearances means you’re the man and you can call a teammate out. Cutler? Maybe if he was a real leader in every other aspect, he’d get the benefit of the doubt. But add in the bump? It’s disrespectful and crossed the line between calling a player out and acting like a petty child.
Jay, your 2012 $7.7 Million salary comes out to $481,250 per game. You should take that check and use it to give the Bears the ability to trade for the LT you deserve, Wayne Hunter.
Underpaid: JJ Watt, DE Houston Texans. Watt was a 1st round pick last year but with the rookie wage scale he only makes $856,000 in salary this season (yes, I know he got a big signing bonus last year, just wait). Let’s look at Watt’s stat line against the Jacksonville Jaguars: 5 tackles (4 solo), 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defended, 3 QB hits and a fumble recovery. Houston runs a 3-4 defense and rarely do you see a 3-4 DE as dominant as Watt. He’s putting up numbers you’d expect from a 4-3 DE. Blaine Gabbert will see JJ Watt in his nightmares for weeks. You’d see a 6’5 295 pound monster who was in your face all game long in your nightmares too.
JJ, use part of that signing bonus from last year to take all of the QBs and OLs you’re going to abuse this season out to an “I’m sorry” party. Make sure the restaurant is handicap friendly, since a few of your victims may still be in crutches.
-I’ve never seen a college team have such a quick turnaround from garbage to good as my Pitt Panthers. In their first 2 games (including a loss to FCS team Youngstown State) they looked slow and scared, especially on defense. Against Virginia Tech, they were faster, tougher, and simply wanted it more. They make the Cowboys look consistent. Thankfully they have Gardner-Webb this week, then a bye week. Keep an eye on RB Rushel Shell, he had VT defenders shying away from contact late in the game and he’s a true freshman.
-Eli Manning had 510 passing yards against the Bucs. He also threw 3 interceptions. He needed every yard of that 510 to pull off the win. That’s not good. It’s one thing to throw for 510 yards in a blowout. On the other side, Bucs defense, what happened? You looked so good last week and got abused in the 4th quarter. 25 points allowed? That’s a heck of a choke, boys.
-Andy Dalton looks like a real NFL QB. Well, with his helmet on, take it off and all I can think is “aaah ginger!!!”
-The Arizona Cardinals are 30th in the NFL in passing yards and 28th in rushing yards. Their RBs have had 43 carries for 95 yards, a 2.2 yards per carry average. Larry Fitzgerald has only 5 catches for 67 yards, no touchdowns. The only QB with a lower yards per attempt than the Skelton/Kolb combo of 5.6 is Blaine Gabbert. Stop me when you think this offense is good enough to make the playoffs.
Teams with great defenses like the Cardinals need something on offense in order to make a playoff run. The Ravens have been able to run the ball effectively for years. The Steelers were able to run the ball early on and now are able to make plays in the passing game. The Cardinals can’t do either despite the best WR in the NFL (sorry Megatron, my bias is at an all time high after the VT win) and 2 high draft picks at RB. No QB+No OL=no playoffs.
-I live in Pittsburgh so I’ve had to put up with a lot of “The NFL is out to get us, the refs always screw us” from Steelers fans. I’d like to thank the awful pass interference call on Ike Taylor for making sure those complaints don’t die any time soon. Taylor literally did not touch Santonio Holmes and somehow got called for interference. Holmes threw up his arms after failing to make the catch because he was looking for a late hit/defenseless receiver type penalty, which would have been a weak call, but at least understandable.
It almost seemed like Holmes threw up his hands so the ref just gave the Steelers a penalty. On numerous occasions, it seems like the refs are giving penalties to guys who fish for them. It’s quickly turning the NFL into soccer, where guys fake injuries and look for fouls when someone breathes on them. The real refs need to come back ASAP. I miss Ed Hochuli’s biceps.
-With that said, I’m going to buy some stock in Velveeta in order profit off of the amount of cheese someone will have to purchase to pair with the Ravens’ whine (that’s a joke even Tommy would be ashamed to write). Joe Flacco said the replacement refs were “affecting the integrity of the game” because of a bad offensive pass interference penalty. Ray Rice complained that the Eagles were dirty.
I’ve got news for you boys. The replacement officials were certainly bad, but they didn’t cause you to lose. Face the facts. You got punched in the mouth by a tougher team and you cant’ handle it. I’ve followed both players since college, especially Flacco. Joe was once Pitt’s backup before transferring to Delaware after he was unable to beat my personal hero, Tyler Palko, for the job. So, I say this with a lot of history on my side: Joe has always been a whiner. This doesn’t surprise me at all coming from him and I’ll never believe he has what it takes to win a Super Bowl. Talent yes, attitude no.
Oh, and Ray Lewis? Vick clearly threw the ball, it wasn’t a fumble. In order to overturn a play, there must be indisuptable video evidence. Note that word, indisuptable. Do you honestly think with that NFL employee basically walking the officials like a dog on a leash, that they’d let them overturn that call if it were an obvious fumble as you’ve suggested?
Prediction for Monday Night Football:
The Falcons settle for too many FGs and the Broncos OL does a great job keeping Peyton clean all night. I just really, really need 8 points from Matt Ryan in fantasy to win the league I’m in with a bunch of friends from college. I’m down by 7 and if I get the win I’ll also have high score for the week.