Quick-Hit Reactions from Week 17 in the NFL
Every Sunday throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…
– Good luck, Broncos. You may have backed into the playoffs because the Raiders just happened to catch the Chargers on one of San Diego’s good days, but don’t make any travel plans for New England or Baltimore. You’re not going to win with a quarterback who can‘t even complete 10 passes in the biggest game of the year. I thought the Tim Tebow storyline was pretty fun for a while but at the end of the day it’s just bad football. The Steelers are severely banged up and their offense is in a major funk, but they only need about 10 points to beat the Broncos next week in the Wild Card round. If Denver somehow finds a way to pull off the upset then I’ll eat as much crow as Broncos fans want to dish out. But with a division title and a playoff berth on the line, Denver managed just one field goal at home against a Kansas City team that had nothing to play for. Thus, I don’t think I’ll have the taste of crow on my lips any time soon.
– Has any team lost three starting quarterbacks to injuries in one season and still host a playoff game? That must be some kind of record. Some kind of cruel, horrific record for a Houston Texans team that must feel like its cursed. The Texans finally make the playoffs and they have to start Jake Delhomme at quarterback because their fifth-round rookie T.J. Yates, who was subbing for the injured Matt Leinart, who was subbing for the injured Matt Schaub, separated his shoulder in the final game of the season. At this point all Houston can do is laugh because really, what else could go wrong? I mean, they’re about to start Jake freaking Delhomme in a playoff game and the guy was signed off the streets about an hour ago. How unfortunate for a Houston franchise that has been waiting a very long time for this moment.
– I was prepared to rip the Bengals after backing into the playoffs and for going 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers this season. But what does Cincinnati have to be ashamed of? Nobody thought the Bengals would win five games this year, let alone nine and qualify for the playoffs in a tough conference (with a rookie second-round pick starting at quarterback, no less). And seeing as how the Texans will start Jake Delhomme at quarterback next week, the Bengals could advance to the Divisional Round! There’s no sense ripping a team that has a very good chance of winding up among the final eight this season.
– When Eli Manning takes care of the football, the Giants usually win. It’s as simple as that. The G-Men were 4-0 this season when Eli didn’t turn the ball over at all and 5-2 when he “only” turned the ball over once. They were 0-5 when he had multiple turnovers in one game. Granted, I imagine that if I did the same study on all the quarterbacks in the league, I’d probably get similar results. Turnovers are a huge part of the game whether it’s a quarterback, running back or receiver coughing the ball up. But when Eli turns the ball over it seems to have a trickle-down effect that hurts the entire New York team.
– Tony Romo comes up short again in a playoff-type situation. Who would have saw that coming?
– The Lions really blew it today. All they had to do was beat Green Bay’s backups and they would have clinched the fifth seed in the NFC. Instead, their defense couldn’t stop Matt Flynn from doing whatever he wanted and now the Lions will have to play in New Orleans next weekend instead of traveling to New York or Dallas. Granted, if they want to advance to the Super Bowl then they’d have to play beat the Saints or Packers at some point anyway. But it would have been nice to let the Falcons try and deal with the Saints right out of the gates instead. Furthermore, even if Detroit does upset New Orleans next week, the Lions haven’t beaten the Packers in Green Bay since 1991. How much confidence do they have heading into the playoffs knowing that they couldn’t even beat the Packers’ JV squad? (Of course, with ultra-sick Calvin Johnson lining up at wide receiver, I still wouldn’t count the Lions out against anyone.)
– Good for the Ravens. This is a Baltimore squad that has looked like a completely different team on the road this year than at home, but it went into hostile territory today and took care of business. Now that they have home field advantage for at least one playoff game, you have to like the Ravens’ chances of making a Super Bowl run. The AFC is incredibly flawed this year and New England’s defense is Charmin Extra Soft. Thanks to the incredible Ray Rice, the Ravens have as good as shot as the Patriots of playing for a NFL title.
– How f’n good are the Packers that they can score 45 points with Flynn as their starting quarterback and several of their starters resting on both sides of the ball? If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times: Ted Thompson has done one hell of a job building the best depth in football.
– Speaking of Matt Flynn, I’m torn. I wouldn’t blame a quarterback-needy team for trying to acquire him next offseason after what he did today against the Lions, but how much of his success is because of Green Bay’s offense? Everyone looks good driving a Cadillac, know what I mean?
