TMD-B (Late Edition)

We’re still experiencing technical (sleeping) difficulties here at KTNFL, your patience is appreciated.

No Fins No!

Well, this one stung. I didn’t expect it to be as competitive, for starters. Once I was invested in the possibility (and eventually, the high probability) that we would win, what occurred in the last few minutes of this game blew my mind. Blown coverages. A patented Dan Marino fake-spike play by Aaron Rodgers (the insult!), the last-second winning touchdown…

This one stung. But it brings me closer to accepting something that part of me is still reeling against; we need to change the scenery on the sidelines. Joe Philbin is most likely on his way out. In his place? I’m prepared to go on the recruiting trail for Bill Cowher. Who’s with me?

Smile Like You Mean It

Plenty of teams (and/or players) who aren’t the Dolphins have reason to smile after week six. Not one as much as the Dallas Cowboys, who undeniably just put their “for real” stamp on the NFL by beating the defending NFL Champion Seahawks in their own home. The 12th man were stunned by the outcome, even if it was a closely fought contest throughout. This is the house where Russell Wilson isn’t supposed to be frustrated, where Marshawn Lynch isn’t supposed to be limited, where the defense isn’t supposed to be exposed. All of that happened, though, and in the process the people who were living under a rock while Dallas rolled are finally catching on: these Cowboys are for real, and they might be the team to beat in the NFC going forward.

If you’re the Colts, you’re smiling. If you’re J.J. Watt, you’re smiling somewhere down below the frustration of having to play on a team that has too many question marks and too many expiring stars to really compete. Why Ryan Fitzpatrick is still the starting QB is either an indictment on Ryan Mallet or Bill O’Brien, and none of us can know which it is while Fitz continues to start, and struggle.

The NFL experts are, once again, praising the Browns. Why? They beat a Pittsburgh team that can’t get out of their own way offensively and are so unbalanced defensively that the stereotypical “Steel Curtain” mentality we all have regarding the unit simply doesn’t apply anymore. The Browns beat an average team, proving themselves above average: which is where they’ve been since the middle of last year. I do believe they’re on the upswing, but in the AFC North, they’re lucky to not be basement dwellers.

Speaking of that illustrious division, are the Bungles back? It certainly seems so. Vontaze Burfict has some ‘splainin’ to do. Twisting people’s ankles on purpose, bro? You should be ashamed. Cincinnati? I feel for you. I thought this was the best team in the NFL but, after being blown out by the Patriots and dropping the ball (or missing the kick of the ball) against the Panthers, I’m having doubts.

Oh, the Ravens are looking good. Really good. The Buccaneers are occasionally a good scrimmage for opposing offenses, and Joe Flacco took advantage with four (!) first quarter touchdown passes, and five in the first half.

Smile, Joe. You earned your pay check for a change.

In my primer for this week, I made a bit of an off-hand comment about Tony “We Want Field Goals!” Sparano not being able to change the direction of the cellar-dwelling Raiders. Well, he stripped things back and allowed the young talent on his team to shine. Even in defeat, a close game against an opponent like San Diego has to be something to at least subtly grin about.

Who is smiling in New York? We both know I’m referring to both teams here. First, the Jets? I can’t help but enjoy the collapse, but in all fairness, it’s hard to watch. This is a team with zero identity, few emerging prospects and so many glaring holes on their roster that nobody not named Rex Ryan has to be sick to their stomach when they see this team take the field.

And the Giants? How do you get shut up by the Eagles? That’s not a defense capable of shutting anyone out, but they did, and Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoobeedoo and Eli “Afraid Of Birds” Manning should be ashamed.

Get well soon, Victor Cruz. Nothing left more of a mark this weekend than watching his injury, and his reaction to it. I have literally felt that pain, and it’s not pretty.

Don’t Talk To Me About These Teams

Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Minnesota, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, St. Louis.

While I never thought all of them would be able to compete for a playoff spot this year, I certainly expected more from each after six weeks. Perhaps not even in terms of wins and losses, just general competitiveness. The Steelers are losing games on their own, the Bills are still in the hunt but look to be trending in the wrong direction. The Vikings are building something special, but 2014 isn’t going to be the year it all comes together, while the Bears have built something great that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. The Falcons are 90/10 offense/defense, a recipe for failure. The Redskins are…god, what are they? How can a team have so much talent and so little to show for it? And St. Louis? Jeff Fisher is turning them into the Tennessee Titans of the NFC; a nondescript team with decent expectations, the ability to live up to them once a month, and no actual identity or name power. The defensive line that was supposed to be their foundation? What’s been happening there?

