Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 9 Power Rankings & The Rest

32.) Oakland Raiders  (0-7  =  105-181)

Can they go 0-16? You look ahead at their schedule and it doesn't seem that preposterous. Their best chances are probably hosting KC on TNF on November 20th, or a trip to St. Louis the Sunday before that. They are definitely far better than the 2008 Detroit Lions, and will be a more talented 0-16, but the schedule-makers did no favors for this team.


31.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (1-6  =  133-223)

The Buccaneers are still bad, but I like this whole 'let's alternate between playing absolutely pitiful on defense and playing decent on defense' strategy they have. I still think if Lovie Smith is given time, they can build something in Tampa Bay. Locking down Gerald McCoy was the first step of the puzzle. Looking back at Lovie's tenure in Chicago and it started similarly badly, as they started 2004 at 1-5. The one difference was that defense wasn't all that bad.


30.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-7  =  118-218)

That -100 point differential is staggering, given that they have won a game comfortably, and lost one game by less than 10 points. It's far worse than Oakland's who is winless. Blake Bortles is sure throwing a lot of interceptions. I still think he looks like he has more going for him than Gabbert ever did, but that is not showing at all in his actual performance.


29.) New York Jets  (1-7  =  144-228)

I never expected this. I think this is a case of a fragile team getting pounded early by a really tough schedule. Can you even remember that they were once 1-0, and leading Green Bay big at halftime in Week 2. Since then it has been all downhill. There was close losses early, and apart from the San Diego game they never looked awful. Hell, they came one field goal away from beating New England. Then that happened. Geno Smith is done, and Rex Ryan is probably not fair behind.


28.) Tennessee Titans  (2-6  =  137-202) 

Zach Mettenberg didn't really show anything one way or the other in that game. He looked poised to a point and didn't look lost on the field. He utilized Justin Hunter more in one game than Whitehurst seemed to in three. There is just no real talent on this team. Given how competitive the middle of the AFC is this year, they might just lose enough games to get a high enough pick to start amending that this offseason.


27.) Atlanta Falcons  (2-6  =  192-221)

Once again they are on pace to go 4-12. This team is better than 2-6 (their point differential is far better - though skewed by the 56-14 win). Problem is that their bad areas aren't going to get better anytime soon, like the o-line or the pass rush. They have some intriguing pieces going forward, but I am worried what happens if Mike Smith leaves, and if Matt Ryan can survive and return to being very good after being beaten senseless this year and last.


26.) St. Louis Rams  (2-5  =  136-210)

To win a tease I needed them to lose by fewer than 14.5. Leading 7-0 after a few minutes I was feeling good. Down just 10-7 at the half I was feeling good. Then Kniles Davis had to have a kickoff return, and the Rams decided to stop playing down 17-7. I wholly think that Gregg Williams is the wrong coordinator for this team. He is needlessly aggressive.


25.) Washington Redskins  (3-5  =  171-200)

Yes, I'm not moving them too far up for one good game on the road against a divisional opponent. That said, what Colt McCoy has done is show uncanny accuracy. He followed up going 11-12 in the 2nd half against Tennessee by going 25-30 for the entire game. That is pretty special... and in no way sustainable. What is also not sustainable is this incredibly heavy blitzing on defense.


24.) Chicago Bears  (3-5  =  180-222)

I think Marc Trestman can call an offense, but they seem very unprepared for a lot of games. I was not expecting much at all from them that game, given that they had no answer for a similar but less talented offense in Miami the week earlier. Still, I was expecting a little more than allowing Shea McClellin to go one-on-one with Rob Gronkowski. They fell victim to the Patriots patented 'Holy Hell, who is ever going to beat this team game" (it was Pittsburgh last year, losing 33-51), but they showed no flex at all.


23.) Minnesota Vikings  (3-5  =  139-173)
With a winnable game coming up at home and a trip to Chicago after the bye, they can head into a showdown with Green Bay at 5-5. Of course, that scenario involves two 'if's, and they'll likely lose badly to Green Bay, but this Minnesota team is winning with less talent and will likely end this season at 6-10, which didn't look too likely two weeks ago. Bridgewater is a little erratic, but man can he sling it at times. Also, nice to see Anthony Barr finally do something.


22.) New York Giants  (3-4  =  154-169)

The Giants head into a Monday Night game without much real hope unless they can go on a long winning streak. With the Lions, Cardinals and Cowboys really coming into their own, there are just less available spots this time around. The Giants are in an interesting period, without some interesting young players, but an aging QB. Handling this situation will really define the next 15 years of Giants football.


21.) Houston Texans  (4-4  =  185-166)

Somehow they are 4-4, and actually have a positive point differential. However, that record puts them just 11th in the AFC, looking up at a ridiculously complex Wild Card race. Sure, some teams will take themselves out, and the Texans happen to be in the one division with two bad teams, but the Texans will have to really lean on Arian Foster going forward. Also, they won't be playing Zach Mettenberger each week.


20.) Cleveland Browns  (4-3  =  163-152)
That wasn't a dominant win, but an important one. After their 3-2 start, they had a seemingly easy three-game stretch. Then they went out and played like dogshit in the first of those games. A close one here and it would have raised some questions. Instead, they took care of business, the one thing I, and all Browns fans, really wanted to see. There are still holes, but with another easy game to come, they can go to 5-3 after eight games, which would be their best by far since 2007.


19.) Carolina Panthers  (3-4-1  =  167-208)

Tough loss for a team that should have been up by far more in the first half. They blew some TD opportunities, and the mistake fumble killed another red zone chance. It was good to see the defense play well for the first time in a while, but for the 2nd straight year they let the Seahawks drive down and win it after holding them back all game. Being in the NFC South they can retake control with a home win this Thursday, but they may still not be long for the division lead.


18.) New Orleans Saints  (3-4  =  199-188)

I'll give them credit for having their first dominant offensive game since Week 1 (I say this knowing how bad Brees looked at times against Tampa Bay), their first real dominant performance across the board. The defense played really well in the red zone. Sure, they were pathetic in between the 20s, but as long as they can make a few red zone stops when needed they can be dangerous. Big test coming up given they are once again failing on the road.


17.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (5-3  =  205-196)

Let's talk for a minute about Ben Roethlisberger's game, shall we? 40-49 is ridiculous. 522 yards is ridiculous. 6 TDs is ridiculous. That was the most incredible display of QB-ing I've seen in one game against a heretofore good defense since maybe Kurt Warner in the 2009 NFC Wild Card game against Green Bay. Sure, the defense still looked average, but if even 85% of that Ben shows up consistently for the rest of the season that could be a very good team.


16.) Buffalo Bills  (5-3  =  178-165)

There they sit at 5-3 still with a good defense (very good d-line), and a passing game that has one explosive weapon. The rest of the passing game doesn't scare you, and they'll have to bide time for one of their two good RBs to come back, but the Bills are definitely in this playoff race. They do have a hard schedule coming up, though, with games against Green Bay, Denver and KC still on the schedule, as well as trips to Miami and New England.


15.) San Francisco 49ers  (4-3  =  158-165)

The 49ers probably used that bye week to do nothing but see the rest of the NFC come back to them. The Cardinals are still 2 games up in the division (with a h-2-h win), but the #6 seed is just a half game up - tied in the loss column. Unlike most teams, they only stand to get healthier with Aldon Smith and Navarro Bowman set to come back in teh next month or so. The one weakness for them is their o-line injuries. Those guys will not be coming back.


14.) Miami Dolphins  (4-3  =  174-151)

I will keep saying this up until they probably miss the playoffs because of it, but the Dolphins are still a 4th and 10, or recovering a fumble after a strip-sack, away from 5-2 and being half a game back of the Patriots. They too have a tough schedule left, starting this very week, but they've already played Green Bay (still have Detroit). All they can really hope is that Week 15 trip to Foxboro is meaningful. Nice to see Ryan Tannehill put up two straight pretty good games.


13.) Kansas City Chiefs  (4-3  =  176-128)

They arguably should be higher, given their at times dominance and their recent win over San Diego, but at some point great coaching and scheme only takes you so far. Their defense is back to their sack-happy ways of last year. For their sake hopefully Hali and Houston stay healthy this time around. What Andy Reid has done in crafting that offense is amazing. Yes, he has his issues with time and game management, but that is so far less meaningful than his ability to gameplan and run an offense.