– Should the Patriots be concerned that they’ve spotted opponents double-digit leads in each of their last two games before rallying in the second half? Considering how explosive Tom Brady and the New England offense has looked, I guess not. But if they spot Baltimore a 21-0 lead in the playoffs then the Pats may have some issues staging more comebacks.
– It seems like nobody has mentioned his name among the head coaches that could be fired on “Black Monday” (at least from a national perspective), but what about Chan Gailey? What has he done in Buffalo that merits him keeping his job? That team took a 21-0 lead today in Foxboro and then stood back and admired its work as the Patriots scored the next 49 points. Why should Buffalo be convinced that Gailey is the right man for the job after the way the Bills crashed and burned this season?
– Even though the Steelers have morphed into a passing team over the past couple of years, losing Rashard Mendenhall (knee) for the playoffs would be a crushing blow. They’ll likely get past the punchless Broncos in the Wild Card round, but Mendenhall allows Pittsburgh to stay balanced offensively and gives defensive coordinators something else to think about when game planning to stop the Steelers. With Mendenhall out for at least one week and Ben Roethlisberger hobbled, there’s no doubt the defending AFC champions are limping into the postseason.
– ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the Rams will fire GM Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo this week, as well they should. St. Louis was absolutely decimated by injuries and it didn’t help that Sam Bradford had little time to learn Josh McDaniels’ offense during the lockout-shortened offseason. But Devaney had a horrible draft and failed to build roster depth, while Spagnuolo made questionable in-game decisions week after week. It’s rumored that Spags will wind up in Philadelphia next season as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, which makes a ton of sense. As of right now it’s clear he isn’t ready to be a head coach in this league.
– The 49ers have had a hell of a season but even their most diehard fans have to admit that there’s something a little off about this San Francisco tea. Maybe it’s because they clinched early and they’ve just been waiting for the postseason to start but this doesn’t seem like the same dominant squad that it was about a month ago. Granted, the Niners did beat the Steelers handily in Week 15, but Pittsburgh is in the midst of a major offensive funk and Ben Roethlisberger played hurt in that game. I’m not suggesting that the Niners won’t reach the NFC Championship Game but compared to the Saints and Packers, this feels like a very beatable San Francisco team.
– It’s too bad the Falcons are so intimidated by good competition (they’re 1-4 against playoff teams this year), because they certainly have the weapons on both sides of the ball to make a serious postseason run. Matt Ryan has looked very sharp in the second half of the season, Julio Jones has emerged as a dangerous playmaker the past five weeks and Sean Weatherspoon, John Abraham, Brent Grimes and William Moore are playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. The Falcons clearly aren’t better than New Orleans or Green Bay, but when the offense is firing on all cylinders and the defense plays like the relentless, confident unit that it did today against Tampa Bay, then Atlanta could certainly give the Saints and/or Packers a game. But I know what will happen in the playoffs: The coaching staff will play things conservatively, the players will all wait for the next guy to make a play, and the Falcons will once again be left searching for answers for why they came up short. (See the New Orleans game last Monday night as an example.) It’s frustrating really, because if the Falcons really turned things loose then they could be that dangerous Wild Card team that Green Bay was a year ago. (Or at least a poor man’s version of Green Bay.)
– The Jets’ season ends as Mark Sanchez throws three interceptions – what a shock. For the past two seasons, the Jets’ defense and running game has compensated for Sanchez’s horrendous play, and he fooled people into thinking he was better than what he was because he played well in the postseason in front of a national audience. But now he doesn’t have the playoffs to redeem himself, so maybe the Jets will seriously consider other quarterback options this offseason. They would be foolish not to.
– Great effort by your team over the past three months, Raheem Morris. Job well done.
– Jared Allen is worth the price of admission for Minnesota Vikings fans. Whether the Vikings are 3-13 or 13-3, dude never lets up.
– The Indianapolis Colts are now on the clock. Let the 24/7 Andrew Luck discussion begin.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: andrew luck colts, Atlanta Falcons, billy devaney fired, Calvin Johnson, Chan Gailey, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Eli Manning, Green Bay Packers, Jake Delhomme, Jared Allen, Julio Jones, julio jones falcons, Matt Flynn, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Rashard Mendenhall, rashard mendenhall injury, Ray Rice, steve spagnuolo fired, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Tony Romo
The Bills continue to lack direction
This was the first thing I wrote about the Bills in their 2010 team preview back in late August:
There’s no doubt that the Bills are moving in the right direction now that Buddy Nix is their new general manager.
