Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My 101st Post: The WD4T for Week 12

My intro this week centers on the sad, sad state of the NFC Wild Card race.  Think about it: 

At 7-4, the Bears are in a good position, but with Caleb Hanie at quarterback, they're not finishing any better than 9-7.
Also at 7-4, the Lions have lost 4 of their last 6 and still have tough matchups with the Saints, Raiders, and Packers remaining.
After three straight losses, the Giants are crumbling earlier than usual, and face the Packers this week.  Sounds like four in a row.
With the Packers undefeated, the Saints destroying the Giants, the Cowboys winning four straight, and the 49ers having the opportunity to clinch this week, the contrast is stark.
And yet, with all that, the Eagles are 4-7 and not at all poised to make a run at this wide-open Wild Card spot.  Sigh...


TRIUMPH: Chris Johnson had his second 100-yard game in the past three weeks, rushing 23 times for 190 yards in the Titans win.  However, a note: Johnson’s three 100-yard performances have come against defenses currently ranked 28, 29, and 30 in terms of run defense.  He has averaged just 35 yards per game in the other 8 games.

TRAGEDY:  Aside from last week in which he left the game with an injury, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck had averaged 250 yards and just under 2 touchdowns per game prior to this week’s 160-yard, 1-TD, 3-turnover game.  If CJ2K returns to mediocrity in the coming weeks, we can expect Hasselbeck to continue chucking the ball effectively.

TREND: I don’t really have a stat for this, but LeGarrette Blount leapt over a defender again!.  The closest thing I have to a stat here is that if you Google Legarrette Blount jumps, three different occasions show up as YouTube results, and none of those is the one above.

TRAIL MIX: The Bucs have lost 6 of their last 7 games, dropping to 4-7, but they may be the best 4-7 or worse team in the league: each of those last 7 games was against a team with a winning record (49ers, Saints twice, Bears, Texans, Packers, Titans).


TRIUMPH: Roy Helu had 23 carries for 108 yards and 7 receptions for 54 yards in this contest.  He had not had more than 10 carries or 74 yards this season, and both of those numbers came in Week 2.  Mike Shanahan is a tricksy hobbit when it comes to running back touches (no Redskins running back has led the team in rushing more than 4 times this season), and Washington’s leading rushers had combined for 131 yards in the previous four games, so I wouldn’t expect much going forward.

TRAGEDY: The Seahawks entered this game with a top 10 rush defense and the ‘Skins had a bottom-five rush offense, and yet Washington managed 110 yards and over 4 yards per carry from its running backs (I’m choosing to disregard Rex Grossman’s 5 rushes for -1 yard).

TREND: Unless you play fantasy football, I bet you didn’t know that Marshawn Lynch has a touchdown (rushing or receiving) in each of the last seven games in which he’s played.  Not only that, but he has averaged over 110 yards per game since Week 9 after averaging 44 yards per game prior.  But wait, there’s more!  Seattle’s next two games are against the improved-but-phoning-it-in Eagles and a Rams defense that has allowed two 200-yard rushing games in the past month.

TRAIL MIX: It’s a Redskins game, so there’s gotta be a Sexy Rexy update in here somewhere.  The bad: Grossman has turned the ball over at least twice in 7 of the 8 games he has started this year.  The good: he still has scored more fantasy points than Sam Bradford, last year’s rookie of the year and many pundits’ pick for a breakout player this season.


TRIUMPH: Mark Ingram led the Saints in carries, yards, and touchdowns with 13, 80, and 1.  This was mostly due to the Saints having the luxury of running the clock out at the end of the game, as Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are normally more involved in competitive games.

TRAGEDY: Fantasy-wise, every prominent Saints skill player had at least 6 fantasy points in this game – except Robert Meachem, who wasn’t even thrown to.  Dude!

TREND: Including this game, the Saints are 3-0 against the Giants since Drew Brees arrived in 2006, winning by an average score of 42-19.

