NFL Quick-Hits: 10 Observations from Week 6
1. As it turns out, the AFC is pretty mediocre.
Sunday was a horrible day for AFC enthusiasts. New England allowed Russell Wilson to complete another desperation heave to the end zone, Green Bay smacked around Houston, and the Ravens lost two more stars on defense. Now that the dust has settled, it’s fair to wonder if the AFC isn’t that good. The top of the NFC packs more punch than the “best” teams in the AFC and even the teams with losing records like New Orleans, Dallas, Detroit and Carolina are dangerous. Granted, the Texans are going to be fine. They ran into a very motivated Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night and they got torched, but they’ll bounce back. The Patriots are still going to win the AFC East because they won’t lose to the Jets, Dolphins or Bills in head-to-head games. Baltimore should win the AFC North because Cincinnati and Pittsburgh can’t gain any traction and we’ll find out who is the class in the AFC West tonight when the Chargers host the Broncos. But it became apparent yesterday that the NFC has better talent from top to bottom this year.
2. The Falcons are perfectly flawed.
It’s certainly understandable if you don’t view the Falcons in the same light as you have other unbeaten teams at this point in a NFL season. On Sunday the Raiders out gained Atlanta 474 to 286, held the ball longer (36:26 to 23:34), and intercepted Matt Ryan three times in the first half. The Falcons can’t run the ball effectively, they can’t stop the run, and the play of their offensive line has been inconsistent. But it says something when a team is outplayed and yet still finds a way to win. The Falcons have yet to play their best game and they’re 6-0 heading into their bye. They believe that if there’s enough time on the clock, Ryan will pull victory out of the jaws of defeat like he has the past two weeks. It’s almost become routine to watch him lead fourth quarter comebacks and yet there’s nothing routine about what he’s been able to accomplish. Granted, he’s aided by a gluttony of offensive weapons and a defense that continues to make big plays. But when the chips are down it’s Ryan who has to make the crucial decisions and thus far, flawed or not, he and the Falcons have been perfect.
3. The Ravens are in trouble.
Heading into Week 6, the Ravens ranked 23rd against the pass and their run defense had sprung a leak. And that was before they lost emotional leader Ray Lewis to a torn triceps and top cover corner Ladarius Webb to a season-ending ACL injury on Sunday. Because Pittsburgh and Cincinnati can’t get out of their own way, Baltimore is in good shape to win the AFC North. But the Ravens were already without Terrell Suggs so the losses of Lewis and Webb are crippling. Now more than ever this has to become Joe Flacco’s team. He played fine in the Ravens’ 31-29 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday but the time has come where he needs to elevate the play of those around him. A few weeks ago we were talking about Baltimore’s offense finally being a strength. Now that injuries are piling up on the defensive side of the ball, there better be a lot of truth to that statement or the Ravens will become directionless awfully quick.
4. The Packers are far from done.
‘Here we go again’ likely spilled out of the mouths of some Green Bay fans when Aaron Rodgers missed James Jones on a possible 40-plus yard touchdown on the Packers’ opening drive last night. With injuries piling up on both sides of the ball, it had become reasonable to talk about the Packers missing the playoffs this year. But after Rodgers threw for 338 yards and six touchdowns (three of which landed in Jordy Nelson’s hands) in a very Rodgers-like performance, you realized Green Bay isn’t going anywhere. This is still a very dangerous team and the Pack put every NFC team on notice last night. If their offense starts firing on all cylinders again, they’ll quickly erase their 2-3 start and put themselves back in position to win the NFC North. They’ve already beaten Chicago once and Minnesota doesn’t have the weapons to keep up in a shootout. If the Pack were able to do what they did against a stout Houston defense, troubling times are ahead for opposing defensive coordinators.
