Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WEEK 6 T&R (thoughts and revelations)

This week's thoughts and revelations are brought to you by ….me.

Six weeks in and there are QB changes aplenty. Christian Ponder, John Beck and a newly initiated Carson Palmer will all make debuts this week. Other QBs probably wish they could sit down for a break i.e. Sam Bradford and Matt Moore. Matt Moore and Sam Bradford; are there any two quarterbacks in worse situations? There are three no-win teams, but only these two have the feel of no-win seasons. Miami and St. Louis are nearly interchangeable – dropped passes at crucial times, penalties that extend opponents' drives but shorten their own, and bad pass protection all add up to pain. The former got some good news this past week with the Rams acquiring Brandon Lloyd. It finally dawned on someone in St. Louis that none of their receivers can make plays during crunch time. For Lloyd, this is what happens when you loudly pledge loyalty to a quarterback that loses his job. He could spark the attention of opposing defenses, assuming his attitude doesn't falter.

The inconsistency of Mark Sanchez is baffling, even if he's dealing with a line that can't run block and has trouble occasionally with protection. However, there were plays Monday night where he had four and five seconds and still couldn't find anyone open. Plaxico Burress had one reception and dropped several others. Santonio Holmes had three. Four receptions between their top two receivers, with TE Dustin Keller chipping in two more, you have to wonder how this Jets offense could become so dismal so fast. This was against the Dolphins. Yes Yeremiah Bell still commands respect as a safety, but he's 33, and he can't cover for the youth of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, as well as their limited pass rush. The Jets won the game, but they can't feel like they won the war, considering they gave Miami every chance they good for the Dolphins to take over.

I'm not sure how anyone can explain Jahvid Best tearing up the Bears for over 160 yards rushing and Adrian Peterson managing fewer than 40. The line play is different for certain, but did Chicago take some umbrage at Detroit's beating? More likely those numbers are a referendum on the play of Donovan McNabb, who has become such a liability that the Bears defense stacked the box and challenged McNabb to beat them. He couldn’t. Percy Harvin had his best day so far as Minnesota’s top receiver and all that got him seven receptions for 78 yards. From this point forward it’s Christian Ponder, who even on his first drive was able to move Minnesota 59 yards. Lastly, Devin Hester who is the most dangerous special teams player since Desmond Howard, has developed a nice chemistry with Jake Cutler. He had his second straight game of seven targets and five receptions and had his first touchdown reception of the season. Assuming his bruised ribs don’t keep him out this week, look for Hester to be used more and more on deep passing situations if Cutler can get the protection necessary to get him the ball.

For the first time in two years, the home team held serve and won the game. Perhaps the suddenly turnover-prone Drew Brees was uncomfortable with the offense because early in the first quarter, Sean Peyton suffered a broken leg and torn MCL and left the game. LeGarrette Blount’s questionable status turned sour Sunday, leaving Earnest Graham the opportunity for his first 100-yard game in three years. He’ll continue to be the go-to back if Blount’s knee keeps him off the field. The key to this game was successful first and second down passes for Josh Freeman, something they weren’t able to do against San Francisco. For New Orleans, if you’re having questions about the pecking order in the receivers group, there were 33 passes divided equally between TE Jimmy Graham, WR Marques Colston, who may finally be back to full health, and RB Darren Sproles. Sproles continues to be incredibly valuable in PPR leagues, though his carries were tapered this week.

Felix Jones had a shot fired across his bow in the form of DeMarco Murray. Murray looked every bit an NFL runner, as he made quick decisions and ran hard. Jones has not been the explosive guy the Cowboys were expecting, and his bevy of injuries has opened the door for other players to step up. Murray has good size at 227 pounds, though he’s going to have to find a way to move the pile better than he did in the red zone this past Sunday if he wants more opportunities. Jones sprained his ankle Sunday, leaving him questionable for this week. The only good thing about this game is that no one seems to be blaming Tony Romo for this loss. Perhaps the fans will blame Miles Austin for two huge dropped passes on early fourth quarter drive that would have extended the offensive position into New England territory. Maybe they’ll levy some heat on Anthony Spencer. Spencer had a nice game until with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, he ran into the Patriots’ punter. Fortunately, the Cowboys stripped Aaron Hernandez a little further along the way, but the loss of time and field position was crucial after a big defensive stop. By the way, the Dallas defense caused the Patriots first two fumbles of the year.

With no true deep threat to pressure the Ravens secondary, the Texans again came up short. Since Andre Johnson’s injury, Schaub has had two mediocre passing performances, with QB ratings of 72 and 83.2. Ben Tate’s chances of more carries will not be enhanced by his fumbling problems. He put his second ball on the carpet during an end zone plunge which was luckily recovered by his teammate Wade Smith. Arian Foster has yet to cough one up this year. On the other side of the ball, the Baltimore offense continued to be anemic, settling for five Billy Cundiff field goals, however they did improve their TD percentage slightly by taking two scores in out of three chances.

