Archive for October, 2011
I said I’d do better last week, and well, let’s just say that it didn’t quite go that way. Missed it by that much. 7-6 for the week, bringing the season record to 58-32. That’s good enough for 19th place in a competition among 26 people.
So, nothing else to do but try and try again…
Seattle vs. Cleveland: Cleveland might be playing at home, but they may be without Peyton Hillis who is nursing a bum hamstring. Seattle will be without starting quarterback Tavaris Jackson and giving the start to Charlie Whitehurst. Both teams have trouble running the ball and stopping the run, but I expect Marshawn Lynch to have the better of it. Seattle wins 20-13. Confidence: 1
Atlanta vs. Detroit: We are finally able to move on from the handshake and back to football in Detroit. Atlanta will definitely take a page from the 49er playbook and Frank Gore in rushing the football early and often with Michael Turner. Detroit will be ready for it. They won’t let themselves get embarrassed like that again. I expect to see plenty of Stafford to Johnson and a Detroit win 24-20. Confidence: 8
Houston vs. Tennessee: No Andre Johnson, no Mario Williams, no real shot for Houston. They have the 8th best offense in the league, but have lost their deep threat. No Williams means that Matt Hasselbeck will have all day to sit and survey the field. He will also be looking to get Chris Johnson back to track since signing his monster deal. Tennessee wins and takes firm control of the AFC South 27-17. Confidence: 4
Denver vs. Miami: Release the Tebow! Not that he’ll do much even against one of the worst, and now depleted, defenses in the league. Miami has scored all of six touchdowns this season, but I expect them to have success moving the ball on a Bronco defense giving up 123 yards per game rushing and over 260 passing. Tebow’s throwing motion is suspect and it’ll be interesting to see how much time he takes to survey the field before passing or just taking off running. Miami gets their first win of the season 17-13. Confidence: 2
San Diego vs. NY Jets: Now that Rex Ryan and Norv Turner have lobbed their volleys against one another cross country, it’s time to play the feud on the field. San Diego is off to a 4-1 start which is unusual for them. They usually get hot as the season goes along. The Chargers will be rested after what was essentially a two-week bye. Yes, they had to survive the end of game heroics of Tim Tebow in beating Denver, but they had a comfortable lead against a team that has had trouble scoring. The New York Rexes also had a bye of sorts against Miami Monday night in ending a three game losing streak. Short week, better team, and a QB that seems to never rise to the challenge in Mark Sanchez, I got San Diego rolling into the Meadowlands and flying home with the win 31-21. Confidence: 9
Chicago vs. Tampa Bay: Tampa is coming off a game in which they took control of the NFC South in beating the high-octane Saints pretty much at their own game. Chicago easily beat the Minnesota Vikings last week, but it didn’t come without some talk, namely mics catching Jay Cutler yelling an obscenity at offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who he blames for his constantly getting sacked. After stopping New Orleans I expect them to be able to get to Cutler often, bother him, knock him around, and just make his visit to London anything but a vacation. Tampa wins 26-19. Confidence: 5
Washington vs. Carolina: Will the real Washington Redskins please stand up. John Beck will start instead of Rex Grossman after Grossman kept throwing the ball to Eagles’ defenders as though he received a paycheck from them. Beck hasn’t been on an NFL field since 2007. It wasn’t that Mike Vick was lighting it up either. Philly didn’t bother scoring after halftime and still won. Cam Newton and friends do light it up. While it hasn’t produced more than one win thus far, after seeing what little the Redskins did last week defensively, I see Carolina winning 23-14. Confidence: 3
Kansas City vs. Oakland: I honestly don’t think it really matters who starts at QB for Oakland this week. I believe they give the start to Kyle Boller in order for Palmer to have a little more time to learn the offense for the final stretch of the season after their bye next week. The Raiders still have Darren McFadden and he still has two legs. The Chiefs, off their bye, barely squeaked by winless Indy the prior week 28-24. Now they get a good team. Matt Cassel will not have any time against the opportunistic Raider D. Raiders win easily 30-13. Confidence: 6
Pittsburgh vs. Arizona: The Steelers have something to prove and Arizona is looking to overcome a loss to a really bad team. Pittsburgh is looking to put together a complete game in all three phases as they try to win five of their last 6. Arizona will be looking to get the ugly taste out of their mouths following a loss to the Vikings. Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Wallace, Polamalu against Kolb, Fitzgerald, and Wells. Kolb hasn’t played well going 21-42 in the game against the Vikings with no TDs and two picks. Pittsburgh wins comfortably 27-12. Confidence: 11
St Louis vs. Dallas: Who has more points in the Big D this weekend: The Cards on Saturday night or the Rams on Sunday? The number set by the Cards is 16. Sadly, I think the Cards will win that battle (whether they win the World Series remains to be seen). St Louis will be starting AJ Feeley at QB after ruling out Sam Bradford with a badly sprained ankle. While Dallas has been inconsistent, they have far more weapons and more comfort at the QB position (I never thought I’d be saying that) with Tony Romo in comparison. I expect Dallas to move the ball well and score easily on the winless Rams winning 26-9. Confidence: 10
Green Bay vs. Minnesota: Welcome to the NFL Christian Ponder. Your first assignment: Beat the defending Super Bowl Champs. Aaron Rodgers is completing 70% of his passes and has 17 touchdowns. He has weapons all over the field and will be facing a defense that gave up 377 yards to the Bears. Green Bay’s defense has racked up 15 sacks this season. Ponder showed the ability to get away from on-coming attackers against the Bears, but the Packers are a far different beast—faster, stronger. GB wins going away 34-6. Confidence: 13
