Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE LATEST T&R EVER! (Thoughts and revelations from NFL Week 14)


We saw this coming.  There were red flags everywhere. 

Am I writing about:

A)     The 58-0 blowout of the Cardinals, because when have you ever seen a team flip-flop QB over and over and have a great season.  Maybe the Bills with Doug Flutie once?
 
B)      The tragic and senseless death of Jerry Brown by his best friend's hand.  After all, Josh Brent served time in jail for a DUI incident while he was at the University of Illinois? 

C)      Brady Quinn regressing into another bad game, after all Quinn hasn't put together two solid performances since his time at Notre Dame? 

D)     Ben Roethlisberger's dismal performance in his first game back from injury because Roethlisberger is always the worst judge of when he's ready to play? 

E)      Bryce Brown’s horrific fantasy day averaging ½ yard per carry. 

F)      John Harbaugh not wanting to be outdone by his brother and firing his offensive coordinator on a 9-4 team that just scored their most points in four weeks? 

G)     All of the above

The answer – heck, I don't know, but the questions sure are fun to put our there.  I might remove Quinn from that equation simply because he still averaged 7.6 yards per pass attempt and once he lost Dwayne Bowe in the first quarter (Bowe already had 70 yards receiving) the Chiefs offense was done.

Here's one thing I think I know.  It's very hard to predict who will get to the Super Bowl and much easier to predict who won't.  I'm 100 percent certain in my mind that both Harbaugh brothers have made moves that will solidify their respective teams early exit from the playoffs.

ST. LOUIS @ BUFFALO
One of several games that came down to the wire, the Buffalo Bills appeared to do everything right until the final drive of the game.  Brandon Gibson had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career, though Chris Givens was the target leader for the Rams.  That will likely continue to be the case the rest of the year.  Obviously, you’re hoping for a better return than just three catches.  If recent history is any indicator for Rams RB Steven Jackson, then facing Minnesota’s rush defense should mean another strong start for him.  He scored his third rushing touchdown of the year on Sunday.

Fred Jackson is now on the shelf for the remainder of the season, meaning C.J. Spiller is back to RB1 duties…again. Keep in mind Buffalo had just three rushing first downs against St. Louis and converted three of 12 third downs.  Even though they did all the first half scoring, they won the time of possession by just a 1:12. T. J. Graham may be  starting to make inroads in the passing game for Buffalo.  He had seven targets on Sunday, the most since Week 3, which was good for second among Buffalo receivers.  


DALLAS @ CINCINNATI
The Cowboys kept A.J. Green from hurting them and allowed none of the Bengals receivers more than 45 yards.  This added up to just one touchdown in the red zone for Cincinnati, which kicked four field goals with newly signed Josh Brown.  Andrew Hawkins tied for the lead in targets and scored the only touchdown, even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran at a 7.4 yards per carry average. 

The Dallas game plan called for DeMarco Murray to get 21 touches, and though he averaged just 2.5 yards per tote, he was effective enough in scoring his third TD of the year.  He also received six targets, caught four, and added 22 yards through the air.  Felix Jones owners saw their runner get two carries for seven yards and not one pass.  Miles Austin did lead the Cowboys with 10 targets, but as has been his season, was disappointing with just four catches for 46 yards.  It appears the Cowboys will lose Dez Bryant for the rest of the year.  They face Pittsburgh next, one of the top passing defenses in the league.  That doesn’t bode well for the next round.  The Bengals get Philadelphia in Philly.


KANSAS CITY @ CLEVELAND
What do we make of this?  Cleveland not only covered the spread, but they blew out the Chiefs and have now won three straight.  Whatever reason you assign to it, let’s look at Brady Quinn’s first quarter numbers and then his numbers for the rest of the game.  Quinn was 2-for-5 for 70 yards by the end of the first quarter of play.  The Chiefs should have lead 10-3, but Ryan Succop missed a 27-yard field goal.   Quinn finished the half 4-for-9 for 95 yards.  He would get six more completions for 64 more yards, but in the end would average 7.6 yards per attempt.  Honestly, I expected better from Quinn going against his former team.  However, his career YPA is 5.6 – that’s a full two yards of his YPA Sunday, and let’s face it; Dwayne Bowe is the only receiver on that team that can catch, and he has average hands.  It’s worth keeping an eye on Quinn.  This looks like someone that is seeing the field better.

As for Cleveland, Trent Richardson didn’t break the rookie yards mark yet, but did break Jim Brown’s TD scoring mark as a rookie.  Richardson now has nine rushing TDs on the year.  That ties him with Stevan Ridley, Marshawn Lynch and Ray Rice for fourth in the NFL.  Wide receiver Josh Gordan had a much better game on Sunday, taking in eight of the 12 targets sent his way for 86 yards. 


