Week 4 in the NFL featured frantic comebacks, costly fumbles, missed field goals, blowouts, shutouts, and of course, horrific officiating. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
Week One Headlines
Packers nearly lose to the officials, again
The Packers may be the unluckiest team in sports right now. Of course, everyone knows about the Seattle Screwjob (or GoldenGate, depending on which you prefer). Sadly, the awful officiating got worse for the Packers on Sunday.
After the Packers scored to go up 28-27 in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter, the Saints Darren Sproles fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Packers clearly recovered. Only, the referees ruled it New Orleans’ ball. Because the Packers were out of challenges, and because the officials ruled it New Orleans ball (thus not a turnover), the play could not be challenged. This wasn’t one of those fumbles that got lost in the chaos, either. It was a clear-as-day fumble and it was obvious the Packers recovered it. Two weeks in a row the Packers were ridiculously robbed by the officials.
I know what you’re thinking; Mike McCarthy wasted his challenges, so it’s his fault. True, McCarthy’s early challenge of a Jordy Nelson drop that clearly wasn’t a catch was downright stupid. However, his second challenge (which he also lost) was a good challenge. In fact, I still can’t believe the play wasn’t overturned. Jimmy Graham clearly gained possession of the ball with help from the ground. I was as shocked as Joe Buck and Troy Aikman that the play stood.
To recap: The replacement officials need to go. (…Oh, wait…)
To recap: ALL officials hate the Green Bay Packers. (There. That works.)
How NOT to ice a kicker
I know Andy Reid struggles as a game manager, so it was no surprise he screwed up how to ice a kicker. Let’s quickly give him a few pointers.
First of all, icing a kicker on a 54 yard attempt (outdoors, no less) is completely, totally, unequivocally, undeniably unnecessary. Multiplied by a million. If the kick is a normal 20-45 yard boot, then sure, try to mess with the kickers head and throw him of kilter. The odds are he’s making a kick from that distance, so rolling the dice with the last-second time out isn’t going to burn you.
However, when it’s a 50+ yard kick and the kicker’s name isn’t “David Akers” or “Behemoth in Oakland,” there’s no point in messing with the kicker. His odds of making the field goal from that distance are 50/50 or 60/40 at best. Giving him that extra attempt (assuming you take the timeout at the last second) only gives him an opportunity to calibrate the wind and how he’ll balance accuracy and power, and that’s a significant advantage.
This was perfectly clear Sunday night as Lawrence Tynes clearly over-kicked his first attempt. Tynes sacrificed accuracy for power and missed the kick to the left. On his 2nd attempt, after realizing he didn’t need as much power as he previously thought, Tynes kicked it right down Broadway. Thankfully, though, he sacrificed too much power and the kick fell a few feet short.
Based on his track record, I can’t say Reid will learn from this latest fiasco, but hopefully he now has a better idea of when to ice a kicker, and when to let things play out on their own. (More on the Eagles win tomorrow.)
Josh Freeman found his arm
(Ok, so this isn’t big news, but I was mesmerized by how bad Freeman was early on and like watching a horrible accident, I couldn’t turn away. Besides, I like Freeman. So there.)
If you stayed away from the first 40 minutes of the Redskins/Buccaneers matchup late Sunday afternoon, well, good call. It was ugly. Josh Freeman’s performance in the 1st half and most of the 3rd quarter was the worst by any quarterback Sunday not named “Graham Harrell.” Freeman was clearly shaken. His throws were wild, he panicked in the pocket, and worst of all, he missed wide open receivers – missed as in, “didn’t even throw the ball,” not as in, “it was a poor throw.” Freeman was also nailing the “deer in headlights” look better than anyone I’ve seen since Blaine Gabbert’s first few starts. Needless to say, it was awful. As someone who believed this was Josh Freeman’s bounce back year, I was disappointed. Then, like a light bulb switching on, Freeman and the Buccaneers remembered they have massive wide receivers and promptly began chucking the ball downfield. Of Freeman’s 299 passing yards, 191 came in the final 19 minutes of play.
Unfortunately, despite Freeman and the offense scoring on three of their final four drives, Tampa Bay’s defense came up short and surrendered the lead as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Though, one can hope Freeman and the Bucs finally realized their true bread butter isn’t on the ground but through the air. Like, really high up in the air where only 6’5 Vincent Jackson or 6’3 Mike Williams can get it.
Panthers lose in disappointing fashion
Cam Newton’s costly and bizarre fumble late in the 4th quarter wasn’t the reason the Panthers lost. If you didn’t watch, here’s what happened: Newton ran for a first down to essentially give Carolina the win. Unfortunately, he fumbled while diving for the 1st down. The ball was subsequently recovered by the Panthers behind the 1st down marker. Thus, the Panthers punted. Like I said, it wasn’t why Carolina lost.
