)So this week, some teams shook off the off-season malaise and began playing the way we expected. Ok, so I’m speaking particularly about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Others continued the path they started, and still others have showed that they’re going to need a wing and a prayer. Oh, and we had a Tim Tebow sighting, and in Kyle Orton’s this case, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
How much trouble is Chicago in? Jahvid Best dropped 163 rushing yards on Chicago defense that last year was second best against the rush. He did it in only 12 carries, and the Green Bay Packers had better hope that’s less a sign of the Lions offensive front gelling and just the Bears defense aging at a geometric rate. Matt Forte has started to come on. I have to admit, I still am not a fan, but it's hard to not acknowledge how many rushing yards he's adding weekly.
GREEN BAY @ ATLANTA
Here’s something that no one seems to be talking about. Matt Ryan is a problem at quarterback for the Falcons. After two solid drives (perhaps scripted completely) and what seemed to be a surefire 14 point lead, the Falcons offense disappeared, and there are few excuses. The Falcons added Julio Jones this off-season, and he has delivered. Roddy White has been playing injured, but hasn’t played badly. The running game has done their part. The offensive line is missing one of their best in Todd McClure, but they weren’t terrible against the Packers. Tony Gonzalez is one of the top receivers this year, and has been the second best tight end behind Dallas’ Jason Witten in terms of yards. The cold truth is that Matt Ryan looked indecisive, had happy feet way too often, and made some bad decisions. Ryan averaged 5.2 yards per attempt Sunday night, and that’s just not going to get it done. It appears he has stepped backwards this year. On the flip side, how sick is Aaron Rodgers? That 70-yard touchdown to James Jones was from Rodgers' hand to Jones’ basket in less than two seconds. Forty yards in the air, SNAP! Rodgers arm is unparalleled right now in terms of the quick release and is putting enough mustard on the ball paint an entire Nathan’s hot dog stand yellow.
NEW YORK JETS @ NEW ENGLAND
I wish I had followed my own assessment…. I put it out there that I thought New England would try to run and run a lot, and that it would come down to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley. Problem with Bill Belichick, and why he’s so difficult to defend, is that he shows you he has a weapon and then doesn’t use it. Ridley was barely used, while Ellis gave the Patriots 136 yards and two touchdowns, New England’s first 100-yard game by a running back since December 2010. It was the most carries by a New England back since 2008 when Sammy Morris carried the ball 24 times in a win at Buffalo.
SAN DIEGO @ DENVER
Tim Tebow sparked the offense, and the Denver faithful, and still lost. Tebow’s 4-for-10 line makes me laugh at the advice of some fantasy experts to make Tebow active in fantasy formats. Yes, he’ll bring some excitement to games and some rushing yardage, but once teams start to game plan for Tebow, does anyone believe he’ll be better than the likes of 40 percent? The good news is that Tebow has two straight weeks to plan to prepare for the 0-4 Dolphins. That should be a good game for him. If it isn't, woe is the Broncos.
TAMPA BAY @ SAN FRANCISCO
Josh Freeman wasn't able to salvage this game with a fourth quarter miracle. In fact, the Bucs would have taken even a half quarter of a slightly unexplained phenomenon. The Bucs offense sputtered against the surprising 49ers defense, managing five drives of just three plays or less. One first down was negated by penalty on their opening failed drive, but two costly subsequent interceptions put the Bucs in an early hole. Freeman now has six interceptions, already equaling all of his passing mistakes last year. One of the biggest problems has been Freeman's inability to involve Mike Williams, who by this time last year had three touchdown receptions and 283 yards. He has 100 yards less and only one score this season.
Has the San Francisco line improved this much or has Frank Gore's ankle problems been corralled? In the last two games Gore has delivered 35 carries, 252 yards and three rushing touchdowns. The pass protection hasn't been stellar, and through three games Gore was averaging less than three yards per carry. His last two games he's averaged more than seven.
OAKLAND @ HOUSTON
So I was very wrong that Darren McFadden would give the Houston defense fits. They shut him down pretty well. Houston also lost Mario Williams during the game and he's now out for the year. Nevertheless, the Oakland defense kept everyone but Joel Dressen in check for the most part, and though Arian Foster added 116 receiving yards, Oakland chipped away at Houston's lead and eventually pressured Schaub and the offense into two measly field goals in the second half. Jason Campbell's numbers were putrid, but Darius Heyward-Bey recorded 99 receiving yards and a score, and the man I said not to snooze on, Chaz Schilens, finally put up a touchdown. Two notes: First, Kevin Walter did record a touchdown catch and five total receptions. At full health, and with an ailing Andre Johnson, Walter is likely to continue to be a top possession target for Schaub. Second, consistency charts aside and all due respect to ESPN, the only way Sebastian Janikowski
CINCINNATI @ JACKSONVILLE
The difference was the quarterbacks, only not in the way you would think. Blaine Gabbert lost two critical fumbles, the most of important of which came after Jacksonville took over with just 1:56 remaining and his team down 23-20 on their own 42-yard line. Special Teams' blunders also played into this Jaguars loss as Matt Turk managed a 22-yard punt late in the fourth quarter from his own six-yard-line. A.J. Green caught his third touchdown pass as of the year, as did Jermaine Gresham. Marcedes Lewis garnered four targets and one catch, and has just eight on the season. With a rookie QB now under center, his value has slipped to the point where you can look for other options. Gresham is quickly becoming a valuable tight end, and maybe Matt Turk should consider another position.