Don’t talk to me about these teams. Posers in contender’s clothing.

Hey, Lions Fans, R.E.L.A.X.

I doubt Aaron Rodgers would extend to you the same courtesy he did to Packers fans, you need to understand that, barring something unforeseen, your kicking issues have been solved. Matt Prater is one of the best, he just needs to regain his form. Nobody seemed to notice the 50-something yarder he hit between his deep misses. I doubt Alex Henery could even have hit the upright on that last miss.

So, relax about your kicking. You’re in good hands. You’d better start worrying about your offense, though. There’s no reason why Calvin Johnson should be the catalyst for all their other talent to succeed, but somehow he is. Until they learn to live without him, or with a lesser version of him, the Lions are going to struggle to keep up when their defense can’t do what they’ve been doing. It’ll happen sooner or later.

Either that, or they’ll be winning 16-10 games until they find themselves in the playoffs.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: He put on one of his once-every-blue-moon clinics, so Joe Flacco has to take this however much I hate to give any overpaid player props. Kudos to Kaepernick’s big game, as well.

RB Of The Week: Welcome back, Shady. Welcome to the NFL, Brandon Oliver.

WR Of The Week: Lots of outstanding performances this week, but if you tuned in Thursday Night, you already had your winner. T.Y. Hilton, if you weren’t aware. You should have watched it.

Offensive Line Of The Week: This is at least the second time they’ve won it, but never have they deserved it as much. The Dallas Cowboys kept DeMarco Murray rolling, kept their pocket clean and basically held their own against one of the toughest fronts in football, in the toughest place to communicate in football. No unit in the league had a better performance this week than the Cowboys’ O-line.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: You want to give this to the Eagles, don’t you? They really did play inspired against an offense that, before Sunday Night, had put up at least 30 in three straight contests. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the outstanding performance of the Houston Texans’ D, which is also known as J.J. Watt.

Goat Of The Week: Mike Nugent, dig a hole and don’t come out until your next in-game kick. Even then, come out slowly, asking everyone around you “is it safe?” and “are you still mad at me?”

Coaching Performance Of The Week: Jason Garrett? Sure. Rod Marienelli? Oh, yeah. The Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator is the unsung hero of this powerhouse team. This guy is on his way to a head coaching job.

What’s Next

Thursday Night gives us the Jets and Patriots, a game where the unfortunate trend of early-week blowouts should continue. I’ll watch it, of course. I rarely miss a game regardless of the teams playing. But I’d be lying if I said the real draw here is to see the Jets fall a little deeper into a pit of despair…muahaha.

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Come Sunday, we’ll have a bounty of intriguing matchups to observe. Some that are less obvious than others.

At one, the Titans travel to Virginia in a battle of incompetency and lowered expectations. Should make for a close one, at least. The Seahawks have a road game that, even against the Titans of the NFC, might be tough on them. Actually, what am I saying? This team isn’t going to take losing too lightly. If you have Seahawk offensive players on your fantasy team, start them. Start all of them.

The true highlights of the early games are the Colts hosting the Bengals, the Bears hosting the Dolphins and the Lions hosting the Saints.

The Colts have started to cement their “for real” status, but beating the Bengals will be their biggest achievement so far this year. Cincinnati needs to get themselves back on track now, or their hopes at another divisional crown might slip away.

I’m not promoting the Bears-Dolphins game out of simple fandom: these two teams match up extremely well and both have struggled despite having a solid base of talent to work with. Miami’s rushing attack may control the game, but the quick-striking Bears could run away with this in their own way. It’s going to be an exciting game for any football fan.

I think it’s going to happen, and if it does, I’m afraid of what might start happening behind closed doors with the Saints. They’re already a step or two from a failed season; this game is going to be one tough nut to crack, against a Detroit defense that is suddenly capable of dominating at will.

Later on Sunday, the Chiefs and Chargers will meet up and try to lay claim to which team is the 2nd best in the AFC West. But, later that night, the best team in the AFC West will have their work cut out for them when they host the 49ers.

Monday Night’ game has little intrigue, but the possibility has been talked about in regards to Jadaveon Clowney returning to Houston’s lineup. With or without him, watching J.J. Watt dominate opponents never gets old, and I honestly believe he can tip the scales of games by himself. He shouldn’t have to against the Steelers, but with Pittsburgh at home and Houston’s ineptitude elsewhere, he might have to.

