Posts Tagged Miami Dolphins

I Make the Call – Week 7

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

 

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Not Worth Getting Lucky….Yet

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.

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