12.) Cincinnati Bengals  (4-2-1  =  161-164)

Big win for the Bengals, capped with a quality late game drive and a gutsy QB sneak on 4th down from the 2. Yes, they got slightly lucky that Steve Smith was called for a slightly iffy OPI on that potential game-winning TD, but the Bengals came back from their second embarrassment in three weeks with a huge win. This also gives them a season-sweep of the Bengals. Of course, given that they have a tie, they will basically never be in a tiebreaker scenario. Something that will be forgotten 1,400 times by the end of the season.


11.) San Diego Chargers  (5-3  =  205-149)

I still like this team, but you can start saying that outside of that amazing Seattle win, they've lost against the three best teams they have played (Arizona, KC, Denver). They still get the return leg in KC, and by record the worst (toughest) games are behind them, but they've fallen back towards the rest of the AFC morrass right now.


10.) Green Bay Packers  (5-3  =  222-191)

There's no shame in losing to the Saints in primetime in the Superdome; hell there's no shame even in losing to them in the Superdome by 21. What there is shame is being so pitiful in the red zone. Five trips when Rodgers was in the game resulted in one TD, two field goals and a pick (that was a bad throw anyway on 3rd down). Rodgers did seem hampered by that hamstring injury, but he just didn't play well in the 2nd half.


9.) Philadelphia Eagles  (5-2  =  203-156)

That was a great game, and a really tough loss. All the credit to Palmer and the Cards for hitting the Brown TD to win the game, but that was awful coverage. Then, we got the 2nd time this year that they drove all the way to the red zone needing a TD to win and couldn't get it. They can put of yards with the best of them, but more and more each week the Eagles have a hard time pickign up big chunks on non-gimmick plays. That defense is staying better than expected, back-end mishaps excluded.


8.) New England Patriots  (6-2  =  238-177)

The Bears were the perfect fit for the Patriots. They can't cover TEs to save their life, and without most of their secondary they can't cover WRs either. Needless to say the Broncos can do all these things. The Patriots also limited the Bears on defense, but physical corners like Revis and Browns are perfect for receivers of that size. Impressive performance for a team that has really turned it around from that awful start.


7.) Dallas Cowboys  (6-2  =  213-167)

Not going to bump them back too much for losing a close game at home to a divisional rival. They weren't going to win every game going forward. It will be more disconcerting if they lose next week to Arizona at home. I hope Romo's back is healthy, and I more seriously hope he's not going back into games when the back acts up or gets hit again. I also more than anything hope Peyton Manning doesn't lose out on the MVP to another back who rushes for 2,000 yards.


6.) Seattle Seahawks  (4-3  =  172-150)

That wasn't a good performance, but their defense showed some life in the Red Zone for the first time all season. They'll need that especially as their offense continues to sputter. No one has realized it yet, but Russell Wilson really hasn't improved much since his rookie season. Now, when he started out amazing as a rookie, that isn't a huge issue, but he needs to take another step forward.


5.) Baltimore Ravens  (5-3  =  217-131)

The Ravens may kick themselves for losing that game, but they showed great compete on the road against a desperate team. Joe Flacco didn't play great, but he still looks comfortable in that offense. This may not be the case, but this definitely seems like the most balanced and effective the Ravens offense has been in the Flacco era. They will only get better once Monroe and Osemele get back. That defense is still very good, but they do give up a few too many big plays for my liking.


4.) Indianapolis Colts  (5-3  =  250-187)

Obviously that defense was terrible. It was also historically good just one week earlier. Their real level is somewhere in the middle. It may just come down to who they are playing. They need to blitz to be effective. That works far less against good veteran QBs. They have two more of them coming up (Manning, Brady). Both have had recent struggles against the blitz, so it will be interesting to see if the Colts continue that agressiveness after being burned so badly against Pittsburgh.


3.) Detroit Lions  (6-2  =  162-126)

Yes, they once again didn't really deserve to win, but wins are wins. They've shown good levels of play with Calvin Johnson playing (remember they did destroy Green Bay and the Giants), and he should be back this week. Not only did they tread water without Megatron, they've remained in first place. Knowing that it is the Lions, this can all change, but that defense is not going anywhere. Losing Fairley hurts, but with a dominant Suh and a deep rotation, they can handle that loss.


2.) Arizona Cardinals  (6-1  =  164-139)

DVOA doesn't like them, but that's partly because the offense sputtered with backup QBs for multiple weeks, and their offense is predicated on hitting big throws that are low percentage plays. However, they've done those things, and while they won't get some defenders back, with Campbell coming back they have gotten their best remaining player back. It's also nice to see Larry Fitzgerald back and playing well again.


1.) Denver Broncos  (6-1  =  224-142)

The offense is not on pace to score as much, but Peyton Manning is in many ways playing better in 2014 than 2013. The running game has been much better with Hillman. Ryan Clady is looking better each week. The defense is one of the best in the league, doing great work against a really tough schedule of offenses so far. Von Miller leads the NFL in sacks. DeMarcus Ware is 3rd. Chris Harris has recovered splendidly from his ACL tear. Everything is going well. If this season is going to have a GREAT team, this is it. Of course that is when it can all go wrong...


Postseason Projections

AFC

1.) Denver Broncos  =  14-2
2.) Indianapolis Colts  =  12-4
3.) New England Patriots  =  11-5
4.) Baltimore Ravens  =  11-5
5.) Cincinnati Bengals  =  10-5-1
6.) San Diego Chargers  =  10-6


NFC

1.) Detroit Lions  =  12-4
2.) Arizona Cardinals  =  12-4

3.) Dallas Cowboys  =  11-5
4.) New Orleans Saints  =  9-7
5.) Seattle Seahawks  =  11-5
6.) Green Bay Packers  =  11-5


Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games


Byes: Atlanta (2-6); Buffalo (5-3); Chicago (3-5); Detroit (6-2); Green Bay (5-3); Tennessee (2-6)

Very mixed bag of bye teams this week. After four weeks of having just two bye teams, we now get six once again. Unlike in Week 3, it doesn't include most of the best teams (that week had Denver, Arizona, San Diego and Seattle). We have two very good teams, one surprising contender, two epic disappointments, and the least lovable team in the NFL.


13.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
12.) Oakland Raiders (0-7)  @  Seattle Seahawks (4-3)  (4:25 - CBS)
11.) New York Jets (1-7)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-6)  @  Cleveland Browns (4-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) St. Louis Rams (2-5)  @  San Francisco 49ers (4-3)  (4:05 - FOX)

I call it "The 5 games that no one will watch because the rest of the week is so good" Sunday, as these five games feature very bad teams going on the road to play good teams. The chances of all five home teams winning is pretty low. I've ordered them in what I would guess would be most likely to lose to most likely to pull a stunning upset. Honestly, I can't see any of them doing it. If the odds are nice, this could be an intriguing, but ultimately really dumb 5-way parlay.


8.) Washington Redskins (3-5)  @  Minnesota Vikings (3-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
7.) Philadelphia Eagles (5-2)  @  Houston Texans (4-4)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "The Winner will be somewhat in it, and the Loser of the other will be somewhat out of it" Sunday, as the first game will have one team somehow be 4-5, and somewhat in the Wild Card race. On the other side, the loser of the Eagles @ Texans tilt is in rough shape. Well, if it is the Eagles, they aren't in too rough of a shape, but the Texans will be behind a whole lot of teams at 4-5.


6.) Indianapolis Colts (5-3)  @  New York Giants (3-4)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "What is the better play, a Night Game after a Bye or a game after being Blowed the Fuck Out" Monday, as the Colts go back on the road after being humiliated on defense, and the Giants are off their bye after being humiliated a week ago to the Eagles. The Colts will likely win their division anyway, but just one week ago they were squarely in play for the #2 seed. A loss here and they'll likely be the #3 at best.