The real reason the Panthers lost was because Haruki Nakamura had one of the all time worst games by a safety I have ever seen. It was Nakamura that was beaten on Roddy White’s 49 yard TD. It was also Nakamura that badly missed Michael Turner on his 60 yard TD reception. And finally, it was Nakamura who was in position to defend the 59 yard bomb to White in the final minutes that essentially gave Atlanta the win, except Nakamura awkwardly stumbled and jumped too early, giving White a clean look at the ball. Blame Newton all you want, but it was the defense, and more specifically, Nakamura, that cost Carolina in Atlanta.
Someone take them to Chick-fil-A (NFL’s top 5)
1. Texans – The Texans are “boring” good right now. By the time the 4th quarter rolls around, Houston is running out the clock and feasting on the opponent’s desperate offense. The most complete, consistent, and balanced team in the NFL right now, bar none.
2. Packers – If the Packers offensive line can give Aaron Rodgers the kind of time he had on Sunday against New Orleans, the Packers may not lose two more times all season. While the Green Bay defense looked vulnerable against the Saints, let’s not forget Drew Brees isn’t one of the best quarterbacks ever for no reason.
3. Falcons – Undefeated and still ranked behind the Packers. Sorry, Atlanta, but your running game is suspect, your defense isn’t going to scare anyone, and I trust your track record of wetting the bed in big games more than I trust your 4-0 start. Furthermore, if either Green Bay or Houston traveled to Atlanta tomorrow, I’d confidently pick them both to beat the Falcons.
4. Cardinals – I so badly wanted to give Arizona the boot, but it’s hard to write off a team that simply finds a way to win. I still don’t trust Kevin Kolb, and without a running game, the wheels will come off for the Cardinals. I just don’t know when yet.
5. Ravens/Patriots – Both will stay for right now. I can’t remove the Ravens because they topped the Patriots just a week ago. I can’t remove the Patriots because their offensive display in the 2nd half against Buffalo was one of the best we’ve seen in years.
(Last Week: HOU, GB, ATL, AZ, BAL/NE.)
Hardly Ramen Noodle worthy (NFL’s bottom 5)
28. Lions – I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t pick the Lions over the Saints, not after Sunday’s performances. The Lions have surrendered four special teams touchdowns in two weeks, can’t run the football, and worst of all, are struggling to score points after being one of the NFL’s elite offenses in 2011. A bad case of the dropsies on Sunday didn’t help matters.
29. Buccaneers – Until a 4th quarter revival, I was ready to declare the Buccaneer offense the worst I’ve seen in years and Josh Freeman a bust. Though they still lost, Tampa Bay’s spirited comeback gives me hope Freeman and the offense will find their groove at some point.
30. Browns – At 0-4, it’d be easy to put the Browns at the bottom of this list. However, the Browns have scared the bejesus out of the Eagles, Bengals, and Ravens, three teams with a combined 9-3 record. The Jaguars and Titans have been blown out more often than not.
31. Jaguars – Jacksonville should never have sent Tom Coughlin packing.
32. Titans – The Titans have more wins than both the Saints and Browns, but outside of their fluky Week 3 victory over Detroit, the Titans play like the worst team in the NFL.
(Last Week: CAR, JAC, TB, CLE, NO.)
Stock rising (but not in top 5, yet)
Dolphins – Two losses in a row and their stock is rising? Absolutely. Not as a playoff team, of course, but as a team that is overachieving. Just think, if Miami pulls out overtime wins in the previous two weeks, they’re alone atop the AFC East.
Broncos/Chargers – There appears to be a distinct line between the “haves” and the “have nots” in the AFC West. Denver’s drubbing of the Raiders by 31 points was especially impressive. Though we’re only through September, it looks like it’s a two team race for the division.
Rams – St. Louis is one of the scrappiest teams in the league. They have a realistic 50-50 shot of winning any game against most of the NFL. I know that sounds stupid, but in a division lacking a potent offense, the Rams have a decent chance at a NFC West title.
Stock falling (but not in bottom 5, yet)
Giants – New York’s stock isn’t falling because of its play on the field. Their stock is falling because bodies keep falling. In a division that likes to air it out as much as the NFC East, the Giants are going to be in trouble until they can find healthy bodies to sure up their secondary.
Jets – This should probably read, “Stock fell,” as in, “it’s over for the New York Jets”… unless of course Tim Tebow has one more miracle run in him. Hmmm?
Seahawks – After two straight losses (even though their record shows 1-1 in those games) in which their offense did absolutely nothing, Seattle finds itself in trouble. After a promising start to the week (Monday’s charitable win), Seattle went down hill, fast. First, they lost Mark Sloan to internal bleeding. Now, they lost their second division game to the Rams and sit in the NFC West basement.
Things I thought and would’ve said on TV if someone paid me…
- If you didn’t watch the Dolphins/Cardinals second half circus, you missed an entertaining half of great plays, boneheaded mistakes, and heart-attack inducing excitement.
