by Tommy Lawlor and NFL Gimpy (tag team effort)
This is a combination MAQB column…stuff from me (Tommy) and Gimpy. Since I didn’t have to write pages and pages on the Eagles due to the bye week, I asked Gimpy if I could add some thoughts in here. That worked well since he was limited as a football viewer on Sunday due to a family outing. So this first part is mine, for better or worse.
I thought the 2011 season was weird. There was the lockout, which had a major impact on all 32 teams. Then we saw the offensive fireworks all over the place. Cam Newton fried my brain when he threw for 422 and 432 yards in his first couple of games. That is the equivalent of my 4-year old nephew Jason calling me to discuss the underlying theme of science vs faith in The Exorcist. Simply unfathomable. Newton hasn’t thrown for 400 yards in a game since. In his last 2 games he has combined for 374 yards.
The Giants won the Super Bowl with a defense that allowed 400 points. It is hard to explain how bad that is for a SB winner. Let’s try. The Niners and Ravens made the conference title games. They combined to allow 495 points last year. The Giants gave up 400 on their own. But they got hot in the playoffs and that’s all that mattered in the end.
So yeah, 2011 was weird.
2012 is off to an interesting start. The biggest issue right now is that we simply don’t know which teams to trust. The media is desperate to have a juggernaut team. Last year the Packers were 15-1 and clearly the team to beat. Would they go 16-0? Were they “all-time” good? The stories practically wrote themselves.
There is no great team this year. The Niners started that way, but lost to the Vikings. At the time that was a bad loss, but now the Vikings are 5-2 and we are trying to figure out how good they are. The Packers started slow, but are now heating up. Could they be the best team? The media would love the Giants to be the best. That would allow them to play the defending champ angle and talk about the beloved “D” word – dynasty.
The Giants destroyed the Panthers on Thursday Night Football, 36-7, and looked like a great team. Then the G-men lost in Philly. Back to the drawing board. Last week they blew out the Niners in SF, 26-3. They were back on top. On Sunday they beat the Skins in dramatic fashion. I think most people will overlook the deficiencies they showed in the game and focus on Eli Manning’s game-winning TD pass to Victor Cruz. (Aside…can we start to think about losing the salsa dance? That’s no longer a novel thing.) The Giants may be the best team in the NFC, but they are no juggernaut. They needed comebacks to beat both the Browns and Buccaneers.
What about the 6-0 Falcons? I still don’t buy them as anything special. They are 4-0 vs the AFC West, 2-0 vs the NFC. After their 27-3 win at San Diego, the Falcons defense has struggled, allowing 398 yards and 22 points per game. They won those 3 games by a total of 12 points. A win is a win, but style points do matter when trying to figure who the best team is prior to January. Once the postseason starts, you are judged solely on surviving. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they have the same amount of playoff wins in the last 5 years as the Houston Oilers, Los Angeles Rams, and Baltimore Colts. January has been a cruel mistress for Matt Ryan and Mike Smith. Is this finally their year? The Falcons are good. I’m just not sure how good.
As to the best team in the AFC…sure looks like the Houston Texans to me. They are 6-1. DE J.J. Watt is on pace to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, if not the MVP. QB Matt Schaub is healthy. The team has won 4 games by 20 or more points. The Texans lone loss was to the Packers and they were playing without ILB Brian Cushing and it showed. On Sunday Houston demolished the Ravens, 43-13. That was the Ravens first game without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. Baltimore dropped to 5-2, with losses in Houston and Philly. Do you trust them with a struggling defense? Can Joe Flacco and Ray Rice carry that team the rest of the way? I don’t think so, but it will be interesting to see how that team responds.
The Patriots tried to blow a game on Sunday, but pulled it out in the end, with the help of a non-call. Jermaine Cunningham hit Mark Sanchez in the knees on the game-winning play. That’s the Brady Rule and should have been a penalty, which would have wiped out the fumble. The Jets probably still find a way to lose, but the rules are the rules…most of the time. The Pats must get a lot better before anyone buys into them. With Brady and Belichick, they’ve always got a fighting chance. Still, losses to Kevin Kolb and Russell Wilson are simple un-Patriotic. (is that clever or what?)
There have been a ton of exciting games this year. On Sunday I was flipping between DAL-CAR, BUF-TEN, WAS-NYG, and NO-TB. All went down to the wire. Both 4 p.m. games went into overtime. While there may not be any great teams in 2012 and we sure have lots to sort out (pretenders vs contenders), you can’t say this season lacks drama and intrigue. The Eagles, Cowboys, Steelers, and Chargers are all 3-3. Who’s for real? Heck, the Dolphins and Colts are 3-3. Can they keep that up?