5.) New Orleans Saints (3-4)  @  Carolina Panthers (3-4-1)  (TNF - NFLN)
4.) San Diego Chargers (5-3)  @  Miami Dolphins (4-3)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "The First Real Separation Sunday' Thursday and Sunday, as all four teams are in the thick of the playoff race and getting a head-to-head win would be huge. The Saints go to Carolina where the winner will go back to .500 in that lousy division. A win for the Saints here might even wrap things up this early given it will be hard for them to even go worse than 7-1 at home. For the Chargers and Dolphins the winner goes to 6-3, which is nice because that is a pretty record, but also it allows them to avoid picking up a 4th loss and a loss to a potential wild card competitor.


3.) Arizona Cardinals (6-1)  @  Dallas Cowboys (6-2)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Shades of 1998" Sunday, as the Cardinals return to the scene of their franchises' first relevant moment in Arizona, when Jake Plummer took the Cardinals to a playoff win in Dallas in 1998. This could be similar. A win here, over a 2nd consecutive top-ranked NFC East team, would really give the Cardinals some national recognition. What would also be amazing is a 7-1 start to the season, allowing them to finish the 1st half with a two-game lead over the NFC West.


2.) Baltimore Ravens (5-3)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "The return of what was the best rivalry in the NFL" Sunday, as the Ravens and Steelers renew the rivalry with both teams right there at 5-3. The Ravens definitely seem ostensibly better, and dominated the hell out of Pittsburgh back in Week 2 on Thursday Night Football, but this is a different, 500-yard Ben Roethlisberger, team. It wouldn't be too surprising if Roethlisberger's passing total drops by 50% in this game. Nice to see after two soft years that this amazing rivalry is back.


1.) Denver Broncos (6-1)  @  New England Patriots (6-2)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it "The War of 18-12, Pt. XVI" Sunday, as it happens once again. It will likely happen again next year after these teams win their division again. It could even happen in January, and this game will go a long way in determining where that possible January game would be played. Still, I will follow my tradition of watching a movie during this game. Which movie you ask... how about 'Once Upon a Time in America'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What 510 Touchdowns Really Means



Peyton Manning threw his 510th touchdown this week. I'm sure you all know this, given that they basically stopped the game for a minute to give Manning his due. Every postgame showed touched on it. Every radio show talked about it. Every player was asked about it. This is probably the only known record in the NFL. It was a big deal when Brett Favre broke Marino's record in 2007. It was a big deal when Manning broke Favre's on Sunday Night. But this isn't about the record, this is about what setting that record means for one Peyton Manning.

Peyton Manning is no better or worse a QB with TD pass #509. He's proven himself enough in this league. The TD record didn't mean that. What it did signify is that nothing will stop Peyton. Time won't stop him. A debilitating neck injury so bad that Todd Helton cried when seeing his once backup QB throw late in the 2011 season didn't stop him. Losing a Super Bowl 43-8 didn't stop him. Having more money than God didn't stop him. Getting rushed by huge men year after year hasn't stopped him. Peyton Manning came into the NFL to be the best. He won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl before 2011, when his career could have easily ended. He was driven to come back, to reclaim what was once his. I don't think 508 drove him. Playing the game again drove him.

My favorite TD by Manning last week wasn't the record breaker, it was the TD right after, the 40-yard strike to Demarryius Thomas. That was a perfect pass, with good arm strength, great zip and perfect placement. Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford couldn't have thrown that ball better. That was the best sign for Manning. He's 38, and his arm is a whole lot better than it was at 36. Peyton had a triumphant return to the NFL with a Sunday Night win over the Steelers, but 508 couldn't have seen further away one week later.

In Week 2 of 2012, the Broncos went to Atlanta. That Falcons team would end up 13-3, and put a beat down on a lot of good QBs in the Dome that year, but no one knew that yet. Manning threw three INTs on back-to-back-to-back drives. It looked ugly. The passes were wobbly. Peyton compensated by getting smarter, by throwing more by doing less. He ended the 2012 season as the best QB in the NFL that year, the close runner-up as MVP, losing to a guy who had a historic season at RB. Yet Manning wanted more.

He went out and had the most voluminous season in NFL history. The one record he was known for was the one that his biggest rival broke. Tom Brady took Manning's most famous record from him... so Manning took it back throwing 55 TDs, breaking the yardage record to boot. Then the Seahawks embarrassed that offense in the Super Bowl... and Manning got even better.

What is Peyton Manning doing in 2014? He's basically having Tom Brady's 2007 season. His stats projected out to 16 games are eerily similar to Brady's in 2007. He's on pace to throw one fewer completion on one more attempt, for 100 more yards, one more TD and the same 8 INTs. The numbers are that close. Manning has a better passer rating this year. He has a better arm this year. He's being more efficient this year. He is better this year. You aren't supposed to set records at 37, and you for sure aren't supposed to play even better at 38. Manning is doing historic things, and 508 is only a part of it.

509 TDs isn't the culmination of a career. It is the continuation of one. Manning will basically stop at this point when he decides to. His Broncos career might just end up being the greatest three-year stretch of QB-ing ever (Manning from 2004-06 comes close - with better efficiency in a far less pass-heavy NFL). Sure, it is easier to throw in today's NFL, and passer rating records are getting smashed each year (the NFL as a whole has a 89.9 passer rating this season - it was 80.9 in 2004), but Manning is the best QB in 2014. He was the best QB in 2004. No one covered eras like Favre. Brett Favre was a Top-3 QB in an NFL that included an MVP Steve Young. He was a Top-3 QB in an NFL that included an MVP Peyton Manning and Super Bowl MVP Brett Favre. Brett Favre spanned eras, but really, so did Peyton Manning.

Manning had his first great season in 1999. That year was the birth of the Greatest Show on Turf. It was also Dan Marino's final season. It was two years before Tom Brady started a game. Aaron Rodgers was 14. Andrew Luck was 10. Peyton Manning was his first MVP in 2003, the last year before the QB revolution. That year the 2nd best QB was Steve McNair, the third best was probably Brett Favre. That was the first year of the Manning / Brady duopoly (let's remember, Rich Gannon was the MVP the year before that). We are now 11 years later. There are probably less than 30 players who were active in 2003 who are active today. Peyton Manning is one of them, and he's arguably better 11 years later.

510 TDs is a dynamic record. He's going to put that thing higher each week. Drew Brees has an incredibly outside shot of touching that record. Andrew Luck has a shot, I guess. That shot gets more realistic if the NFL goes to an 18-game schedule. Even then, he has to basically throw 30 TDs a game for 15 years. Peyton Manning is leaving behind a legacy so great it is beyond words. And he's not done yet. An injury crippled his career for a while. It made him leave Indianapolis, something that seemed unfathomable just a year earlier. Still, it made him better. It made him hungrier, and smarter, and tougher, and greater. It made him get to 508, and now 510, and will carry him to a place that we can only imagine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 8 Power Rankings & The Rest

32.) Oakland Raiders  (0-6  =  92-158)

They weren't utterly dominated against a good team, which is nice. They're definitely better than an 0-6 team, but then against most teams in the NFL are better than 0-6. The Raiders alternate good offensive and good defensive performances. Sooner or later, they'll get six of one and half-dozen of the other and win a game.


31.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (1-5  =  120-204)

The Buccaneers went on a bye and somehow picked up a game and now are just two games back in the division. They have no real shot, but in any other division they would have LITERALLY no shot. That is how bad the NFC South is. Still, this team has been pathetic and hasn't even played many NFC South games yet.


30.) Tennessee Titans  (2-5  =  121-172)

The Titans will play like 10 games this season that will be some variation of what they've done the last two weeks. One was a close win where neither team played well in their game against the Jags winning 16-14. The other was a close loss where neither team played well in their game against the Redskins losing 17-19. They'll probably play a 17-13 game at some point, than a 19-14 game, and a 20-17 game (which is probably too conventional a score for them).


29.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (1-6  =  105-191)

Big win for the Jags. Somehow, despite winning by 18, this team is still getting outscored more than a team that has lost games 56-14 and 48-17. I'm not sure how that is possible. Blake Bortles alternates good and bad drives, but what I'll say is he has the pocket presence, at least for a rookie, that Blaine Gabbert never came close to having, and he gets past the picks rather quickly.


