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No Fins No!
I honestly thought I’d be switching the title of this segment up a week or two ago, but my gut told me this morning would be the time to change “Go” to “No”. As good as they’ve been up until last night, I felt far more confident from the day the schedules were released that the Saints would be one of our most formidable challenges. On their home turf, my Fins kept it honest until Ryan Tannehill’s two early turnovers completely changed the complexion of the game around. Going into the tunnel, looking up at a 21-10 score that easily could have been 20-7 in Miami’s favor, my gut was proving me right. I have to chalk it up as a learning experience for a team that’s still learning to play like winners. That 3-1 record is only as good as your next game says you are, and a big rebound against the struggling Ravens is needed before we hit our bye week.
What We Learned On Thursday
The 49ers keys to success don’t involve Colin Kaepernick first and foremost. A healthy dose of Frank Gore, coupled with a defense playing up to its own level of ability, is what brings victories to this team. Kaep had a solid game, taking good care of the ball and hitting on two TD strikes, offering the sort of game that he needs to get used to; times will come when they have no choice but to put it on his shoulders, but considering the talent across the roster, those times should be few and far between. Toppling a team that game them nothing but trouble in 2012, on the road, is a major statement after two losses that would demoralize lesser teams.
The Rams have to find a new offensive coordinator, and they need to do it fast. Why Brian Schottenheimer was brought in after being run out of New York by absolutely befuddled Jets fans seemed a mistake from the very beginning, and the stagnant running game coupled with terrible playcalling is once again holding Sam Bradford back from progressing. Make no illusions; he’s a top-tier QB with all the tools, but until they find someone else to call the plays, find a RB who can carry the load (and an OC who will let him) and build some chemistry between Bradford and his young WRs, this team is going to be a distant third to the division’s top teams.
What We Learned On Sunday
This is a game of turnovers, the most important stat in football bar none. The most important part of the game that can’t be measured? Heart. It was the former that cost the Ravens a game they had zero justification in losing, the latter that keyed a big win for the Chargers over the Cowboys, and a nice combination of both that gave Seattle their biggest victory of the season so far, on the road in a hostile Houston environment against the only defense close to their own in terms of sheer numbers.
Underdogs are still hard to predict, as the Bills, Browns (!) and Lions managed to win games few of us thought they would. I put an exclamation point on the Browns’ victory because I honestly believed this Brian Hoyer kid was a mirage after last week. Now I’m not so sure. I don’t know how you trade your best offensive weapon two weeks into the season and then turn around and win two games, one of which is against your strongest divisional opponent…but it happened. Jordan Cameron looks like Rob Gronkowski without the dance moves, and for the first time in too long, Cleveland fans have something to hold onto. We’ll see how long it lasts.
When calling these three games (the only three I called wrong all week, I’ll have you know), I mentioned that the Bears-Lions matchup would hinge on the ability of X-factor Reggie Bush and how much he contributed. I didn’t see him coming, and neither did the Bears. Jay Cutler didn’t see Ndamakung Suh coming, either. Seems to be a lot of that going on in the NFL.
And that’s why we love it.
One of the things I’m really loving is that two teams that always seem to be in contention have impossible hills to climb at 0-4. The Giants and Steelers are, quite simply, playing for 2014, and it’s enough to make most fans smile. Make room for the new breed. Out of the two, the Giants could pull off some magic down the stretch considering the pitiful look of the NFC East in general, but don’t count on it.
Especially when the only team that wins in your division has to count on a special teams touchdown and a few nail-biting moments against the Raiders and Matt Flynn. Still, the ‘W’ is the goal, and avoiding 0-4 at this point puts Washington right in the mix in the race for a possible 7-9 division winner.
We all knew the Broncos were going to win, didn’t we? The Eagles have a long way to go to fix that defense, but I think you could put the ’85 Bears out there and I’d still give the nod to Manning and his endless list of weapons. 16 Touchdowns and no INTS after 4 games? This isn’t a video game, right?
On Sunday night, we were treated to clear cut evidence that this Falcons team has a serious problem, and it seems to be the same problem that has kept them from taking the next step in the postseason. That it’s showing its face in September is either a good sign or a bad one, depending on perspective; if they get this out of their system now and start winning games, perhaps they’ll be better prepared for the deepest of deep playoff runs. If it swings the other way…well…I am simply unable to find a reason why they’re 1-3. If it gets worse, it’ll be, by far, the most baffling story in the NFL.