PHILADELPHIA @ TAMPA BAY
Tampa Bay really could have been a sleeper team had they made the playoffs.  The rushing defense has become so impenetrable that only Nick Foles himself could run for any decent yardage, something Andy Reid has seen enough of his QB doing to last him a lifetime.  Bryce Brown had 12 carries for six yards.  Dion Lewis had one carry for minus-4.  And if you read this blog you knew I had warned you.   Never did I expect that low of a tally, but the Bucs continue to show there is only one way of beating them and that is through the air.  In his first game as the official QB of the Eagles, Foles attempted 51 passes, and completed 32 of them.  While Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant became just the second tandem for the Eagles this year to get 100 yards receiving each in  one game, are you going to put Foles in your lineup?  I don’t think that’s a wise idea yet. 

Though Josh Freeman completed just 14-of-34 pass attempts for a 5.6 yards per attempt average, he threw two touchdowns and again avoided interceptions.  Of his 14 completions, six were to Vincent Jackson who also added a touchdown.  Mike Williams caught three balls for only 18 yards but also added a touchdown.  Doug Martin got 28 carries which he turned into a 128 yards and a score.


BALTIMORE @ WASHINGTON
Joe Flacco added his fifth game where he averaged over eight yards per attempt this season.  This past Sunday was only the third time he had thrown three touchdown passes, and his best completion percentage for the year at 76.2 percent.  And this was the most points the Ravens had put up in four weeks.  Yet at 9-4, this was the weekend that John Harbaugh (or maybe Ozzie Newsome) decided to fire his offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.  In the midst of one of their best seasons, they’ve replaced a key cog.  This sudden hip, snap-to-judgment, non-thinking and reactionary way of doing things in the NFL is only defendable if you don't understand how things work.  There are no teams with unstable front offices, or untenable coaching situations  that win championships.  If they did, then every 3-4 or 4-7 team that fired their head coach or replaced their QB would win.  They don’t.  This was an unwise move, even if Cameron and Flacco were at loggerheads.  People who don’t love each other often do better work than those that do.  Again, see the Ravens’ 9-4 record.

For Washington, Robert Griffin III just survived what looked like a gruesome knee injury.  Smile.  Kirk Cousins didn’t get a game ball afterwards, but he was as clutch as clutch can be.  This was the second game of the day that a huge play occurred in the final minute, and Cousins’ dive into contact at the goal line to make sure the two point conversion tied the game should make all those that questioned drafting him in the fourth round realize it’s just possible Mike Shanahan knows what he’s doing.


ATLANTA @ CAROLINA
The highlight reel hosts say that this game showcased the Cam Newton we saw last year.  Hey guys, his numbers are pretty similar to last year.  His YPA is up.  His interception percentage is down.  His TD pass percentage is identical.  So far he’s thrown six more TDs than interceptions, as opposed to four like last season.  Things aren't that different.  Are we surprised that things aren’t different with his team either?  They’re just not that good.  They’ve overpaid for two running backs they hardly use, and when they do use them, they get injured. 


As for Atlanta, there’s a reason they lost this game, and it was 11 carries.  A team like the Falcons can’t have eleven attempts running the football for a team when, though their QB Matt Ryan is having a record passing year, is also turning the ball over at the highest rate of his career.  They have two of the best receivers in the game, and Ryan threw 49 times.  However, the team was two of eight on third downs and held time of possession for a mere 24 minutes. 


NEW YORK JETS @ JACKSONVILLE
In the battle of the QB-less teams, Jacksonville’s hope for the future, Chad Henne, once again faded into the ever-changing fabric of backup quarterbacks; Two more interceptions, a fifty percent completion rating and a measly 4.3 yards per attempt.  True, the Jets’ secondary is in the top ten, and his receiver Kevin Elliott cut off his route which led to the final pick, but who says 49er Alex Smith won’t look good in a Jags uniform? Montell Owens got his first start and managed 6.5 yards per carry, amassing 91 yards on 14 rushes and one TD.  It should be noted that his 32-yard TD run wasn't simply a charge through the line.  Owens actually had to leap over one of his blockers, who was locked with a Jets player as they went to the ground, and then cut outside and accelerate to the goal. 

Mark Sanchez wasn’t much better, and both Bilal Powell and Shonn Greene put up a combined 150 yards rushing and two scores.  Tight end Jeff Cumberland had one catch for 37 yards.  That led all Jets receivers.  Jeremy Kerley had four catches but that totaled 27 yards.