TRAIL MIX: Eli Manning completed 21 consecutive passes in the second half en route to a 400-yard day.  Two notes on this: bet you either didn’t know or forgot that Donovan McNabb holds the record for most consecutive completions, with 24 over the span of two games.  Another note: in the 2006 matchup between these teams, Drew Brees and Eli Manning combined for 206 passing yards, with 55 of them coming on a Manning-to-Burress touchdown that represented the only time the Giants got into Saints territory.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner Plate, Week 12

I feel like I keep undermining the integrity of the fledgling Seder Slate franchise, but this concept is just too timely to pass up.  Given the whole Thanksgiving thing, it seems appropriate to give a Turkey-Day-themed post, much like I did last year at this time.

Therefore, without further ado…

Five Things I'm Thankful for in the upcoming NFL Week 12

1. The Eagles’ defense dominating against the Giants (as I described earlier this week), which makes this week’s game against the Patriots at least marginally important.

2. The Giants (6-4) and Saints (7-3) playing on Monday night, ending a stint of terrible primetime ESPN matchups (New England – Kansas City, Packers – Vikings).

3. The Colts (0-10) getting a prime opportunity to get their first win of the season against the 2-8 Panthers who have lost 3 in a row and are coming off a 49-35 loss against the Lions in which they were winning 24-7.

4. Adrian Peterson, Darren McFadden, and Ahmad Bradshaw still being injured.  Pouring on the sarcasm here.

5. What else?  Tim Tebow!  He’s getting a second shot at the Chargers, who he almost came back to beat in his first real action of the season.

I tried this part last year and really enjoyed it, so let’s go for it again.  What’s Thanksgiving without a whole mess of food?  Let’s see what we have on our plate…

White meat: The classic crowd favorite.  This year, it’s gotta be those undefeated Green Bay Packers.  A team with a lot of tradition to fall back on, this iteration of the Packers is coming off a Super Bowl victory and has kept on rolling, winning their last 17 games (including the playoffs).  Not to mention, they don’t have the “dirty” stigma that the division-rival Lions do.

Dark meat: Harder to find, but when you do, it packs a punch of flavor.  I like to think of this as an under-the-radar team that could pop a team in the mouth.  And, while this may come as a surprise, I think that the Steelers qualify this year.  Although they’re 7-3, the Ravens, Texans, and Patriots have gotten more attention in the AFC, mostly because Pittsburgh’s defense hasn’t been its usual dominant self.  However, their passing offense is explosive enough that they can score with almost anyone, and if you have to win one game, the Steel Curtain could show up and dominate.

Cranberry Sauce: Not the prettiest, but a sweet accompaniment to your feast.  It’s gotta be the Denver Broncos.  They’ve won games against the Jets, Chiefs, and Dolphins in the fourth quarter or overtime, all the while with a quarterback in Tim Tebow whose ESPN Total QBR ranks 30th among qualifying quarterbacks this season – and QBR rewards quarterbacks for rushing contributions!

Stuffing: A mish-mash of foods that can be hit-or-miss, and is definitely best served warm.  Just like the Buffalo Bills, whose scoring offense declined from 38 ppg in September to 25 ppg in October and now 9 ppg in November.  Seems as if a team based in Snow City, USA should probably be better prepared for the weather to turn.  Unfortunately for Buffalo, Fred Jackson (second in yards-from-scrimmage this season) is out for the rest of the year, so I’m not seeing their conundrum getting much better.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 11's Trap Games and Transvestite Dames

Full disclosure: there will be no further mention of women dressing as men in this post, unless you count Rex Grossman.  As it stands, we're just looking at a review of three games from the Week 11 slate, including full representation of the NFC East.


TRIUMPH: We’re going to give this one to the whole Broncos team.  Let’s be honest, how many people thought that they would be remotely competitive this season, let alone one game back of the division lead by themselves?  Not to mention that their two prior wins came against division rivals Kansas City and Oakland.