28.) Washington Redskins  (2-5  =  120-160)

Colt McCoy is to Kirk Cousins what Kirk Cousins was to RGIII. He's a guy that will play well in a spot relief game, but then start looking horrendous in a week or two when people get film and he gets some real action. Let's just remember that three weeks ago people were saying that Kirk Cousins was going to unseat RGIII? That was a fun little period.


27.) Atlanta Falcons  (2-5  =  171-199)

No team has fallen further than the Falcons. Four straight losses following that 56-14 demolition. I guess we realized that even bad teams can be awfully dominant against even worse teams on short weeks. The Falcons will likely win a few games, but their o-line injuries are mounting at a hilarious rate right now. Jake Matthews could be the best lineman by default.


26.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-5  =  120-160)

For the second straight game, Teddy Bridgewater was a marginal player. For the second straight week, the Vikings defense gave up just 17 points. Of course, they were very different games. The first was a game the Vikings had no real chance in and stayed close because the Lions offense is pretty middling right about now. The second is a game the Vikings should have won if they stopped a 4th and 20.


25.) New York Jets  (1-6  =  121-185)

Really rough loss for the Jets there. They played well; a really committed game on offense. They controlled the line of scrimmage. I was surprised at the lack of consistent pressure they got on Brady, but they flooded the zones like they usually do against Tom Terrific. Still, that 3rd and 19 was the real killer, not the blocked field goal. How can you go single high on 3rd and effing 19!


24.) Houston Texans  (3-4  =  155-150)

Well, looks like when you take an aging player that was barely above average three years ago and try to let him lead your offense that doesn’t have a great o-line and has a, sadly, aging WR, you don’t get good results. JJ Watt may be amazing, and they may get Jadeveon back soon, but they’re already two games back in the division. That de-escalated quickly.


23.) St. Louis Rams  (2-4  =  129-176)

As I said a week ago, you have to be somewhat good to outscore the Cowboys 21-0, the Eagles 28-6, the 49ers 14-0 and now the Seahawks 21-3. Yes, they've also been outscored by loads in those games, but bad teams don't have those runs. I hope they keep Fisher even if they go 6-10, because given the youth still on this team everywhere, they still have a bright, bright future.


22.) Cleveland Browns  (3-3  =  140-139)
Well, now we get to return to regularly scheduled Browns programming. They suck again! That was one of the most hideous performances I have ever seen by a QB against a mediocre defense. How in lords name has this team managed to go from winning by 21 and then losing by 18? They say they are going to stick by Brian Hoyer, but I have to imagine even one half more of those performances (especially against Oakland), and we may see Johnny Manziel.



21.) New Orleans Saints  (2-4  =  155-165)

Yes, they probably had their best game of the season in barely losing (and probably should be beating) to the Lions in Detroit, but very quietly the Saints are on pace for barely 400 points cored (which would be their lowest since a strange 2010 season), Drew Brees has a 11-7 ratio, and has quietly been worse than Tom Brady, and also aging, with no ‘Is Drew Brees done?’ columns to be found. They are less quietly 0-4 on the road, and not quietly at all horrible on defense.


20.) New York Giants  (3-4  =  154-169)

The Giants played pretty well and still lost by 10. They had a 7-point lead, but then decided that 3rd down on defense no longer existed. I’ve seen Romo do that to teams before (go wild on 3rd and long), but never with that regularity. I have been severely disappointed by the Giants secondary this year. Losing Thurmond hurt, but guys like DRC have been doing nothing so far.


19.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (4-3  =  154-162)

The Steelers needed that win. I still don’t think they are a very good team, and are likely battling for last place in that division (they’ll end up higher just because Ben > Hoyer/Manziel), but that was a big win for them. Obviously, turning a 0-13 game into 24-13 in three minutes is a little flukey, but anytime the Steelers force turnovers is a cause for celebration.


18.) Chicago Bears  (3-4  =  157-171)

The Bears are so up and down. Figures for a team that employs Jay Cutler. Unsurprisingly, the team has become worse when he’s had to do more. From 2010-2012, with Cutler starting, the Bears went 29-14. Cutler was nowhere near as voluminous in those years, but he played more controlled. The defense is a weir combination of sometimes good pass rush and no coverage whatsoever, a combination that will likely be exploited to the high heavens by New England next week.


17.) Carolina Panthers  (3-3-1  =  158-195)

The mediocre of the NFL is really mediocre that a team that has lost convincingly in three games is ranked barely below average. Now, that might be more faith in Ron Rivera and Cam Newton than anything else, but getting blown out by Baltimore and Green Bay isn’t too surprising given how good those teams are. They really have to do something about that defense though. It is amazing that the Ravens have become better sans-Ray Rice and the Panthers have become far worse sans-Greg Hardy.


16.) Miami Dolphins  (3-3  =  147-138)

If they don’t blow that Packers game in epic fashion, they are 4-2 and half a game behind New England with a head-to-head win and an easier schedule going forward. Instead, they are lagging behind the Wild Card race and half-a-game behind Buffalo for 2nd place with a head-to-head loss. One game can mean SO MUCH even this early in the year.


15.) Cincinnati Bengals  (3-2-1  =  134-140)

Do you know who the Bengals remind me of? The 2012 Texans. That team started 11-1, and went to New England to play a MNF game. They were routed (14-42), and cratered, following up a 2-3 finish to that season with a 2-14 season in 2013. I doubt the Bengals follow through, but their nose-dive causing loss to New England happened a whole lot earlier.


14.) Buffalo Bills  (4-3  =  135-142)

They should be 2-5. They had no business beating the Lions or Vikings, yet here we are. They are a game behind New England. Now, they already lost to the Pats at home and have no real shot at the division, but when you break down the AFC, that #6 seed is wide open. They really have as good of a chance as anyone.


13.) Kansas City Chiefs  (3-3  =  142-121)

Well.. they probably have a better chance than the Bills. The Chiefs are just really well coached. I realize it is easy to hate on Andy Reid the game manager, but Andy Reid the game-planner is pretty damn flawless. I actually think their defense is better this time around than last year, or at least more sustainable. They’ll stay in this as long as they stay reasonably healthy.


12.) San Francisco 49ers  (4-3  =  158-165)

With the great starts by at least two teams in the NFC North and East, there is a legitimate chance that both the 49ers and Seahawks miss the playoffs. That said, given who is coming back reasonably soon for the 49ers, they may get better. Still, some areas won’t get better. The secondary wasn’t great even when they were healthy. The o-line has issues. Kaep has issues. There is a more-than-50% chance they miss the playoffs.


11.) Philadelphia Eagles  (5-1  =  183-132)

There are just a lot of good teams this year (and a defending Champion who has three losses) so I have to push the Eagles back. This is a team that needed special teams TDs to win games, and their only good win needed insane referee luck to actually win (the Colts game). Their schedule gets MUCH tougher going forward, starting from this very week and a trip to Arizona.


10.) New England Patriots  (5-2  =  187-154)

In past years, I would have been upset that the Pats won another bullshit game, but I’ll give them credit. They are 5-2 once again. Sure, they have a hellacious six-game stretch coming up (five of their opponents are ranked higher than them on this list) that I would be surprised if they do better than 3-3 against. Brady may be back, but I still don’t think the team fully is.


9.) Seattle Seahawks  (3-3  =  159-141)

Something’s wrong with that team. They’re really not doing anything that well right now outside of Russell Wilson scrambling. Wilson isn’t passing effectively. Lynch has been very spotty. The defense is still very good against the run (I guess I was wrong in saying they aren’t doing anything well), but the pass defense has regressed. They are getting no pressure, and outside of the two superstars, the secondary is average.


8.) San Diego Chargers  (5-2  =  184-114)

Not a huge surprise to lose a toss-up game to a division rival that was a tad more desperate, but if the Chargers want to win that division, they can’t drop games to teams that aren’t as good. Philip Rivers looked human for the first time since Week 1, and the defense didn’t play all that well. Still, they made that game really close despite playing poorly, which is the sign of a good team.


7.) Arizona Cardinals  (5-1  =  140-119)

No real idea why I’m dropping them since the return of Carson Palmer helped that offense play solid for the first time in a while. The defense is still humming along at a very good level despite missing so many players. They have a two game lead on the rest of the division, which given how strong the NFC West has been, is a little ridiculous and a lot unexpected. Not sure if they can hold up, but if they can go even 1-2 in the three games left against SF and Seattle, they should be fine.