TENNESSEE @ INDIANAPOLIS
It seems to me that Kenny Britt(le) and Jared Cook only rack up yardage and touchdowns when the season ends.  It’s as if they want not only fantasy experts and players to take note for the pre-draft magazines, but they want NFL pundits to remember them Week 1 of the season for that classic sound byte, “They’re expecting a lot from him now.  You might remember how strong a finish he had last year.”  Britt and Kendall Wright each had nine targets, but no target turned out more important for Jake Locker who was picked off for a touchdown by Colts CB
Cassius Vaughn.

You thought you were assured a rushing attack that featured Vick Ballard.  You now know that Bruce Arians is willing to substitute the 5’9” , 238 Delone Carter for the 5’10”, 217 Ballard around the goal line.  I guess he likes the added weight on Carter’s diminutive frame.  Carter’s three carries led to one yard, and sadly for Ballard owners, a touchdown plunge.   While Reggie Wayne continued to be Reggie-Wayne-like, there’s no doubt that the chemistry between T.Y. Hilton and Andrew Luck makes the speedy Hilton a player to keep an eye out for now and to keep for the future.

CHICAGO @ MINNESOTA
It’s hard to write any words about Adrian Peterson that haven’t already been written, spoken, discussed and/or thought about.  Thus, I will sing them:

(to the tune of WHEELS ON THE BUS –hey, new dad here)

The Head Coach warns Adrian’s back
Adrian’s back, Adrian’s back
The Head Coach say Adrian’s back all day long


The linebacker shouts, hey, who’s that
hey who’s that, who was that?
the linebacker shouts hey who’s that, all day long

The scorekeeper adds another TD stat
TD stat, TD stat
The scorekeeper adds another TD stat
all day long.

For Chicago, who has lost Jay Cutler again, the season that appeared so hopeful has balanced out under their dismal pass protection and injured defense.  While Peterson’s name is associated with touchdowns, Matt Forte’s seems to have become an afterthought this year.  He was held scoreless again for the fifth straight game.  This is the longest such stretch of his career.


SAN DIEGO @ PITTSBURGH
As for the Steelers, I’m a born and bred Pittsburgh fan, and this year every time I’ve written they’d lose and every time I’ve written they’d win, they lose.  Conventional thinking has gone out the window with this team that has beaten the Bengals, Giants and Ravens on the road, and lost to Tennessee, Oakland, Cleveland and now the Chargers.  I think I threw up in my mouth just writing that.  I think this blog from the Behind the Steel Curtain sums up the Steelers situation best.  http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/12/10/3750728/steelers-afc-playoff-picture-seed-projections-road-game

As for San Diego, where the heck was this type of bravado in say, Week 1-13.  A fake punt?  With the lead?  At your own 28?  Norv…  Bubby…that’s almost the stuff brilliant victories are made of.  Ryan Mathews got you exactly 65 yards rushing and no receiving yards.  Norv, Bubby, that’s the thing fantasy losses are made of.  Denario Alexander continued to make his name known among the Chargers faithful, with two touchdowns in seven catches.  Malcom Floyd’s value has taken a hit (think Mike Williams now paired with Vincent Jackson).


MIAMI @ SAN FRANCISCO

So Alex Smith, you’ve been replaced by a guy who threw for 185 yards, and converted twenty percent on third downs.  Yes, he completed almost eighty percent of his passes, but then again, you were leading the league in that category.  He averaged eight yards per pass.  That is a solid number.  However, his longest pass of the day was 25 yards; so much for opening up the offense.  He did run for a 53 yard touchdown.  Of course, Miami bit so hard on the play fake that he had no one in front of him but his own blocker, who also had no one to block.  It’s safe to say Peyton Manning would have likely run that puppy in for a touchdown.  Colin Kaepernick fumbled for the third time this year, but again, it was recovered by his own team.  I think it's fair to say it.  Jim Harbaugh simply wanted Kaepernick behind center. 

The Dolphins simply couldn’t get enough of a rushing attack mounted to take down the 49ers.  Reggie Bush was solid with 14 carries for 65 yards and finally saw five receptions in the passing attack (do you think Philbin reads my blog?).  You’d hope if you invested in Bush, particularly if you’re in a PPR league, that he’ll be a stronger play down the playoff stretch.  They have Jacksonville, Buffalo and New England left in that order.  That should give Bush some good matchups to exploit.


ARIZONA@ SEATTLE
How many times have we witnessed a head coach apologizing for his team’s performance?  I was a big fan of Ken Whisenhunt during his tenure in Pittsburgh, but I have to question the entire Arizona staff.  Some of their player substitutions have been forced on them by injuries, but how many times has shifting your starting QB as often as Arizona has resulted in a winning season?  Um, once maybe.

