by NFL Gimpy (to enjoy his Twitter brilliance, go here)
Is it time to admit the Vikings are for real? For as surprising as the Cardinals have been, 3 of their 4 wins were heavily influenced by dominant defensive performances. No one is scared of their offense minus Larry Fitzgerald. But the Vikings? Adrian Peterson isn’t all the way back, but AD at 90% is still a terrifying player. I’ll take AD at 90% over Chris Johnson at 190% right now. Percy Harvin is quietly having an MVP type season. In 5 games, he has 38 catches on 48 attempts (79% completion!!!!) for 407 yards and a touchdown. 231 of those yards are after the catch. Throw in 62 yards rushing, 1 rushing touchdown, and 345 return yards with another touchdown. Harvin already has 814 total yards on 60 total touches.
Christian Ponder didn’t have a single turnover until yesterday, but both interceptions occurred with the game pretty much out of reach for the Titans. His stats aren’t gaudy (216 yards per game, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions throwing, 77 total rushing yards and a score) but they seem to have the same formula as the 49ers did last year. Great running game, solid defense, and efficient passing by a solid game manager at QB. Ponder is completing 69% of his passes with less than 2 sacks per game. Only 2 turnovers with Adrian Peterson in the backfield? You’ve got the plan that can beat the San Francisco team who perfected it last year. But Alex Smith isn’t a game manager, right Alex? Maybe you sprained your middle finger telling Peyton Manning where you rank in passer rating? That’s right Peyton, Alex has the best passer rating in the NFL right now.
Back to the Vikings. An efficient offense needs that tough defense and the Vikings are certainly getting the job done. 7th in total yards, 6th in rushing, and 6th in points per game. Jared Allen has been relatively quiet, but you just know that can’t last long. Allen is one of the most ferocious competitors in the league and it’s only a matter of time before he starts teeing off on QBs. What’s crazy is that I looked at their schedule, and if they do anything worse than 3-2 before their bye week, I’ll be surprised. They’re at Washington next week, followed by Arizona, Tampa Bay, at Seattle, and finishing their pre-bye week stretch with a home game against the Lions. 5 weeks into the season and at this point, I expect them to be favored in each game.
That schedule really does bode well for them, but it gets nasty after the bye week. They play at Chicago, at Green Bay, then a home game vs. Chicago. It gets a little easier at St. Louis the next week, but their last 2 games are at Houston to play the current AFC favorite Texans and they close out at home vs. the Packers, who may need a win to get into the playoffs.
Don’t be surprised if the Vikings are 8-1 or 7-2 headed into their bye week. We’ll find out if they’re a contender in December. I hope so, Adrian Peterson doesn’t have too many years left.
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While on the topic of contenders, the race for the NFC South is almost over. The Falcons have a 3.5 game lead on the Bucs and a 4 game lead on the Panthers and Saints. The Saints have the firepower to make a run, but until their defense keeps someone under 27 points, the offense will need to continue firing on all cylinders like it did last night to have a prayer. The Bucs? I told everyone Greg Schiano was a bad hire.
No one is scared of the Panthers right now. Their defense is awful and Cam Newton is having one heck of a sophomore slump. But it was Deangelo Williams who accidentally gave me a glimpse into what’s going on in Carolina. Deangelo was hailed by sportswriters when he told fantasy football players to get a life/grow up due to all of the negative tweets he received thanks to his awful performance yesterday.
Writers everywhere patted him on the back for telling all these fantasy players how it is. Certainly, Williams is correct. Fantasy players who directly insult players via Twitter or some similar medium for a bad game are childish. I’ve vented about a player’s bad game that hurt me many times. But I’ve never directly insulted the player. But that’s not the point I want to make.
When Williams tweeted that, it was right after his team lost their 3rd game in a row. Williams and his RB partner Jonathan Stewart combined don’t have respectable stats for an NFL starter. They average 3.8 yards per carry on 73 carries. That’s only 280 yards. They have 2 touchdowns and 1 lost fumble. Between Williams, Stewart, and RB/FB tweener Mike Tolbert, the Panthers have over $90 million in signed contracts for RBs. For these 3 players, they barely have 300 rushing yards in 5 games. That’s not even a 1,000 yard pace. There are 15 RBs with more rushing yards than all three combined. And when you’ve got over $90M worth of contracts and you’re getting outdone by a 6th round rookie, a 30 year old, and a guy less than a year removed from an ACL tear, you’re underperforming.
This tweet shows that the drastically underperforming Panthers are in a mental funk. They can’t get out of their own way. It’s one thing to attack fantasy football players if you’re 4-1. If Larry Fitzgerald tweeted this (which he never would), it would make sense. The Cardinals are 4-1 and even though Fitz doesn’t have great stats, I guarantee you he’ll happily take 4-1 and subpar stats over 1-4 and great numbers. But Williams? Awful numbers and a 1-4 team record.