Enjoy the games! And remember, when in fantasy doubt, start any defense playing the Jets, any QB playing the Jaguars, and any kicker not playing for the Lions.

I know, I know. Just kidding. Only about the last bit, though.

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Week Six Primer (2014-2015)

camPretty Pretty Morning!

Cam Newton is primed. How about you?

Week Six Picks

Cleveland 27 – Pittsburgh 24

With Pittsburgh fresh off a bye and Cleveland coming off a narrow victory in Tennessee, I want to think momentum and morale will play a small part in a Browns victory. These Browns aren’t that great, but their trajectory is clearly upward. The exact same thing could be said about the Steelers, so in this tight contest, a bit of bye week rust, a bit of comeback win confidence and home field advantage are the deciding factors.

New England 23 – Buffalo 17

The Patriots have, historically, had a hard time against the Bills. For some reason, I see the trend continuing, even though New England are coming off of the type of win that can change the entire forecast of a season. Buffalo are also riding a victory into this one, and are playing host, but I think some of the fight is back in the Pats, and these are the games they need to win to take a weak division.

Cincinnati 30 – Carolina 20

Last week had to shake up the Bengals who, for the first month of the year, were playing like the best team in the NFL. Maybe it serves as a reminder. Maybe it serves as motivation. Maybe it’s just on to next week, on to Carolina (to paraphrase the Hood). The Panthers bring a resilient team to town, a team that isn’t lying down in the face of injuries and inconsistency. This is going to be a hard-fought win for whomever takes it…I’m putting my money on the Bengals. From here on out.

Jacksonville 28 – Tennessee 24

Sooner or later, the Jaguars are going to put a full game together and beat someone. While it’s hard to think they’ll be able to do it on the road, the Titans are just the team to take advantage of right now. A loss is a loss is a loss, but the way Tennessee lost last week, combined with injuries to key players (Jake Locker, Bernard Pollard), is most likely going to take more of the small glimmer of hope they had. Now, the Jaguars must pounce, for pride if anything else.

Green Bay 34 – Miami 25

At some point, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were bound to find their stride. The past few weeks, I think, have seen this happen. Now, as they take a long trip into a home situation that rarely seems to motivate this particular home team, I think they’ll continue to accumulate solid wins. The Dolphins will fight, and may even be able to keep this close for awhile, but I cannot see them pulling off an upset of this magnitude.

Minnesota 29 – Detroit 20

No Calvin Johnson? Check. Teddy Bridgewater is back? Check (I think…might want to actually check). Either way, I like the Vikings at home, and there are many reasons. The foremost? I just checked, and Bridgewater is set to go. If he continues to play like he did in his first start, he’s the answer the Vikings have been looking for at the most important position. That, in and of itself, gives this underrated team the ability to compete. Detroit, while playing great defense, are offensively stunted with injuries, and those injuries are going to hit them the hardest when Megatron takes the bench.

Denver 40 – New York 10

Traditionally, Rex Ryan somehow finds a way to make these games competitive. The Jets struggle, lose to lesser teams, then they show up big time against big time opponents. Only, this Jets team is so void of discernable talent and so shaky even where they’re supposed to be strong that I don’t think they have it in them to put Ryan’s inspirational tactics into action. Denver has a long trip, but they’ll enjoy the flight home.

Baltimore 26 – Tampa Bay 21

Oh, you don’t know how badly I want to reverse this one. This is exactly the type of game the Ravens seem destined to struggle in; the type where you see little reason for them to struggle in. They’ll struggle, but I’m going to say they still win, if not for their own efforts then for the lack of effort of their opposition.

San Diego 41 – Oakland 17

What’s to say? It probably will be a bit closer, but if anyone thinks Tony Sparano (or any other possible head coach in all possible scenarios in all possible universes) is going to turn this ‘team’ around, they’re simply delusional. The worst ‘team’ in football will be lucky to win a game this year. This won’t be their lucky game.

Atlanta 33 – Chicago 21

The Falcons are the epitome of the dome team; great under their own roof, good under other team’s roofs, average the rest of the time. If the Falcons are great, there aren’t many teams that can keep up with their offensive attack. I think the Bears might be able to…but then again, they’ve barely been able to maintain their own attack in the face of injuries Jay Cutler’s old bad habits resurfacing.