Indianapolis vs. New Orleans: New Orleans is coming off a tough loss to division rival Tampa 26-20 in a game in which they were beaten with the same high-powered offense they’re used to using to push teams into submission. That should be easy enough against the winless Colts. Indy has played better of late, especially since turning the team over to Curtis Painter. The Saints will be without their head coach, well, sort of. Sean Payton who had his leg broken and torn up after a sideline collision will spend the rest of the season coaching from the press box. This change puts more on Drew Brees to be even more vocal and coach-like on the field. This week, I don’t think that will be an issue. I expect the Saints to be their explosive selves in this one, both to show their coach they can do it without him and to wash last week from their mouths. NO wins 41-23. Confidence: 7
Baltimore vs. Jacksonville: Rookie QB vs. one of the most dominant defenses in the history of the league. Blaine Gabbert has looked good thus far. While not winning since taking over, he has thrown for a touchdown in four straight games. He also has the option to hand the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew, the third best rusher in the league. Joe Flacco has his own pretty good back in Ray Rice. He also knows he has a defense lead by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to give him pretty damn good field position. Ravens win 20-7. Confidence: 12
You’re 5-1 for the first time in roughly a decade. That doesn’t give you the right at the final gun to go romping across the field, slapping the opposing coach on the back, barely shake his hand, while screaming obscenities like a banshee. Do myself, the rest of the NFL and its fans a favor in the future: Act like you’ve been there before. You tell your team not to take stupid penalties by taunting or taking their helmet off, or other things that usually draw the ire of the officials and the Commish.
The San Francisco 49ers did something Sunday that no team up to that point had been able to do and that was beat the Detroit Lions. They didn’t just put more points on the scoreboard either. The 49ers really had their way in this game controlling the ball on offense (who knew anyone would run for 100 yards on that D let alone 200+ as they did?) and their defense got enough shots on Matt Stafford that he never seemed comfortable in this game. Both teams are 5-1 and could very well meet in the playoffs if they keep this play up. Why act like a complete ass after that performance? Jim Harbaugh took away from the best performance his team has had on the field, and yes, that includes clocking Tampa 48-3 the previous week. This game was on the road in a difficult early game after flying east. Let your players have their moment of satisfaction. Save the crazy antics for the locker room.
This wasn’t the Super Bowl. Yes, the stadium has hosted it, but just because you beat one of the remaining undefeated teams remaining in the league, doesn’t justify acting like you just won the Holy Grail of the sport. If you want to act like a fool, that’s fine. Players, coaches, staff, they all have fun, but not on national television. Go to the locker room and do whatever you want there. We don’t have to see it. We don’t WANT to see it. It should be a private moment shared between players and coach. The coaches have responsibilities that far exceed those of their players.
These men are the leaders of their respective teams. They’re the, supposed, voices of authority on the practice field, in meetings, pre-game, during the game, and after it. The coaches of the NFL are out in front more than probably any of the four major sports. They decide plays, personnel, whether or not to go for it on 4th down. The cameras airing the game are in their grills constantly. We rarely see and hear from the players during the week, but the coaches are addressing the media daily after practice. Is it too much to ask that they act professional even if they don’t like or respect one another. At least show us a little decorum. You can go to your locker room and trash the other guy all you want. It’s out of the public eye.
I am not taking all blame away from Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. His actions to turn back and yell at Harbaugh for his slap and, from all reports the obscenity yelled were justified. Waiting and then running over half the field to confront him was not. The confrontation required several players from both teams as well as team personnel to break up were not. Some will argue that not confronting Harbaugh would mean a lack of respect in the locker room. I say the opposite is true. Schwartz was also telling, and successfully, for them not to do anything which would cause them to beat themselves in the game. Chasing him lowered him, on that point alone, to Harbaugh’s level. Let me be straight: Harbaugh alone was the instigator in this. He is the one sole reason why the coaches are receiving more press than the game of the week from a standings perspective.
I understand that Harbaugh comes from the ranks of college coaches. His players have bought into the fire and passion he brings to work each and every day. It’s why a team that went 6-10 a year ago with virtually the same roster is today sitting at 5-1. He has gotten to the players in a way that the two previous coaches could not. Hell, anyone that can get Alex Smith playing like he actually knows what he’s doing out there should be the front runner for Coach of the Year and Sainthood. It’s a miracle. At the same time, that fire and passion need to be laser-like in its focus. That, for the most part, has occurred in San Francisco. Harbaugh blew it Sunday. If players are going to be held accountable for their actions at both the team and the league level, he should be made to pay for Sunday.
The NFL has already set the precedent. It fines players for the smallest misstep of its, in my opinion, moronic rules on things like what cleats or gloves they wear or celebrating touchdowns. If those petty issues are worth $10,000 a piece, there’s no way that nearly brawling in the end zone of Ford Field isn’t worth at least that much, if not more for Harbaugh for starting it. If this were Frank Gore and Calvin Johnson going at it, we’d be talking at least $25,000 and maybe both missing their next games. The league, in its infinite wisdom, has chosen not to fine either of them. In so doing, it has implicitly condoned their actions. Players must act professional and can’t enjoy the game they’ve played and loved since they were children, but their head coaches can act like assholes. Makes perfect sense to me.