I think things will change a lot in the next 6 weeks. We’ll see some teams rise and others fall. November is the month when we start to figure out what is really going on. Right now 2012 feels like the final season of Lost, when everyone was confused. I sure hope I like the ending of the season better than the ending of the show.
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(and now for the greatness of Gimpy)
I didn’t exactly watch a lot of football this weekend. It was my birthday yesterday so I spent the weekend with family and we went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire near Lancaster, PA. I drank beer and wine, saw a bunch of women dressed as wenches and watched my wife and her mom shop like there’s no tomorrow, which is how they always shop. I also ate steak on a stick. You can’t go wrong with steak on a stick.
Here are some thoughts and observations I did have…
MAQB Year of the Rookie QB
Andrew Luck: 16/29 186 yards. 3 rushes for 12 yards and 2 touchdowns and 3 sacks for 13 yards a lost fumble and a win. 74.8 QB Rating.
Robert Griffin III: 20/28 258 yards 2 touchdowns 1 interception. 9 rushes for 89 yards 3 sacks for 26 yards and a loss. 108.9 QB Rating.
Ryan Tannehill: A well deserved week off.
Brandon Weeden : 25/41 264 yards and 2 touchdowns. 1 run for 13 yards and a loss. 96.0 QB Rating.
Russell Wilson: 9/23 122 yards and an interception. 3 rushes for 10 yards 2 sacks for 7 yards and a loss. 38.7 QB Rating.
Of the 4 QBs who played, those with the 2 best games lost. Weeden again was asked to do too much after the running game completely crapped the bed on Sunday and poor RG3 got Eli’d. The Browns managed a whopping 42 yards on 18 carries with their RBs. The Colts had a decent running game for once (34 carries for 136 yards) and it was enough for the Colts to pull off the tight win. Weeden looked better and obviously had better stats but at the end of the day, he didn’t’ win. Well, maybe if Josh Gordon doesn’t drop a touchdown he wins. Like I said, Weeden is doing everything he can.
RG3 executed a great comeback and had the Redskins up by 3 with a minute and change left on the clock. Then his defense let Victor Cruz get behind them for a 77-yard touchdown on the 2nd play following the Redskins touchdown. But RG3 still had a another shot before Santana Moss had an awful fumble after getting a first down.
Wilson, after back-to-back great weeks that had me singing his praises, was bad, but not as bad as the stats will lead you to believe. I counted at least 5 drops. Those drops were killer. 14/23 for 200+ yards (that’s how many yards those drops easily cost) is a lot better than 9/23 for 122 yards. The problem is any QB who faces the 49ers defense after a loss is destined to have a bad game (more on that later).
A lot of people are a bit too low on Luck at the moment. Make no mistake, the Colts are not a very good team. Their defense was in the bottom third of the league in yards and points in 2011. Their top RB, Donald Brown, may not be the starter on 29 other teams. In fact, I can list 4 or 5 backups I’d start over him off the top of my head. Reggie Wayne is a really good WR, but other than him Luck is throwing to rookies and guys who aren’t that good. For the Colts to be 3-3 right now (one more win than they had all of last season) is pretty impressive.
Despite being the only winner, Andrew is not getting the MAQB Rookie of the Week Clipart Certificate. That goes to RG3. RG3 led a great comeback before Eli said “hey rookie, never give me time left on the clock.” It’s a lesson for RG3 to learn and a painful one at that. I’ve already concluded that Eli’s “stupid luck” is never-ending. No player will have more things go his way in clutch moments of a game than Eli. Whether it’s David Tyree catching the football on his helmet or Mario Manningham with the best sideline catch you’ll ever see, Eli’s guys make those plays.
Overpaid/Underpaid Players of the Week
Overpaid: The entire Cardinals OL
I don’t care to look up salaries or anything. Rookie, veteran, playing on one leg while concussed… nothing can excuse how awful this offensive line is. Nothing, especially with a great OL coach like Russ Grimm (who certainly shoulders some blame here). The Cardinals gave up 7 more sacks on Sunday bringing their 4 game total to 29. Former scout and current NFL.com writer Daniel Jeremiah pointed out that in 2011 seven teams (more than 1/5th of the league) didn’t give up 29 sacks all season. John Skelton got the living crap kicked out of him. Kevin Kolb got hit so hard so many times some of his ribs detached from his sternum. I’m sure he’s hoping the Cardinals cut him. Maybe he can go wherever Andy Reid goes if he gets fired too.
Cardinals OL, take your salaries and pay for Kolb, Skelton, and the next unlucky SOB to play behind you to get health insurance for the rest of their lives, because it’ll be your fault when they can’t get out of bed in 20 years. You should however send a gigantic thank you card to Pitt grad LaRod Stephens-Howling for bumping up your yards per carry average. LSH was the first 100 yard rusher the Cardinals had all season. Speaking of backup RBs who had a great game…
Underpaid: Jonathan Dwyer, RB Pittsburgh Steelers
Dwyer is the third string RB in Pittsburgh behind Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. He only started this game because of injuries to both. This is his 3rd year in the league and he had a whopping 25 career carries before this season. Over half of his career yards in his first 2 seasons (151) came on one 76-yard play. Dwyer nearly doubled those numbers on Sunday.