Seattle 27 – Dallas 17

No, I won’t pick against the Seahawks at home. If this was in Dallas, you could flip the prediction for me, but it’s not, so this is what it is. The Cowboys are playing so well that, if they keep this as close as I think they will, I’m actually…kinda…almost…willing to concede a patented Jerry Jones ‘moral victory’ in their loss. And you don’t know how hard it is for me to concede anything to that man.

Arizona 20 – Washington 10

Redemption. The Cardinals went through the ringer last week, and so did the Redskins. But only one of these teams is accustomed enough to it that they were overheard laughing and generally being in high spirits in the locker room afterwards. I’ll give you one guess on which team that was. I think Washington makes a game out of it, but if Carson Palmer gets the start, I’d tack on another touchdown or two to the final tally.

New York 28 – Philadelphia 24

When two solid offenses and suspect defenses meet on the same field, the easy projection is ‘fantasy football heaven’, ‘scorefest’, things like that. Only, these two teams are going to be so fired up that those suspect defenses are going to make things tough for the first half or so. Then the lid should come off, and in the end, I’m going to go with my gut and say the Giants pull off an upset that will have the analysts talking about them all week.

San Fransisco 31 – St. Louis 23

I can’t figure either of these teams out. The 49ers, by now, should be a clear-cut contender…they’re not, but they’re heads above the Rams in that category. The home field might shine some positive light on St. Louis’ chances, but the experience and skill of San Fransisco should win out. Maybe this game will help he get a bead on either team…but I doubt it.

Fantasy Start’Em/Sit’Em

Start ’em

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens
Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Andrew Quarless, TE, Green Bay PackersBlair Walsh, K, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings D/ST

Sit ’em

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (Tough call…make a switch if you have a better matchup elsewhere)
Matt Asiata, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears (one more week…one more week…he’ll be back)
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions
Niles Paul, TE, Washington Redskins
Robbie Gould, K, Chicago Bears
Baltimore Ravens D/ST

Thursday Night Special

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Note On Thursday Night Games

So far this year, Thursday Night contests have been decidedly one-sided, something I’ve seen being used as reasoning against the league scheduling them at all.

Well, I don’t see it that way. At least, I don’t think they need to be completely removed from the schedule. Why? Well, let’s look at this season’s slate of Thursday Night games so far.

-Week 1, Seattle 36. Green Bay 16

There can be no complaints about lack of prep time for this one, since it was the kickoff game for the entire league. What’s more, we’ve seen that the Packers started slow and are just now hitting their stride, while Seattle simply hit the ground running. Travel considerations also don’t cut it for this week, for the same reasons as not having time to prepare.

-Week 2, Baltimore 26, Pittsburgh 6

This one isn’t even close to having any reason to argue against TNF. Pittsburgh had a short trip, the same amount of time to prepare as the Ravens, and simply played a bad game against a team who are better coached and prepared on a weekly basis, historically speaking.

-Week 3, Atlanta 56, Tampa Bay 14

Superior opponent who matched up favorably against a Buccaneers team who had a short trip, the same amount of time to prepare, and simply laid down for most of the game. This is a sign of poor coaching and player preparation. Thursday Night games are, in and of themselves, tests of team’s ability to condense their normal schedule. Some teams are taught to do it better than others. No reason to condemn the games because of this.

-Week 4, Giants 45, Redskins 14

See Week 3. This was the first Thursday night game won by the away team, but that can’t be much of a surprise when you consider who was playing at home.

-Week 5, Green Bay 42, Minnesota 10

Another short trip, another case of a better team with more established coaching habits beating a less experienced, less talented team.

So, ultimately, Thursday Night games are not in and of themselves broken in any way. Some teams have proven to be able to take the short work week and prepare better than others, which shouldn’t be seen as anything different than some teams preparing for Sunday or Monday night contests better than others. The prime-time slots are not friendly for some, and ideal for others, and yet nobody is clamoring for these to be eliminated.

No, the only issue, the only real problem that TNF has, is that the games are not played in neutral territory. The way I see it, there are enough Thursdays in the regular season for all 32 teams to get one. Now, what if each TNF game was played in a predesignated spot that makes both teams have to travel, eliminating some of the home field advantage while making a compartmentalized version of a football game that could be played in many areas of the country (or even in Mexico, Canada, England, etc) that don’t have easy access to a ‘home team’. Example: Week one. Seattle and Green Bay meet halfway, which would conceivably be somewhere in eastern Montana. How many NFL football games do you think fans in Montana get to attend in a given season? They border one state that even has an NFL team (Washington, Seattle Seahawks) and even then, they’d have to traverse nearly the entire width of Washington to see them.