Williams is taking out his frustration on fantasy players who lack some class. Maybe you should take some of your frustration out on your defense who refuses to tackle? Maybe your OL for not opening more holes? Maybe yourself for that lost fumble? But the last place you should take your frustration out on is a bunch of anonymous idiots. Williams is telling the world “the Panthers are a team who’s collapsing.” He can’t handle a little pressure from fantasy football players. How the hell is he going to handle 70,000 screaming fans on the road in a game with playoff implications?
Well Deangelo, good news. You won’t have to worry about that because your team won’t be in position to do that. Why is that? Maybe because you’re more focused on what fantasy players think of you than your own faults. Just maybe.
Year of the Rookie QB
Andrew Luck: 31/55 362 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. 4 sacks for 17 yards and 4 rushes for 24 yards and a touchdown. 81.0 QB Rating and a win.
Robert Griffin III: 10/15 91 yards. 1 rush for 7 yards and 2 sacks for 9 yards. QB Rating 82.9 and a loss.
Ryan Tannehill: 17/26 223 yards. 2 sacks for 12 yards. QB Rating 92.3 and a win.
Brandon Weeden: 22/35 291 yards 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. 1 rush for 2 yards. QB Rating 84.3 and a loss.
Russell Wilson: 19/25 221 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. 5 rushes for 12 yards and 2 sacks for 9 yards. QB Rating 82.3 and a win.
The rookie QBs are really coming around. All 5 have had good weeks and bad weeks, but their good weeks look really good. Tannehill had some great stats last week but some critical turnovers. This week? A highly efficient game manager (65% completion, no turnovers) who made plays when necessary and didn’t put his defense in any tough situations. Weeden is making things happen, but has one or two costly mistakes per game and a lot of that is caused by the fact that his defense hasn’t stopped anyone since Week 1. After last week’s miserable failure, Wilson had a great game overall. I believe he had completed 9/10 passes on 3rd downs at one point.
RG3 got a dose of reality against the Falcons when he got knocked out of the game with a “mild concussion” (more on that later). RG3 had an easy path out of bounds, but he opted to take the hit and paid for it. If he wants to have a long career, he’ll learn to avoid those hits. If not, he’ll have his team on edge like every Eagles fan is with Mike Vick. I sincerely hope he learns.
Then there’s Andrew Luck. Boy did he suck yesterday. He ONLY came back from 18 points down at halftime to beat reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. He ONLY went 7/10 for 80 yards and a score plus a critical 7 yard run on 3rd and 7 on the game winning drive. This is Luck’s 5th game in the NFL. To pull a Brett Favre, I thought he’d have a Lombardi by now. What gives Andrew?
Obviously I’m being sarcastic. Everyone, myself included, saw the Packers up 21-3 at halftime and assumed the Packers were taking out their frustrations on the Colts. It was going to be a beatdown, a “learning experience” for the Colts. Nope. First off, a ton of credit to the defense for only allowing 6 points in the 2nd half to enable Luck to make the comeback. But Luck made it happen. 5 scoring drives (3 touchdown, 2 FG) in the 2nd half against a defense that looked Super Bowl good 2 weeks ago. He threw touchdown passes to an old vet (Reggie Wayne), a rookie TE (Dwayne Allen), and ran one in himself.
I’ll avoid making the awful Luck/lucky pun, because it wasn’t luck. It was skill, poise, grit, toughness, and ok maybe a little luc…er lucid play. Game winning drives will always give you a shot at the MAQB Rookie of the Week Clipart Certificate and with Luck’s game winning drive and epic comeback, he’s your MAQB Week 5 Rookie Champion.
Overpaid/Underpaid Player of the Week
Overpaid: Matt Cassel, QB Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs lost to the Ravens 9-6 on Sunday in a game which was so bad it probably shouldn’t count. Any fan who demands a refund is perfectly justified. The Chiefs knew they could run the ball on an aging Ray Lewis and boy did they. Chiefs RBs ran the ball 46 times for 200 yards. Matt Cassel did something that wasn’t a handoff 19 times, 15 passes and 4 carries. On those 19 plays, Cassel had 3 turnovers. He only managed 106 yards of total offense.
Cassel wasn’t just bad in limited attempts. The Chiefs did everything possible to avoid putting the ball in his hands. Even when the Ravens stacked the box to stop the run, Romeo Crennel and Brian Daboll had so little faith they didn’t even bother with some play action passes. I remarked on twitter that I think Georgia Tech (who runs a triple option, run heavy attack) passes the ball more than the Chiefs. I was close, GT had 14 passing attempts on Saturday, the Chiefs had 15 with Cassel and 3 with Brady Quinn.