NEW ORLEANS @ CAROLINA
It came down to the wire, but Drew Brees outdueled Cam Newton, whose first quarter interception led to seven points and an early New Orleans lead. Newton was able to recover, but Brees got the last laugh. I had written that Carolina had to run the football to win, and to me, all signs pointed to Jonathan Stewart becoming the favored back (DeAngelo Williams' had slightly more carries, but Stewart had double the targets in the passing game) as Carolina had almost no success rushing so far. However, it was Williams that carried for a surprising 105 yards on nine carries and added the first score by a running back this year. For the Saints, the Jimmy Graham is the undisputed go-to-guy in The Big Easy, and the receiver du jour this week was Marques Colston. Nice to see Colston has recovered from his broken collarbone so quickly that he was able to bring in five catches for 69 yards. Darren Sproles led the team in carries as well as yards per carry, but Mark Ingram got the touchdown run inside the red zone.
TENNESSEE @ PITTSBURGH
The first drive of the game seemed almost effortless for the Titans, as Chris Johnson gained 24 yards on the ground and both teams committed some bad penalties, leaving the Titans set up with first-and-goal. Then, like a switch, the Steelers defense came to life, sacking Matt Hasselbeck, and holding the Titans to a field goal. The Titans wouldn't see the red zone again until late in the third quarter. Maybe the shifts in player personnel really helped this team. Max Starks was thrown into the left tackle spot, and Ben Roethlisberger felt hardly a shadow on his blind side all day. The Steelers offensive line relinquished just one sack, and the running back team of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer piled up over 150 yards on the ground. Redman isn't a fancy runner, but he doesn't go down easily after contact, something Rashard Mendenhall is apt to do. Dwyer is simply a bull with good speed. Hasselbeck has given the Steelers some problems in the past, but he was held to a 5.3 average per attempt, and without their big receiving threat, the Titans were no match for the Steelers. I fanned on this prediction like A-Rod during the ALDS.
SEATTLE @ NEW YORK GIANTS
I don't know how he does it. The only time Eli Manning can be counted on to play good football is at the end of the half and late in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, he's a blank. Maybe it's the play-calling, but even play calling can't describe how bad the decisions were that Manning made Sunday. The fact that Manning gets statistical credit for a touchdown pass after Victor Cruz rescued him from a ridiculous pass into double coverage is something that needs to change. Cruz has made as many outstanding plays as a receiver can in the last few weeks, making Manning look good in the process. It's unfortunate he tried to make another sensational grab on yet another bad Manning pass that instead he tipped straight into the arms of a Seattle defender for a pick-six to close out the game. With all the receivers this Giants team has, how is it that TE Jake Ballard was the second highest tally in receiving yards and scored for the second week in a row? The Giants lines were simply beaten on by Seattle, and Marshawn Lynch looked more like Marshall Faulk with his beastly 8.2 yards per carry average. If you have Manning as your fantasy quarterback, his annual tallies of 4,000 yards make him someone you have to stick with. Just buy a lot of Tums and cut down on the greasy foods.
ARIZONA @ MINNESOTA
Donovan McNabb still proved he's got nothing left in the tank with a 10-for-21 performance for 169 yards. If you're asking how I didn't put Adrian Peterson in my top five this week if I was picking the Vikings to win, I don't have an answer to the question. Perhaps my mind was so freaked out on actually predicting a Minnesota victory that I couldn't perceive Peterson getting anything more than great yardage. Well, Peterson was such an animal he literally ran right through rookie Patrick Peterson, taking him all the way from the five-yard line into the end zone with him. Kevin Kolb, much like my tennis game, seems to be deteriorating the more he plays. Since starting with a quarterback rating of 130.0 his first game, Kolb has consistently gotten worse, posting his career worst 46.9 this game. This does not bode well for Larry Fitzgerald owners. Early Doucet had another strong game, cementing his position as the first option after Fitzgerald. Meanwhile Devin Aromashodu had another five targets, and had a 60-yard reception. Looking at it empirically, it seems no surprise that Michael Jenkins and now Aromashodu are receiving so many targets as they are the tallest and biggest receivers on the team, and perhaps the only guys McNabb can really see downfield. Aromashodu is now third on the team in receiving yards.
KANSAS CITY @ INDIANAPOLIS
Wow! That's all I can say here. When a team only has one real weapon, and the opponent of that team is aware that he's the only the weapon that can hurt them, and still they can't stop you from getting him the ball….wow! Indianapolis was pummeled by Dwayne Bowe all day long to the tune of seven receptions, 128 yards and two scores. It's even more ridiculous when you consider that Jackie Battle managed 119 yards rushing. This guy has less speed than a tractor-trailer during a hail storm, and he wracked the Indianapolis front seven for 6.3 yards per carry. Indianapolis has bigger problems than Curtis Painter, who has played pretty darn well considering how horrible his team handled managing his playing time. Pierre Garcon is now the man in Indy as long as Painter is under center. Joseph Addai was injured during the game and didn't return for the second half. The Colts have Cincinnati, New Orleans and Tennessee, and the only team that has a decent secondary out there is the Bengals. If you're in a deep league and QB challenged, Painter has enough weapons to be a valuable commodity. I'd watch the Cincinnati game with great interest, and if he continues this way, grab him.
PHILADELPHIA @ BUFFALO
Double wow! Besides the St. Louis Rams and maybe a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team from the mid 1970s, I have never witnessed the kind of bad tackling the Philadelphia Eagles are displaying. If you caught the game, you would have witnessed multiple plays where there were four, five and sometimes six missed tackles per play, all resulting in smaller plays becoming larger headaches. This isn't even discussing how sloppy Michael Vick and his receivers have been with the football. Vick threw four interceptions, the Eagles had five total turnovers, and even still they were in this football game. It's sick to think what will happen if Philadelphia puts together a clean game. The Bills defense is taking advantage of opportunities, but they yielded 489 more yards, making them the 30th ranked defense in terms of yards allowed with 2109 in just five weeks. You're not going to win a Super Bowl if you're giving up that much ground per game, I'm just saying.