6.) Dallas Cowboys  (6-1  =  196-147)

Not sure why I’m dropping them, as that win really showed why Dallas is a good team right now. They didn’t play great, and still won by 10 points against a division rival. Romo was brilliant, I’m just going to say it. They have to stop running Murray 40 times a game at some point. That is probably the biggest concern; that or the clock hitting midnight on that defense.


5.) Green Bay Packers  (5-2  =  199-147)

When the Packers are on, they look downright terrifying. Issue with them is that they are too often not on at that level. Their defense especially alternates between amazing and awful. And of course they really should have lost to Miami. Still, the Packers are very good, and Aaron Rodgers is the Mario Liemieux of the NFL, a guy who just won’t have enough games to have volume stats that are among the best all-time.


4.) Detroit Lions  (5-2  =  140-105)

I’m keeping the Lions here because that offense will soon be made whole with Calvin returning. They managed to tread water with Calvin out, and I’m hoping that he can solve a lot of what is ailing the Lions offense right now. What is not ailing the Lions is that defense, which continues to be fantastic. Brees had a very good start, but finished the game 3-14 and a sack. They can clamp down better than anyone.


3.) Baltimore Ravens  (5-2  =  193-104)

They remind me of a more explosive version of the 2009 Ravens, a team that went just 9-7 but won a handful of ultra-blowouts and had a really good point differential. The Ravens probably go better than 12-4, but I don’t know if they can beat the two teams above them come playoff time.


2.) Indianapolis Colts  (5-2  =  216-136)

They are absolutely for real. First, their two losses were one-score games against two teams that are a combined 10-2. They have won five straight games by the average score of 33-15. Andrew Luck is on pace to throw for all of the yards. They have run 150 more plays than their opponents (not a lie). They have finally decided to be what they always should have been, a high-volume passing team.


1.) Denver Broncos  (5-1  =  189-121)

I realize the 49ers were playing at half mast with a spate of injuries, but that was an incredibly scary 45 minutes of football to take the 42-10 lead. The best drive may have been the one after they made it 35-10. They took the ball back, ran all the time down the 49ers throat, and made it 42-10. Manning is actually on pace to basically have Brady’s 2007 season (project Manning’s season out to 16 games and it is scarily similar), and Ware and Miller have combined for 15 sacks. Everything is going well.


Postseason Projections

AFC

1.) Denver Broncos  =  14-2
2.) Indianapolis Colts  =  13-3
3.) Baltimore Ravens  =  11-5
4.) New England Patriots  =  10-6
5.) San Diego Chargers  =  11-5
6.) Buffalo Bills  =  10-6


NFC

1.) Detroit Lions  =  12-4
2.) Dallas Cowboys  =  12-4
3.) Arizona Cardinals  =  11-5
4.) Carolina Panthers  =  9-6-1
5.) Green Bay Packers  =  11-5
6.) Seattle Seahawks  =  10-6


Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

Byes: New York Giants (3-4), San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

Did the NFL schedule basically back-load all of the byes? This is the fourth straight week with just two teams on the bye. We will have finished eight weeks with just 12 teams finishing their bye.


15.) Oakland Raiders (0-6)  @  Cleveland Browns (3-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Houston Texans (3-4)  @  Tennessee Titans (2-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
13.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-5)  @  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5)  (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Miami Dolphins (3-3)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it “Reasons why you don’t need Sunday Ticket” Sunday, as these three games pit no teams above .500, and three of the most depressing situations in the NFL currently (Oakland, Tennessee, and Tampa). If the Browns start slow in this one Manziel might play – though Pettine seems very content never playing him. The Texans can somehow get to 4-4 despite playing badly for a solid month, and if the other results go their way, the Buccaneers can be just a game and a half back at the end of the day. Then, we get a classic Florida battle.


11.) Buffalo Bills (4-3)  @  New York Jets (1-6)  (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Washington Redskins (2-5)  @  Dallas Cowboys (6-1)  (MNF - ESPN)
9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2)  @  Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it “Some division games are fun… and some are terrible” Sunday and Monday, as we get four division games that pit together a whole range of teams. The Jets stink, but we get to see how they (mis)use Percy Harvin in this one. The Bills can also get to 5-3 in the game with a win, their best record through 8 games in decades. The Redskins get a chance to spoil the Cowboys parade – and be honest, this is the perfect place for the Cowboys Cinderella run to end. Finally, the Ravens get to put some distance between them and the Bengals in the AFC North and send the Bengals crashing back to .500 after their dominant 3-0 start.


8.) Detroit Lions (5-2)  @  Atlanta Falcons (2-5)  (9:30 - FOX)
7.) Chicago Bears (3-4)  @  New England Patriots (5-2)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it “Both Games could suck, but I think one will be close” Sunday, as we first go to London for an early morning matinee. I don’t think I like the 9:30 game (I probably have a low chance of watching any of it). I think instead of doing the Super Early game, they should continue 2013’s tradition of the Super Late game (the 11:00 PM EST game they played last year). For the Bears, the Patriots are the better version of Miami, so that can spell trouble. The Dolphins do have a better defense though, so it may be a mini-shootout.


6.) St. Louis Rams (2-4)  @  Kansas City Chiefs (3-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
5.) Seattle Seahawks (3-3)  @  Carolina Panthers (3-3-1)  (1:00 - CBS)
4.) Indianapolis Colts (5-2)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)  (4:25 - CBS)

I call it “Three Games I like for no real reason” Sunday, as we get first the battle of Missouri. Had the Cardinals beaten the Giants in the NLCS, we could have had this in the morning and then a KC vs. STL game in the evening. The Seahawks try to avoid a three-game losing streak against a team that is the opposite of streaky. The Colts get a chance to further their win streak. This is the type of game for them that the real #2 team in the NFL needs to win – a road game against a slightly above average opponent that is in more desperate position.


3.) Philadelphia Eagles (5-1)  @  Arizona Cardinals (5-1)  (4:05 - NBC)
2.) San Diego Chargers (5-2)  @  Denver Broncos (5-1)  (TNF - CBS)

I call it “Fives are Wild” Thursday and Sunday, as we get four of the 5-win teams playing against each other. The Eagles get their first real test since Week 2 (not counting the game they lost) in a trip to Arizona, who also gets their first real test since Week 3 (not counting the game they lost). I have no idea what to expect there. The Chargers come in off of a disappointing loss, which may actually help them in this spot. The Broncos are playing rather juggernaut-ish right about now, though.


1.) Green Bay Packers (5-2)  @  New Orleans Saints (2-4)  (SNF - NBC)


I call it “The Saints can’t be 2-5, can they?” Sunday, as the Saints look to avoid their first 2-5 start in the Payton/Brees era. Even in the Bountygate year, the Saints didn’t start 2-5 (and they did start 0-4). The Saints haven’t lost a road game yet, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come close. The Packers take their game on the road to perfect conditions, and I can already see Rodgers shredding Rob Ryan’s stupid blitzes, but you never know.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Fall Classic is Awaiting

In a year where baseball has in some ways seem more marginalized than ever, in a year when myriad cracks were made at baseball's expense for having games on Fox Sports 1, in that particular year, baseball decided to give us a treat. These playoffs have been special from the start. They've been special despite having any series reach an elimination game. It was special because 13 of 25 games have been decided by one run. Six have gone to extra innings. We've seen managerial mistakes as well as managerial successes. We've seen the breakout of young stars, the fall of established stars. We've seen dramatic games, huge comebacks, fielding errors, fielding brilliance. We've seen everything, and it will peak with one of the most interesting, exciting and alluring Fall Classics we've had in a while. Baseball, it's special sometimes.

There are many similarities between the Royals and Giants. First, both have deep lineups that combine a lot of above average regulars. The Giants have one true star hitter in Posey, and the Royals have a young guy who has shown flashes of being a star and who certainly has in these playoffs (Hosmer). They both have solid rotations that are lead by one great pitcher (Bumgarner and Shields - though Bumgarner is generally better) and three other pitchers that can be good, can be mediocre, or can be very middling. They both have great fanbases. The Giants seem to be just as excited to win this title as they were to win the title in 2010 and 2012. The Royals famously hadn't even made the playoffs since 1985 until this year. These are special times for both teams.