5. The Eagles’ latest loss wasn’t solely on Vick.
Due to another multi-turnover day, Michael Vick will once again take the heat in the Eagles’ 26-23 loss to the Lions on Sunday. But his offensive line didn’t do him many favors, as he absorbed a number of big hits in the pocket. Brent Celek also dropped a potential touchdown and Vick’s 70-yard score to Jeremy Maclin should have been enough for the Eagles to escape with a victory. But because Philadelphia’s pass defense couldn’t stop Matthew Stafford on the Lions’ final drive of regulation, the Lions forced overtime, where they eventually won. Look, Vick has to play better. He can’t keep turning the ball over and expect that he’ll put together a last-second drive to win the game in the end. That puts too much pressure on his teammates, his coaching staff, and his defense. But it takes an entire team to underachieve as badly as Philadelphia has. With the amount of talent that they have on both sides of the ball, they shouldn’t be losing games in which opponents like Detroit keep handing them opportunities to win. Criticize Vick all you want, but Andy Reid and everyone else in midnight green deserve to be ripped, too.
6. The 49ers still have a very big crutch.
The 49ers are a very good football team. They play good defense, they can run the ball, and Alex Smith has emerged as a quarterback that you can win with. But in their 26-3 victory on Sunday, the Giants proved that the Niners still have one very big problem: They lack explosiveness. This isn’t a team will strike for many big plays so when they get down by multiple scores, they’re in trouble. They’re so used to playing with a lead and grinding opponents down that they’re lost when they trail by two touchdowns. When defensive lines are able to pin their ears back and get after Smith, San Francisco’s offensive line becomes very average. And while the Niners did well to add more playmakers to their receiving corps, they still seem to be lacking. Granted, because of their running game and defense, the 49ers won’t find themselves in many situations like they did on Sunday. But considering Atlanta, New York, Green Bay and Chicago can all beat you through the air, Jim Harbaugh has to be concerned with what he saw yesterday.
7. Time to pump the breaks on Minnesota.
If you just look at Christian Ponder’s stat line (35-of-52, 352 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), one could argue that he played well. But you wouldn’t come to the same conclusion if you actually watched his performance. He missed open receivers, he became overly reliant on the checkdown, and he threw one of the worst interceptions that you’ll ever see from any quarterback, airmailing a receiver open in the flat in the second half. Granted, he and Percy Harvin kept the Vikings in the game in the fourth quarter. But thanks to three turnovers and some shoddy defense, Minnesota suffered its first loss of the season. Granted, this defeat doesn’t prove that the Vikings are pretenders. This isn’t an overly flawed team and there’s no shame in allowing RGIII to school you both on the ground and through the air. But if the Vikings want to keep pace with Green Bay and Chicago in the division, this is a game they should win.
8. It was only a matter of time in Arizona.
The wheels have inevitably come off the Arizona Cardinals. Heading into Week 6 the Bills had been outscored 97-31 the previous two weeks and yet found a way to beat the Cardinals 19-16 in Arizona on Sunday. Granted, let’s give Buffalo its due. Those players could have quit on Chan Gailey but clearly they united by staying on the West Coast this week and now they return to Buffalo with a respectable 3-3 record. But nobody believed Arizona was a legitimate playoff contender and the Cardinals have been exposed the past two weeks. Kevin Kolb has proved he’s one tough son of a bitch while taking a pounding served by his own offensive line. But it was only a matter of time before he was seriously injured and now the Cardinals might have to go back to John Skelton. With games against Minnesota, San Francisco, Green Bay and Atlanta coming up, Arizona should be knocked out of postseason contention by mid-November.
9. KC Fans: Welcome to the Brady Quinn experience.
For those Chiefs fans that cheered when Matt Cassel was knocked out of last weeks’ game, you deserve every bit of Brady Quinn. Cassel may not be the answer at quarterback for Kansas City, but neither is Quinn, who threw for just 180 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ embarrassing 38-10 loss to the Bucs. Granted, his two interceptions weren’t all his fault. The first pick was dropped by tight end Steve Maneri and the second was striped from Dexter McCluster. But Quinn has never been very accurate, he continues to display poor footwork (which dates back to his days at Notre Dame), and his average pass went for just 4.7 yards. Due to his inability to find a reliable starting quarterback (and backup QB for that matter), you have to wonder how much longer GM Scott Pioli has in Kansas City.