If you’ve been sleeping under a rock you have no idea that the Carson Palmer is now an Oakland Raider. This was a direct result of the collarbone injury Jason Campbell sustained while scrambling Sunday. Kyle Boller ended up with less passing TDs than Shane Lechler, which was frightening enough that the Raiders sought out Palmer. Palmer has struggled the last few years, and it appears he’ll be working a limited playbook the first couple of weeks or so. However, for now he gives defensive coordinators a lot more to worry about, which keeps Darren McFadden as big a threat as ever. Palmer will have to prove he can continue to make Darius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore useful and involved. He has the talent to do so as he is coming off a season where he threw the most passes of his career and had his third most passing yards, and third most touchdown passes. He also tied his 2007 season for the most interceptions of his career. It’s surprising to say, but he actually joins a less troubled Oakland team than in Cincinnati, though both teams are 4-2 and have expunged some of their aberrant personnel. If the Raiders make the playoffs, they will end up giving Cincinnati two first round draft picks in consecutive years.

Rex Grossman reminds me of my tennis game; he gets worse and worse the more he plays. The same confidence and bravado that Rex had when he declared the Redskins were this year’s future NFC East champions was handed some humble pie as the Eagles secondary showed up in a big way, intercepting the Redskins’ quarterback four times. That was all it took for Mike Shanahan to bench to Grossman this week for John Beck, who’ll get yet another chance to be a starting QB somewhere. With Grossman’s QB rating falling like the stock market, it’s hard to argue the move, though Beck’s career QB rating is a 64 (it’s important to note the worst rated QB right now is Kerry Collins who owns a 65.9). With choices like that, and a two game losing streak, it’s not a surprise Shanahan is trying bail out the ship as it takes on water.

There’s a lot being made about the Chargers winning ugly, but the Steelers seem to be emulating that model as well. The Steelers built a 14 point lead at halftime and then sat back and nearly squandered it. However, it was the first time the Steelers didn’t turn the ball over this year and that alone made the difference. Rashard Mendenhall ran most decisively, perhaps owing his reminders of how to do so to Jonathan Dwyer after he embarrassed Mendenhall by becoming the first Steelers’ back to gain 100 yards in a game this season. Maurice Jones-Drew rolled off 96 yards, but Blaine Gabbert was able to complete just 12 passes, and Mike Thomas had four of them.

The Giants abilities to win a big game or lose a minor one is the one consistent thing to be said about them this year. Eli Manning didn’t throw a single touchdown pass, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Several drops prevented Manning from pleasing fantasy owners, so Ahmad Bradshaw stepped up in the way some of us (ok, me) thought he would this year. He was the top fantasy running back of Week 6. The Bills chances of continuing their early season success will be contingent on their defense, the same defense that couldn’t hold the Giants from a nine play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a late field goal with 1:32 to go.

In what figured to be a game Aaron Rodgers would have to do little, the Rams held both James Starks and Ryan Grant to under four yards per carry. So Rodgers stepped up, fired three second quarter touchdown passes, and the Packers held on from there. Sam Bradford has his second 300-yard performance of the season, and that bodes well for newcomer Brandon Lloyd, who’ll bring a better set of tools to the Rams offense than they have in Denario Alexander, Greg Salas or Brandon Gibson. If the Packers do have an Achilles heel, it’s their passing defense, which allowed the 29th ranked Rams offense to pile up 424 yards of offense. This defensive weakness has been masked by their incredibly efficient offense. However, after the Bye in Week 9, the Packers will face a San Diego offense in the top ten that have a healthier Antonio Gates.

Has Alex Smith grown up enough to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance? That question is a legitimate one as the 49ers disposed of the undefeated Lions in their house. Smith completed just 17 passes, but one of them was a clutch fourth quarter strike to Delanie Walker, Walker’s third TD of the year. Frank Gore continues his resurgence since his ankle healed, Ted Ginn Jr. continues to be a special teams gem, and perhaps the most important factor of the game, the 49ers kept Calvin Johnson out of the end zone. All eyes will turn to San Francisco’s Thanksgiving contest with the Baltimore Ravens as yet one more test for this young team, which could conceivably be sporting a 9-1 record heading into that game.

The Bengals are 4-2. No, that’s no typo. The Bengals kept the clock on their side, and Jerome Simpson led all receivers with six receptions and 101 yards, his second 100-yard game this season. Andy Dalton continues to be efficient and put in arguably his most complete game at quarterback this season. Curtis Painter threw his first interception in four games, but it was after leading the Colts back from a 20-7 deficit. However, Pierre Garcon did his best Ronnie Brown impersonation, and for some reason felt the need to lateral his reception to a teammate, and the result was a disastrous defensive touchdown for the Bengals putting the Colts in the hole again. Garcon’s been known for some dropped passes in the past, but usually it’s not after the completion.

Michael Turner proved that whether you’re a shifty quick-stepping back or just a mean old brawler, the Panthers can’t stop good runners from piling up yards on the ground. Carolina’s loss of Jon Beason is the rest of their opponents gain, as Carolina now is ranked 31st in rushing yards per game allowed, averaging 140. On the other side of the ball, Carolina and Coach Ron Rivera are still trying to find their identity. A week after rushing DeAngelo Williams for 115 yards, Cam Newton led the Panthers in rushing. Jonathan Stewart got only seven carries but made the most of them with 48 yards and a score. Matt Ryan delivered a banal 14-for-22, 163 yards and one TD performance. Ryan ran one in as well, but Roddy White was held to just two receptions though he was targeted a team high five times. It’s been an incredibly disappointing campaign for both Ryan and White in general, but particularly when it comes to fantasy owners. And in the beast of a division the NFC South is turning out to be, it seems unlikely to get a whole lot better unless Ryan becomes more decisive and his offensive line gives him some extra time. The Falcons rank in the bottom third for sacks allowed.