TRAGEDY: The Broncos had run all over people since they introduced their new-look college offense, but they were only able to net 125 yards on 34 carries in this game, which was close the whole time.  What remains to be decided is whether this was more the Jets defensive personnel or the decline of the scheme’s advantage.

TREND: This discussion is best made vis-a-vis fantasy football, as Tim Tebow’s skillset is probably best conveyed through fantasy points.  In the first three quarters of games he’s played this year (five starts and 1 relief appearance), Tebow has completed 36% of his passes and thrown for 310 yards TOTAL, accounting for 3 TD.  In just the fourth quarter, he has completed 56% of his passes and thrown for 399 yards, accounting for 7 TD.  Maybe he should play a simulated game for 45 minutes before kickoff?

TRAIL MIX: This is the fourth straight week in which I’ve discussed Tim Tebow in this post.  I have no idea how this happened; he’s just raw fascination.


TRIUMPH: Donte’ Stallworth is a picture of persistence, overcoming marijuana and manslaughter charges to have 4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in this game.  In case you were wondering, Stallworth came in with 24 receptions, 298 yards, and 1 TD since 2008.

TRAGEDY: If you watch the highlights of this game, pretty much every big play for the Cowboys offense involved the Redskins getting pressure on Tony Romo and Romo spinning or sliding out to his left and slinging it to Laurent Robinson, Dez Bryant, or Jason Witten.  You’d think they’d figure that out eventually, just like that silly draw play where Romo fakes a wide-receiver screen that they always run.

TREND: Dez Bryant needs to do some jogging between games or something.  The man has no conditioning.  He has 24 receptions for 413 yards and 5 touchdowns in the first half, and 10 receptions for 146 yards and 1 touchdown in the second half.  Maybe he should have a nice talk with God Tebow…

TRAIL MIX: The ‘Skins have lost six straight games and 7 of 8.  This is why you don’t go into a season with John Beck and Rex Grossman as your quarterback options. 
NFC East rankings after Week 5: Redskins, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles. 
NFC East rankings after Week 11: Cowboys, Giants, Eagles, Redskins. 


TRIUMPH: Everyone’s getting hyped about the Eagles’ Dream Team defense again, but keep this in mind:
They have allowed 292 total yards (65 rushing) and 15 points per game in their four NFC East games, going 3-1.
They have allowed 361 total yards (142 rushing) and 26 points per game in their other 6 games, going 1-5.

TRAGEDY: Until he caught a pass late in the game, Jake Ballard may have had the worst game ever for a pass-catcher.  He dropped several passes, including one in which he was wide-open and would have had an easy 30 yard gain, and also injured himself.  As a guy who started him in two fantasy leagues, it’s pretty disappointing from a player who had at least 55 yards receiving in weeks 5-9.

TREND: Victor Cruz loves him some Eagles secondary.  Two of his three 100-yard games and three of his five touchdowns this season have come against Philadelphia.

TRAIL MIX: I don’t have any historical data to make this more compelling, but prior to this game, Vince Young had not completed a pass, Riley Cooper had no receptions, and I was convinced Steve Smith was still playing for the Giants, having been responsible for multiple tipped interceptions this season.  Young led what was possibly the BEST DRIVE I’VE EVER SEEN BY THE EAGLES (18 plays, 80 yards, 9 minutes), Cooper went 5-75-TD, and Smith caught a key touchdown pass in this improbable win.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Seder Slate, Week 11

I hope nobody minds that this post is a little bit later than normal, but I assure you the stats will be worth the wait.  Besides, it’s not like you get football info from anywhere else, right? 


WHAT? Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers

WHY? Because you want to see if Aaron Rodgers can post his fourth straight game completing more than 75 percent of his passes, throwing 3 touchdowns, and having a 140+ quarterback rating.  He hasn’t thrown for more than 250 yards in the last two, but Tampa Bay is in the bottom 10 in pass defense this year. 
Also, a fun fact:  Rodgers is two months younger than Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has thrown for an average of 460 yards and 4 TD in the last three weeks.  He had a foray into minor league baseball before going to college.