There are major differences though. First, in roster construction, both teams have taken a very different approach. Though both teams will tell you they try to home-grow talent (and to some extent every MLB team does), the Royals do it in earnest. Back in 2010, Sports Illustrated wrote a story calling the Royals the 2014 World Champions. It was tongue-in-cheek at the time, but that optimism was framed around a special crop of prospects. Alex Gordon and Billy Butler were already established, but Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez were to come. Danny Duffy (who had a great year but was left off the playoff roster) was in the system. The Royals were loaded. It just took a while.

The other side of the spectrum is the Giants. It is not to say that they haven't developed players. Posey came through the system, as did Bumgarner and Sandoval. In past years, the Giants pitching was led by Lincecum and Cain, two system guys. But what is striking about the Giants is how few guys came through the system and how much the roster changes. Just looking at the differences between the 2010 and 2012 rosters was crazy when they won two years ago. Looking at their roster two years later, it is even more ridiculous. Only one man will start a game for all three versions of the Giants, and that is Madison Bumgarner. From 2010, Matt Cain is hurt, Tim Lincecum is relegated to nothing duty, and Jonathan Sanchez was gone years ago. From 2012, Matt Cain is still hurt, Ryan Vogelsong is back, but maybe shouldn't be, and Barry Zito has been replaced by another aging member of the old A's Big-3 in Tim Hudson.

The roster only has two players that were on all three teams: Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Only three more of their normal starting-9 are holdovers from 2012, in Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco. Brandon Belt was on the 2012 roster and his inclusion to starter now is no surprise, and Angel Pagan would have been there this time if he didn't get hurt; but the Joe Panik/Travis Ishikawa guys are just random players on this team. They won't be here when the reach the World Series again in 2016 like everyone knows they will.

The 2010 Giants seem like from another era. Tim Lincecum was their ace. Brian Wilson was their star closer. They employed over-the-hill batters like Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Pat Burrell. That wasn't in 2005. That was 4 years ago. 2012 replaced those guys with Pagan, Scutaro and Pence. The Giants are right back on schedule, winning with a balanced offense, good pitching, and a great, great manager.

Whoever wins the 2014 World Series is set up well fro the future. Two of the best three hitters for the Royals these playoffs are Hosmer and Moustakas, two young players that have relatively underwhelmed to this point but have been on fire since. If they carry these performances forward, or even get better, and the Royals get contributions for full-season from Danny Duffy and whoever else is in that farm system, they can be good for a while.

The Giants have been good for a while, and while it would certainly nice for them to be good in an odd year for once, they are still set up well around a solid core of Posey, Sandoval, Belt as their top three hitters (including Pence for a year or two more) and solid pitching, and with a manager like Bochy who plays his bullpen like Yo-Yo Ma, they can turn random relievers into solid pitchers.

The 2014 World Series should be a great matchup between two great teams and two great fanbases. Who cares if they are just wild card teams. There are no great teams anymore. The Nationals and Angels were better than the Giants and Royals, but neither were 100-win juggernauts. Both had holes (especially the Angels pitching) and both lost. You can easily make the argument that the Royals adn Giants were better than their respective CS counterparts (especially San Francisco, which was quite easily arguably better than St. Louis). You can make the argument that in today's more flat MLB, where young team-controlled players and turning bargain basement shopping into fancy wear wins, these are the two best representatives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NFL 2014: Week 7 Power Rankings & The Rest

32.) Jacksonville Jaguars  (0-6  =  81-185)

The Bad News: 
This team is in perpetual rebuilding, and can't catch a break even when they catch a break and recover an onside kick.

The Good News: Blake Bortles continues to not get injured, which is probably the best thing that can possibly happen for the rest of the season for the Jaguars.


31.) Oakland Raiders  (0-5  =  79-134)

The Bad News: The Raiders still have to play San Diego one more time, the Broncos twice, and the entire NFC West, and that makes up seven of their last 11 games.

The Good News: The Raiders may have found a QB in Derek Carr, who probably wasn't as good as his 4TD-0INT performance against the Chargers, but looks calm and has a good arm when he gets time; which isn't often.


30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers  (1-5  =  120-204)

The Bad News: 
For the 2nd time this season, the Buccaneers fell behind in a game 35-0. They just lost 48-17, and that was by a good 11 points only their second worst performance of the seasons.

The Good News:
 The Buccaneers at least have their first overall pick, and the 2004 Bears went just 4-12 and lost a ton of games by a whole lot of points as well and were fine long term.


29.) Washington Redskins  (1-5  =  132-166)

The Bad News:
 They are seriously discussing benching Kirk Cousins in favor of Colt McCoy, who hasn't played meaningful minutes since 2011 for the Browns. Kirk Cousins has so quickly turned from the guy who might unseat RGIII to a total turnover machine.

The Good News: 
For the first time since roughly 2008, the Redskins will have their 1st round pick when they pick in the draft next Spring... also, RGIII might be closer to coming back than people initially expected at this time.


28.) Tennessee Titans  (2-4  =  104-153)

The Bad News: The Titans may never really be able to fully evaluate Jake Locker heading into his free agency next year and probably have to make a decision that could drastically effect their franchise without the full set of data.

The Good News: They are still in the AFC South, so chances are they won't finish last in the division, extending that 'not last in the AFC South' streak to a full 10 seasons (2005-present).


27.)  New York Jets  (1-5  =  96-158)

The Bad News: 
They have to go play a resurgent New England team and try to win in Foxboro in teh regular season for the first time since 2008 to avoid a 1-6 start. And they will have to do that despite continuing to play either Geno Smith or Michael Vick.

The Good News: The Jets have a habit of playing New England close once a year in the Rex era. They've won one of the games in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and lost close games in 2011 and 2012.


26.) Minnesota Vikings  (2-4  =  104-143) 

The Bad News Teddy Bridgetwater might get David Carr-ed behind an o-line that is so pathetic. What has happened to Matt Kalil? What has happened to everyone in that 2012 Draft Top-10 outside of Luck and Kuehcly?

The Good News: The Vikings still have a good enough defense to never really get blown out, and maybe their fans will start enjoying these outdoor games once December comes.


25.) Pittsburgh Steelers  (3-3  =  124-139)

The Bad News: The Steelers are looking like they'll have their first losing season since 2003 (a shock 6-10 season), and they've now lost both their AFC North games by 20+. Roethlisberger was 18-1 in his career against the Browns, and now lost by 21, with the roster just sagging around him.

The Good News: This season could finally make the Steelers examine their roster construction and, hard to say this, but coaching as well. Tomlin looked great when LeBeau's defense was working. Neither is happening right now.


24.) New York Giants  (3-3  =  133-138)

The Bad News: The Giants just lost by 27 on Sunday Night Football, getting shutout for the first time in the Eli Manning era (apart from, you know, a playoff game... brilliant playoff QB my ass). To make matters worse, they lost Victor Cruz for the season right after he was just starting to play better.

The Good News: The Giants are still alive in teh division, I guess; as does anyone really trust either the Eagles and Cowboys to keep up the good starts that they've had. They can start that process next week by beating the Cowboys in Jerry-World.


23.) St. Louis Rams  (1-4  =  101-150)

The Bad News: They have some ridiculous string of terrible play. You have a string where they were outscored 34-3 against Minnesota in Wk.1, outscored 27-3 against Dallas, outscored 34-7 against Philadelphia, and then outscored 31-3 against San Francisco. That’s four different awful periods of play.

The Good News: The Rams have a period where they outscored Dallas 21-0, outscored Philadelphia 20-0, and outscored San Francisco 14-0. Those three teams are a combined 14-4. The Rams have nice periods of good play.


22.) Houston Texans  (3-3  =  132-120)

The Bad News: The Texans bloom has gone after losing the past two games. A week ago, it was the rush defense. This past week it was the pass defense that allowed TY Hilton to go absolutely nuts all game long. The Texans have probably peaked already.

The Good News: They employ JJ Watt. Other than having a great QB, there is no better news than that. I don't understand how anyone can be that good. The Colts actually did reasonably well on him on 85% of plays. In the remaining 15%, he nearly won the game for Houston.