Matt, take your $5.25M salary and join Matt Leinart in the USC QBs who aren’t good enough to be starters club. Don’t worry, Carson Palmer won’t be too far behind, end of 2013 at the latest. On a sidenote, sorry you got hurt. I don’t wish actual injuries on any player. The Chiefs fans who cheered your injury are classless and you do deserve better than that, which is a perfectly healthy life sitting on the bench.
Underpaid: Brandon Browner CB, Seattle Seahawks
Browner may be the most underpaid and underrated player in the NFL. After a brief stint with the Broncos from 2005-2006, Browner was cut and ended up in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Pete Carroll and his incredible eye for talent signed Browner before the 2011 season and Browner made the Pro Bowl in his first real NFL season.
Browner has continued his high level of play in 2012 alongside fellow underrated CB Richard Sherman. Browner was covering Steve Smith for a good chunk of the game and while I don’t have a breakdown of when he was and when he wasn’t, let’s look at what Smith did.
13 targets: 4 catches, 40 yards. That’s right, when Cam Newton threw to Steve Smith, he was 4/13 for 40 yards. Ouch. That’s because the Seahawks secondary absolutely blanketed him. Browner added 6 tackles (4 solo) to lead the Seahawks D as well. Browner is making only $415,000 this season. This week’s overpaid player, Matt Cassel, makes more than that in 2 games. Brandon, take your meager funds and live the exact same lifestyle like you did when you played in Canada and you’ll be richer than Vince Young is after you retire, guaranteed.
-I mentioned that I would touch on “mild concussion” later and here it is: I think coaches who use the phrase “mild concussion” should be fined. A concussion isn’t a sprained ankle. It isn’t a hairline fracture. Sure “mild concussions” exist, but in a day and age where head injuries are under a lot of scrutiny, any idiot should know a concussion can be anything BUT minor. I know a lot of hockey fans don’t like Sidney Crosby. But Crosby, a young athlete at the peak of athletic ability, is the perfect example of why you can’t take concussions lightly.
I sincerely hope RG3’s concussion is mild. But the truth is often times they aren’t and you can’t tell right away. To diminish the concussion is to show the world that you aren’t that concerned about the player’s health down the road. If the NFL wants to get serious about concussions, don’t let coaches and trainers call them mild or minor. He has a concussion, period.
-I almost gave my overpaid player to the entire Titans defense. They’ve allowed 34, 38, 41, 38, and 30 points in their 5 games. This is all going on while the offense has struggled in every game but one. Their offense has only scored 1 first half touchdown in their 4 losses. If their defense doesn’t get things turned around drastically, it’s going to be a long season after a solid 9-win 2011 campaign.
-The good news for the Titans is that the Bills defense is giving them a run for their money. Former Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt has the talent on defense between Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus, and Jarius Byrd. Somehow, they’re absolutely awful. In the past 6 quarters, they’ve given up 90 points. 45 in the 2nd half to the Patriots and 45 yesterday to the 49ers. The Seahawks, 49ers, Bears, Cardinals, Ravens, and Vikings haven’t done that in 5 games. The Steelers, Cowboys, and Texans haven’t in 4 games and it’s safe to say the Texans will join the 5 game teams tonight. That’s incredibly awful.
-On the other end of the spectrum, the 49ers have outscored opponents 79-3 in their past 2 games. One of the best ways to judge a team in the NFL is how they rebound after a loss. The 49ers lost to the Vikings in week 3 and I’d say they’ve shown the NFL that the loss, while not necessarily a fluke because the Vikings are a good team, is not how they want to be viewed. Eli Manning and the Giants might want to look out next week.
-Congrats to Drew Brees on his record breaking day. 48 consecutive games with a touchdown pass is a great accomplishment and a testament to his consistency. I’m sure Drew is really happy it game in a win. Interesting note, Devery Henderson, #19, caught the pass. Johnny Unitas wore #19. It was almost like Johnny said “I’m fine with you getting my record, but #19’s gotta do it.” A very cool moment with Unitas’ son there to see it in person.
-I miss hockey. The NHL is run by a bunch of idiots. Here’s what will happen, guaranteed. Just like the NFL Ref strike, the deal will get done and everyone will look at it and say “why were these compromises not reachable sooner?” Unlike NFL Refs, the NHL does have real issues and it’s not a matter of how much of the pie gets split. Sadly, it’ll take too long and I’ll continue to drive past Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh daily and wish I could catch a game.
Monday Night Prediction:
On paper, this is a huuuuge mismatch. The Texans are rolling and the Jets are fading. The Jets, although 2-2, are struggling big time. They’ve been outscored 81-33 their past 3 games and were shutout 34-0 last week by a 49ers team that is quite similar to the Texans. The Jets have lost the best defensive player in the NFL, Darrelle Revis, and their best WR, Santonio Holmes. Their QB is subpar at best and they have no running game to speak of. For those of you with other TV shows you like to watch on Monday nights, DVR them, you’ll be able to throw them on by halftime.