WHO? I don’t know about you, but I want to see what all the hoopla about Legarrette Blount not getting the ball when the Bucs are losing is about.  Of his 100 carries this season (nice round number, thanks Tampa Bay!), 54 of them have come when the team was losing, and he’s averaging a solid 4.5 ypc on those carries.  By comparison, Lesean McCoy (who most everyone considers to be an all-purpose back) has had just 52 of his 165 carries when the Eagles are losing.

HOW? Check this game out from either Indianapolis or Hawaii, and just wait for Rodgers to show up.

WHAT? Tennessee Titans at Atlanta Falcons

WHY? The Falcons have gone 22-6 at home since Mike Smith, Matt Ryan, and Michael Turner arrived in 2008, while the Titans are 18-3 against NFC teams since 2006.  Something’s gotta give.

WHO? Both of the running backs in this game are worth watching.  Chris Johnson was abysmal for the first half of the season, but has had his two best yards-per-carry efforts of the season in the last two weeks, and faces a top-five run defense in the Falcons.  The Falcons are 5-2 in games in which Michael Turner has a rushing touchdown or rushes for 100 yards and 0-2 otherwise.  Additionally, Turner averaged 130 yards and a touchdown in the two games Julio Jones missed earlier in the season, and Jones is likely to miss this week’s game.  Just saying.

HOW? I’m not sure how you’re going to finagle this, but try to watch this game from a World War I battlefield, as this one will probably be won in the trenches.  BAM!

WHAT? Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions

WHY? These teams have two of the most prolific quarterback-receiver connections in Newton-to-Smith (51 rec, 951 yds, 4 TD) and Stafford-to-Johnson (54 rec, 885 yds, 11 TD), with both quarterbacks being #1 overall picks. 

WHO? OK, you’re probably not going to see much of them, but I find it interesting that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart averaged over 1100 yards each in 2008 and 2009 but will likely combine for 1100 yards in both 2010 and 2011.  My, the volatility of the running back position…

HOW? Call up Jamarcus Russell and watch the game with him, so you can show him what a first overall pick quarterback should look like.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 10's Tramplings and Trying-to-Forgets

Before we begin, I would just like to take a moment of silence in remembrance of the 2011 Eagles.

And that is the last you will hear of them today.  Besides, there were plenty of interesting games played yesterday that I can discuss that involved teams with playoff aspirations, including, the Denver Broncos?


TRIUMPH: Dexter McCluster had 1/3 of the Chiefs' receptions in this game and led them in receiving yards, while also being second on the team with 8 carries and 45 yards (for a total of 14 touches and 93 yards).  He did his best Jamaal Charles imitation, but I have to say that this game is probably the upper bound of his productivity.

TRAGEDY: The mercurial Dwayne Bowe had yet another of his trademark "Where in the World is Dwayne Bowe?" games, grabbing just two passes for 17 yards.  While he has had quite the breakout the last two years, he has still had 6 games (out of 25 since the start of last year) with a stat line of 2 / 17 or worse, including a zero-catch game against the Broncos last year.

TREND: The Broncos have been running a college-style option offense the last two weeks, similar to many college teams, which led to Tim Tebow throwing just EIGHT passes in this game, completing two (more on that below). The Broncos have run 76% of the time the last two weeks, which is perilously close to the prototypical triple-option offenses of the Navy Midshipmen (84% run) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (82% run).  Although their next opponent, the Jets, have been uncharacteristically average against the run this year, the fact that this offense is so one-dimensional should make next week's game a blowout.