21.) New Orleans Saints  (2-3  =  132-141)

The Bad News: They are lacking offensive explosion, the running game is tiring, and Drew Brees has started his 'Fuck It, I'll just lob the ball up while being sacked' plans rather early this year. Oh yeah, and Jimmy Graham is out next.

The Good News: No one is running away in the NFC South. The Panthers have a game-and-a-half lead, but they've looked very up and down. I can definitely see the Saints sneaking out a 10-6 season, winning their home Wild Card game by roughly 60 points, and then losing in Arizona,


20.) Buffalo Bills  (3-3  =  118-126)

The Bad News: The Bills had a major chance to stake claim in the AFC East, to get a one game lead over the Pats and send New England to 0-2 in the division, and then went out and did nothing well. Losing fumbles, throwing picks, not being able to cover the easiest of players. Just a terrible effort.

The Good News: The Bills are probably not out of it, and the guys in the AFC North will probably start beating each other up more soon. That #6 seed is still possible (as is the division, as I don't think the Patriots are going 12-4 or better)


19.) Atlanta Falcons  (2-4  =  164-170)

The Bad News: The one thing we counted on Atlanta for was to win home games in that Dome, especially against seemingly average teams. Well, throw that away. What a pathetic performance from Atlanta, especially offensively. How can an offense that talented do that little against the Bears defense.

The Good News: The Falcons are in probably the worst division in the NFL. Actually, I'll put it in another way. They're in the most winnable division, and this is the division most likely to have a sub-10-win leader.


18.) Miami Dolphins  (2-3  =  120-124)

The Bad News: The Dolphins could have been half-game behind the Patriots (with a head-to-head win) but blew that game so badly. First, they should have recovered that field goal. Secondly, why did they not throw it on that last 3rd and 6. An incomplete there only gives the Packers an extra 30 seconds.

The Good News: Ryan Tannehill is looking better and the Packers are a good a team. They performed well in a loss. Hard loss and a game that they need, but they stayed competitive in a game that I wasn't expecting.


17.) Cleveland Browns  (3-2  =  134-115)

The Bad News: They're in the most competitive division in the AFC, and their main two rivals (Bengals and Ravens) still have to host the Browns (they do get Cincinnati one time in Cleveland).

The Good News: 
Talk about a statement. There is real hope in Browns land right now, and this is without Josh Gordon who should be coming back in a few weeks. It's odd that they've been winning basically with offense, but that could get corrected too.


16.) Kansas City Chiefs  (2-3  =  119-101)

The Good News: The Chiefs are still somewhat like the team that put down the Patriots two weeks ago. That still happened. The Chiefs still have two good pass rushers and a bevy of talent on defense and they combine that with a good offense that is schemed brilliantly.

The Bad News: The Chiefs are in the AFC’s most top-heavy division and still have to play three more NFC West teams (including the one actually in first place). Their schedule is rough and that loss to the Titans might be what keeps them out of the playoffs.


15.) Chicago Bears  (3-3  =  143-144)

The Good News: The Bears defense has a level it can reach where they are a reasonable facsimile of the Bears defense from 2007-08, and those defense were good enough to win 10 games when paired with an offense with a good QB and two very good receivers.

The Bad News: The Bears defense has a level it can reach where they are a reasonable facsimile of the Bears defense from 2013, and that defense was bad enough to win just 8 games despite having the 2nd highest scoring offense in the NFL.


14.) Carolina Panthers  (3-2-1  =  141-157)

The Good News: Cam Newton has taken a leap. He still takes too many sacks, but his arm is great, he’s playing smarter and safer, and he’s playing healthy for the first time, as indicated by 100+ yards rushing. His connection to Kelvin Benjamin could turn great in the upcoming 5 years.

The Bad News: There has to be concern about that defense. Now, the Bengals did get some short fields, and you take away the 89 yard run by Bernard and the rushing numbers allowed are OK, but the defense just doesn’t have the pass rush to cover that secondary.


13.) San Francisco 49ers  (4-2  =  141-123)

The Good News: When they are on, they are still one of the most physically imposing teams in the NFL, That defense will squeeze the life out of you, and the o-line will protect Kaep, and Kaep himself will whip passes around with ridiculous ease.

The Bad News: The 49ers aren’t always at that level, and their schedule is still getting harder (Broncos, Chargers, Seahawks x2 still to come). That is a tough division (hilariously, they are ahead of the Seahawks right now), and it looks like Bowman may not come back until it is too long out of the race.


12.) Cincinnati Bengals  (3-1-1  =  134-113)

The Good News: They are still in first place, and Andy Dalton continues to have a very good season, whether or whether not AJ Green is on the field. The run game still has a level of explosiveness with Gio Bernard.

The Bad News: Their pass rush has absolutely disappeared in 2014. I wouldn’t have thought losing Michael Johnson, who was overrated as a pass rusher, would have done all this. The bigger issue is Geno Atkins not recovering from his ACL to near 100% yet.


11.) New England Patriots  (4-2  =  160-129)

The Good News: The Patriots are back where they want to be, 1st place in the AFC East. It didn’t take long, really. The Patriots did what they’ve done all but two years in Tom Brady’s career – beat the Bills in Buffalo. And this time they didn’t luck into the win like they did in 2013.

The Bad News: Their defense is still playing below its talent level, and they won’t have guys wide, wide open each week. Plus, with Mayo and Ridley going down, this might be the beginning of a string of injuries; something that happens to the Pats more than other teams, and something that surprisingly hadn’t at all in their 2-2 start.


10.) Green Bay Packers  (4-2  =  161-130)

The Good News: Aaron Rodgers is a freak. He takes too many sacks and has become overly conservative in his throws to avoid interceptions… but my Lord is it working, as shown by his total of one pick through six games. The defense is playing better than it has since 2010, giving that team a chance each week.

The Bad News: They still are not in 1st place, and if the Lions had a kicker, they wouldn’t be all too close. They aren’t pulling away from teams aside from that ridiculous Chicago game, which is a problem long term.


9.) Philadelphia Eagles  (5-1  =  183-132)

The Good News: The Eagles, for once, played a great 60 minutes and won a game convincingly. There were no blocked punt TDs, or defensive TDs, or anything other than solid defense, good running, and Foles finally getting time. Their offense is well below what it was in 2013, but the defense is coming around.

The Bad News: There is a legitimate chance they are the 2nd best team in their division, even at 5-1, and they’ve played a pretty soft schedule so far. They still have to play the two best teams in the NFC West, and the Cowboys twice – both nicely tucked away at the end of the season.


8.) Indianapolis Colts  (4-2  =  189-136)

The Good News: The Colts looked like the best team in the NFL for 15 minutes. Combine that with their last three weeks, wins all at home, and they looked like one of the best teams in the NFL. Sure, the Texans nearly came back, but the Colts defense continued to do the one thing it looked like they would never do this year: get pressure.

The Bad News: Pep Hamilton is still tied to his disparate view of formations (it’s either 3TE or 5-wide!) and the o-line is still not great. Also, they probably can’t get away with blitzing all the time against better offenses than Houston (or Baltimore).


7.) Baltimore Ravens  (4-2  =  164-97)

The Good News: The Ravens had an even better 15 minutes than the Colts did. I’m still not sure how you can go up 35-0 just 18 minutes into a football game? No one ever had five TDs that early in a game than Joe Flacco. I’m actually quite disappointed Flacco didn’t have 7 TDs, which would have put him in the company of Peyton Manning (and Nick Foles).

The Bad News: There really isn’t much bad news. After a weird season in 2013, the Ravens are back to being a good, but rarely great, team. They are good enough to blow the eff out of teams, but also not good enough to avoid looking lost and complacent like they did against Indianapolis.


6.) Seattle Seahawks  (3-2  =  133-113)

The Good News: They still have a great home-field advantage, and few teams are worse matchups on offense for Seattle than Dallas was. Also, if they defense a 3rd and 20 (probably a 95% certainty for Seattle) they likely beat Dallas.