Dwyer had 17 carries for 122 yards in a one score game. He had 8 of those carries for 72 yards in the 4th quarter including a game ending 32 yard run on 3rd and 7. The Steelers were able to enter the victory formation after that run and win the game. Dwyer was the first Steelers RB to have more than 68 yards in a game all season. He has the only two 20+ yard rushes this season for the Steelers.
Jonathan, take your meager minimum salary and ask Big Ben where all the good party spots are in Pittsburgh and start spending. Wait, scratch that, you don’t want to party with those girls, you most likely have higher standards than that.
-Thanks to the aforementioned LaRod Stephens-Howling for his touchdown on Sunday. That puts the current streak of Pitt players in the NFL with a touchdown at 26 consecutive weeks I believe. LeSean McCoy was on a bye and Larry Fitzgerald got shut out and LSH stepped up. LSH is a class act off the field and a guy who was told in high school he’s too small for college. Then he was too small for the NFL. He has now been in the NFL for 4 years and doesn’t look to be leaving any time soon. You. Can’t. Measure. Heart.
-The 49ers have lost 5 regular season games in the Jim Harbaugh era. Following those losses, the defense has allowed 3, 0, 8, 0, and 6 points. 2 shutouts and 0 touchdowns allowed in 5 games following a loss. Teams will lose games in the NFL. There’s a reason we’ve had only one undefeated season since the early 70s and that team lost in the Super Bowl. The best way to judge a team is how they respond to that loss. 17 points in 5 games. 17 points per game in any situation is pretty good. That’ll typically make you a top 5 defense in points allowed. 17 points in 5 games following a loss? If the NFL had a best of 5 or 7 series in the playoffs, the 49ers would be unstoppable.
-Blaine Gabbert doesn’t look too bad now, does he Jags fans? After Gabbert went down with an injury, Chad Henne came in and stunk up the join. 9/20 for 71 yards and 3 sacks that lost 26 yards. On 23 pass attempts, Henne got a total of 45 yards. That’s less than 2 yards per drop back.
-It’s safe to say the Packers offense is firing on all cylinders again. I didn’t think Packers fans had too much to worry about, the offense just looked a hair off. During their 3-1 stretch, Rodgers is 105/147 (71%) with 16 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He’s averaging 308.5 yards per game. The Packers are 4-3 and have the Jaguars and Cardinals up next. It’s a safe bet they’ll be 6-3 headed into the bye week.
-Have I mentioned that the Bills have an awful defense yet this column? Well they suck.
-Is there any doubt who the best team in the AFC is? The Texans absolutely destroyed the Ravens. Injury depleted defense or not, the players who were out couldn’t help a useless offense. The offense had 3 points in the first half and that was on a 51 yard FG, certainly not a gimme. 1 touchdown and 2 50+ yard FGs isn’t going to cut it. Flacco had a pathetic 3.4 yards per attempt, a lower number than they had running the ball.
-3 teams in the entire AFC with a winning record. 3 teams in the NFC West, the worst division in the NFL 2 years ago, with a winning record. The NFL is often called “Not For Long” for many reasons, including how quickly a team can turn around their fortunes. While I don’t think the Seahawks or Cardinals are Super Bowl Contenders, the 3 winning teams are a combined 5-1 against the AFC.
-I wonder if Ryan Kalil, the starting center for the Panthers, can get a refund on the newspaper space he purchased to guarantee a Super Bowl. Maybe your GM can refu…er wait, your GM Marty Hurney just got fired. Maybe, just maybe, you shouldn’t spend tens of millions of dollars on 3 RBs that have a combined 18 touches in a 5 point loss. I keep reading there was a disconnect between the GM and the coaches. I’ve been insulting these decisions since Jonathan Stewart got an extension. In fact, I’m pretty sure I said DeAngelo Williams’ extension was stupid.
-With how bad the New Orleans Saints defense is, Drew Brees and the offense will have to put up at least 30 every game to have a shot at winning.
-I saw Peter King did a whole feature on this, but Malcolm Jenkins made a season saving tackle on Vincent Jackson. A 95 yard reception and the Bucs got 0 points because of that tackle. If the Saints make the playoffs somehow, that tackle will be the play that saved them.
-Only I can write a short column that’s only close to 2,000 words.
Monday Night Football Prediction:
Da Bears: Ditka
Translation: The Bears win easily. I don’t believe that the Lions defense is any good for a second. Mike Vick has been making defenses look good all season long