TRAIL MIX: Tim Tebow’s statline in this game: 2-8, 69 yards, 9 rushes, 43 yards.  Just as a point of comparison: Dan Orlovsky (of being-totally-inept fame) and Tyler Palko (whom I had never heard of, and therefore you shouldn’t have) both had more completions, and they averaged just 4 minutes of game time.  Tebow played every snap.  And while it seems like I’m piling on Tebow, you can’t argue with the fact that the Broncos are 1 game out of the division lead, Tebow has a 7/1 TD/INT ratio this season, and despite the abysmal statistics, he still tied for the 8th best fantasy performance among quarterbacks this week.


TRIUMPH: Former Hammer of God Marion Barber appears to have a very similar role with the Bears that he did with the Cowboys a couple of years ago, taking goal line duties and serving as the 4th quarter run-out-the-clock guy.  The Bears were winning 34-6 with 10 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, so Barber’s 13 carries to Matt Forte’s 18 shouldn’t bother fantasy owners any, especially given his 2.1 yards per carry and the fact that Forte ended up getting a goal line touchdown instead of Barber.

TRAGEDY: With the Lions drafting two consensus top-five talents on the defensive line in the last two years (Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley), you’d think they’d get more than 5 sacks in two games against a Bears offensive line that allowed 56 sacks (3.5 per game) last year.

TREND: In the Bears’ last two games, Earl Bennett has 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown, while the rest of the Bears have 16 catches, 155 yards, and a touchdown.  People tend to overemphasize the fact that Bennett and Cutler were teammates at Vanderbilt (they were teammates for one year), but you have to respect the increased role Bennett seems to have.

TRAIL MIX: Here’s an example of numbers lying: if I told you that Jay Cutler would go 9-for-19 with no touchdowns and Matt Forte would have under 70 total yards while Matthew Stafford threw for 329 yards, you’d probably say that Stafford had a great day and the Lions won.  Oh, did I forget to tell you that Stafford acquired those yards on 63 attempts?  Or that he threw 4 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns?


TRIUMPH: Tony Romo was 18-19 for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half, with all three touchdowns coming before the 12:00 mark in the second quarter.  Not only that, but Romo attempted just 7 passes in the second half, and none in the fourth quarter.  He completed 88 percent of his passes after not having 80% completions in a game since 2007.

TRAGEDY: Seriously, how did the Cowboys have the best run defense in the league three weeks ago?  Fred Jackson had 114 yards on just 13 carries, which actually hurts the fact that the Cowboys have allowed 179 yards per game the last three weeks after allowing 70 yards per game in the six games prior.

TREND: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s NFL quarterback rating each month has declined from 103.5 to 92.4 to 48.9 from September to November, and this degradation runs parallel to the Bills team falling out of playoff contention.  This trend doesn’t come as a surprise, as Fitzpatrick’s quarterback rating declined monotonically from 92.4 to 71.7 from September to December last year.  It seems like Fitzpatrick doesn’t much like the cold, which doesn’t seem like a great trait for the quarterback of a team from Buffalo, NY.

TRAIL MIX: The Cowboys’ offense is bottom-five in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (under 40 percent).  Not only does that mean that this game could have been even more out of hand, but it also means that their kicker, Dan Bailey, is a fantasy stud.  Aside from the game in which the Eagles simply dominated the ‘Boys, Bailey has kicked at least two field goals in each of the last 8 games, with at least three in five of them.  He has more fantasy points than top-ten receivers AJ Green and Dwayne Bowe!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Seder Slate, Week 10

After what I will inappropriately call a one-week hiatus, the Seder Slate makes its triumphant return (I mean, could you really say something took a break when it barely even existed to begin with?).  If you’ve forgotten the rules (or didn’t know them to begin with – let’s be honest, my readership isn’t exactly legendary), take a look back at the first one.  Three games, all the important questions answered.  Unless you’re looking for a winner, then the Man Upstairs might be of more use.

What? Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Why? Because we all want to know if the Bengals “are who we thought they were”.  Though they are tied for the division lead in arguably the best division in the NFL, the Bungles’ 6 wins have come against teams who are a combined 16-27 without those losses included.  They haven’t played either the Steelers or Ravens until this week either.