This proposal makes too much sense. That’s why the league either hasn’t considered it, has considered it and disregarded it, or will take another five-ten years before implementing. It achieves their goals of spreading their brand, it eliminates the only part of TNF that can be unfair to either team by making travel time an equal hassle for both. It’s the perfect way to do it.

So there. And here:

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Indianapolis Colts Vs Houston Texans
Houston, Texas

My Pick: Indianapolis 30, Houston 17

What I See Happening: Yeah, another blowout. Only, I think the first half is going to be hotly contested, perhaps ending with Houston leading. But, at some point, I see the dam breaking and the Colts offense riding the resulting wave to a win. Believe it or not, the Colts are actually playing better overall defense than the Texans, but Houston is giving up about 4 less points per game on average (17 to 21). The problem Houston will have in this game, beyond stopping Andrew Luck and company, is that their offense is essentially one dimensional. Arian Foster is required for them to do anything, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is as likely to throw a game away as he is to throw for a first down. I give Houston plenty of credit for fighting and winning close games, but if the same Colts that beat Baltimore last week show up for this game…there won’t be room to fight and win a close game.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB: Where Andrew Luck is an answer to the question of a franchise QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick is an answer to what don’t you do when looking for one. His starting is without a doubt the most baffling QB decision made this year, and the Texans will be hamstrung by him until he’s on the bench or off the team altogether.

RB: A healthy Arian Foster, as we saw in weeks one and five, is still one of the best backs in the business. While they’re not being talked about, the Colts’ combo of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw have been providing excellent balance to their offense. The advantage here is hard to see either way, but I’ll take two solid options over one excellent one any day of the week.

WR: Andre and DeAndre are a capable duo, but Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton are slightly more capable at this point in their careers. At tight end, Garrett Graham is not getting the targets or the production of Indianapolis’ Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener immediately gives the Colts an impressive duo which most teams can’t match.

Offensive line: I like both, but the experience across the Texans’ line is somewhat more enviable. Still, no clear-cut superior unit between the two. I do know that the Texans’ line has to do more, with a less mobile QB and more dependence on a running game they’ll need to control the game and have any chance of winning.

Defensive line: Well, we all know one J.J. Watt equals out to one Indianapolis defensive line, so there’s not much more to say.

Linebackers: Neither group has been overly impressive, but I like some of the younger talent both groups bring. More so for the Colts, with Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden emerging to provide some needed pass rush.

Secondary: While the Colts’ backfield played extremely well last week, I still think Houston has the edge here. Neither team has much at the safety positions, but Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are a high-end cornerback duo that Houston can depend on.

Special Teams: Tough call. Neither team gets much from their return units, but kicking and punting are about equal. I like Vinatieri’s reliability and veteran presence, but I also like Randy Bullock’s big leg. Pat McAfee is leading the league in punting, but the older Shane Lechler is still capable.

Fantasy Start/Sit

Andrew Luck cannot be benched unless he’s hurt. He’s proven that. However, you might be inclined to bench Bradshaw and/or Richardson, and I’d tell you to hold your horses. The Texans are giving up 132 rushing yards per game on average, so there’s definite room for these two to produce. Start Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen with confidence, as well.

For the Texans, you’re starting Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins and maybe throwing up a prayer that Andre Johnson will give you an old-fashioned Andre Johnson type of performance. I have him on my squad and I’ll be seriously consider starting him all the way up to kickoff…

First Quarter Power Rankings (2014-2015)

As it was, so it is again. Each quarter of each season will bring with it my own personal Power Rankings. What readers need to remember is what these rankings reflect and, more importantly, what they don’t. Namely:

-They DO reflect how each team has performed since the beginning of the current season
-They do NOT reflect future projection, last year’s results, or anything else. At all.

That being said, here’s where I rank ’em so far:

1 – Cincinnati Bengals

There are currently two undefeated teams in the NFL. Each has only played three games due to early bye weeks. The Bengals, and the Cardinals. Since I grade these teams based on what they have done, their body of work up until this very point, the record is only one piece of the puzzle. Winning is just about everything, sure, but how convincing those wins are means just as much in my book. When it comes to winning convincingly, playing top notch football in all phases and dominating the opposition, the Cincinnati Bengals are the best team in the NFL right now.