Don’t think the players haven’t noticed the double standard.
(Writer’s Note: I lost this file while writing these. The scores and confidences are based on my picks for my Pick’em game. They have not been changed to make these numbers look better. Every week has been based on those numbers)
Ok, after a 9-4 week, it is really time to get serious about this. Another week with only 13 games. I know I can do better. I keep telling myself that. One of these days, I might actually live up to expectations. This edition is also 99.9% Tim Tebow free.
If I only picked afternoon, Sunday night, and Monday night games, I’d be perfect. One of these days, I’ll figure out what’s going on east of here; maybe even this week.
Here we go:
Carolina vs. Atlanta: Atlanta got off to a red hot start against Green Bay last week. Before Aaron Rodgers hit the field, he was down 14-0. He proceeded to shred the Falcon defense for the next 25 points. Now, they get another red hot, hungry quarterback with a lot of weapons in Cam Newton and the Panthers. Scoring might be a little easier for Matt Ryan, but after what Rodgers did, the same will be said for Newton. This is my upset special. Carolina comes out with the win in a high scoring game, 34-27. Confidence: 2
Indianapolis vs. Cincinnati: Indianapolis QB Curtis Painter was lights out in the first half of their game against KC last week. Sadly, the NFL is played in 2 halves and that didn’t quite carry over after the break. He only threw for 40 yards and no TDs as the Chiefs rallied for the win. Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe connected for two scores. Similarly, Andy Dalton brought the Bengals down from 20-16 in the 4th quarter for the win. He has continued to connect with AJ Green. Given the holes that appeared in the Indy defense in the 2nd half, I think they have issues containing Green and Cedric Benson has his legs under him. Cinci wins 27-20. Confidence: 5
San Francisco vs. Detroit: May god have mercy on the soul of Alex Smith. Yes, San Fran has a better offensive line than the offensively challenged Bears, but when you’re facing Nick Fairley, Ndamukong Suh, and Kyle Vanden Bosch coming full tilt at you, your life is still destined to flash before your eyes. Smith has been good delivering the ball to his receivers and handing it off to Frank Gore. This week, he will not have the luxury of time to make the reads he’s been able to make easily so far this season. Matt Stafford is playing like the QB everyone believed he was when drafted now that he’s healthy and Calvin Johnson is playing up to the Megatron title he’s been given. Not even close, Detroit 28-13. Confidence: 7
St Louis vs. Green Bay: St Louis is coming off its bye. Before, they were stifled by the Redskins D in suffering their 4th straight loss and an 0-4 record. On the flip side, nothing is going wrong for the World Champs. They come into this game at 5-0, Aaron Rodgers has already had a 400 yard passing game and has 14 TDs to his credit. Last week, after finding himself down quickly 14-0 against the Falcons, he didn’t panic, but instead showed just how focused and in control he is in reeling off the next 25 points in the game. St Louis will have to wait to get its first win cuz it ain’t happening at Lambeau. Pack 40-21. Confidence: 13
Buffalo vs. NY Giants: Buffalo is cruising after wins against New England, the comeback of the year against the Raiders, and last week against Philadelphia. They’re putting up huge numbers statistically (138 yards rushing, 4th best in the NFL) and on the scoreboard. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been lights out. The defense is making other QBs pay. They intercepted Mike Vick 4 times and have 12 picks on the season. The Giants have their injury woes and it isn’t helping their defense. They are allowing 159 yards rushing per game over their last three games. The Giants are also coming off a game they gave away to the Seattle Seahawks. Eli Manning was picked three times in that game and tackling was a joke. Buffalo continues on its winning ways taking this game 26-16. Confidence: 1
Jacksonville vs. Pittsburgh: Jack Del Rio’s seat is set to deep fry at this point and the Steelers won’t do much to cool it down. Last week, everything went right for Pittsburgh, who were looking for that one game where both defense and offense flowed like it did to the Super Bowl last year in their 38-17 clocking of a really good Tennessee team. Jacksonville is again turning to rookie QB Blaine Gabbert to run the offense. He played well last week in hanging close with Cincinnati before the Bengals pulled away late for the win. He will have his hands full with the Steelers D looking to make up for its slow start this season. Steelers again prove they’re back 34-14. Confidence: 8
Philadelphia vs. Washington: Mike Shanahan has completely turned the Redskins from the circus that they were last season and into a legit playoff football team this season. They aren’t making mistakes that give away football games. The defense is making life difficult for opposing QBs with 15 sacks in their four games this season. Mike Vick will again likely be running for his life. The Philly D will be looking to come to life against Rex Grossman, who while not posting impressive stats, is doing just enough to win games. Vick is playing behind a line that has had Vick staring at the sky more than at his receivers this season. Don’t see anything different here. Washington is consistent and Philly has too many issues to fix. Washington wins 20-16. Confidence: 6