Who? You have to be watching Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton, who’s my pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year.  He’s completing over 60% of his passes and has a 12/7 TD/INT ratio (both better than hypemonger Cam Newton), but faces the famed Steel Blinds (not as reliable as a curtain, but can still do the job) for the first time.  I feel like there’s a Red Rifle / Steel Curtain communism joke here somewhere…

How? Check this game out while you’re off the coast of Cuba waiting for the end of days.  (There it is.)

What? Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins

Why? If the Redskins hadn’t sold whatever they could of Rex Grossman’s soul to the devil to get to 3-1 to start the season, we could have been talking about two of the frontrunners in the famed Suck For Luck sweepstakes.  Alas, the ‘Skins have managed to screw up their draft earlier than they normally do, while the Dolphins managed to keep it respectable by simply dominating the Chiefs last week (remember when the Chiefs lost their first two games by a total of 89-10?  They’re 4-4 now).  Now it’s just a crappy game.

Who? Redskins QB John Beck returns to the site of his greatest accomplishment: losing five games for the 1-15 Dolphins as a rookie in 2007.  At least we’re seeing signs of improvement from him 4 years later; he threw one total touchdown in those five games, and has thrown two this year.  Also of note: he came into the league as a 25-year old (oh BYU, you crazy Mormons), and has now reached 30 years of age with as many touchdown passes as Cam Newton threw last week.

How? Watch it with another game on.  On the same TV.  No, you don’t have picture-in-picture.  Or DVR.  Now you get it.

What? New England Patriots at New York Jets

Why? Um, because Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez are like super stud-muffins!  No, that's not it.  Oh, you want to judge Nick Mangold as a candidate to be the replacement for the current Vikings mascot!  Really, that wasn't it?  Duh, that's because you saw my cousin Dave Dameshek's list of the best names in football and want to pay your respects to D'Brickashaw Ferguson!  There we go.

Who? Tom Terrific.  I want to find out if the Brady prior to and including his Week 5 matchup with the Jets (averaging 68% completions, 375 yards, and 9.4 yards per attempt) still exists, or did the Jets game take something out of him? (averaging 63% completions, 276 yards, and 6.6 ypa since)

How? Grab your camcorder, iPhone, or easel and spy on the Jets – I mean, watch the game with better clarity.  Besides, you won’t be able to see any of the signals behind Rex Ryan’s stomach.  Or ego.  Take your pick.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week 9's Tight Games and Tight Divisions

While I still lie in wait for the results of the Eagles’ Game of the Year Part III, there was plenty of action last week.  This includes not one, not two, but three games (Giants/Patriots, Cardinals/Rams, Ravens/Steelers) that were decided in the final minute of play.  Since I was sickened for multiple reasons by the results of all three of these, I will discuss none of them.

Let’s get to the shenanigans.

TRIUMPH: Yes, Philip Rivers threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, which I’m sure will make people think he’s back in the saddle.  However, the Packers appeared to totally disregard Vincent Jackson (7 receptions, 141 yards, 3 TD), and the Packers’ pass defense is right at the bottom of the barrel with fellow preseason Super Bowl favorites, the New England Patriots.  Not to mention that Rivers threw 3 interceptions, with two being returned for touchdowns and the third being returned inside the 10.
TRAGEDY: Even after this game, the Chargers still rank as a top-five pass defense.  The Packers can throw on anyone, and frankly, they still held Aaron Rodgers to his lowest passing yardage total of the year.  This is a pretty solid defense that was made to look bad by its offense.
TREND: Yes, Aaron Rodgers threw for under 250 yards, but in his last two games he has completed 80 percent of his passes, thrown 7 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, and has a quarterback rating of right around 145 (and an ESPN Total QBR of 90.5 out of 100).  Through 8 games, he is on pace to break the NFL records for passing yardage, quarterback rating, and completion percentage.  Super Bowl Hangover fail.
TRAIL MIX: Jordy Nelson and James Jones appear to be mutually exclusive commodities, producing consistently in the aggregate but being wildly inconsistent individually.  In their last five games, Nelson and Jones have averaged 74 and 61 yards per game, respectively, with massive standard deviations of 38 and 47.  However, in that time they have combined for between 115 and 157 yards (a standard deviation of just 16).  It’s almost like they’re combining forces to become Calvin Johnson….