10. Weeden continues to get better.
Even in the Browns’ loss to the Giants last week, you could see that rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was getting better. He finally picked up his first NFL win on Sunday, as Cleveland knocked of Cincinnati, 34-24. Weeden completed 17-of-29 passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He once again struck for a big play, hitting Josh Gordon for a 71-yard score in the first half. He needs to do a better job limiting the turnovers but there’s a lot of gunslinger in the 28-year-old rookie, who continues to get better each week. Heading into Week 6 the Browns seemed destined to claim the top pick in next year’s draft. But don’t be surprised if Cleveland picks up its second straight win when it travels to Indianapolis next week. The Browns are better than what their record would indicate.
Posted in: NFL
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Christian Ponder, Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson, Ladarius Webb, Matt Cassel, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, New England Patriots, NFL Week 6, NFL Week 6 scoreboard, NFL Week 6 scores, Philadelphia Eagles, Ray Lewis, San Francisco 49ers
Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 6 in the NFL
Every Sunday evening 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…
DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…
- A week after the Bucs were absolutely embarrassed by the 49ers in San Francisco, they turn around on Sunday and dominate the Saints to even things up in the NFC South. Granted, this was the Saints’ third-straight road game and their head coach had to call plays from the bench and from up in the booth after tearing his MCL and fracturing his tibia in a nasty first-quarter collision with his tight end on the sidelines. But still, you can’t take anything away from the Bucs today. They picked off Drew Brees, forced four turnovers and got a 300-yard performance out of Josh Freeman. They were also without promising runner LeGarrette Blount, but Earnest Graham filled in admirably with a 109-yard effort. Suddenly the NFC South is once again tight, as the Saints and Bucs are both 4-2 and the Falcons are only one game behind at 3-3.
- Who would have thought that the midfield handshake would provide more action than the actual game between the 49ers and Lions today? I’m sure plenty of Lion fans were upset with Jim Harbaugh’s excitement following the Niners’ win in Detroit, which is understandable. Considering Harbaugh didn’t have his finest coaching performance of the year, he probably could have toned down his exuberance while heading out to midfield to shake Jim Schwartz’s hand. But let’s make one thing clear: If you’re going to dish it out, you better be willing to take it. And Schwartz has been dishing it out all year in the form of taunting opposing players and nearly knocking himself out with hay-maker fist pumps. In fact, as my good buddy Drew (a huge Lions fan) pointed out following the game, Schwartz gave Harbaugh guff in the first quarter after the San Fran coach challenged a touchdown. Schwartz seemingly shouted “No the rules!” at the 49er sideline. The Niners won and Harbaugh has every right to be excited. Schwartz should have kept his composure.
- For about the 9,000,000 time in my career, I was wrong about the Bears. They screw me at every turn. When I predict that they’ll win, they don’t. When I say they’ll lose, they completely dominate a divisional opponent 39-10 on national television. I don’t understand them and quite frankly, I don’t want to understand them. I have zero clue when it comes to predicting the success or failures of the Chicago Bears, whom I predicted would beat Peyton Manning in the 2006 Super Bowl. (We all know how that turned out and I think it’s fitting that I mention that game on the same day Rex Grossman throws four interceptions.) Tonight I thought Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson would take over the game in Chicago and instead, Jay Cutler and Devin Hester put on a clinic. They were masterful against a Minnesota team that I thought was a tad better than its record indicated. Thus, I humbly eat crow, as I was once again was wrong about Chicago. Congrats, Bears – you mother…
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Al Davis, Brett Favre Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Delaine Walker touchdwon, Devin Hester, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, Jim Harbaugh, Jim Schwartz, John Beck, John Harbaugh, Josh Freeman, Matthew Stafford, Michael Turner, Mike Shanahan, NFL scores, NFL Week 6, NFL Week 6 scores, Rashard Mendenhall, Rex Grossman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Terrelle Pryor, Tom Brady, Tony Romo
Fade Material: NFL Week 6 Predictions
Following my disastrous 0-4 effort in Week 4, I rallied to hit three-of-four last Sunday. The Bills, Patriots and Packers all covered while my lone loser, the Giants, had a day to forget against the Seahawks.