Cleveland vs. Oakland: The Raiders are coming off what is arguably the most emotional win in the history of their franchise by beating Houston the day after the passing of legendary owner Al Davis. After intercepting Matt Schaub as the final second ticked off the clock, the emotion was apparent. What was later noted, was the fact that Oakland made that last play with only 10 men on the field, which may explain the rather large hole that Schaub missed where he could have walked into the end zone had he wanted to. They are playing with heart, with effort, with passion, and have that running game playing well this season, even if McFadden having the worst game of his season last Sunday. Emotion may have played a part. He will be able to more than make up for it against a Browns team that, while playing well, is dealing with the distraction of running back Peyton Hillis and his “strep throat”. Guys are playing with broken ribs, sprained ankles, and all kind of bumps, bruises, and ailments and he missed a game cuz of a little bug. Actually, he missed it cuz he wants to get paid. Bad move, and not one that’ll help you against a team like the Raiders these days. Oakland wins 27-12, McFadden goes for 180 yards. Confidence: 10
Houston vs. Baltimore: As mentioned, Houston had to face a very focused, very emotional Raiders team last week and let it slip away as time expired. Now they must face Ray Lewis and friends on their turf. Houston will be missing Andre Johnson, but have Derrick Mason from the Jets to fill in. He is a veteran guy and hopefully will fill in well this week. Sadly, Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, and Ed Reed will have something to say about that. Too much defense and Houston has too many injuries to make this a win. Ravens win 26-14. Confidence: 3
Dallas vs. New England: This game really comes down to which Dallas team shows up and even more specific, which Tony Romo. If it is the one that gutted it out when he first sustained his broken ribs, the Cowboys could end the Pats’ 19 game home winning streak. They also have Rob Ryan who, the last time he faced New England as Cleveland’s D-Coordinator, held the offense to 14 points in a Browns rout. He plans to deploy the same routine this time, with better players. Except for a hiccup against Buffalo, Tom Brady has been rolling along. He’s even found a running game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. That new wrinkle may allow Brady time to escape Ryan’s “kitchen sink”. In fact, I say it does. Pats win 31-21. Confidence: 11
New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay: Tampa, who some favored to win the NFC South, is licking its wounds after last week’s 48-3 beat down at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Now they host the team they’re chasing. They need to win this game if they have any hope of catching the Saints. Trouble is, Drew Brees and company are rolling. They haven’t lost since opening weekend, and even then they were play for play with the Packers. New Orleans wins 31-20. Confidence: 9
Minnesota vs. Chicago: The biggest question in this game is: Can the Bears O-Line keep Jay Cutler standing on his feet long enough to get the ball away once in a while. Minnesota did get its first win last week against Arizona, but that really isn’t a win that is going to change a season. Donovan McNabb still has issues with his delivery, and until last week, Adrian Peterson has been MIA. The Bears D will not allow Peterson to break loose as he did last week. Bears win 20-14. Confidence: 4
Miami vs. NY Jets: Let’s be honest here. This game is circus vs. circus, but for very different reasons. Miami has no QB, no real running game (Reggie who?), and it now has Brandon Marshall stating emphatically that he will get himself tossed from the game in the 2nd quarter. Is he just psyching himself up for a big match-up, or has this team completely self-destructed to the point that he’s telling the truth. Sadly, my gut says the latter. The Jets have the issue of a lineman questioning a wide receiver questioning the line’s play. It’s a valid question. His job is to catch the football. If the QB can’t stay upright long enough to deliver it, that’s on the line. For me, this is an easier problem to fix than the pile in Miami. Jets win a laugher that has the MNF guys talking about anything but the game with about 9 minutes left in the 3rd, 23-6. Confidence: 12
At the quarter pole, I am at 41-23 picking the results for NFL football games, including a 12-4 week 4. There were plenty of gimme games last week, the biggest was the World Champ Packers taking on my hometown anemic Denver Broncos. How bad was it, Packer fans were so bored they started chanting for Tim Tebow in the 4th quarter. Can I say I have given up all hope and faith of the Minnesota Vikings winning a game this season after choking to the KC Chefs?
