by NFL Gimpy
Before yesterday’s games, I was brainstorming about possible topics. Then I thought “maybe I’ll do another column questioning if a team who’s off to a good start is for real.” Then the Vikings, last week’s feature, failed to score a touchdown on 3 red zone possessions in the first quarter and only came away with 9 points, which kept the Redskins in the game long enough in order to take control of the game in the second quarter. The Vikings ended up making it close in the end, but it was not a good loss. So maybe for the sake of the Seahawks, I won’t go over why I think they’re for real. It might be a kiss of death. Their Thursday night contest versus the 49ers should be a good one though.
The one thing that jumped out to me is that there really isn’t a dominant team. Sure, the Falcons are 6-0, but is anyone really convinced they’re as dominant as the Packers were in 2011? Certainly, the Falcons deserve credit for pulling out close wins in three straight weeks, but you just don’t see a team that scares you. I was watching NBC last night when Rodney Harrison and Tony Dungy pretty much pointed out the glaring flaw on all of the “contenders.” In the NFC, the 49ers and Vikings can’t play from behind. The Falcons look like a good team, but are they really any better than the past 2 or 3 seasons when they lost their first playoff game? The Packers, Giants, Redskins, and Eagles are highly inconsistent. The Seahawks are relying too heavily on late game heroics from a rookie QB. The Cardinals have the worst OL in the NFL and their top 2 RBs are hurt.
The AFC has a Patriots team getting torched in the secondary. The Texans aren’t able to play from behind. The Ravens can’t stop the run and may have lost Ray Lewis for the season. Lardarius Webb, their top CB, has a torn ACL and is officially done. The rest is a sea of mediocrity. If anyone can figure out the Jets, Broncos, Bengals, and Chargers, you’ll be the first.
The good news is you can really only write off 6 or 7 teams at this point in time. Those are teams with 1 or 2 wins like the Chiefs, Jaguars, Titans, and Browns who just don’t have the talent to make a run. Recent history is littered with examples of teams that struggled in the regular season at some point but put it together at the right time. The Giants were 7-7 and on the outside looking in and were lucky to make it into the playoffs last year. The Packers were 6-6 before they won 4 straight to get in. The 2004 Steelers looked unstoppable and the 2005 version was only 7-5 with a 3 game losing streak headed into the last month of the season. The 2005 team won the Super Bowl.
This season seems to go along with my thought process regarding Super Bowl champions: you need to face adversity and have to fight out of it late in the season. The Super Bowl winner will probably be a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot in December. There are numerous teams with the talent to pull it off, especially in the NFC. The question will be who puts it all together? If you know who, give Vegas a call.
Year of the Rookie QB
Andrew Luck: 22/44 280 yards 2 interceptions. 4 sacks for 23 yards and a lost fumble. 51.3 QB rating and a loss.
Robert Griffin III: 17/22 182 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. 13 carries for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns 1 sack for 4 yards. 97.2 QB rating and a win.
Ryan Tannehill: 21/29 185 yards 2 touchdowns. 5 carries for -1 yard (kneel downs hurt this number) 2 sacks for 12 yards. 112.0 QB rating and a win.
Brandon Weeden: 17/29 231 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. 3 rushes for 3 yards and 2 sacks for 13 yards. 92.7 QB rating and a win.
Russell Wilson: 16/27 293 yards 3 touchdowns. 5 rushes for 17 yards and 2 sacks for 10 yards and a lost fumble. 133.7 QB rating and a win.
Rookie QBs were 4-1 this week. Interestingly enough, all 4 wins were at home. The 4 victors combined for 10 touchdowns and only 4 turnovers. Andrew Luck had a rough week, but a lot of that is due to a non-existent running game and a poor defensive performance. The Colts are putting more on the shoulders of Luck than any other team on their QB and it shows.
If you look at what Washington is doing with RG3, you see a team who uses his running ability, gives him less to do in the passing game than most NFL starters, and consistently uses the running game to keep defenses honest. The Colts are pretty much putting the entire offense on Luck’s shoulders, which is too much to ask even the best rookie QB.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point that RG3 put up good numbers in a win. Brandon Weeden’s big jump this week was a lack of a critical mistake. He did have an interception, but it was early in the 1st quarter and he rebounded nicely. Weeden shined in the fourth quarter. The Browns had touchdown drives of 5 plays for 66 yards and 7 plays for 60 yards. These scores gave them a 27-17 lead halfway through the fourth quarter and the defense ended it with a Sheldon Brown pick-6 on Andy Dalton to put the game out of reach. Weeden has made critical mistakes in several games this year and without that mistake the Browns got their first win. If the Browns can improve their WR/TE group and Weeden cuts down on the mistakes, this offense can be above average.
But Tannehill and Wilson were the big surprises this week. Tannehill completed 72% of his passes, no turnovers, and threw 2 touchdowns in a defensive struggle. The running game wasn’t working for Miami and Tannehill found ways to put points on the board. Their defense stifled the Rams all game long and Tannehill was able to play the field position game. He was certainly aided by an awful day by Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (3 missed FGs) but the point is he took what the defense gave him and never put his team in a bad situation.
Three weeks ago, there were grumbles that Russell Wilson should be benched after a dreadful 3 interception game against the Rams. How has he responded? 35/52 (67%) for 514 yards (9.8 yards per attempt) and 4 touchdowns. The biggest complaint early in the season was that he wasn’t looking deep and threw the ball short too often. He has rectified that the past 2 weeks and it came to fruition in the fourth quarter. With less than 1:30 on the clock, Wilson found Sidney Rice 40+ yards downfield for the game winning score. It wasn’t a Hail Mary. Wilson dropped back, moved in the pocket to find a throwing lane, and launched a perfect ball to Rice. It capped off a 14-point come from behind fourth quarter for the Seahawks.