That runs my sterling season record to 8-12 with a chance for .500 with a perfect Sunday today. (Ha! Perfect Sunday. Like those even exist…)
San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions, 1:00PM ET
I’ve been knee-deep in Lions’ Kool-Aid for weeks now, but I think 4.5 points is too much for them to give up against a 4-1 Niners team that is playing extremely well defensively. Detroit is coming off an emotional win against Chicago on Monday night and while I don’t expect the Lions to overlook the Niners today, I think this is a field goal game either way. I like San Fran and the points more than I dislike the Lions if that makes sense.
THE PICK: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS +4.5
St. Louis Rams @ Green Bay Packers, 1:00PM ET
Normally double-digit dogs are safe best in the NFL. But this hasn’t been a normal year. Teams are racking up the points and we’re seeing true mismatches play out on the field. The Packers got a scare from the Falcons in the first half last week and I think that will serve them well today. The Rams may be coming off their bye but I’m pretty sure Albert Pujols and John Jay are starting at cornerback. If Rodgers doesn’t throw for over 400 yards he should be embarrassed. Embarrassed I say!
THE PICK: GREEN BAY PACKERS –14
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Bucs, 4:15PM ET
The Saints make me nervous a little because this is their third-straight road game and they have a tendency to play more conservative away from the Superdome. That said, if they get rolling in this one Tampa Bay doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace. I hate laying nearly a touchdown with New Orleans but the Saints are 4-1 against the spread in their last five road games against the Bucs while the road team is 13-3 ATS in the last 16 meetings between these two squads. Thus, I’m not going to over think this one.
THE PICK: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS –6
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears, 8:20PM ET
I don’t trust the Bears as far as I can throw them. Probably because every time I pick them they screw me, but that’s a personal problem between them and me and I won’t get you involved. Jared Allen may have a field day against Chicago’s suspect offensive line and Jay Cutler seems to be losing faith in Mike Martz’s offense by the week. The Vikings have played better than their 1-4 record would indicate but they need to play a full four quarters if they’re going to pick up a win tonight. With the Bears coming off a short week, I think Minnesota can win with Adrian Peterson playing havoc with Chicago’s thin defensive line. (A line that won’t have Julius Peppers.)
THE PICK: MINNESOTA VIKINGS +3
Last Week: 3-1
Check out Bullz-Eye.com for a list of Sunday’s NFL Odds.
Posted in: Free Picks, NFL
Tags: 49ers vs lions, nfl free picks, NFL odds, NFL predictions, NFL Week 6, nfl week 6 free picks, NFL Week 6 odds, NFL Week 6 predictions, rams vs packers, saints vs bucs, Vikings vs Bears
Chicago Bears Brian Urlacher says he wasn’t yelling at Lance Briggs on sidelines
For those wondering, no, Brian Urlacher wasn’t yelling at teammate Lance Briggs on the sidelines during the Chicago Bears’ Week 5 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
“Everyone asked me what happened after the game: ‘Was I yelling at Lance on the sideline?’ I said: ‘I wasn’t yelling at Lance on the sideline. He didn’t do anything wrong,” Urlacher said. “We were both mad because we aren’t used to this. As long as (Briggs) and I have been here, we haven’t played like this.”