Get well, Jake Locker. Your promise was just starting to truly emerge, and I feel for any player who has his moment cut short by injuries. If I could just get your address, I have a combination ‘Get Well/Thanks for embarrassing the Jets’ card I’d love to send your way.
What We Learned On Monday
Well, we’ve already established that the Dolphins have to learn from this and improve internally. Particularly, the chemistry between Tannehill and Mike Wallace. It cannot be forced, and I have a bad feeling that this was why he was let go by Pittsburgh; he simply doesn’t have that ‘want-to’ that separates the talented from the successful. Time will tell.
For the Saints, it was a statement win against a very good defense, a showcase of one of their many X-Factors (Darren Sproles in this instance) and more proof that their defense is playing similarly to the opportunistic cheating bunch of douches that won the Superbowl. I’m only half-kidding…I don’t think Rob Ryan has any sort of bounty program going. What he does have going is a scheme that fits the talent he has, and he’s maximizing their ability to perform. As much as I hate the Ryan family (it started with Buddy, centered on Rex once he became the Jets HC and Rob looks like something that crawled out of a cave), they know their defense, and when you go from the absolute worst to one of the best in a year, you’ve got to give credit where its due. The cave troll knows his defense.
It’s The Numbers, Stupid (Part 1)
Which team has the best third-down defense in the NFL after four weeks? Seahawks? Nah. Da Bears, perhaps? Wrong again. Maybe those upstart Chiefs? No sir. The Detroit lions have allowed only 21.3 percent of third downs to translate into first downs.
The weirdest part of it is that they’ve allowed three of four 4th down conversions.
What Are You Doing, Joe Flacco*
Note the asterisk. In all honesty, there is so much blame to throw around for the Ravens loss that you’d have to start pointing toes. I watched the replays of all five of Joe’s INTs, and three of them were the result of poor execution on his target’s parts. Still, a guy who has built a reputation for being worth the money he’s getting paid doesn’t consistently put his receivers in those situations. He also doesn’t show the inaccuracy, indecision and overall ineffectiveness that have plagued him over the first four weeks. John Harbaugh has adamantly stood behind his decision to abandon the run early against the 31st ranked run defense in the NFL, but that is another head-scratcher in a game that was close enough to still be won on the ground in the end.
What Are You Doing, Ndamukong Suh?
I didn’t see anything, did you? He made a great play to knock a fumble loose from Jay Cutler to seal the Lions’ victory, but much like week 2 (where I gave him a pass), I’m not going to chalk this up to a clean week for the dirtiest player in the league until I see some more footage. Great play though, from a player who should be great with his skill set.
It’s The Numbers, Stupid (Part 2)
Peyton Manning is on pace to throw 64 touchdown passes. I used to throw 64 touchdown passes regularly during my better Madden franchise seasons…obviously SOMEBODY has been working on his video game skills. There isn’t a ranking in Madden that can accurately explain how good he’s playing right now.
What Are You Doing, Geno Smith?
We now have a companion piece to the Sanchez “butt fumble”; the Smith “behind-the-butt fumble”. Rookie or no rookie, whoever is coaching QBs for the Jets needs to (keep up the good work) explain to Geno that he isn’t trying to set a defender up for a fastbreak dunk. Wrong sport.
It’s The Numbers, Stupid (Part 3)
The Chicago Bears lead the league in takeaways with 14 through four games. At this pace, they’ll end the season with 56 total. Which would still be ten shy of the record set by…the 1961 San Diego Chargers. That Chargers team also holds another record that we’ll probably never see broken: nine interception returns for touchdowns.
QB Of The Week: Jake Locker. It’s too easy to give this to Peyton every week (even though he deserves it, honestly), but look at the matchup and then look at Locker’s numbers before he went down with a hip injury that sent him to the hospital. 18/24, 149 and 3 TDs before the 3rd quarter double-team hit that may have ended his season.
RB Of The Week: Adrian Peterson. Long trip to London? Check. Uncertainly with a backup QB? Check. 140 yards and two TDs? Check. I’ve actually heard analysts say AD is having a slow season. He’s 2nd behind LeSean McCoy in rushing in the NFL. That’s how good he is, folks.