Ok, on to this week. I was totally sober making all of these. Only 13 games as we start bye weeks. Here we go:
Philadelphia vs. Buffalo: I took Philadelphia. They’re 1-3 and can’t stop anyone. Their offense is a mess as they can’t keep Mike Vick upright. Buffalo has everything going its way so far outside of a freaky win by Cincinnati last week. Philly is desperate, though. I think that hole they’re in pushes them more than anything else, including Andy Reid can. They pull this out in the 4th as for one day, everything finally looks like it clicks for them. 23-16. Confidence: 5
Kansas City vs. Indianapolis: Until Peyton Manning is on the sidelines in something other than jeans and a polo shirt, the Colts are pretty much screwed. Their defense has been playing well enough to keep them in games so far, but KC looked last week like maybe they were starting to put things together. You saw a fire lit under Matt Cassel after he took on Coach Todd Haley in full view of a national TV audience last week in their win over Minnesota. KC wins 20-7. Confidence: 4
Arizona vs. Minnesota: Minnesota couldn’t even get the comfortable halftime lead they’ve enjoyed in past weeks against the formerly winless KC Chefs. Donovan McNabb looks lost, confused, old, befuddled, and a bunch of other things that I can use to say he can’t play anymore. He’s still their starter. Arizona has the guy he was once traded for. McNabb had a hissy-fit when Philly went with Kolb and exiled him to Washington. Kolb has something to prove. Did I mention he has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to? Arizona wins 24-14. Confidence: 3
Seattle vs. NY Giants: Seattle is incompetent at all areas of the game right now. They have a QB that Minnesota was more than happy to get rid of to allow McNabb to take over. If McNabb is an improvement….Tom Coughlin has been fairly satisfied with his team’s play so far. Their talent is far greater than anything Seattle can manage to control. NY 23-10. Confidence: 12
Tennessee vs. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is banged up. Ben Roethlisberger has spent the entire week in a walking boot; James Harrison has a fractured orbital bone; Rashard Mendenhall has a hamstring issue. Tennessee, on the other hand, has been cruising. They absolutely clocked the Browns and beat the same Ravens team that stuffed it down the Steelers’ throats. I got Tennessee 27-14. Confidence: 2
New Orleans vs. Carolina: This game has shoot out written all over it. Drew Brees and Cam Newton can and probably will exceed 400 yards passing. The problem is, the Saints have multiple play makers and Carolina has Steve Smith. Most of Newton’s passing will come as he makes a furious comeback attempt in the 4th quarter to make the final score respectable. Brees and company show Cam how a high-powered offense operates 41-28. Confidence: 9
Cincinnati vs. Jacksonville: Last week Cincinnati didn’t allow a 17-3 halftime deficit to the previously unbeaten Buffalo Bills faze them. All they did was come back after the break and outscore them 20-3 including the game winning field goal as time expired. Andy Dalton has fans asking “Carson who?” AJ Green is as advertised. Jacksonville is a mess. At 1-3, they don’t have a winnable game on their schedule until after the bye when they face Indy—and that’s provided Jack Del Rio is still around. They have thrown rookie QB Blaine Gabbert into the fray after cutting incumbent David Garrard in favor of Luke McCown who quickly showed the nation he has no idea how to play the QB position in the NFL. Gabbert is learning the offense on the fly and that doesn’t bode well. Cinci has confidence, Jacksonville has questions—lots of them. Bengals win 20-10. Confidence: 6
Oakland vs. Houston: It’s too bad that Al Davis has passed. He would love to watch this year’s team play. It’s playing the kind of beat-the-hell outta the opponent football he loved, craved, and taught. Darren McFadden has 468 yards and three touchdowns on the season already. Jason Campbell was 25-39 and 344 yards with a touchdown against the vaunted Patriots last week in a loss. Matt Schaub will be without his favorite target as Andre Johnson sits with a hamstring that required what the team called a “minor procedure” during the week. Who’ll step up? Who knows. Arian Foster is still shaking off the rust following his own hamstring issues this season. I got the Raiders continuing to play Davis-ball and keeping Schaub in check 23-16. Confidence: 1
Tampa Bay vs. San Francisco: Tampa has pulled as many escape acts this season as Harry Houdini did his entire career. Last week started by falling 10-0 behind winless Indy before coming back to win. They have also been sloppy committing 14 penalties. San Francisco is coming home with the confidence of winning back-to-back road games in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. Alex Smith proved he can lead the team back from a deficit throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Philly last week. Smith and the rest of his 49er teammates have confidence while Tampa seems to have a lot of luck on its side so far. Talent and confidence trump 20-13. Confidence: 7
San Diego vs. Denver: Denver is a mess. They’ve had injuries on defense, they’ve had issues running the ball, stopping the run, and most importantly there’s the Tim Tebow conundrum. They were blown, not just out of Lambeau Field last week, but out of the state of Wisconsin by the Packers. Tim didn’t see a second of action in garbage time and that further enraged his legions of followers. San Diego is where it usually is these days—on top of the AFC West at 3-1 and have very few issues other than not being consistent scoring touchdowns in the red zone. QB Phillip Rivers is as comfortable at Mile High as he is in his own living room. Other than doing some nice things defensively with Von Miller and a finally healthy Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey, the Broncos are destined for 1-5 and a near riot for Tebow after the bye. It was also telling that Bronco VP John Elway was personally on hand on the Stanford sidelines Saturday to witness Andrew Luck disembowel the Colorado Buffaloes. Chargers win 27-17. Confidence: 13
NY Jets vs. New England: So far Rex Ryan’s bark has been far worse than his or his team’s bite. The vaunted defense from a year ago has been largely MIA this season. No one seems afraid of Darrell Revis or anyone else defensively. Last week against Baltimore, Mark Sanchez appeared lost as he turned the ball over four times which resulted in 21 Baltimore points. He will have a better day playing against one of the worst defenses in the league. Tom Brady, however, has been his usual surgical self in leading the league in passing yards and has amassed 13 touchdowns. Mark Sanchez is a mess; Tom Brady is playing like a man possessed. Pats win 35-20. Confidence: 10