- If you’re wondering why the Eagles lost to the Cardinals last week, here’s why: Andy Reid didn’t start Nick Foles. Trust me. Take a look at Cam Newton’s numbers against the Cardinals as a rookie in 2011: 24/37, 422 yards, 2 TDs. Now look at Ryan Tannehill’s numbers from yesterday: 26/41, 431 yards, TD. Obviously, rookie quarterbacks are Arizona’s kryptonite.
- It’s funny how everyone (myself included) talks about the NFL being a passing league and how you can’t win without passing the football. While the Texans can certainly pass the ball, it’s no secret they live and die with their ground game. Not only is Houston 4-0, but they also boast the best point differential in the league at +70. The next closest? Atlanta at +48. Running the football is still a recipe for success.
- I do believe I predicted Ryan Fitzgerald was due for a stinker. Not that it mattered. When your defense gives up six consecutive 2nd half touchdown drives there’s really nothing you can do to help, unless you can play cornerback.
- The Patriots ran the ball with success in a Week 1 victory before getting away from it in their next two outings, which they both lost. Perhaps Sunday’s 247 yard rushing performance will remind the coaching staff what makes New England so dangerous.
- Thanks for showing up, New York Jets. It’s been real.
- Remember when the NFC South was supposed to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL in 2012? Outside of the Falcons, the division is 2-10.
- It’s a miracle that Detroit’s special teams coordinator will retain his job for another week. Four returns for touchdowns in two weeks? He makes the Eagles special teams coach look like Vince Lombardi.
- By the way, the Vikings really struggled offensively on Sunday, so let’s not go crazy about their 3-1 record right now. Good teams don’t allow special teams to beat them. Obviously, Detroit is not a good team. (Though, Detroit may have ended up winning that game had they not dropped what felt like 31 balls.)
- I know the Cardinals squeaked out another win, but I’m sticking to my declaration that neither the Seahawks nor Cardinals will be in the postseason. The Seahawks proved how bad they are and the Cardinals are a ticking time bomb of offensive incompetence waiting to explode.
- Speaking of exploding, all the momentum the Chiefs and Raiders got from their surprising Week 3 victories vanished in a hurry.
- I haven’t watched more than a few quarters of a Chargers game this year, but I’m still not sold. Thrashing the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs while getting thrashed by the Falcons isn’t a solid resume.
- The Rams win ugly. Not quite as ugly as Russell Wilson’s play, but ugly nonetheless. And I like it.
- Chris Johnson’s legs do still in fact work. Jake Locker’s shoulder currently does not, and I’m not convinced Matt Hasselbeck’s does either. Man, the Titans are awful.
- Peyton Manning was vintage Peyton Manning on Sunday, but it was the Denver running game that should have Broncos fans excited. Without a reliable ground attack, Manning is a sitting duck.
- I still can’t figure out who made the Bengals/Jaguars line a pick ‘em. I should have emptied my savings account – doubling $90 would have been fun. (By the way, BenJarvus Green-I never fumble-Ellis fumbled AGAIN this week. On the goal line, no less.)
- At 0-4, it’ll take a miracle for the Saints to make the playoffs, especially with that defense. However, if Drew Brees plays as he did in Green Bay on Sunday, then I’m not ready to totally rule out the Saints just yet, especially with how compacted the NFC is this year.
- Billy Cundiff may have rallied from three missed field goals to save the Redskins on Sunday but I’d be shocked if it was enough to save his job on Monday.
- I think the best three teams (Texans, Ravens, Patriots) reside in the AFC, but there’s no question the NFC is the better conference, and it’s not even close. Only four AFC teams have a record above .500 and eight teams have losing records. In the NFC, sevens teams have winning records and only four are 1-3 or worse (three of them are in the NFC South.)
- Although the Giants lost and Eli Manning threw a back-breaking interception, I continue to be impressed at how good Eli Manning is. Regardless of who New York puts on the field around him, Eli always gives the Giants a chance to win. To think we were laughing at this guy five years ago…
- Meanest thing I heard today from my friends who are Giants fans; “ ‘I am a Super Bowl champion.’ – Said no Eagles player ever.” Ouch. That’s cold.
Things I never thought and would not say this week, even if you paid me…
- Russell Wilson is the top rookie quarterback in the league right now.
- Nice to see the Eagles red zone struggles from a week ago have been corrected.
- Anyone who follows football knew the Saints would start the season 0-4 against opponents with a combined 6-10 record.
- Poking opposing players in the eye should be a legal strategy. Just ask Aaron Rodgers or Nnamdi Asomugha.
Fantasy Nightmare Football update of the week…
- I was lucky enough to face the 49ers defense this week. I don’t know about your league, but the Jets surrendered 31 fantasy points to an opposing defense. They even outscored Aaron Rodgers.