Come from behind wins will get you the prize and for his massive improvement over the past 2 weeks, Russell Wilson is your Week 6 MAQB Rookie QB of the Week Clipart Certificate winner. Congrats Russell! RG3 certainly deserves accolades as well, but Russell is the man for now. We’ll see if he can keep it up on Thursday against the 49ers. That’s a huuuuuge game.
Overpaid/Underpaid Players of the Week
Overpaid: Mike Vick, QB Philadelphia Eagles.
It was tough to give Vick this award, especially given how badly Matt Stafford deserved it up until Calvin Johnson made a great sideline catch to set up the FG that forced OT. But Vick threw 2 bad interceptions on Sunday. 1 was a bad decision where he just chucked the ball up towards Jason Avant and the other was a bad underthrow to DeSean Jackson. Even with that, Vick still would have dodged the award if he made something happen in overtime. 1st and 10 on the 25 for the Eagles, Vick is sacked for 7 yards after he held the ball for too long. 2nd and 17 and he holds the ball for too long and gets sacked for 14 yards. 3rd and 31, incomplete pass. Even with a 46 yard net punt (a good punt in most situations), the Lions got the ball on the 50 because Vick lost 21 yards on 2 plays. The Lions gained 23 yards and kicked an easy game winner.
Vick, the Overpaid Player of the Week was all but certainly Stafford’s. He was missing receivers in a clean pocket all night. You made more plays with far more pressure in your face. Your defense choked. But combine those two bad interceptions (I’m ignoring the fumbled snaps which weren’t really your fault) with an awful, awful OT possession that handed the Lions an easy win, I had to give it to you.
Heck, you could have avoided it if this game were a flukey bad game. But you have 8 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles on the year. You have one game without multiple turnovers. One. Sorry Mike, but you better stop the turnovers or else you and your coach will be job hunting.
Underpaid: James Jones, WR Green Bay Packers.
Jones was a free agent this offseason whom many speculated would get a decent offer and sign elsewhere. Late in July when it seemed like that big offer wasn’t coming, Jones re-signed with the Packers for 3 years and $9.4M. Jones had 2 TD catches on Sunday night, giving him 7 total for the season.
Tell me, who’s leading the NFL in TD receptions? That’s right, James Jones. While Jordy Nelson certainly had the better game yesterday (121 yards and 3 touchdowns), I picked Jones because 31 other NFL teams could have the touchdown reception leader right now for a reasonable price. They passed.
-There’s grumbling in San Francisco that Colin Kaepernick should get more playing time. I’ve been pushing this agenda since the preseason. I don’t necessarily think Alex Smith is a bad QB, he’s just not a consistent playmaker. He’s smart and efficient, but if the 49ers are down by 2 scores, do you really think he can pull off the comeback?
-I’m really starting to wonder if this will be Andy Reid’s last season as the Eagles head coach. They’re 3-3 with back-to-back losses to subpar teams. They have the 2nd worst offense in the NFL using points per game (who cares how many yards you get if the points don’t come?). Only the Jaguars are worse. Nnamdi Asomugha is questioning defensive playcalling late in the game. On the bright side for Andy, I count at least 6 possible HC openings in 2013. The Chiefs, with a likely high draft pick that will probably be a QB, look like a good landing spot.
-I said in my season preview I think a player could break the single season sack record. I didn’t think it could possibly be a 3-4 DE. JJ Watt has 9.5 sacks in 6 games. He’s on pace for 25 sacks and has had at least 1 sack in every game so far. He has more sacks than 7 entire teams right now. He’s easily the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year right now.
-I mentioned this on Twitter yesterday, but Brady Quinn is a very selfless player. A lot of people in Kansas City were concerned there could be a QB controversy due to how much Matt Cassel has struggled this year. Brady, the selfless guy he is, made sure everyone in KC missed Matt. Quinn averaged only 4.7 yards per attempt and threw 2 picks. He led the offense on one scoring drive. Way to go Brady, make sure everyone misses Cassel, you’re a team player! I didn’t see much of the game, but Quinn was never sacked and was only hit twice. That says to me he wasn’t under a ton of pressure from a Bucs D that has struggled big time to rush the passer the past 2 seasons (they’re one of the teams JJ Watt has more sacks than).
-How bad is that Cardinals OL? During their first 3 games (where they went 3-0) it looked like maybe people were underestimating them. Nope. They allowed a “not too bad” 6 sacks in their first 3 wins. Their past 3 games (1 win and 2 losses)? 22 sacks. They face Jared Allen and the Vikings next week. That’s not good. The Cardinals OL let a Bills defense I’ve heavily criticized tee off on Kolb and the Vikings are a much, much better defense.
-I’m so happy The Walking Dead is back on, but I really wish it wasn’t on Sunday night. Pick Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Each of those nights would be great. But a night with football on? Lame.
-Dez Bryant needs a better babysitter during press conferences too. Get on that Jerry.
-It’s my birthday on Sunday. I will happily accept a Pitt win against Buffalo as my present on Saturday. My guys are struggling at 2-4 but Buffalo, Temple, UConn, and USF are not very good teams. C’mon Pitt, win 6. Please?
San Diego: 24
The Broncos are desperate for a win. They’re a good team whose 3 losses come to teams with a combined 14-4 record. The Patriots 3-3 record kills that stat. The Broncos lost close contests to the Texans and Falcons who are 11-1 right now. 2-4 headed into the bye week can’t happen. It gets a lot easier after the bye (vs. New Orleans, at Cincinnati, @ Carolina, combined W-L of 5-11) and a win tonight could mean when these two face again in Week 11 the Broncos are 6-3. They can still win this division even if they lose, but a 2 game gap between them and the Chargers will make it too difficult.
So, desperation is the difference.