Green Bay vs. Atlanta: This is a replay of last year’s divisional round playoff game down to it being in Atlanta. That game and the rest of the playoffs resulted in the Pack taking home the hardware. Green Bay is 4-0 after dismantling what was left of Denver’s confidence last week. Aaron Rodgers has Cheeseheads wondering why they hung on to Brett Favre as long as they did. Atlanta, to have a chance to win, has to clean up its defense, and Matt Ryan has to be nearly flawless to not allow Green Bay opportunities on a short field. Green Bay is just rocking everyone and I believe Atlanta may be too amped in its attempt to exact revenge for last year. Pack win 34-20. Confidence: 11
Chicago vs. Detroit: Nick Fairley looks like a go for Detroit to assist Ndamukong Suh wreak havoc on offenses across the NFL. It will take time for it all to blend together, but their first game will be Monday night against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears. Detroit comes into this game with the confidence that they can come back from anything after coming back from 27-3 in the 3rd quarter to beat Dallas last week. QB Matt Stafford is playing with confidence and Calvin Johnson catches everything thrown in the same zip code. The Bears come in having beat Carolina, but also giving up 543 yards to Cam Newton and friends. The defense makes life difficult on Cutler who’ll never feel comfortable in this game. Lions go to 5-0 for the first time in forever winning 20-10. Confidence: 8
What do the Minnesota Vikings, St Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, and Indianapolis Colts all have in common? They’re all 0-4 so far this season. At the quarter pole, it can be assumed that none of these teams are likely playoff bound. They all have serious issues that won’t be corrected anytime soon. Minnesota is starting Donovan McNabb at quarterback, a guy who has had probably one of the steepest declines at the position of anyone in NFL history. St Louis can’t stop anyone with their lines on both sides of the balls and now have serious injuries to their receivers and no one to step up. The Miami Dolphins just lost their quarterback that no one seems to want and have a coach ownership doesn’t acknowledge the existence of (kiss that vote of confidence bye-bye Coach Sparano). The Colts have one missing piece, but that piece is like missing the engine to a car in Peyton Manning. The entire offense has been built around him and him alone since he joined the team fourteen years ago. With all four of these teams you hear whispers of playing for Andrew Luck, the phenom quarterback at Stanford University. That requires going out of their way to stay under the four win mark for the season to have any shot at that overall #1 pick in next April’s draft.
Luck had the opportunity to come out for last year’s draft, but he would have competed for attention with Cam Newton who was fresh off leading Auburn University to the BCS Championship. There’s also the teams picking at the top of last year’s draft—Carolina (who took Newton), Denver, Buffalo, and Cincinnati. I know he didn’t want to go to any of those disasters, though Buffalo is looking like a playoff team this season standing at 3-1. They were not in need of a quarterback. Denver didn’t need one after trading everything but the stadium to select Tim Tebow the previous draft. Carolina was set on Newton from the moment the final second ticked off the clock at the Championship game leaving Cincinnati where careers go to die. His decision to remain for his senior year is looking as though it may lead him to that very same BCS Championship game Newton found himself in.
That leads to an important question for these four teams, and to an extent, some of the 1-3 teams as well: Do you go all out, play to win every week and pray you come up with a decent season, even if it doesn’t land you in the playoffs, or do you half-heart it, show your fans you’re giving it your best shot, but rack up the “L”s and play for Luck? It’s a dangerous game to play. On the one hand, maybe your schedule improves, you get some guys back healthy, or someone unexpected steps up and you play the remaining 12 games in 10-2 or 9-3. Depending on the division, even going 8-4 might be enough to get into the playoffs. The flip side of this is going out week after week, giving it you almost best shot, beating some of the other also-rans on your schedule, but playing the remaining 12 at 4-8 or 3-9, maybe even 2-10. The dangers in this are alienating your fan base, who already is pissed off at your stellar start, and splitting your locker room who begin to believe that you, as coach and front office, don’t believe they’re talented enough to go out and win without the help of an unproven college player.
The last part leads to the biggest problems. Coaches stop trusting players, players stop trusting coaches, and eventually players stop trusting one another. Even if you’re lucky enough to land Luck, the damage may be too much to fix without a major overhaul of the roster and coaching staff. Now you’ve got Andrew Luck, a rookie who’s proven nothing, and a bunch of veterans who feel used and abused by the front office. If you had any thought that one person was going to reverse your franchise’s fortunes, you’d be a fool. You may win less games and potentially ruin all remaining good will with the fans, trust of the team, and may ruin any chance Andrew Luck has of finding success as an NFL quartback.
For every John Elway and Peyton Manning that’s picked number 1 in the draft, the league ends up littered with the likes of Jeff George, Tim Couch, Alex Smith, and JaMarcus Russell. The draft is a nothing more than the NFL’s version of the lottery. Every pick is a gamble. Are you getting that guy that will make the impact on your franchise that puts you on the road to a Super Bowl or is it a pick that sets things back even further? Seventeen quarterbacks were taken with the overall #1 pick since 1970. Of those, only six have won Super Bowls, the most recent being Eli Manning who was picked #1 in 2004. Do you want to risk all the issues of tanking just to take a shot at a lottery?
Teams that end up with records worthy of the #1 pick in the draft often have multiple needs. Your quarterback can’t catch the ball after he throws it, can’t block for himself, can’t cover the other team’s receivers, and can’t tackle so it’s only one part of what most teams need in order to get back into contention. Yes, the draft is seven rounds and you will get other pieces. There’s even some pieces usually available via free agency, but picking up a brand new quarterback with the number one pick is huge. He becomes the face of the franchise. He is now your leader. Everything your team does is focused on his success from the offense you run, the types of receivers you draft or acquire via trade and free agency. That guy has to be able to come in and have the confidence and attitude that the team will succeed and he is the man to lead them in that success. It is more often than not a position that is larger than the man.