One month later and I already feel myself searching for the delete button when it comes to the above statement.
What was the Bills’ plan of attack here with quarterback Trent Edwards? Instead of signing a veteran in free agency or drafting a signal caller in April, they decided to stick by Edwards and give him all the first team snaps this offseason. Then they named him the regular season starter and after two bad games, they benched him in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick and then flat out released him on Monday.
Benching Edwards for Fitzpatrick isn’t the problem. Fitzpatrick isn’t great, but he proved yesterday in New England that he can keep the Bills competitive and gives them a better chance to win than Edwards did.
Releasing Edwards isn’t the problem either. He clearly lacks the physical and mental tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and he hasn’t played with any confidence in over a year and a half.
The problem is the lack of direction that the Bills organization continues to display. They should have acquired a quarterback when they had the opportunity earlier this offeason, or at the very least made an attempt to acquire one. If you remember correctly, Buffalo was mentioned repeatedly as a possible landing spot for Michael Vick and had Nix gotten aggressive, maybe Vick would be running around making plays for the Bills instead of the Eagles right now. There’s no guarantee that he would have had the same success in Buffalo as he’s having now in Philadelphia, but the point is the Bills did nothing to address their quarterback situation when they had the chance five months ago.
It’s staggering to think that Nix and Chan Gailey actually believed that Edwards was the answer at quarterback based on what he’s shown over the past two years. And even if they did truly believe he could run the offense, they still should have drafted a quarterback to develop just in case Edwards didn’t pan out (which was the more likely scenario all along).
Now what? Is Fitzpatrick their long-term answer? Is Brian Brohm? If it’s Brohm, then they might as well play him now so he can get some experience. If neither of them are the answer, then the Bills are going to waste another year without having their quarterback of the future on their roster.
This is how bad teams stay bad.
Why is Marshawn Lynch still a Bill?
Does anyone else find it interesting that the Bills have three starting running backs on their roster and no starting quarterbacks?
I get C.J. Spiller’s role – he was the team’s No. 1 draft pick in April that the Bills have high hopes for.
I get Fred Jackson’s role – he rushed for 1,062 yards last year while averaging 4.5 yards per carry behind an inexperienced offensive line.
I get Marshawn Lynch’s role – he…
Actually, I don’t get what Lynch’s role is in Buffalo. Why is he still on the Bills’ roster? Furthermore, why wasn’t he traded a millisecond after Spiller’s name was called in April?
I’m a little confused as to what Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey’s game plan is here. Having two running backs is the norm now in the NFL. But the No. 3 back on the depth chart is usually a change-of-pace option or a developmental project for down the road. He’s not a former No. 1 pick that has embarrassed the franchise on several occasions by running into trouble with the law and whose trade value is dwindling by the day.
I could see if Gailey was going to use all three backs in some hybrid triple-option attack. But he called only 17 running plays in the team’s 15-10 loss to the Dolphins last Sunday and I highly doubt we’re going to see much variation off that in the upcoming weeks.
Why pay Lynch first round money to only carry the ball three times when Jackson has earned the right for more carries (he only received four carries last week) and Spiller is the future? It makes zero sense.
The Packers just lost Ryan Grant for the season. Nix should pick up the phone and get Ted Thompson on the line immediately. If Thompson is willing to part with a fifth or sixth round pick for Lynch, then the former Cal product should be on a one-way trip to Green Bay tonight.
If the Packers aren’t interested, then Nix needs to find a team that is. It makes you scratch your head when the Patriots were able to ship Laurence Maroney (another former first round running back) to Denver in exchange for a fourth round pick, while Lynch continues to rot in Buffalo for no reason.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: Anthony Stalter, Buddy Nix, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Chan Gailey, Fred Jackson, Green Bay Packers, Marshawn Lynch, Marshawn Lynch Bills, Marshawn Lynch Packers, Marshawn Lynch trade
2010 NFL Preview: AFC East Predictions
2010 NFL Division Previews & Predictions: AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West | 2010 Question Marks Series
The AFC East is arguably the most difficult division to predict because the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins all have enough talent to claim the top spot but all three also have huge question marks that could hold them back.