It’s been a frustrating year for the 2-3 Bears, who rank 29th in yards allowed per game (419.6) and 17th in points allowed (24.4). Chicago’s play has been down all season, from a poor pass rush to a suspect run defense that allowed Detroit’s Jahvid Best to rush for 163 yards on just 12 carries. In four games prior to his performance on Monday, Best had yet to total more than 72 yards in a single game, which came back in Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
Julius Peppers’ knee injury that he suffered against the Lions only compounds the Bears’ issues on that side of the ball. Peppers has yet to be ruled out for this Sunday’s game against the Vikings, but a sprained MCL usually takes weeks to heal. Briggs also requested a trade at the beginning of the year, so things aren’t going the way the Bears expected they would, especially considering they hosted the NFC Championship Game a year ago.
2011 NFL Week 6 Primer
49ers @ Lions, 1:00PM ET
Neither of these teams has to prove anything this weekend. Both the Lions and 49ers are legit and if you disagree then you really haven’t been paying attention lately. No team in the league is playing better defensively right now than San Francisco and Detroit’s passing game is only overshadowed by the league’s elite (i.e. New England, New Orleans and Green Bay). This is the most intriguing matchup in Week 6 and I can’t wait to see the result.
Bills @ Giants, 1:00PM ET
What a great test for both of these teams. The Bills are 4-1 but in their two road games this season, they crushed a bad Kansas City team and lost to the Bengals after squandering a double-digit lead at halftime. The Giants, meanwhile, were playing with loads of confidence until they overlooked the Seahawks last week at home. Focus won’t be an issue for either of these teams as they both look to use this game as a measuring stick.
Eagles @ Redskins, 1:00PM ET
It’s funny, the Eagles haven’t played a full four quarters since Week 1 and have dropped four straight and yet, you get the feeling that people still expect Andy Reid and Co. to figure it out. Well, it’s now or never. If the Eagles can get to 2-4 with a bye week coming up, maybe they can put a little run together in the second half. But if they lose this week to another divisional foe then Reid and his coaching staff will have to sit on a five-game losing streak for two weeks. With their backs against the wall, if the Eagles can’t win this Sunday their deficit in the NFC East may be too much to overcome.
Panthers @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET
People are attempting not to break their necks jumping off the Falcons bandwagon – and for good reason. Their offense is broke and coordinator Mike Mularkey keeps trying the same conservative tactics to try and fix it. He’s either unable or unwilling to change and either way, the Falcons keep losing. Even though Atlanta owns the better record coming into this NFC South showdown, it’s Carolina that’s covered in optimism right now.
Rams @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
The mini scare they received last week in Atlanta may have proven to be great for Green Bay. Before the Falcons built a 14-0 lead on the Packers, Green Bay may have believed it was invincible. But they quickly got things corrected, won the game, and now they can get re-focused with another inferior team in the Rams coming to town this weekend. Two weeks ago the Packers crushed the Broncos and if they want to keep firing on all cylinders, Green Bay needs to rout a bad St. Louis team as well.
Jaguars @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET
I guess all those claims that the Steelers’ run was over after they lost to the Texans were a tad overstated, huh? The Steelers looked like their dominant selves last Sunday against the Titans and now get to feast on a rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert this weekend. The Jaguars haven’t had much offense since Gabbert took over the quarterback reins and they could once again struggle at Heinz Field this Sunday. That’s not an easy place to play when your resume is lacking experience.
Colts @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET
The Bengals have a golden opportunity to get to 4-2 on the season but they face a huge test this Sunday. No not on the field, as the Colts are less fearsome than a box of puppies. But mentality this is a prime opportunity for Cincinnati to be overconfident. They know they should beat the Colts and that’s often how NFL teams get burned. If anything, Marvin Lewis and his team should remember how overconfident the Bills were coming into Cincinnati a few weeks ago. Buffalo believed it had a win locked up after knocking off the Patriots the week before and the Bills squandered a double-digit lead at halftime. Beware the letdown, Cincinnati.
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Posted in: NFL
Tags: Andre Johnson, Andy Reid, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Jared Allen, Jim Harbaugh, Mario Williams, New England Patriots, NFL Week 6, NFL Week 6 preview, nfl week 6 preview 2011, NFL Week 6 schedule, San Francisco 49ers, Tom Brady, Tony Romo