Tuesday (Thursday?!) Morning Double-Back

All apologies for this week’s post-games overview, folks. Plenty of new developments here at Kevbo Industries, but I couldn’t imagine not sharing with you the key points to take from each week of NFL football. And what a week this one turned out to be.

No Fins No!

During this see-saw of a game which my local market was not carrying, I had to remind a friend of mine who just happens to be a Ravens fan not to constantly update me on the game as he was watching it. In situations where I can’t watch my team play, I’ve grown accustomed to watching the odd highlight and score flashing by during another game to provide me a combination of information and hope. Ignorance is bliss. Getting a chance to see all the miscues, particularly on our last-minute chance-to-seal-the-deal drive at the end, reminded me that this is a team that has chemistry issues. After winning two similar games against the Colts and Falcons, the team that mastered the close shave win showed us that we’re not quite there yet. After five weeks, the major issues with my Fins are, obviously, chemistry and lack of QB protection, which is making the first issue harder to address in terms of Tannehill and Mike Wallace finding the right footing in-game.

What We Learned On Thursday

Well, we learned that Jim Brown is still a big deal in Cleveland all these years later. That’s for sure, and something you can’t blame Browns fans for rallying behind; since his retirement, the Browns have endured some absolutely rough times over the years. Fans who stuck around after the halftime celebration of Brown’s career were treated to a solid victory over a Bills team that looked on the up with EJ Manuel, and now has to look forward to being without him for several weeks. Cleveland has surprised quite a few people this season, and I’m sure the majority of them are living in Cleveland, but they’ve got big-time playmakers in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, and they may have found their QB in Brian Hoyer, who unfortunately may miss extended time due to a knee sprain. Two games doesn’t make a QB, but he’s done more in two games than Brandon Weeden, who gets the nod to start in week 6, has arguably shown in a little over a season’s worth of playing time.

If you’re a Bills fan, you have to be in some sort of “We’re good enough!…aren’t we?!” limbo by now. Manuel has been the most consistent rookie QB amongst the handful of them starting this year, the duo of Spiller and Jackson in the backfield is about as dangerous a one-two punch in the league, and Mario Williams looks like he’s playing for what he’s being paid. So, what gives? There are holes elsewhere, glaring holes that have yet to be addressed properly. Still, in the landscape of the AFC East, they have what it takes going forward to be…well…something. I’m just not sure what, yet.

What We Learned On Sunday

It has always been my opinion that, after four weeks of football has been played, the league starts to shape into a form that can be more easily labeled. Each team has made enough of a statement, positive or otherwise, to be taken for what they’ve put on the field. There are a handful of exceptions…and those exceptions are what make NFL football such a thrill.

After playing mixed-bag football for four games, the Bengals defense showed up and showed up big in keeping Tom Brady and the Patriots out of the endzone all day. The offense? Nowhere to be seen, but when you’ve got to score more than 6 points to win a game, the Jaguars would suddenly be a playoff contender.

While Brady gets some salvation in form of Gronkowski next week, he and the rest of the Pats have to realize that they’re simply not as good as they were last year, or any year since they last found themselves in the Superbowl. Their inability to properly draft wide receivers over the course of Bellichick’s tenure is a big reason why they’re in the predicament they are today.

Another reason why the Pats aren’t quite the same (perhaps the biggest reason) was once again helping Peyton Manning put up absolutely ridiculous numbers in Dallas. Welker’s contributions have been marginalized by the man throwing him the football’s pace towards the top of the record books, but he is as pivotal to the Broncos’ torrid pace as he was to Brady’s consistent performance in New England.

As good as Manning was on Sunday, he was eclipsed by the QB he was dueling against…all the way up until Romo did what we all felt he was going to do. I don’t blame him, far from it; without Romo, with a lesser QB (which amounts to around 90% of the quarterbacks in the league), they’re out of that game by the 4th quarter. You give up 51 points, score 48, and want to blame your quarterback (he of 500+ yards and 5 TDs) for the loss? It doesn’t work that way, and people should know better. Romo is a gunslinger, a risk taker, in the mold of Brett Favre, and for every great play he makes, you have to know a terrible play was possible at the exact same time…and also to anticipate it happening regardless of the situation. Brett Favre got his team to a Superbowl or two, and in all honesty, I believe Romo can do the same.

That was the defense that gave up 51 points, not Tony Romo.