Sadder still was that this 58-0 shellacking was achieved with Seattle's QB Russell Wilson attempting 13 passes and completing just seven.  Seven.  148 yards in the air. Matt Flynn came in and completed five more passes for 68 yards.  The twin turbos Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin were responsible for 236 rushing yards, though Turbin won't see that many carries again unless Lynch goes down or another game is over 30 minutes in.

For Larry Fitzgerald owners, this is what depression looks like.  He's releasable.  He's not going to save your season this year.  He's not going to be that rock, that dependable rock you've grown accustomed to. 

DETROIT @ GREEN BAY
With just over twelve and a half minutes left in the first half, TE Tony Scheffler celebrated Detroit's two touchdown lead a little too exuberantly.  The subsequent penalty gave Green Bay terrific field position and a quick field goal.  Their next possession, Matthew Stafford was sacked, fumbled the ball, and watched helplessly as Green
Bay’s defense scored and suddenly it was 14-10.  This series of events sums up the entire Detroit season.  Good play followed by silly mistake, after silly mistake, after silly mistake.  No one can fault Scheffler for celebrating their two touchdown lead over Green Bay in Lambeau, a place where they hadn’t won in 21 games.  However, one can fault him for rubbing their faces in it.  Aaron Rodgers, even with his offense struggling to get things moving, found Randall Cobbb over and over for 102 yards on seven catches.  Greg Jennings managed just one catch, not exactly the output people were expecting.  Hopefully, it’s a sign that Jennings is simply getting himself back into playing shape.  However, it could be that all these injuries are finally taking their toll.   Alex Green had 13 carries to Dujuan Harris’ seven, but it was Harris who found the end zone.  It wasn’t like you’re pressing Green into action anyway, but Harris’ 14-yard touchdown run will definitely get him more looks next week. 

For Detroit, Joique Bell isn’t really an elusive runner.  He’s a downhill guy who runs hard and grinds out yards.  He also has good enough hands that he received another seven targets last week for five receptions and 49 yards.  He’s going to cut into Mikel Leshoure’s carry load, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from playing Leshoure in good situations.  He’s still getting the goal line touches.

SUNDAY NIGHT

NEW ORLEANS @ NEW YORK GIANTS
David Wilson’s day was coming.  I drafted him in just about every one of my leagues.  His speed was something we had seen on special teams, but we finally got a taste of it from behind center.  Wilson had 327 total yards, including 100 yards rushing and three touchdowns.  He passed Domenik Hixon as the Giants player with the most all-purpose yards in a game.  We all know that if the Giants return to health, as they are, they are going to be a difficult out in the playoffs.  Ahmad Bradshaw is questionable for Sunday’s game, and the Giants face a Falcons team giving up rushing yards aplenty.  That doesn’t mean Wilson won’t regress back, but if you hear Bradshaw isn’t playing, he’ll make a strong fill-in.
With all the weapons the Saints have, Darren Sproles scored two touchdowns, but that was it.  Drew Brees continues to struggle throwing the ball downfield.  The only downfield playmaker of the day was Joe Morgan, who caught two passes for 106 yards.  This only further dampens your hopes if you’re a Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham owner, and is simply horrifying if you own Lance Moore.  Moore suffered to the tune of just four targets Sunday, and because he’s not a TD scorer, fantasy owners count on yardage from him.  The Saints season is lost, and it’s likely more chaos can be found in the numbers if the coaching staff in their wisdom decide give more players looks to see what the future might hold.  With the Saints’ players suspensions now lifted, the team has one less thing on its mind.  However, it’s likely too late for the 5-8 Saints this season, and it’s likely that for many seasons to come, the New Orleans faithful will blame this dreadful 2012 football season on Roger Goodell.

 
MONDAY NIGHT

HOUSTON @ NEW ENGLAND
It’s the Patriots in December, and that should have been all I needed to favor them Monday night.  But I couldn’t.  I still can’t.  The team’s defense played inspired football.  Led by Vince Wilfork, the Patriots held the Houston rushing attack to 100 total yards. Andre Johnson was kept from the end zone, as was his teammate Owen Daniels.  Lestar Jean got a surprising five targets, two more than Kevin Walter.  Somehow, the Patriots offense inspired this defense to shut down the strongest rushing attack in the league while confusing Matt Schaub enough that his offense converted just four third downs in 14 attempts.

For New England, this puts a firm announcement out there that they are a strong contender for the AFC crown.  However, another break went their way when RB Danny Woodhead fumbled his reception forward and Brandon Lloyd was the only one within a few feet of it.  He fell on it in the end zone and scored his second touchdown.  The Pats are now an astounding plus-24 in terms of turnovers, and there’s going to be a day where they are the ones fighting the bug and not getting the breaks.  For their sake, they hope it doesn’t happen when it matters.   They’ll certainly be tested this next week facing the San Francisco 49ers.