The Bad News: Outside of performances very early in Russell Wilson’s career, that was the worst performance by the Seahawks in a game. Sure, they didn’t lose by much, but the scored 17 of their 23 points off of a blocked punt, a bad snap by Dallas, and a muff that they drove 20 yards for a TD. They were outgained 2-1. That was just pitiful.


5.) Detroit Lions  (4-2  =  116-82)

The Good News: Their defense is absolutely dominant. Ndamukong Suh hasn’t looked this good since he was a rookie. The preseason benching of Nick Fairley seemed to have kicked him in the ass. The rotation at DE has worked really well so far. Darius Slay has improved tremendously in 2014. Just by points allowed, they are playing better than Seattle did a year ago.

The Bad News: Matthew Stafford is lost without Calvin. Now, most QBs would be worse without the best receiver, when healthy, in the NFL, but Matthew seems totally impotent. The run game has also taken a massive hit without Reggie. Plus… can they find a fucking kicker!


4.) Dallas Cowboys  (5-1  =  165-126)

The Good News: That was probably the most impressive performance by any team all year. They went into Seattle and physically abused the team that prides itself on physicality. They were looking for a signature performance in their 4-1 start, and they got it. Romo looks great. The run game looks great. Bryant looks great. And the defense looks above average. Add that up and this is a very good team.

The Bad News: I really have only two complaints. First, they have to reduce the workload on DeMarco Murray. He is not going to survive his current pace for 420 carries. Second, this is the Cowboys in the Romo era. Weird stuff happens.


3.) San Diego Chargers  (5-1  =  164-91)

The Good News: The Chargers showed some mental toughness winning a close game after four relative blowouts. They had issues on defense, but Rivers continues to play at a level of efficiency rarely seen. The ‘other’ receivers are playing really well, and they just found a Darren Sproles replacement for their Darren Sproles replacement (Woodhead) in Olver.

The Bad News: That defense thing I mentioned. For the first time, we saw the Chargers defense from 2013. Now, maybe that was a one week thing, but against a bad offense they looked awful. They haven’t really played anyone good recently, which changes quickly going forward.


2.) Arizona Cardinals  (4-1  =  116-106)

The Good News: Yes, they’ve lost a ton of players on defense, but their best player will come back at some point (Campbell), and Palmer is back. That offense looks so much better with him at the helm than it did with Stanton (and definitely Thomas).

The Bad News: They haven’t faced a great offense since they were at their healthiest (San Diego – a really impressive defensive performance in retrospect). Actually, they did. They played Denver, and their defense was lost. If they can avoid a terrible matchup, the defense continues to be fine, despite the personnel losses.


1.) Denver Broncos  (4-1  =  147-104)

The Good News: The Broncos defense might be the 2nd best in the NFL. The common complaint will be that they haven’t played anyone, but that isn’t totally true. In retrospect, their performance against both Indianapolis and Kansas City seem better, and they were great against both Arizona and New York. That defense will start getting tested more, but they look like the unit from 2012, not 2013.

The Bad News: The o-line isn’t right. Chris Clark isn’t great inside, and I don’t think Clady is fully healthy yet. Worse, Louis Vasquez isn’t playing like the guy from 2013 either. There’s really little else to criticize right now, unless you want to criticize them coming somewhat close to getting tied by New York.


Playoff Projections

AFC

1.) Denver Broncos  (14-2)
2.) Indianapolis Colts  (12-4)
3.) Baltimore Ravens  (11-5)
4.) New England Patriots  (11-5)
5.) San Diego Chargers  (12-4)
6.) Cincinnati Bengals  (10-5-1)


NFC

1.) Detroit Lions  (12-4)
2.) Arizona Cardinals (12-4)
3.) Dallas Cowboys  (12-4)

4.) Carolina Panthers  (9-6-1)
5.) Philadelphia Eagles  (11-5)
6.) Seattle Seahawks  (11-5)


Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games

Byes: Philadelphia Eagles (5-1); Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5)

Losing the Eagles for a week is sad, but losing the Bucs, who would have probably lost by about 40 once again, is more than OK. By the way, after having six teams on the Bye in Week 4, what is with the two-team byes the last three weeks.


15.) Arizona Cardinals (4-1)  @  Oakland Raiders (0-5)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it "The Least Exciting Return for a Starting QB Ever" Sunday, as Carson Palmer returns to his old stomping grounds that he inhabited for 1.5 seasons. The Cardinals defense also goes to play an offense that looked pretty darn good last week. Still, can't imagine the Raiders put up much of a fight in this one.


14.) Tennessee Titans (2-4)  @  Washington Redskins (1-5)  (1:00 - CBS)
13.) Minnesota Vikings (2-4)  @  Buffalo Bills (3-3)  (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Cleveland Browns (3-2)  @  Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Tis All Bad" Sunday, as we get three games that put together some pretty boring teams. The Bills have some fiestiness in them, and the Browns are exciting, but the sad state of the teams they are playing make those games seem even worse. Also, let's not freak out, but the Browns could be 4-2 after this week.


11.) Houston Texans (3-3)  @  Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3)  (MNF - ESPN)

I call it "How Much did ESPN Pay for the MNF Package Again?" Monday, as really? This is the best ESPN could get for an October game that will likely go up against no baseball? Anyway, because it is Pittsburgh and because it is MNF, people will watch, but this game is a  not all that great.


10.) Atlanta Falcons (2-4)  @  Baltimore Ravens (4-2)  (1:00 - FOX)
9.) New York Jets (1-5)  @  New England Patriots (4-2)  (TNF - CBS)

I call it "A Middling Reminder of what TNF was and a Sad Reminder of what it has Become" Sunday and Thursday. The Jets and Patriots play on TNF. The last four times the Jets have played New England in a night game they've lost. Last time (a TNF game in New England last year) was close, but the three before that were 49-17, 37-16 and 45-3. The other game was once a TNF game four years ago. It's my go-to anytime someone says all TNF games suck. That game matched a 9-2 Falcons team and a 9-2 Ravens team, with the Falcons winning in Atlanta 26-21. We can only hope one of these two games is as good.


8.) Seattle Seahawks (3-2)  @  St. Louis Rams (1-4)  (1:00 - FOX)
7.) New York Giants (3-3)  @  Dallas Cowboys (5-1)  (4:25 - FOX)

I call it "Sometime division games are close, right?" Sunday, as I have a sneaky feeling one of these two games will be good. If there is any game for the historically sack-needy Rams to break out, it would be that one. If there is any game for the Cowboys to lose in this great start, it is this game, as Romo is 1-4 lifetime in the Jerry Dome against the Giants.


6.) Miami Dolphins (2-3)  @  Chicago Bears (3-3)  (1:00 - CBS)
5.) New Orleans Saints (2-3)  @  Detroit Lions (4-2)  (1:00 - FOX)

I call it "Does Needing It beat Wanting It?" Sunday, as both road teams are in dire straights. The Saints barely avoided going 1-4 and haven't looked good really at any point this year. The Dolphins should have beaten Green Bay but didn't and now are behind in the division. The Home Teams here are riding high. The Bears had a complete performance, and the Lions were dominant on defense all year long. Should be a fun game.


4.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-3)  @  San Diego Chargers (5-1)  (4:05 - CBS)
3.) San Francisco 49ers (4-2)  @  Denver Broncos (4-1)  (SNF - NBC)

I call it "The West Comes Alive!" Sunday, as the Chiefs go to San Diego off their bye to try to get back in teh AFC West race (and cool off the hottest team in the sport) during the evening, and the 49ers try to go to Denver and stop Peyton Manning, who's never lost to the 49ers. We've had a lot of terrible primetime games in this season. This could be a rare good one.


2.) Carolina Panthers (3-2-1)  @  Green Bay Packers (4-2)  (1:00 - FOX)


1.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1)  @  Indianapolis Colts (4-2)  (1:00 - CBS)

I call it "Movement Sunday" as we get two games featuring teams above .500 in their conference. They are all either in teh division lead or tied for it. the Panthers might solve their pass rush problems, or Rodgers will light up that secondary. Julius Peppers plays his old team. Lot's of storylines there. In the other, the winner has the (very early) inside track to the #2 seed (or, I guess, #1). The Colts get a chance to continue their win streak and beat a really good team at home. Good prep for the Colts as after this they really only have two tough games left (vs. NE, @ DAL).

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.