That 99 total point affair was bar none the most exciting game of the week, but the Colts major upset of the Seahawks really had me doing a double-take when looking at the final score. I realize Seattle are better at home. Hell, most teams are. But this is a Colts team that, by all rights, should still be developing chemistry and getting up to speed with the NFL game. Andrew Luck is so far ahead of all that after 22 professional football games that it’s almost hard to fathom just how in-sync he is with what’s going on around him. Mistake-free, clutch football against the best defense in the NFL, at home or otherwise, is about as impressive as you can be. Also, T.Y. Hilton is a frightening football player if you’re in the position of trying to stop him once he catches a pass. Also, Robert Mathis is leading the league in sacks after five weeks, without the guy most people said was the reason why Mathis produced so well in the past (who’s done for the year in San Diego. Dwight Freeney, for all you under-rock-dwellers).

Even though they lost to the Dolphins, their record, and the quality of their victories, tell me they’re a better team right now.

The Michael Vick injury watch has begun, a full three weeks after I predicted it would begin. Kudos to Nick Foles for stepping in and stepping up against one of the worst defenses in football, which has prompted numerous Philadelphia fans to come out and demand Vick’s benching much like they did in 2012. The only difference here is that, going forward, anyone who has watched the Eagles play this year has to understand Vick is the better choice to run the style of offense Chip Kelly is (currently) working with. I have no doubt he has an entirely different offense to wrap around Foles’ skill set, but the Eagles offense hasn’t been the problem this year; the patchwork, free-agent-bonanza of a defense has.

What We Learned On Monday

I believe I’ve been saying it since my preseason power rankings, but I’ll reiterate: these Jets have an awful lot of fight in them.

It was a crapshoot, predicting whether or not Geno Smith was going to be the answer that Mark Sanchez had already proven not to be. I’m still not 100% sold, but the young man has a calmness, a cool middle-ground that he never deviates from, that keeps him playing at the same level in the 1st quarter that he does in the 4th. That level has been up and down from game to game, but on Monday Night it was right where it needed to be, as he avoided turnovers and threw for three scores en route to a big win.

How big that win was is a matter of intense debate in the football world right now, as the Falcons continue to slide out of their apparent preseason position of Superbowl contenders. Injuries have not been kind, and news that Julio Jones is done for the season feels like the final curtain being drawn. 1-4 isn’t an impossible hole to rise up from, but when your biggest playmaker is gone, your other playmakers are showing their age and your workhorse RB isn’t on the field…the signs of how are clear; it’s the why that has us all befuddled.

It’s The Numbers, Stupid (Part 1)

The 99 points put up between the Broncos and Cowboys on Sunday tied for the fourth-most points scored in a game in NFL history. Tony Romo had the best game a Dallas QB has ever played. Peyton Manning is still on pace for 64 TD passes. Between the two, they threw for nearly 1,000 yards in the same game. Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and a handful of other QBs have thrown for less than 1,000 yards so far this season.

What Are You Doing, Mike Sherman?

On that last drive during the Dolphins-Ravens game, the playcalling was absolutely horrid. That we even managed to get into field goal range (if you call 57 yards out a suitable range for a rookie kicker) was amazing. Two straight passes to Mike Wallace? Sure, Sherman, nobody knew you were going to do that. There are multiple issues the Dolphins need to shore up, and one of them is questionable playcalling.

It’s The Numbers, Stupid (Part 2)

The Houston Texans only managed a field goal during the 49ers’ blowout victory on Sunday. The last time the Texans were held to a field goal or less was during receiver Andre Johnson’s rookie year of 2003, when they were beaten 27-0 by the Jaguars and 16-3 by the Buccaneers the very next week.

What Are You Doing, Nndamukong Suh?

Another week free of anything dirty? It’s a miracle. I’ll give the guy credit beyond this, though, and say that he’s been playing outstanding football for the Lions so far this year, even if it doesn’t show up in the stat column. He’s constantly a disruptive force up the middle, and their defense would be in dire straits if he were to lose any time to injury. Still, the Suh Watch will continue throughout the year…because it’s fun for me.

What Are You Doing, Martin Mayhew?

Kudos to the Lions GM for bringing in considerable talent over his five-year span at the position, but when you lose Calvin Johnson and suddenly your offense is as inept as the Jaguars’ tends to be, well…injuries notwithstanding, you have to lay some of this blame at the doorstep of the man who is responsible for filling the gaps properly. The Packers defense isn’t exactly the best, or the worst, but three field goals is unacceptable with Matthew Stafford and Reggie Bush on the same offense.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Tony Romo. He stood tall, stood firm and out-dueled Peyton Manning for 4 quarters. They both threw an interception; Romo’s gets more attention because of the bad timing. The fact is, Romo’s defense let him down while he systematically dismantled the opposing defense for the entire game.