WR Of The Week: Greg Jennings. This is mostly out of the guilt I feel after telling you to bench him this week. The old man actually outran what looked like the entire Steelers secondary on that huge 70 yard catch-and-run. Good show, Jennings. Good show.
Offensive Line Of The Week: New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees has a way to make any offensive line combination the Saints put together look better, but they played a heck of a game against a relentless Miami pass rush that was still formidable minus Cameron Wake. Kudos also to the Tennessee Titans, who kept their pocket relatively clean against one of the league’s best defensive lines.
Defensive Performance Of The Week: Cleveland Browns. It might be too easy (and wrong) to fault the Bengals for only putting up 6 points this week; this defense has been horribly underrated for a few seasons now, and with their recent additions, have only gotten better. When you hold A.J. Green to 7 catches for 51 yards on 15 total targets, you’re doing something right. Barkevious Mingo has three sacks in three game appearances, and as he adjusts to the pro game more and more, he’s going to be something special.
Goat Of The Week: Rex Ryan
That post-game news conference was, from a Dolphins fan’s standpoint, undeniably enjoyable. Sheer and utter confusion. From a football fan’s perspective, it was embarrassing. He was absolutely, 100% out-coached by a less experienced man on the opposing sideline, and whatever gameplan he signed off on before the opening kick was doomed to failure beforehand. There’s been a lot of talk of the Jets being a surprise team in 2013: you just saw who the Jets actually are this week, and Ryan is as much to blame as anyone else.
Coaching Performance Of The Week: Jim Harbaugh
It pains me to honor anything this crybaby does, but in terms of motivational ability and knowing his opponents, few in the league are as good as he is. He had the 49ers absolutely ready to lay the hammer down in St. Louis, and it probably started in the locker room following week 3’s embarrassing loss.
Kev’s Fantasy/Pick’Em Standings
1-3 in both leagues, and if I can muster the care level, I might start fishing for trades this week. I’m never quite sure how my teams end up in this predicament every year…until I realize how much of a guessing game Fantasy Football really is. Not to insult anyone, but there are several people in both leagues who I am 100% convinced are fairweather, so-so football fans who have better records than I do. The only logical explanation is that the game is 60% luck, 40% knowledge. No hard feelings, though. It’s fun whichever side of the ledger you end up on, and that’s why we keep playing it even when we tank a season or two.
Despite huge upsets by the Bills, Browns and Lions, they were the only upsets I didn’t see coming this week, as I went a totally awesome and undeniably impressive 11-3. It’s still a bittersweet thing when you pick against your team and get it right, though…
Thursday and Monday night look like snoozers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they prove otherwise. Sunday night, however, is a whole different affair.
If the 49ers can take a Houston team who has to be feeling extremely ticked off at the way they lost this week to the Seahawks, and do to them something similar to what they managed against St. Louis, my Superbowl pick for the NFC is suddenly going to start making more since than it did the past few weeks.
On that note, who thinks the Colts just might pull off an upset over Seattle? Yeah, neither do I, but put me on record as saying the Colts’ QB situation is absolutely better than Houston’s. I said it, and I meant it.
Can the Packers use this bye week to regroup and host a Lions team coming off of an extremely impressive divisional win? This is going to be the game of the week, in my opinion.
Due to scheduling conflicts, the Chargers-Raiders game has been pushed back to 11:35PM, EST. To my knowledge, this is the latest starting time for an NFL game in league history. Who’s staying up for this one?
Yeah, neither am I.
The NFL starts to truly take shape after four weeks, and the combination of predictability and total surprise so far has not disappointed. The NFC LEast? The Giants, Steelers and Buccaneers sitting at 0-4? The Chiefs have already won more games than they did in 2012? This is why I love the NFL.
When the book is written on the 2013 Denver Broncos, if it doesn’t end with Peyton Manning holding up his 2nd Lombardi trophy, something went terribly, terribly wrong and the fingers will be pointing a mile high. The only team that can stop the Broncos are…the Broncos.
Joe Flacco and Mike Wallace are overpaid. We all know it, we see why on a weekly basis, but I’m going to be taking bets on who will come the closest to earning their money this year. My money is on Wallace, and that’s not the homer in me speaking.
Until next time, a bit of humor to brighten your Tuesday, courtesy of a friend of the family:
How do you say Eli Manning in Spanish?