I have watched plenty of Andrew Luck play over the last couple of seasons. I will definitely get a good look at him Saturday as he is playing Colorado. I can’t help but to say he is the real deal. He will be the next truly great QB to come into the NFL and be an integral part of someone’s future plans and success for years to come. His teammates listen to him. He has great on-field command from the huddle to the line, knows what he is doing the moment he gets the ball in his hands, and nothing fazes him, even if a play breaks down. He refuses to give up on a play as long as he can see the field. For his career in which he was last year’s Heisman runner-up, Luck has thrown for 6926 yards, and has 56 touchdowns against only 13 interceptions with a 24-6 career record (4-0 so far in the 2011 season) including a win in last season’s Orange Bowl. What team wouldn’t want that?
I know that every team wants that kind of leadership under center. That’s the kind of leadership that wins championships. That’s the kind of leadership that demands the respect and attention of the locker room. That’s the leadership you want as the public face of your franchise. That’s the kind of leadership that has free agents clamoring to come and play for you. My opinion is all that leadership potential becomes background to the circus that will be your locker room as guys that have been there become resentful of a kid. They don’t care about what the future will hold. All they know and understand is they were used to draft someone that they believe isn’t as good as they are; he hasn’t fought the battles on an NFL field like they have. He’s going to make millions based on a hunch. They understand that the team tanked its season on a wing and a prayer.
They say you can’t win the lottery unless you play. Wasting your money on a hunch isn’t just potentially hurtful to you; it can damage your entire organization. Any of the teams thinking about blowing off the rest of this season after just four weeks should think long and hard about that and the odds that, even though everything points to Andrew Luck being as advertised, a lot goes into getting that potential talent to show itself at the NFL level. It takes the right coaches, front office, and most importantly, teammates that have enough class and dignity to allow things to take shape.
It’s not a chance that’s worth anyone taking.
After the messy loss to the Tennessee Titans, I almost gave in and supported the chants of “TE-BOW TE-BOW” that were resonating loudly throughout the greater metro-Denver area. Something happened, though. What happened was the game against the Green Bay Packers. Except for three interceptions against the world champion defense, Kyle Orton was able to move the ball well up and down the field. The Broncos scored three touchdowns on offense, and while his 273 yards are considered mediocre in today’s pass-happy NFL where 350 yards is more the norm than the super-star performance, he had a good day by his standards. Moreover, his coaches and teammates stood behind him even though the Broncos were blown out of the stadium.
In the 4th quarter with the game no longer in doubt, and it wasn’t much of a game after halftime, the fans of Lambeau began that familiar chant heard multiple times here at Mile High “TE-BOW, TE-BOW” and while it would have been the perfect time for John Fox to give in and play him, he chose to remain with his starters. His reasoning made a lot of sense when he said “We need our STARTING quarterback to get experience for us to improve. That’s the idea behind that. He needs to get better in our system.” He spent over a season in Josh McHoodie’s open style of game and now has to adjust back to Fox’s run first, more conservative offense. There were no OTAs, training camp was a joke or a circus depending on which word you more enjoy using, so using a blow out game as a learning experience is the next best thing.
Most Tebow fans are burnt orange with rage at Fox and Elway for not playing Tebow in garbage time. I wish people would understand this—Tebow couldn’t throw the ball in training camp, and outside of one decent pass in a sole pre-season game, he can’t throw it in game situations, either. The ball looks half drunk leaving his hand. He throws it to places his receivers can’t catch it unless they dive. He’d have better success throwing a javelin than a football at the moment. His defensive reads aren’t there. If his first option isn’t available, he either doesn’t know where his secondary and check down reads are or he doesn’t care and just wants to use his “god-given talents” to make the play, and his teammates be damned.
As I sat and amused myself at people calling Fox and Elway every name in the book and then some on ESPN and Facebook in the aftermath of the 49-23 blood bath, something else came apparent. Based on the comments I was reading, while some were indeed Denverites and true Bronco fans, a majority of them posted and acted as if they didn’t know the first thing about either football, the Denver Broncos, or the NFL in general. They talk blindly about leadership and heart and how he’s a champion. How many Super Bowl rings is he wearing? That’s what I thought. When he’s wearing two like his Team President, give me a call.
A few of those outlandish comments from the football illiterate said they learned all they needed to learn about Tebow’s talents entirely from the post-game speech he made following the University of Florida’s loss to Mississippi in 2008. After the game, a distraught Tebow met with the media and gave them the following gem:
To the fans and everybody in Gator nation, I’m sorry. I’m extremely sorry. We were hoping for an undefeated season. That was my goal, something Florida has never done here.
I promise you one thing, a lot of good will come out of this. You will never see any player in the entire country play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of the season.
You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season. God bless.
These amateurs who probably watch the Super Bowl for only the commercials have probably seen video of Tebow and seen the prayers in the eye-black and seen inspirational messages like the above (I have a few choice words for that; keep reading) and read about the missionary work he’s done and believe he walks on water. They know absolutely nothing about the game of football, but their religious zeal gives them absolute confidence that he is the man to lead the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl. They’ve accused the Bronco front office of keeping him out of games for disingenuous reasons—because they disagree with his religious beliefs. His faith and belief in god are all he needs to be one of, if not the greatest quarterback, in NFL history they falsely claim. Perhaps they haven’t picked up a Bible recently either, or they missed that part where it is taught that God does not care about personal glory or gratification. Just believing is enough for them. I saw too many of these kinds of posts on both ESPN and Facebook to ignore them.