RB Of The Week: Jamaal Charles. In a week where no one running back actually took a game over, I’m thinking Charles’ contributions during a tough win over a tough Titans team earn him the nod here.

WR Of The Week: T.Y. Hilton. Mostly subdued through four games, Hilton burst forward and reminded us all of how dangerous he is in the open field with a huge catch-and-run TD against the league’s best defense. He tacked on another clutch score later in the game, helping the Colts pull off possibly the biggest upset of the year to date.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Baltimore Ravens. They’ve been ridiculed all year for numerous reasons, but they showed up in force and did enough to keep the Ravens offense moving in key situations. Honorary mention to the Indianapolis Colts, who probably deserve the reward just as much for managing to (mostly) contain the Seahawks front seven.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Cincinnati Bengals. Clutch, consistent, dominant in holding the Patriots to 6 points, effectively snapping Tom Brady’s streak of 52 straight games with a touchdown pass…a streak that started, oddly enough, during a game against the Bengals. This week, redemption is spelled B-E-N-G-A-L-S.

Goat Of The Week: Matt Schaub. If he was the least of the Texans’ problems, I’d say so. He isn’t. He is one of the reasons why they lost, why they’ve lost more than they’ve won after five weeks, and why they cannot take the next step towards Superbowl contention. He’s what he’s always been; an above-average QB who takes advantage of an excellent running game to create space for him to operate in. When opposing defenses see him drop back, they’re able to watch him telegraph his throws in a subtle way that doesn’t always show up on camera, but I’ve seen it enough times to know they need to upgrade at some point while their roster is still mostly capable of making a run at the big one.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Chuck Pagano. Even when things seemed bleak, Pagano’s leadership kept his defense playing at a high level, and his trust in Andrew Luck meant the difference in the final score. Kudos as well to Andy Reid, who went from the biggest goat in Philadelphia to the savior of Kansas City in one short Alex Smith-fueled offseason. Big Red is right where he belongs, and is working the same magic he did in his glory years in the city of brotherly love.

Kev’s Fantasy/Pick ‘Em Standings

Big wins in both fantasy leagues, one a 30 point blowout and the other far more tight. The latter game was one of those head-slapping moments for my opponent, who left game-changing points on his bench by following logic instead of flipping a coin, which usually provides better odds in the crazy world of fantasy football. We all lose a game or two each year by out-smarting ourselves, but it’s always nice to be on the positive end of it for a change.

10-4 picking winners this week, which has me leading my family by the slim margin of one game over my 2nd place stepfather. I’m starting to pat myself on the back, but it’s a small sort of pat…in the bathroom, where nobody can see me doing it.

What’s Next?

Some little voice in my head says “Pick the Giants, they’re going to find a way to win” for tonight’s game on Soldier Field. Then I remind the voice that he’s been saying that for three weeks now, and that the Bears aren’t exactly a bad team. Should be a good game regardless…unless you’re a Giants fan.

Out of the 1:00 games, the obvious choice for most exciting matchup would be the Ravens and Packers, but I’m more looking forward to the Lions at Browns and Rams at Texans. The former should help clear up which team is actually for real this year, and which is simply overachieving…although the latter could apply to both teams. The Texans lose to the Rams, at home, and they’re in the same category as the Falcons are: the “what the hell is going on here?” category.

The Broncos are 28 point favorites over the Jaguars, one of the biggest spreads in the history of point spreads. I’m giving them 35.

The Patriots are going to have to turn things around in a hurry, when an extremely hungry New Orleans team marches in town. Do I think they can do it? I sure do. But I don’t think they will.

Sunday Night’s game is going to be THE game to watch this week, as the Skins and Cowboys consistently provide entertaining games each and every season. After last week’s uber-performance by Tony Romo, if I’m the Redskins, I’m planning on giving Alfred Morris the ball 40 times regardless of his banged up ribs.

Final Thoughts

I’m extremely interested in the Vikings signing Josh Freeman. They’re paying him starter money, and despite all the talk from the brass about Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, Freeman is just a couple of weeks’ worth of studying away from stepping onto the field in purple and gold. What’s on all of our minds is, quite simply, is this where Freeman turns it around or is it where he proves he’s as inconsistent as his years in Tampa Bay make him appear? This might just be his last chance to prove himself, one way or another.

You’ll have to forgive me, but I’m a little short on thoughts at the time of writing this. Life has a way of doing that to you, doesn’t it?

Again, I apologize for the delay of this column. Right under the Thursday night deadline…better late than never, of course.

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