TRIUMPH: After netting 11 receptions for 114 yards in his first five games of the season, Jacoby Ford has five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in this game.  Now, with Carson Palmer recently installed as the starting quarterback, this may be a harbinger of future performances if Palmer just likes Ford more than other guys, but it still looks kind of random to me.
TRAGEDY: On the other side of that coin, Darrius Heyward-Bey was thrown to once and had zero receptions, coming on the heels of a four-game stretch where he averaged more than 5 receptions and 95 yards per game.  Again, we’ll have to see what having Palmer at quarterback does for the Raiders’ passing game (aside from having three interceptions per game).
TREND: Darren McFadden is a stud.  However, if he weren’t around, people would feel similarly about Michael Bush.  In the 9 games in which he has had at least 16 carries, he has averaged 109 yards, and was only held under 90 yards once (in a game against the stingy 49ers run defense). 
TRAIL MIX: Yes, we know Tim Tebow has divine powers, and I think only divine intervention could have produced these ridiculously similar rate stat lines in his two victories: 48.1% vs. 47.6% completions, 5.96 vs. 5.91 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in both games.  Even in the game he lost, the only real deviation from that pattern was Tebow throwing a pick-six and fumbling a bunch.

TRIUMPH: Marshawn Lynch, where did you come from?  Although he has scored in each of his last three games played, he had rushed for exactly 24 yards in two of them.  It was the 135 yards on 23 carries that was surprising, especially against the apparently-not-what-we-thought-they-were Cowboys run defense, who just allowed 160 yards rushing to a bottom-three rushing team.
TRAGEDY: Like I did last week as well, this is more of an actual tragedy than a disappointing performance.  Miles Austin started off the year with 14 receptions, 233 yards, and 4 touchdowns through 2 games, but a hamstring injury sidelined him for a month.  He came back into the lineup, but was not as effective, with 14 receptions, 170 yards, and no touchdowns in his next four games.  Now he has re-injured his hamstring, and this could be a major hindrance for him completing the season healthy.  And for two of my fantasy teams.
TREND: Evidently, DeMarco Murray is the second coming of Adrian Peterson.  Both players were injury concerns coming out of college, but Peterson put those fears to rest by having two 200-yard games in his rookie season, and being a consistent monster in the fantasy world.  Through three starts, Murray has 55 carries for 466 yards, good for an average of 8.5 yards per carry!  While the first two games were against the Rams and Eagles, two awful run defenses, the Seahawks were allowing just 3.2 yards per carry this season.  Dude’s legit.
TRAIL MIX: This really isn’t that related to this game, but both teams are involved, so we’ll go with it.  The NFC East, NFC West, AFC East, AFC North, and AFC West each have three teams that are within 1 game of each other, with the clumping in the AFC divisions being among the leaders and the NFC clumping being among the bottom teams (behind the Giants and 49ers, respectively).   Also, the AFC West happens to have all four teams within one game of each other.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oops, the Seder Slate got passed over

Yes, I know, just last week I said I was going to start a new weekly column (remember, the Seder Slate?  No?  Hm.), but seeing as it’s as close to the middle of the NFL season as it’s going to get – stupid odd number of games – I have to join in the fun of assigning end-of-season accolades entirely too early.  I’m sure anyone who has watched ESPN or NFL Network in the last week has seen their fair share of these things, but here’s my pitch:  I have no credibility, so I can make all sorts of claims without my reputation being at stake! 

For instance, I hereby predict that the first coach fired at the end of the season will not be Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.  I have a couple thoughts as to who it will be (Lovie Smith, Steve Spagnuolo, Jack Del Rio, and Gary Kubiak or Norv Turner if their teams miss the playoffs), but it would be a pretty big upset if Sparano wasn’t fired first since the Dolphins made a strong play to hire Jim Harbaugh last offseason with Sparano still under contract.

Here are my picks for the playoff spots, compared to my picks before the season (in parentheses):

1. Green Bay Packers (7-0)     (Packers)
2. San Francisco 49ers (6-1)    (Falcons)
3. New Orleans Saints (5-3)    (Eagles)
4. New York Giants (5-2)       (Rams)
5. Detroit Lions (6-2)              (Cowboys)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)    (Saints)

1. New England Patriots (5-2)(Steelers)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)     (Patriots)
3. Houston Texans (5-3)         (Chargers)
4. San Diego Chargers (4-3)   (Texans)
5. Baltimore Ravens (5-2)       (Jets)
6. Cincinnati Bengals (5-2)     (Ravens)

Postseason awards?  I got your postseason awards right here!

Coach of the Year: After a 6-10 season (starting 0-5) and pretty much no change in the roster, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has turned his team around and has the Fighting Frank Gores in position to be the 2-seed in the NFC.  How’d he do it?  Alex Smith is 25th in the league in pass attempts, 14 behind both Tarvaris Jackson and Sam Bradford, both of whom have missed significant time with injuries.

Fantasy Bust of the Year:  Chris Johnson, who has fewer rushing yards than Reggie Bush and as many as Jackie Battle, who had 13 carries for 37 yards through four weeks.

Rookie of the Year:  I know, everyone wants on the Cam Newton bandwagon, but I’m hitching my wagon to the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton.  Keep in mind that the Bengals shipped off T.O. and Ochocinco, had no legitimate quarterback that was willing to play for the team, and have Cedric Benson.  Dalton has started 5-2 for a team that started 2-11 last year and had basically no established offensive weapons at his disposal (Newton has Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, and the Williams/Stewart tandem at running back).

Team to lose the most consecutive games:  Going out of the box here, but I think that the Redskins have a legitimate shot at going 3-13 the hard way after starting 3-1.  I know, I know, the Colts have a legitimate shot at 0-16, but if they win a game in the next couple weeks I think that the ‘Skins are in the catbirds seat for a strong finish.

Team to win the most consecutive games whose fans don’t smell of gouda:  I’m seeing this year ending in a very similar fashion to last season for the Patriots.  They ripped off eight straight wins after losing embarrassingly to the Browns in Week 9, and I see the Steelers game this past week as a similar motivator.  The bigger advantage for the Pats is that while they played the Steelers, (last year’s) Colts, Jets, Bears, and Packers over the home stretch last year, this year they play nine teams with a combined record of 26-38.

Defensive Player of the Year:  The Man, the Myth, the Legend, Tim Tebow.  His completion percentage is below Rex Grossman, he’s been sacked 13 times and fumbled four times in two starts, and was directly responsible for two Lions touchdowns last week.  Some quarterbacks have done worse, but not with the small sample that Tebow has.

Fantasy MVP: If you look at total fantasy points against a replacement-level player of the same position, while also taking into account draft position, this is where Cam Newton comes into play.  Fred Jackson gets a strong Honorable Mention here, but Newton leads quarterbacks in fantasy scoring for the year after being essentially disregarded prior to the year.

Most Valuable Player:  Peyton Manning, and it’s not even close.  The Colts were 10-6 last year, and their skill position players (Clark, Collie, Addai) couldn’t stay healthy.  Now those guys are (for the most part) healthy, and a Curtis-Painter-led team is now 0-8 and a virtual lock to win 2 or fewer games.  That’s at least an 8-game swing by losing one player.  Keep in mind that the Patriots went 11-5 without Tom Brady in 2008 and you can’t say that the Packers would finish 2-7 if Rodgers was lost for the year after they almost beat the Patriots last year with Matt Flynn at quarterback.