Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week 3's 'Tonement and Trope

I'm going to preface this post by saying that including half of the Thursday and Monday Night games, I  have watched about four hours of football this week.  More often than not, that number is more than 10.  So this week (and next week as well) I'll be speaking almost exclusively from what I see in the box score.  A nice exercise in deduction, to be sure, but not a formula for knowing things well.  And yet, you've already come all this way, so you might as well stay a while.

And today is Yom Kippur, so instead of the usual Trail Mix section we're going to go with Transgressions, in which I'll offer some suggestions of people that need to atone for their sins, including myself in some cases.


TRIUMPH:  Let's just lump the entire Bengals passing game into one here.  The Red Rifle Andy Dalton had a very solid day (19-27, 328 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT), and the team as a whole was even more explosive, with WR Mohamed Sanu throwing a 73-yard TD to AJ Green on the first play of the game. Green added another 8 receptions for 110 yards, and three other pass-catchers (Andrew Hawkins, Jermaine Gresham, and Armon Binns) had at least 60 yards and a touchdown.  Just a bonus, Hawkins now has consecutive games with two catches, but with one of them being a 50+ yard touchdown.

TRAGEDY:  I don't think this is necessarily just a blip on the radar, but both of these defenses struggled against at best above-average offenses.  The 'Skins were 12th in the league in pass defense in 2011 and allowed 385 net passing yards on Sunday.  The Bengals were 10th in the league in rush defense in 2011 and allowed 213 rushing yards in a game in which they led 24-7 in the second quarter. Yes, Washington lost two members of their defensive front seven for the year this week, and Cincinnati doesn't have the dominant Leon Hall that they've had at corner in the past, but those are the opposite position problems that you would expect to cause the types of struggles they had Sunday.

TREND:  If you remove the broken-coverage-induced 80-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon against a Saints team that we now know can't even cover Call Me Maybe, Robert Griffin III has a per-game average of 20-30 for 220 yards with 1 touchdowns and 0.33 interceptions.  Everyone keeps raving about how great he looks, but this is an offense that is predicated on running the ball (115 pass attempts to 106 rush attempts even in three straight shootouts), and the Redskins haven't played a defense yet that has shown consistent success in 2012.  Cool your jets, fanatics -- unless you're a fantasy player, in which case the fact that he is averaging 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground per game is pretty awesome.

TRANSGRESSION: I think that Mike Shanahan needs to atone for not properly preparing us for a three-week stretch in which one running back (Alfred Morris) dominates the touches for his team with no sign of being summarily pulled from the lineup.  He did, however, prepare us for the fact that it would be some slow guy who came from nowhere (Ryan Torain?).  Morris has 61 of the 74 carries for the Redskins this year, and no one else appears to be threatening his touches at the moment.


TRIUMPH: How about Kevin Kolb stepping it up against his former team, and against a defense that is known for its pass rush?  He went 17-of-24 with 222 yards, 2 TD, and 0 INT in a dominant win.  Last week in the Eliminator-crushing win against New England (still sour about it, yes), Korn Kolb was just 15-of-27 for 140 yards and 1 TD (still no INT, though).  The Cardinals are now 3-0, which is as many wins as they had in the 9 games that Kolb was a part of last season.

TRAGEDY: This probably could have been a trend, but I think it's tragic enough to put here.  Michael Vick, really?  REALLY?  9 turnovers and just 4 total touchdowns in 3 games?  According to ESPN's Total QBR rankings, Vick is the 25th best quarterback in the league this year.  Blaine Gabbert is 24th.  When you're 5th in the league in total offense but dead last in scoring, there's something seriously wrong.  Especially when you have gamebreaking skill players, INCLUDING THE QUARTERBACK.

TREND: Larry Fitzgerald loves him some Eagles.  In his last three games against the Birds, starting with the NFC Championship Game a few years ago, Fitz has averaged 8 receptions, 137 yards, and 2 touchdowns.  That was with three different quarterbacks, only one of which anyone would consider above league average.  And the game before that?  He scored two touchdowns.  The man's a monster.

TRANSGRESSION: I have to atone myself here, for writing in my preseason fantasy post that I believed in Michael Vick.  I drafted him and Tony Romo in my family league, and not only have successfully started the guy who scored less each week, but now am concerned that Vick will lose his job and I will be stuck with a suddenly-crappy-even-by-fantasy-standards Romo.  I think that the two series of preseason reps should have been a red flag, and, along with many others, I was blinded by my nostalgia for 2010.


TRIUMPH: With exactly zero regular-season carries to his name, coming off a suspension, and with a reasonably productive guy in Kevin Smith ahead of him, I'm not sure that anyone would have predicted that Mikel Leshoure would touch the ball 30 times in this game.  Now, expectations should be tempered, as the Lions haven't shown much rushing prowess the last few years, and Leshoure did only manage 134 yards on those 30 touches, but to see him kick Kevin Smith to the curb so decisively was a surprise.

TRAGEDY: What was going on with the Lions defense (and special teams, and offense) in this game?  Every one of the Titans' 5 touchdowns (including 1 defensive and 2 special teams) was over 60 yards.  When playing a Tennessee team that had scored just 23 points in their first two games, it's not the best strategy to forget how to cover and tackle.  Now, the Lions were bottom-10 in the NFL in punt and kickoff return average allowed in 2011, so that's not so surprising, but all in one game?

TREND: Titans' defense?  Not so good.  313 passing yards per game allowed, an unreal 76% completion percentage allowed, and even 150 rushing yards per game allowed.  If it weren't for Chris Johnson and his negative average yards-before-contact, there would be a lot more attention on how sub-par this group has been.  Next on the schedule is a balanced and defensively stout Texans team, and I would be shocked if they had fewer than 400 yards of total offense in this game, which would represent a step in the right direction for the Titans.

TRANSGRESSION: Let's be real here, if you're getting paid $10 million a year as a running back and your team scores 44, but you have just 29 total yards and no scores, you've got some 'splainin' to do.  If this is what Chris Johnson looks like when he has no offensive line help, then A) Tennessee had some impossibly good line play in 2009, and B) CJNotOK has as broad a spectrum of possible production as anyone in the league.  Consider that in 19 games since the start of last year, Johnson has had 10 in which he has averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry and 2 in which he has averaged more than 5, and has scored 4 total touchdowns in that span.  In the rest of his career (48 games), he has 7 games of fewer than 3 YPC, 21 games of more than 5 YPC, and 38 total touchdowns.  I had him as a first-round pick in fantasy, as did most people, and somehow managed to avoid drafting him, and have actually only owned him once ever, and that was his rookie year.

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