Obituaries this week:
14. The Saints had their bye last week, but a quick roundup of where they stand behind the rest of the NFC after digging a 1-4 hole:
- Forget the NFC South. The Falcons have that on lockdown. The Saints are 4.5 games behind Atlanta.
- In wildcard contention, assuming the Niners win the NFC West, they’re 2.5 games behind the Cardinals, and Seahawks. They’re also 2.5 games behind the Vikings. In my opinion, those are 3 “early fraud teams” that can be overtaken.
- They’re 1.5 games behind the Packers, Eagles, Redskins, and Rams. They also have the head-to-head disadvantage against the Skins and Packers.
- One game behind the Cowboys, Bucs, and Lions.
In my opinion, that’s not insurmountable for this team, and they have a cupcake game in Tampa this weekend to draw a little closer to a number of the teams above. Assuming they take care of business against the Bucs, their matchup the following week in Denver becomes a little more intriguing.
13. The 2011 Buffalo Bills started off 3-0:
It was the early feel good underdog story of the 2011 season. Then they crapped the bed the rest of the way:
Kevin Kolb out with “unspecified” chest injuries, John Skelton in. It doesn’t really matter who’s in there at QB, although I strongly believe Kolb is a far better option than Skelton. Regardless, that offense is a one man show, which simply isn’t viable in the NFL. The Cardinals were the feel good underdog story early this season:
But now here’s what they face over the next 4 games:
Yes, the Cards are still 4-2, and they may even get to 5-2 against a “not as good their 4-2 record” Minnesota Vikings team. I don’t care. The Cardinals are this year’s 2011 Buffalo Bills.
Last week: 7
12. Take a look at the following numbers from the Rams-Dolphins game. You’d think the Rams won by 3 TDs:
The Rams’ MVP this year, by far, has been their kicker, rookie Greg Zuerlein, or as you and I know him, “Legatron.” However, Legatron missed 3 consecutive FG attempts in this one.
Wide left from 52 (look at the distance he had on this thing from 52):
Wide left 2 from 36:
And finally, wide left 3 from 66 (it had the distance):
The moral of the story… 7>3. And if you miss, 7>>>0. If you attempt 5 FGs, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose, no matter how many yards you put up. Talk to Philly about that one.
Last week: 12
11. If anything, I was actually encouraged by the Cowboys performance on Sunday, but a loss in the first leg of their tough 5 game stretch in which they play 4 road games hurts pretty badly. The Cowboys now have to fly home, get ready for a unique player in Cam Newton, and head right back out to the East Coast once again to face the Panthers. That’s not easy. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Panthers’ defense is awful, and the Cowboys should be able to build on the spark they showed in Baltimore. Must win. They lose this game, they can all but kiss the playoffs goodbye.
Last week: 9
10. I watched the Skins-Vikings game yesterday, and through the first 3 quarters, I think I could count on one hand the number of times Christian Ponder threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The Vikings won games early on in the season because they were able to successfully run a short passing attack built on deception. That’ll work for a few games, but opposing teams will eventually game plan for your conservative approach and it will no longer work. At some point your QB is going to have to take some shots.
Here are Christian Ponder’s splits this season, broken down by throw distance. Only seven pass attempts of 20+ yards? Seriously? Also, note the passer rating trend here:
Last week: 8
9. We’re still talking about “potential” with a 32 year old QB.
Last week: 6
8. This team played like hot burning garbage for 3 and a half quarters last Sunday. Frankly, they should have beaten Philly by 3 TDs, but Matthew Stafford missed easy passes all day, and the Lions committed an absurd 16 penalties. Still, they got their act together in the 4th quarter, made an impressive comeback, and may have saved their season, at least temporarily. I was impressed by their OL play, but two glaring issues still remain. They can’t run the ball, and their secondary stinks.
Last week: 13
7. And here we have our 3rd 4-2 team that isn’t really as good as their record would indicate. They’re also beginning to annoy me. Here’s Golden Tate saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about” after being asked about the most blatant uncalled offensive pass interference in the history of the game:
And then you have Richard Sherman running his mouth to Tom Brady after the game last Sunday, and then tweeting out a picture of the exchange:
I do have to admit… The “U mad bro?” is funny.
Last week: 11
6. I am extremely bullish on the Skins, maybe even irrationally so. This has been, by far, Mike Shanahan’s best year as a coach in DC. He’s showing looks that a number of their opponents’ players have never seen before, and it’s creating confusion for the defense. Here are two of the looks I’m talking about:
Only the Patriots have scored more points than the Redskins this year. I’ll repeat that. Only the Patriots have scored more points than the Redskins this year. We’re heading into Week 7 now. That’s not a fluke. Still, that porous secondary looms large. But there’s life in DC, and as I noted yesterday, RG3 is in contention for MVP.
Last week: 10
5. HUGE game for the Packers on Sunday night, throttling what some people believe is the best team in the NFL (the Texans). The Packers offense, for the first time this season, looked like the unit they were in 2011.
Aaron Rodgers: 24 of 37, 338 yards, 6 TDs. And that’s against an outstanding defense.
Last week: 5
4. The Bears had the week off. This week they get the opportunity on Monday night to open up a 3 game lead on the Lions and bury them in the NFC North basement. Huge game in that division.
Last week: 4
3. For the first four possessions in their game against the Giants (2 possessions for the Niners, 2 for the Giants), the Niners dominated. They ran the ball, and they picked up first downs with ease. But they settled for 2 FG attempts, and missed one of them. Then Alex Smith made the first mistake of the game, as chronicled in depth here, and they completely lost control of that game.
From that point on, the spirits of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg entered the body of Jim Harbaugh, and the Niners called 31 pass plays, 4 runs. Huh? I mean… the Niners only lead the NFL in rushing, but hey, when you can completely get away from your identity against a team that you want to beat in the worst way in a crucial NFC showdown, you have to do it.
Last week: 1
2. Impressive. Personally, I think this team is going to glide to an NFC East crown on roller skates this season, but the Redskins will pose a major test this Sunday. It’s not easy coming all the way from the West Coast, and then preparing for a divisional rival that has a completely new offense. Not to mention… a defense that completely stifled you the year before… twice. Much more on that matchup as the week wears on.
Last week: 3
1. Here’s my biggest concern for the Falcons. They’ve already won the NFC South. It’s over. From here on out they’ll be playing for seeding position in the playoffs, and they already have at least a 1.5 game lead on everyone else in the conference for home field advantage. Their schedule the rest of the way has a combined 22-31 record.
They could be heading into the playoffs not having to play a very meaningful game the entire season. That’s not good for a QB with the following history in the playoffs: