Week Four Primer (2014-2015)

tom_brady300Tom Brady is…smug. But also primed. Get primed like Brady! Just don’t get smug.

Nobody likes smug.

(Kevnote: Sorry about missing the Thursday Night Special again. I’m not big on picking up new habits quickly.)

Week 4 Picks

Baltimore 26 – Carolina 17

This is extremely tough to call. The Ravens’ last two outings were solid, while the Panthers are coming off of an entirely unexpected rout at the hands of the visiting Steelers. There was a real lack of discipline in the Panthers’ gameplan last week, something I don’t expect will plague them too often as it hasn’t in the recent past. However, I think this is a team in Carolina that are still trying to find their footing, while the Ravens are further along that path. I’ll take Baltimore at home.

Green Bay 30 – Chicago 28

I can’t help but think that, with the Packers typically slow out of the gate, that they’re going to come around any week now and hit their stride. But, then I remind myself that this team isn’t all that good where it counts: at the line of scrimmage. That deficiency can make problems for anyone, including the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews Jr. I see a nail-biter, that comes down to Jay Cutler making a costly mistake and Aaron Rodgers capitalizing for the close win.

Houston 24 – Buffalo 16

The Bills are discovering their identity, something they’ve been questing for since their last Superbowl loss. It really has been that long since this team was formidable. Now, however, they’re going to find a team in Houston that, despite injuries and several holes in their depth chart, has a team geared to beat an attacking defense. A hefty dose of a healthy Arian Foster coupled with a stout defense should give the Texans a quality home victory.

Indianapolis 31 – Tennessee 20

The Colts are the wild, one-punch boxer of the NFL: they’re either going to land it or whiff so bad that they leave themselves wide open for a counter shot. Coming off of a rout of the lowly Jaguars, Indianapolis gets another chance to pad their record against a banged up and mostly inferior Titans squad. Charlie Whitehurst is apparently starting for Jake Locker, which does nothing for Tennessee’s chances but lowers ’em.

Detroit 24 – New York 10

After the performance Detroit showed against the Packers, I’m starting to feel more comfortable with them as a team. While their offense struggles, their defense appears (finally) ready to step up and take some of the slack. Against Geno Smith and the Jets offense, their capitalization on mistakes will give them the edge. While Rex Ryan’s defense will probably force the Lions to abandon the run early, it won’t matter when the Jets’ offense can’t move the ball themselves. Also, who is covering Megatron? Who indeed.

Miami 20 – Oakland 10

The jet lag of a trip across the Atlantic will take its toll on both of these struggling franchises, but I’m simply going to chalk this game up to which team has the better roster. That edge goes to Miami, despite their inability to get out of their own way. They would have to hand this game to the Raiders, and despite all the distraction talk, it’s nothing they’re not used to after 2013’s bullying fiasco.

Pittsburgh 37 – Tampa Bay 17

Yes, I fully believe the Buccaneers are as bad as they showed us against Atlanta last week. And, yes, I think the Steelers are as good as they appeared in Carolina. Lovie Smith has a long, long way to go to put the pieces together in Tampa Bay, where the pivotal talent is either injury-prone, nullified by poor scheming or chemically inbalanced. It’s a clusterfu…well, it’s not good. The Steelers should roll this one up smoothly.

San Diego 33 – Jacksonville 14

A game that has blowout written all over it. One of the worst teams in the league, traveling two time zones into the house of a team who has the look of a postseason contender. A matchup nightmare for the lesser team. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers end up over 40, but I’ll play the conservative role mostly because they need to prove they can balance their offensive attack with the rash of injuries (Ryan Matthews, Danny Woodhead, Nick Hardwick).

Atlanta 31 – Minnesota 27

The Vikings, I think, will hang with the Falcons in this one. Neither team will be fully accustomed to their environment, but the Falcons are riding a really nice high while Minnesota is just trying to figure themselves out. Still, Atlanta will have to do more than the standard to beat this resilient Vikings team. They will.

Philadelphia 30 – San Fransisco 24

No doubt the game of the week, two of the NFC’s best will make headlines in San Fransisco with a tightly contested matchup. I’ve broken this one down in every way imaginable, and I think what it’ll come down to is actually quite simple: Nick Foles is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick, and has a better gameplan behind him as well. If Philadelphia can continue to mask their defensive liabilities with smart coaching and playcalling, there isn’t a team in the NFL they can’t keep up with.

Dallas 35 – New Orleans 31

I called this one last week, and I’m not backing down from it. The Cowboys were embarrassed mightily by the Saints last year in New Orleans. Now, the Saints are coming to Jerryworld, and their defense will simply not be able to stop DeMarco Murray and the limited-effective Tony Romo from controlling the game. The flip side? Dallas, while stigmatized for having a porous defense, are playing better than advertised on that side of the ball, clamping down in key situations. The return of CB Orlando Scandrick will do them good. Beating the Saints will do them even better.

Kansas City 23 – New England 20

The rationale behind this pick? Miami beats New England. Miami loses to Kansas City. Kansas City, therefore, beats New England. But, really, this comes down to what I saw last week from both teams. While the Patriots struggled to beat the Raiders (and came one holding penalty from losing), the Chiefs buckled down, found a way past their injury concerns and hit the efficient stride that took them to the playoffs last year. That efficiency should be enough to pull this upset, but I think it’ll hinge on a handful of plays that decide a very close contest.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start’em

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Blair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST

Sit’em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Knile Davis, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Any Baltimore Ravens RBs (wouldn’t be shocked if each got 10 carries)
Steve Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (in my experience, this much hype usually leads to letdown. beware.)
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Garrett Graham, TE, Houston Texans
Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots (as long as you call pull a waiver wire kicker with a better matchup)
San Fransisco 49ers D/ST

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TMD-B

What is going on? Seriously, what? Go to sleep, NFL. You’re drunk.

NO Fins NO!

I really have no words for what I’m seeing here. The Chiefs essentially beat us with 5 yard passes. They didn’t have to do much of anything else; we provided the poor offensive effort, the lack of motivation on defense, the poor coaching. The embarrassment of losing to a team on the ropes in our home stadium is still settling in. Hopefully it passes by the time we’re beating the Raiders in London.

Did I just jinx us?

Bench Tannehill. Maybe it’ll wake him up. Too much potential (and time in the pocket) to be performing so poorly.

What is going on?

So much. So little of it makes sense. September in the NFL is essentially 32 auctions being played out…all at the same time.

The chaos. The madness. The stuff we live for.

As it was happening, you almost couldn’t believe how good the Falcons were on Thursday night.

Until you realized how bad Tampa Bay were, and are. In that context, 56 doesn’t necessarily seem like a ridiculous score. But it is, and was.

Kudos to Devin Hester, a record I don’t think we’ll see broken for a long time. Especially if he pads it a little more before he hangs it up.

Sunday provided me so many “wat.” moments that I haven’t been able to keep tabs on them all. These stick out:

-The Bills losing. I know they’re good enough to beat the Chargers, they just didn’t play like it.

-Baltimore beating Cleveland. How many more games before the fight is kicked out of the Browns? And how are the Ravens going to handle not having Dennis Pitta for another season?

-Green Bay scores seven. I don’t care if they’re playing the Seahawks in Seattle, this isn’t an offense you expect to play like that. Aaron Rodgers seems to be calling out the playcallers and gameplanners in post-game comments, and for good reason; but as I’ve been saying all along, this isn’t a great team and most people can’t seem to understand that. I just thought the defense was the sole reason why…

-Did the Raiders really come one bad holding call from beating the Patriots?

-Expected outcome in New Orleans, but did my fantasy TE (Kyle Rudolph) need to end up injured? There’s voodoo in that city. Nobody wants to talk about it, but it’s there.

-Whatever happening in the Giants-Texans game, makes no sense. None of it. Except Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing three INTs. That makes perfect sense.

-Redskins have their franchise quarterback. A steal in the 5th round.

-St. Louis are now officially bottom-dwellers in the NFC West. No more talk about how much fight they have. You can’t close out the Cowboys? You can’t win any moral victories. Ask Jerry Jones, he knows.

-What is wrong with the 49ers? Is it just the injuries? I can’t tell.

-Broncos-Seahawks. What a game.

-Really, Carolina? Really?

Jets. Haha.

Weekly Awards

Sike! You thought that was all I had to say?

What else is going on?

Well, the way things are shaping up, no team is really making a strong claim for being the best in either conference.

Except for the Bengals.

Yes, the Bengals. After three games, they’re averaging somewhere around 28 points for and 11 points against. Their defense held those 56-point Falcons to 10. They’ve manhandled teams, outperforming them in all three phases. I want to see what better competition does against ’em, but right now, Cincinnati hosts the best team in football.

What’s that, Seahawks fans? Well, you can’t lose on the road. It’s not beneficial. You’re still the team to beat in the NFC if I was forced to pick one, but there’s this team in Philadelphia who haven’t lost yet…

What’s that, Broncos fans? Well, you’re not nearly as dominant as you were in 2013. Not yet. Once your defense starts to click (which is happening more and more each week) and your offense finds balance and the ability to dominate like they can, you’ll be in good shape. Great shape, actually. Superbowl shape. But if the Bengals are for real…you’ve essentially got the Seahawks of the AFC in your way. That defense is no joke.

What’s that, Patriots fans? You just came a play from losing to the Raiders. I don’t want to hear anything out of you.

What’s that, Eagles fans? Play four quarters and put a better defense on the field, and then we’ll talk. Still, 3-0 is 3-0.

What’s that, rest of the NFL? Good luck.

Why Doesn’t Kev Speak On The Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson/Roger Goodell/Non-football situations in the NFL?

Because I’m not qualified, and neither are 90% of the people doing so. I have opinions, but I choose to reserve them to conversations. This is a format for discussing the game, not the mistakes, smart choices, etc, of NFL employees away from the game. But, if you want a quick summary, I’ll give it to you. Just this once. Probably just this once.

-Ray Rice should be in jail. Let him back in the league after he serves his time and shows Michael Vick-level repentance.

-Adrian Peterson should be in jail. Let him back in the league after he serves his time and shows Ray Rice-level repentance.

-Roger Goodell should be in…his house, watching someone else doing his job. I’m talking a temporary leave of absence, self-imposed, to allow league executives to format a better disciplinary policy without his interference. These decisions should never rest with one man. Especially not this man. He’s proven his incompetency numerous times, so let’s just call it like it is and do something about it. Sound good? Of course not. Makes too much sense.

Weekly Awards

For real.

QB Of The Week: Captain Kirk (Cousins). Sharing it with his opposite, Nick Foles. Both played their hearts out and solidified their positions as their team’s starting QB going forward. I just think Kirk did a little more, considering his situation.

RB Of The Week: Nobody ran harder than Rashad Jennings did for the Giants. 170+ yards is tough against a solid defense, and he was the catalyst (along with Houston’s turnovers) in giving the Giants a rare and needed win.

WR Of The Week: Andy Dalton. Hey, did you see that catch and run for a touchdown? Yeah, yeah. I know, it was one play. But we’re allowed to have a little fun here, aren’t we? Otherwise, this goes to Julio Jones, and that is boring in comparison.

Offensive Line Of The Week: If you saw the Steelers game, you know who gets this award. Dominant against a dominant defense. It’s easy to give props to the Giants, whose patchwork line managed to mostly maintain to the point of attack against a strong Texans front seven. Honorable mention to the Chargers’ front five for doing much of the same against the Bills.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Whatever the Packers did or did not do on their way to one measly touchdown, the Lions’ D were all over the place. Watching LB Stephen Tulloch tear his ACL while celebrating gives them a bit of comedic edge in this category, as well. Good job, brah.

Goat Of The Week: Officiating crew, Jets-Bears. They absolutely took a win from the Jets. This sort of performance deserves more than back-room reprimands and a drop down some list nobody ever sees. It deserves demotion.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Mike Tomlin and the rest of Pittsburgh’s staff had to right the ship after a bad loss against division rival Baltimore, and they called a wonderful game against the superior Panthers. It starts with gameplanning, and the Steelers had as good a plan as any this week.

What’s Next

Giants-Redskins will be better than most Thursday Night games. Tune in.

Packers are struggling. The Bears are banged up. Who wins? Who indeed.

Things will get violent in Baltimore as the Panthers come to town. Steve Smith has been ready since he left Carolina.

Dolphins lose, and I’m writing them a very stern letter. Wouldn’t be the first time.

San Fransisco better put their game face on. Seriously, this time. I mean it. Time to be one of the best teams in the league, fellas.

Because one of the best teams in the league is coming.

I’m on the record early: The Cowboys will upset the Saints.

On A Side Note…

I’m still playing fantasy football. I remember talking about this last year, so here’s my roster right now:

QB: Matthew Stafford (Lions)
RB: Monte Ball (Broncos), Trent Richardson (Colts), Khiry Robinson (Saints)Darren McFadden (Raiders), Bernard Pierce (Ravens)
WR: Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Julian Edelman (Patriots), Vincent Jackson (Buccaneers), Andre Johnson (Texans)
TE: Kyle Rudolph (Vikings), Ladarius Green (Chargers)
K: Dan Bailey (Cowboys)
DEF: Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons (Bye-week replacement)

Analysis: I’m 2-1, losing this week due almost exclusively to Matthew Stafford blowing it against the Packers. On the surface, this roster is a mixed bag. Looking deeper…it’s a mixed bag. So far, Bryant has been my most consistent performer. He and Edelman give me a solid 1-2 at the position. Obviously, my RBs leave something to be desired, and I’ll be looking to make a trade here this week or next. Rudolph’s injury leaves me weak at TE for the immediate future, so I may have to scour the waiver wire there. Otherwise, I like this team. I wasn’t able to draft it, so I have to pat the nfl.com auto-draft system on the back. A better RB option instead of Andre Johnson/Vincent Jackson would have been nice, though.

Until next week…I leave you as I was left at the end of Week 3:

Mfw+two+front+page+posts+in+a+row+are+about+_a4bf4567d5cf6f779da19f4fd8c7e886

Week 3 Primer (2014-2015)

JJ WattJJ Watt is primed! Your turn!

Week 3 Picks

Buffalo 27 – San Diego 20

A long trip across the country to a city that is suddenly hostile territory…disadvantage: San Diego. While the Chargers have proven themselves capable, and not everyone is buying the Bills’ fast 2-0 start, I think the travel time and atmosphere in Buffalo will be the tipping points in this close matchup.

Cincinnati 30 – Tennessee 7

There isn’t a defense in the league playing better than the one in Cincinnati so far this year, and the Titans just don’t have the firepower to do anything about it. Meanwhile, a balanced offensive attack will continue to pay dividends for a Bengals team who looks to maybe, just maaaybe…taking the next step.

Cleveland 23 – Baltimore 16

Three divisional games to start the season is rough, almost too rough. While the Ravens have broken even throughout the first two, they now head into Cleveland for their third. The Browns have been tough so far, and if they put up the same fight in this game, I don’t think Baltimore will match it.

Green Bay 34 – Detroit 31

Games that smell like shootouts, look like shootouts, are as often not as they turn out to be as they appear. This game, however, I’m willing to bet on being a high-scoring affair. If the Packers want to maintain course in a crowded NFC North, these are the games they must find a way to win; road divisional matchups. I think they can, but that has more to do with the inability of the Lions in closing out tough games.

Indianapolis 34 – Jacksonville 24

Now we’re beginning to see how borderline the Colts really are. Andrew Luck can work miracles, but this team is going to struggle going forward if they can’t find balance across the lines and defensive playmakers. Still, the Jaguars should be a good rebound for the more talented Colts.

New England 38 – Oakland 13

Raiders fans will reminisce on happy memories of the Tuck Rule game because, hell, at least they were competitive back then. Dennis Allen is on his way out in Oakland, and whoever comes in is going to inherit a mess.

New Orleans 35 – Minnesota 23

For the 0-2 Saints, a home game is looking to be just what the doctor ordered to salvage their season before it slips away. For the Vikings, they just have to hold on and hope Matt Cassel can limit the four-turnover mistakes he made last week. Or, maybe they don’t have such hopes, and want rookie Teddy Bridgewater out on the field ASAP. This game could be the catalyst for such a change.

Houston 28 – New York 10

The Texans are playing smart football so far, running the ball and holding strong on defense. This formula will work against the lesser teams in the league. Teams like the Giants.

Philadelphia 24 – Washington 23

Nobody is paying much attention to how well the Redskins have been playing defense so far, but the Eagles will get a course in it this week. Granted, Philly could easily add 10 points to my projected score just by giving Darren Sproles a few more touches, but I like this one being close all the way to the end. I just don’t think Washington is ready to win this sort of game.

St. Louis 23 – Dallas 17

DeMarco Murray will see his numbers increase steadily this week, but the Cowboys’ offense could be rendered one-dimensional with the Rams’ pass rush and a handful of turnovers courtesy of Tony Romo. Given 3rd string QB Austin Davis’ successes against a decent defense last week, I think he’s more than capable of beating what Dallas will line up in front of him.

San Fransisco 31 – Arizona 24

This is a statement game in the NFC West. While the Cardinals have overcome a wide variety of adversity (off-field issues, injuries, etc) to start strong at 2-0, the 49ers have been definitively inconsistent at 1-1. I’m putting my money on the team with the better track record of recent successes, but this one is going to be a battle and worth watching.

Miami 30 – Kansas City 20

I think Knile Davis, in place of Jamaal Charles, is going to have some success in Miami this week. I don’t think, however, that Alex Smith will. As Kansas City continues to deteriorate, the Dolphins can bounce back with a strong home showing after losing in all phases against a divisional foe last week.

Seattle 34 – Denver 28

A lot of people have been talking about this game. Not sure why. Superbowl rematch or some such hullabaloo. All jokes aside, the Seahawks are the better team right now, so I’m picking them. It’s as simple as that. If Peyton Manning manages to find his groove against the defense that borrowed it for four quarters back in February, it could go the other way. I think the real key here is how much more explosive Seattle’s offense is becoming, and how the Broncos much-talked-about revamped defense isn’t quite ready to keep up.

Carolina 27 – Pittsburgh 9

The Panthers are looking very strong after two games. The Steelers, not so much. In Carolina, on Sunday Night, the Panthers will show up looking to make a statement. Lately, when they do this, the results are in their favor.

New York 24 – Chicago 21

I don’t like all the injuries the Bears are accumulating. This is the blood in the water that the Jets can and, I think, will use to their advantage on Monday Night. Remember, they (the Jets) were a confusing timeout away from possibly upsetting the Packers last week. So long as Rex Ryan and his sideline don’t step on their own feet, they have as good a chance to upset the Bears.

(That wasn’t a Rex Ryan-likes-feet pun. At least, it wasn’t intended to be. Was it?)

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ’em

Geno Smith, QB, New York Jets
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers (Or Johnathan Stewart, flip a coin)
Khiry Robinson, RB, New Orleans SaintsMike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphiins
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Martellus Bennett, TE, Chicago Bears
Caleb Sturgis, K, Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cody Parkey, K, Philadelphia Eagles
Seattle Seahawks D/ST

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TMD-B

The “R” in RG3 now stands for Rubber Legs. Rubber Legs Gimp the Third.

No Fins No!

As you may have seen in my primer, I predicted this loss, but I certainly didn’t predict the ineptitude of the Dolphins. We showed up like a high school team whose best players were sleeping on the bus. The injury to Knowshon Moreno? Just mixing that with the insult of a pathetic showing. This team has, after two weeks, looked exactly like their 2013 version: capable of beating anyone, capable of beating themselves just as often.

Ambulance!

The early games on Sunday looked like a fast-paced run through a hospital ward. Griffin’s gumby-legged pogo jump that dislocated his ankle, while certainly disappointing for Redskins’ fans and Griffin himself, was hilarious. Watching Moreno’s elbow dislocate wasn’t funny. Desean Jackson’s shoulder is now located somewhere near his esophagus.

Then the injuries continued.

A.J. Green stubbed his toe on his other toe, or something. Jamaal Charles’ high ankle sprain is the latest in a series of injuries that, if I had to venture a guess, have come due to the Football Gods decreeing last year’s Chiefs to have been too big for their britches.

What are britches?

Anyway, there were a lot of high-profile players wearing braces, walking boots, Ace bandages, ice packs, toe slings and riding golf carts. But that didn’t get in the way of some good football…

Why Should I Care About Johnny Manziel? Why Shouldn’t I Care About Kirk Cousins?

Honestly, folks. Let’s start with number one:

Manziel, the offseason equivalent of a Paris Hilton sex tape (back when she didn’t have a collection of them), was put into a close game against one of the best teams in the NFL (not that their record shows it so far, but still, they’re good) for no apparent reason. Comments from coaches and starting QB Brian Hoyer lead you to believe that the team has such packages in place “in case they’re needed”. Why, Cleveland, did you deem it “needed” to put in your rookie, backup QB for a few plays when the balance of a pivotal game had yet to be decided? Even if Johnny-College-Football made something happen (which he didn’t, handing off twice and throwing a short and very poorly timed pass before riding the pine again), you’re essentially asking for a mistake. That the Browns managed to win, on the quick eyes of Hoyer and a well designed pass play, might be a sign that the aforementioned Football Gods are done with their childish bullying of Cleveland.

At least for one week.

Now, on to Cousins. The Redskins’ offense, with Rubber Legs Gimp, is a stagnant, uncoordinated thing. He’s still playing scared or at the very least tentative about his prior injuries, and now you’re adding another leg issue to the mix. Right now, especially after seeing the results the Kirk Cousins-led offense had (Jaguars comments notwithstanding), I have to say that Captain Kirk is the man for the job. Whether or not Rubber Legs is healthy.

Also, can someone please remind the offensive coaches that they have one of the best and most durable running backs in the league on their roster? You know, in case they forget again in the future? Maybe stick a post-it to Rubber Legs’ helmet.

These Games Showed Me Things…

The Ravens went from lost to found quicker than the eye could really process, but I have to remember that Joe Flacco looks pretty damn good at home. The whole team does; but they need to improve their overall consistency. Such a key word in football, consistency. No wonder I use it so much.

Pittsburgh will still be trouble.

The Panthers just won back-to-back games I didn’t think they had it in them to win. I won’t be underestimating them anymore, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re a great team. Close enough, though. Close enough.

And with the Saints sitting at 0-2, the Falcons unable to beat a good defense and the Buccaneers not realizing the preseason is over, Carolina has a fast track to the division title.

Cincinnati would look to be the team to beat in the AFC North. They are, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the division manages to beat them at least once this year. Still, awesome job shutting down Matty Ice and the Falcons.

No amount of Adrian Petersons saves the Vikings from the wroth of a 0-1 Patriots team. Well, maybe 53 of them might have, but cloning isn’t legal. Yet.

53 Adrian Petersons. Hide yo kids…

…I’m kidding. Leave Adrian alone.

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The Chargers beat the Seahawks. Doesn’t Richard Sherman owe a team a steak dinner or a bunch of medals or something? Oh, and let’s stop this “Sherman was exposed” nonsense, shall we? He’s not good enough to be talked about in such ways. Good, damn good, but his mouth is what you’re all attacking. Have the common sense to say so, hmm?

How about them Chargers, though? Antonio Gates, father time is on vacation.

The Broncos are concerning me. They let a dying Chiefs team stay in the game. These aren’t the world-beaters we saw last year.

Wes Welker will be back soon, though. Oh my.

Too many pundits have been claiming the Packers as one of the best teams in the league. They’re not. Not even close. But they can be. They just need to, you know, win games more convincingly. A win is a win is a win, but the Jets were rolling over the Pack for much of the game. Too-smart-to-be-wrong ‘experts’ need to lower the Packers in their power ranking. Just a little bit.

What the hell happened in San Fransisco? I watched it, but I’m still not sure. Is Brandon Marshall just that good? Yeah, he is. But the Bears defense? That isn’t supposed to happen, is it?

The Colts were robbed, but they still look suspect, giving the slow-start Eagles a chance to lift off in the second half. Chip Kelly is starting to look like the NFC’s version of Bill Belichick, with savvy halftime adjustments and instilling the will to win in his players. It’s impressive, without a doubt. Imagine what they’re going to look like when they start playing four quarters…

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Philip Rivers. Legion of Boom? Meet the Boomstick.

RB Of The Week: Darren Sproles. When LeSean McCoy says he’s been the 2nd best back on his team this year, you look at the other guy and you say, “you must be good”. Sproles is more than good, and he just showed that last night.

WR Of The Week: Sammy Watkins, welcome to the NFL. You’re going to be one of the best. Antonio Gates, keep on keeping on, old-timer.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Chicago Bears. Give Cutler time, and he will prosper. Good showing also by the Chargers and Browns. This one can easily be split three ways.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: The Lions were one Jed Collins’ broken tackle from possibly being shut out. That doesn’t happen. None of it, not even Jed Collins catching the team’s only touchdown. Who is Jed Collins? Doesn’t matter. Props to the Panthers defense, who might actually be better than they were in 2013. Scary stuff.

Goat Of The Week: Richard Sherman. He really didn’t give up much at all, but when your mouth writes checks…you know the rest. Dude needs to be publicly humble every so often. His behavior after this game was not an example of such.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: It would be easy to give this to Mike McCoy. So easy, in fact, that I’m giving it to him. He figured out the Superbowl champs and put his team in position to do the rest. But, kudos to Doug Marrone (Buffalo) for sitting at 2-0 and beating two good teams in the process.

What’s Next

I know the Dolphins can beat these Chiefs. I know it. But will they? Oh, will they? Somebody say yes.

The Redskins found their stride against the team everyone finds their stride against, but will that stride match the Eagles’? I doubt it, but it should be fun to watch either way.

I know they just got blown up, but the Vikings-Saints matchup has intrigue written all over it. Peterson will most likely be playing, and if Cassel can avoid throwing four more interceptions…well, the Saints haven’t beaten anyone yet.

Ravens-Browns. Packers-Lions. San Fransisco-Arizona. Divisional fun. These games will be close ones, and worth keeping an eye on constantly.

Oh, I heard the Seahawks are playing the Broncos, too. I think it’s a rematch of last year’s Superbowl or something. Should be decent.

riversface

Week Two Primer (2014-2015)

Cameron WakeCameron Wake is primed. Your turn!

As average as it gets for yours truly in week one action, I now sit at 8-8 on the year so far. Time to rub the crystal ball with a little more conviction…

Week One Picks

Buffalo 27 – Miami 23

This has been a rough matchup for Miami in recent years, regardless of how the two teams finish their seasons. It seems winnable for Miami in particular because of the huge win over the Patriots they’re coming off of. Of course, that’s also priming for a letdown. I’m leaning towards the latter.

Detroit 20 – Carolina 14

In time, I expect the Panthers to look similar to the 2013 version that won the NFC South. However, I smell a bit of an upset here in Carolina. The Lions may have mystified me based on their porous competition (Giants) last week, but the whole team looked like a team for the first time in years. That sort of effort, with their talent, can be a threat to any other in the league.

Cincinnati 33 – Atlanta 20

The Falcons shocked a lot of people with their inspired play against the Saints last week, myself more than most. I still think they’re a team with holes, particularly in the running game and across their defense. The types of holes a better Bengals team, at home, can and should exploit.

Cleveland 27 – New Orleans 24

Upset of the week, perhaps? The Saints are not as steady on the road, and that does factor into this decision, but what’s more vital to this matchup is how energized both teams will be coming off of near-wins against divisional foes last week. That, plus Cleveland’s home field advantage and progressing offense, equals a possible upset that I’m banking on.

New England 30 – Minnesota 24

With or without Adrian Peterson (I won’t be touching that story, don’t worry), I couldn’t see the Vikings getting past a motivated and embarrassed Patriots team this week, even at home. I do think, however, that Minnesota will keep it honest and show more of the fight that allowed them to blow out the Rams last week.

Arizona 30 – New York 13

I think we all need to get used to seeing the Giants struggle. Unlike years past, they simply don’t have the personnel to rise above the competition. It’s no slight of Tom Coughlin or new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, just a bitter fact that teams like Arizona are going to give us examples of during a long, long year for Giants’ fans.

Tennessee 33 – Dallas 26

It’s not difficult for a veteran team like the Cowboys to correct mistakes, but it is difficult for a defense as bad as theirs to correct a talent deficiency. The Titans beat a depleted-yet-better-than-Dallas team in Kansas City last week, and they’re on the right path. Look for a similar outcome, but with a little more work out of Dallas’ offense.

Washington 24 – Jacksonville 17

I gave serious consideration to flipping a coin before realizing that Washington has too much talent to lose games like this. Of course, all that talent means nothing when turnovers become routine. If Washington can fix that, and get RG3 playing more confident, they’ve still got a chance this year. This would be as good a time as any to get the ball rolling (or not rolling, in this case).

Seattle 31 – San Diego 21

The Seahawks looked way too good against the Packers for me to think a road trip is going to hurt them, especially not one down the coast. The Chargers have the ability to pull off the upset, but Seattle has the ability to nullify that, and one outweighs the other too much to pick it any other way.

Tampa Bay 20 – St. Louis 13

The offensive drought in St. Louis will continue against a stout Buc defense. Beyond that, this is going to be a messy game by all indications, something akin to last week’s Jets-Raiders mashup.

Denver 34 – Kansas City 17

Last year, a fit and talented Chiefs team looked to take their division away from the eventual AFC Champions. They couldn’t win either game, and this year, the Chiefs are sinking fast while the Broncos are just a’rollin’ along. They’ll keep rollin’ this week.

Green Bay 40 – New York 24

This is going to be ugly. While the Jets boast a tremendous front seven, the Packers boast Aaron Rodgers, who treats pressure like a bothersome fly. New York doesn’t have the firepower to keep up, and the Packers’ defense is already more dynamic with Julius Peppers taking pressure off of Clay Matthews. Geno Smith is going to feel the heat.

Houston 17 – Oakland 13

JJ Watt puts up about 10 dynamic plays; sacks, blocked passes, maybe an INT or forced fumble. He pretty much wills his team to victory. Again. The Raiders have a long, long way to go. Derek Carr doesn’t look too bad, though.

San Fransisco 28 – Chicago 17

With the possibility of Brandon Marshall AND Alshon Jeffery missing or at least being limited in this game, almost all hope of the Bears pulling off the upset goes up in smoke. I’m not 100% sold on this 49ers team yet, but starting 2-0 while waiting for core players to return from injuries is certainly huge.

Philadelphia 38 – Indianapolis 31

Offensive onslaught. Both ways. Neither defense has the bodies to cover one another, so this comes down to clever Chip Kelly playcalling, keeping the ball out of Andrew Luck’s hands early and often enough to pull out a close, exciting one. Fantasy owners: sit the defenses, start everyone else.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ‘Em

EJ Manuel, QB, Buffalo Bills
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (No brainer perhaps, just don’t want to see anyone get nervous about the matchup.)
Giovanni Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills
Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers
Denver Broncos D/ST

Sit ‘Em

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Charles Clay, TE, Miami Dolphins
Martellus Bennet, TE, Chicago Bears
Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons
New York Jets D/ST

Thursday Night Special

NFL_Thursday_Night_Football_logo_1379353641_full
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore, MD

My Pick: Pittsburgh 24, Baltimore 20

What I See Happening: I won’t buy into the distraction factor of what’s going on in Baltimore, since I truly don’t believe most professional football players let this stuff get in the way of doing their jobs. That being said, Baltimore tripped over their own feet too often against the Bengals, yet still managed to keep it close in the end. Their lack of a sustainable running game will allow the Steelers to play a one-dimensional defensive game, while Ben Roethlisberger should find success against the Ravens in the middle of the field. That, coupled with a solid running game, will give the Steelers another big divisional win.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB: Joe Flacco is the most overpaid player in the league, regardless of position. He’s essentially Carson Palmer, and with the protection issues Baltimore displayed in week one, he should be pressured into a bad game. Roethlisberger, on the other hand, has always been the better passer and looks more athletically fit this year than in recent seasons. His ability to stretch plays will put at least one touchdown on the board.

RB: Le’Veon Bell is quickly looking like a stud for the Steelers, while the Ravens lack a permanent fixture. Bernard Pierce is capable, and last week showed us that Justin Forsett can offer a solid change of pace, but this team is lacking punch across the offensive line. Both teams may find some success on the ground, but Bell should easily be the leading rusher.

WR: Torrey and Steve Smith are formidable, and Dennis Pitta is a threat and constant target for Flacco, but Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown is simply the superior at the position amongst both teams. Beyond him, Markus Wheaton and TE Heath Miller provide ample targets. The matchup here is close, but I’ll give the edge to the team who suits up the best WR: Pittsburgh.

Offensive line: The Steelers’ line isn’t exactly a group of worldbeaters, but compared to Baltimore, they’re more than suitable.

Defensive line: Pittsburgh keys off of their linebackers, but their defensive line performed well in week one. Baltimore has more beef up front, and more talent, so I’ll give them the nod on this one.

Linebackers: The Steelers continue to produce excellent talent at the position, and few teams can match what they’ve got at the moment. The continued growth of rookie Ryan Shazier is going to be fun to watch. Baltimore has skill here as well, but Pittsburgh is a linebacker machine that keeps going and going and going…

Secondary: I’ll take the young legs in Baltimore’s secondary over the old guard in Pittsburgh, although either of these situations could result in big plays in the passing games of each team.

Special Teams: Jacoby Jones is dangerous when he can bring down a kick, and the Ravens have the edge in kicking with Justin Tucker. Don’t discount Antonio Brown’s ability as a punt returner, though. Especially if an opposing player finds himself being jump kicked.

Fantasy Start/Sit

This matchup is always difficult for fantasy owners. On one hand, both teams have major potential at certain positions. On the other, all that can go out the window with the way these teams go at each other. That being said, I’d sweep the waver wire before I started either defense, simply because of the aforementioned uncertainty.

Owners should start Le’Veon Bell without prejudice in any matchup. Roethlisberger is worth rolling the dice on, as is Antonio Brown. For the Ravens, I’d bench Flacco (and consider dropping him altogether if it’s feasible) and give Pierce, Steve Smith and/or Dennis Pitta a moment’s consideration.

TMD-B

Your friendly neighborhood Tuesday Morning Double-Back is…back. Huzzah!

Go Fins Go!

As is tradition here at KTN (or at least it was until I stopped doing it last year. Never again.), we’ll start the proceedings with a few words on my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins. I proclaimed they would win and take no credit for the prediction as I felt our chances were as slim as Tom Brady’s significant other. Alas, after a porous first half that our defense managed to keep from turning into a total rout, Knowshon Moreno took the team on his back, Cameron Wake made two pivotal strip-sacks and Ryan Tannehill found his stride in a 33-20 victory of momentous proportions. This is the type of win, against your most difficult division rival, to open your season, that teams can use as fuel for a notable fire going forward. The Dolphins, after one game, are better than they were at any point in 2013.

Catching Our Collective Breath

There wasn’t a game (okay, maybe the Jets-Raiders didn’t exactly burst off the screen) that didn’t grasp my attention on Sunday.

Since so much took place (and when doesn’t it seem like so much on kickoff weekend?), I’m going to break down the performances in tiers from “outstanding” to “time to worry”, in terms of how well (or not so well) the teams did in their victories (or defeats).

Outstanding

Not to continue to toot my own horn, but it cannot be overstated that the Dolphins, in beating the Patriots, started the season on an unbelievably high note. Losing Dannell Ellerbee for the season is probably going to hurt, and losing fellow LB Koa Misi for an unknown length of time won’t help either, but the backups played soundly and the confidence level of this team has to be high after one game.

It was a few days earlier, but the Seahawks simply manhandled one of their toughest conference foes on Thursday night. The Packers had moments, but so few and far between that the Seahawks looked like they had actually improved since winning the Superbowl last year. Frightening.

I made mention of the Buffalo Bills being a breakout candidate this year, but I simply didn’t see it coming in Chicago against a Bears team that has as impressive of an offensive arsenal as any team not playing in Denver. Buffalo’s overtime victory came from a team effort, which is exactly what has been missing from the Bills for the past…20 years? If they can maintain this level of play, no one on their schedule will be unbeatable.

This is borderline outstanding, but the Steelers are working with a somewhat fresh slate from 2013, despite many of the same names across the roster. Their disappointing campaign last year led many to believe them in a decline, while the Browns, with big offseason/draft acquisitions and a new coaching staff, seemed to be in an upswing. Pittsburgh controlled most of the 60 minutes in this game and should only be concerned with allowing the Browns to make a game of it down the stretch. No small concern, but still, a big divisional statement for a team many had written off before the first whistle blew.

Considering what they had to work with, and lacking their superstar QB, the Carolina Panthers went back to basics against an improved Tampa Bay squad on Sunday. Relying heavily on their stable of running backs and a potent defense, Carolina maintained ball control, got some solid work from backup QB Derek Anderson and continuously disrupted the Bucs’ offensive plans. The score doesn’t quite tell the story of this game, but like the aforementioned Steelers, the Panthers cannot allow their competition to stick around after tossing them around for the majority of a game. Hopefully the return of Newton and their dedication to full balanced football can keep that from happening with regularity.