“He’s a good kid”, “He’s always saying the right things” and “He’s got the heart of a champion” are all the same thing. I have nothing against religion. My family comes from the birthplace of the world’s three predominant religions on the planet. I DO have a problem with people using it to push their own personal agendas, even if it goes against the greater good. When people from Kentucky, who have likely never seen a professional football game spend $10,000 to buy the use of a digital billboard to demand Tim be the starting quarterback, it’s no longer for football reasons. It can’t be. Something beyond common sense and sanity are in full force.
Football players since the beginning of the game have knelt in prayer after scoring a touchdown. Players have given grace to God after a great or game-winning performance. I have no issue with these practices. They’re usually personal and don’t aim at pushing an agenda.
Tim Tebow, to these fake believers represents all their hopes and dreams in one 6’3”, 245 pound package; a man not afraid to speak about his faith, not afraid to tell you its importance in his life, and not afraid to attempt to push people into his beliefs. You need to look no further than some of the commercials he has appeared in since turning pro. He has been open about his beliefs about abstinence, about marriage, his missionary work where it is a given he is attempting to convert non-believers. He is 24 years old and has already published his memoirs which delve further into his faith and how it has shaped the person he is today. That, above his athletic talents is why a majority of people posting want him in the game. He is one of them. Or, I should say, they see themselves in him; he has become their false idol. Again, I think there’s something pretty close to the beginning of the Bible that tells people to beware of these.
He is free to have his opinion. He is free to be as devoutly religious as he wants. His supporters enjoy the same right. This is America after all. They even have the right to yell and scream and type their disapproval about his lack of playing time. The issue is, those that are responsible for the other 52 players in the locker room that is Tim’s office, have to do what is in the best interests of the entire team. Those 52 other players are just as important as Tim Tebow to those that run the Denver Broncos and to their true fans. Based on the points that football players are actually judged by, religious beliefs not among them, he is not the best option for the team to win. John Elway and John Fox’s opinions are the only two in the room that matter on that point.
Whatever these football novices may think and want, their words come across as an adult in a Peanuts special—“wah wah wah wah wah wah” and nothing more. Running back Willis McGahee says it best telling the media after the Green Bay game “Kyle’s our guy. That’s who we’re rolling with. Whoever doesn’t like it, it is what it is. He’s leading the Denver Broncos. He’s running the show. So, I mean, I think everybody just needs to get over it.” He’s right. Kyle Orton is the best quarterback on the roster, period. He has the best statistics. He has the best mechanics. Everything he does on the football field gives the team the best chance of winning every game. They may not be close to beating the World Champions, but the Packers are in a different class than 3/4 of the league right now.
The game is a team effort. Everyone has to do their part to win games. Kyle Orton is doing his. Everyone else has to step up at the same time and do theirs for success to be found. It came together in the win over Cincinnati and was almost there in the close losses to the Raiders and the Titans. It takes the defense not allowing the opposing quarterback to throw for over 400 yards and the offense not turning the ball over four times to a team that good without the extra help. Tim Tebow can’t play corner back, he can’t play defensive line, and he can’t play offensive line to allow Orton time to pass. Until he can do those things or learn to actually play the quarterback position better than Kyle, he and the rest of Tebow-land are going to have to get used to him standing all alone on the sideline with his helmet on like that one kid that the coach won’t play because he stinks. He hasn’t done enough to show his coaches or teammates he’s ready for the big time. He hasn’t shown himself to be the team player they can trust.
He can believe what he wants. He can say what he wants. He has said some right things about the circus he is partly responsible for creating. You’ve probably heard the saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team”. Look back at the quote from the Mississippi game. How many times does he talk about himself? His goal was an undefeated season. Wouldn’t the rest of the team want to go undefeated? It seems the easiest path back to the BCS Championship game. He’s the only player that would work harder the remainder of the season? As much as Urban Meyer may have loved having him, I know there were other guys on that roster. He talks now about improving himself as a quarterback each week. If he is the leader that everyone makes him out to be, even as a backup, he needs to also be working on improving his teammates. He needs to work gaining the respect of that locker room. There’s a reason that every man is behind Kyle Orton. Kyle is all about the team. Look at all the other outside distractions that Tim has from his memoirs to his foundation (by the way, isn’t it a little bit pompous of him to ask the guys renting the billboard to donate that money to his foundation? Last I checked, the Denver Broncos have their own foundation that works with Denver area youth and other charities. If he were a team first guy, he’d have asked the donation to go there instead) to his appearance on The Biggest Loser. When guys were gathering for their training while locked out, Tim was barely present. How do you expect me or any other Bronco fan, or more importantly your teammates, to take you wanting to be the leader and starting quarterback seriously if you’re not willing to put in the extra work, even if it isn’t team-sanctioned?
There are numerous reasons why Tim Tebow is not the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos. His religious beliefs aren’t one of them. To do so is to make a mockery of both the NFL and the religion that Tim and many others hold dear.