The Bills, on the other hand…not so hard to predict. (Sorry Buffalo fans.)
Here’s how I see things shaking out in the AFC East this season. Be sure to check out the link entitled “2010 Question Mark” under each team’s preview, which is a breakdown of one or two potential weaknesses that could derail that squad’s hopes in 2010.
What to Like: Wes Welker is apparently healthy, which is a great sign for Tom Brady and the rest of the Pats’ offense. Although they failed to recapture the magic they had in 2007, the offense ranked third in the NFL in yards per game, sixth in total points and eighth in third down percentage. Along with Welker and Randy Moss, Brady will also have talented rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez to throw to in the passing game and Julian Edelman proved when filling in for Welker last season that he can be productive as well.
What Not to Like: It appears that the pass rush, or lack thereof, will be a massive concern all season. It was a concern heading into the offseason, it’s been a concern thus far in preseason and it’s going to remain a concern unless guys step up. Granted, Tully Banta-Cain is coming off a career year and rookie Jermaine Cunningham has potential, but Derrick Burgess needs to stay motivated and be productive. If he doesn’t and Banta-Cain can’t put up the numbers he did last year then Bill Belichick’s defense could suffer at every level. There’s also the very real concern that starting left guard Logan Mankins will skip the entire season because of a contract despite, meaning promising but inexperienced tackle Sebastian Vollmer will be inserted into the starting lineup.
Keep an Eye On: Darius Butler
In five starts last season, Butler had three inceptions and although he was inconsistent in coverage and needs to cut down on penalties, he could blossom into a star this season. He has already become a leader in the locker room.
The Final Word: Even though the offense stalled in the second half of some games last season, it will still be tough to stop this team a weekly basis. Plus, after struggling to a 2-6 record on the road last season, the Pats will face only two 2009 playoff teams away from Foxboro this year. In fact, six of the 2009 playoff teams they face this year will have to come to New England, which is obviously a major advantage. I think given the problems that the rest of the teams have in the division, the Pats will once again come out on top, although this is far from a Super Bowl team in my eyes.
New England Patriots 2010 Question Mark: Pass Rush
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: 2010 NFL Preview, 2010 NFL Season Preview, AFC East Predictions, Antonio Cromartie, Bill Belichick, Brandon Marshall, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Chad Henne, Chan Gailey, Darrelle Revis, Darrelle Revis contract, Darrelle Revis holdout, Jarius Byrd, Karlos Dansby, Mark Sanchez, New England Patriots, New York Jets, NFL predictions, Randy Moss, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
2010 NFL Question Marks: Buffalo Bills
Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Bills, who, as you may imagine, have a couple of issues on their plate.
Ugh. I think I had the Bills in mind when I first thought about doing this series, as there’s no limit to the number of issues going on right now in Buffalo.
Actually, that’s not fair because the Bills are moving in the right direction and the hiring of GM Buddy Nix is proof of that. Nix has 14 years of NFL experience and previously spent 26 years coaching in the college ranks. The guy knows how to scout and for a team that desperately needs to re-stock their roster with talent, that’s huge.
Whether or not Chan Gailey was the best choice for head coach is debatable, but at least a) he has experience and b) isn’t Dick Jauron. For the time being, let’s give Gailey a chance and take solace in the fact that the Bills actually have people in their front office who don’t base their decisions on simulations in “Madden.” (“Madden says that the Cowboys would be willing to take Marshawn Lynch, a fourth, and a seventh for Tony Romo, so get Jerry Jones on the phone and let’s see if we can wrap something up by lunchtime.”)
That said, things still look bleak for this team, especially compared to the rest of the AFC East. Defensively, the secondary is deep and the team devoted a lot of time this offseason re-tooling the line for new coordinator George Edwards, who will implement the 3-4. It’s going to take time for the new scheme to take shape, which is why I’ll leave the defense alone for now.
The offense, however, is another story.
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: 2010 NFL Question Marks Series, 2010 NFL season, 2010 NFL Season Preview, Andy Levitre, Brian Brohm, Buddy Nix, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Chan Gailey, Demetrius Bell, Eric Wood, Geoff Hangartner, George Edwards, James Hardy, Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, Roscoe Parish, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trent Edwards