 

Oh, and the Falcons beating the Saints? Biggest upset of the week. Hell of a game, great outcome for Atlanta, and that’s all I have to say about that. For now…

Solid

It had the potential to separate two good teams into one very good team, but last night’s Chargers-Cardinals bout ended up asking more questions than it answered for either squad. Still, despite the struggles of two potent offenses, the Cardinals proved they could stay efficient and still play solid defense despite the offseason losses, suspensions and injuries. They’re still in play in the NFC West so long as they can close out games like this, but some more punch would be nice to see.

The Rams’ inefficiencies on offense kept me from including the Vikings’ blowout victory in the ‘Outstanding’ category, but I do believe this is an excellent taste of what their future opponents are going to have to deal with. A much more stout defense under the wing of head coach Mike Zimmer, and an explosive offense directed by OC Norv Turner. Very early, it seems that Minnesota has a real shot at taking the NFC North.

This goes to both teams, as the Broncos managed to stifle any last-second Luck Magic while the Colts managed to keep the game respectable towards the end when it was anything but for three and a half quarters. Indianapolis has an uphill climb with the recent news of Robert Mathis’ torn Achilles, but they showed heart on defense and held a powerful offense within range of their own. That counts for something. The Broncos, on the other hand, should have played better, and get this spot mostly for the win and also for the potential that their new defensive acquisitions showed. Once that defense comes together, it might be game over for the rest of the AFC.

They Were Who We Thought They Were

In victory, the Bengals, Texans, Titans, Jets, Eagles, 49ers and Lions won games they should have won, so nothing overly spectacular there. In the case of the Bengals and Titans, their opponents were worthy on paper but simply didn’t show up to offer much competition.

Despite their losses, the Packers, Saints, Patriots, Browns, Colts and Chargers are very much capable of bouncing back. The Browns in particular showed incredible resiliency for a young squad, and should continue to improve going forward.

Time To Worry

The trouble in Baltimore doesn’t begin and end with the Ray Rice fiasco, as anyone who watched their stumbling effort against their biggest divisional threat can attest. The Bears need to be concerned about the potency and mistakes of their offense under Jay Cutler, who still seems to be able to look elite and horrible in the same game, sometimes in the same offensive series. The Redskins have no excuses for their embarrassing efforts against Houston, and if they’re going to turn it around, it has to start with Robert Griffin III not playing scared. Because he still is.

The Chiefs are literally falling apart before our eyes. It’s going to take some very crafty coaching from Big Red to keep that ship afloat.

The Raiders kept it respectable, but the Jets did them some favors, and neither team can count on such things every week to help them along.

The Jaguars looked incredibly sound for two quarters, and then reverted to their old selves in a 34-0 second half. It’s hard to be optimistic when you perform a 180 of that magnitude.

The Rams are offensively challenged.

The Cowboys are just challenged. In every way imaginable.

The Bucs were playing against a great defense with a new offensive scheme and new pieces, but something about their performance over 4 quarters rubbed me the wrong way. It was almost as if they couldn’t decide how, or why, they wanted to win…until it was too late.

The Giants, after one game’s worth of ineptitude, have the look of a 2-win squad.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: Matty Ice is back in black…and red.

RB Of The Week: Knowshon Moreno. Put his offense on his back and willed them to victory. Miami hasn’t had a running back do that since Ricky Williams wasn’t sampling the world’s varieties of marijuana.

WR Of The Week: I’m giving this to Megatron because, well, he deserves it. But a very honorable mention to Percy Harvin, who is still as terrifyingly good as he was a couple of years ago.

Offensive Line Of The Week: Minnesota Vikings. You mean, nobody on the Rams recorded a sack? That doesn’t happen much these days. Kudos to the league’s most underrated O-Line.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Buffalo Bills. Holding the Bears to 20 is no small feat, and the Bills’ defensive line were everywhere, while their secondary came up big when it counted.

Goat Of The Week: RG3. Watch him, and realize, he’s tentative, indecisive, and at this point, the 2nd best QB on the Redskins roster. When you were paid for with three years’ worth of top-tier draft prospects, that is 100% unacceptable.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Chip Kelly. Totally manhandled after one half, Kelly, I imagine, instilled calm, confidence and an entirely new gameplan for his Eagles and the results were on the scoreboard by the final whistle. With Chip, you feel the Eagles can never fall too far behind as long as there’s time on the clock.

What’s Next

The Ravens have a fast turnaround against another divisional foe as Pittsburgh comes to town on Thursday night. With all the Ray Rice drama swirling, coach John Harbaugh is going to have to get his team centered and forgetful about their disappointing loss on Sunday…fast.

The Dolphins are going to face a test against a Bills team they’ve struggled against in recent years.

The Jaguars and Redskins will compete to see who can make the most mistakes and still win a football game.

In possible bounceback game, can the Cowboys, Patriots, Saints, Chargers, Packers and Bears rebound against solid competition?

Answers: No, Yes, Yes, No, No, No. Check the schedule for all the reasons you need.

Falcons and Bengals is going to be a good one.

Eagles and Colts should be even better.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen many, many things in my years of watching NFL football, but I’ve never seen someone get kicked in the face. At least, not in the way Antonio Brown kicked Browns’ punter Spencer Lanning while returning a kick. It looked like a scripted scene from an action movie, and it will be thankfully revisited by multiple sports media outlets for weeks.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersFLAWLESS VICTORY.

The first week of an NFL season tells us things. Some of these things are sweet lies, some are bitter truths, and some are just simple facts that you have to accept. You know how to figure out which is which?

You watch 15 more games.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?