2 – Arizona Cardinals

I know, I know. “But what about their competition?” “What about the fact they’ve only played three games?” “What about…uh…they’re the Cardinals for crying out loud!”. Well, the Cardinals, right now, are playing like the NFC version of the Bengals. While not as potent offensively, they’ve been managing games with a backup QB, a banged up running back and a retooled offensive line. What really shines is the defense, a unit that has given up only 45 points in three contests. Almost as impressive as Cincinnati’s D, only giving up 33 points in the same span of games. As the Seahawks proved last year, a dominating defense can still win championships in today’s offensively-biased NFL. Not losing a game so far is a great start to proving it all over again.

3 – San Diego Chargers

I must admit, this is not how I envisioned these rankings to go when the season started. I’d have laughed at the thought of the Chargers being the best team in their division, let alone the 2nd best team in their conference and, in my estimation, one of the three best in the league. But look at what they’ve done so far. They opened the season with a narrow defeat at the hands of the Cardinals, and have only gotten better. They hosted and exposed specific weaknesses in the Seahawks’ game, and followed that up with giving the then-undefeated Bills their first taste of defeat. Add in an expected blowout of the lowly Jaguars, and you see a team that is prepared to win the tough ones and, unlike some other squads, shows up in the same fashion against lesser opponents as well. The hallmarks of a great team.

4 – Dallas Cowboys

I spent a lot of time with all of my rankings, but I have to admit, this one gave me the most pause. I had to remind myself (more than once) of what I’m basing this on, and what I’m not. If we’re being honest, we’re looking at a team who at the very least is the best running team in football, with a defense that is either overachieving or has finally found a solid foundation without any of the playmakers we thought they needed after last year’s fiasco. At the most, they’re capable of beating anyone when they hit their stride…something I don’t think many of us expected them capable of before the season started, or after their opening embarrassment against the 49ers. But they’re undefeated since, and have done so with a well-rounded attack in all three phases.

5 – Baltimore Ravens

No team in the NFL has had a tougher schedule over their first four weeks. Three straight divisional games followed by hosting a tough (yet struggling) Panthers team. The Ravens couldn’t best the Bengals, but showed their dominance against Pittsburgh and Carolina and resilience against Cleveland. I have concerns about Baltimore when they’re on the road, but what they’ve done is what they’ve done, and it speaks for itself. So far, Steve Smith appears to be the most significant offseason acquisition that any team made this year.

6 – Seattle Seahawks

For the most part, they’re 6th and not 7th because of their victory over #7. They’re still ranked this high because, despite one loss, they’ve looked excellent and more threatening with a healthy Percy Harvin and a seemingly more capable Russell Wilson taking more pressure off of a great defense.

7 – Denver Broncos

Tough call between last year’s Superbowl contestants. I think the Broncos have played better overall football than the Seahawks so far this year, but I can’t justify ranking them ahead of Seattle simply because they (Denver) lost the rematch in week 3.   It’s easy to overlook Denver because they’re not the same dominating force they were for almost the entire 2013 season, but they’re still beating solid competition and doing it in somewhat unfamiliar ways.

8 – Detroit Lions

Now these rankings get difficult. Honestly, 8-12 could easily be argued as backwards, just right, off slightly, etc. But, since this is my judgement, I think the Lions are the 8th best team in football as of today. They’ve played better football than anyone ranked below them, even though the competition hasn’t been that great. Their win over the Packers is the deciding factor in ranking them here, as it showed the world a defense that is truly coming into its own. Their offense has been surprisingly low-key in comparison, but winning is winning and Detroit is (mostly) doing just that.

9 – Philadelphia Eagles

Oh, they’ve looked flat-out bad at times this year. Like, bottom of the barrel-bad, especially with their performance against the 49ers in week 4 and their inability to fire on all cylinders until the 2nd half of their first three games. Buuuut, they’re 3-1, came within a touchdown of beating the 49ers without actually scoring an offensive touchdown, and have, for the most part, played the type of football required to match up against anyone. It’s anyone’s guess regarding the future…but again, we’re not considering that here. So far, they’ve been as good as their ranking indicates.

10 – Houston Texans

Shocking. Their competition hasn’t exactly been…competitive…and their offense has some serious question marks, but the Texans are playing great defense, overcoming their mistakes and have that tough, underdog mentality that usually a terrible season can give to a club. Beating the Redskins, Raiders and Bills aren’t exactly huge accomplishments, but being 3-1 certainly is.

11 – Buffalo Bills

God, this is getting harder and harder. The wheels look like they may be ready to come off of the Bills’ solid start to their season, due to injuries and bizarre coaching choices, but I can’t say any other 2-2 team has looked better this year. Their defense has added steel with new DC Jim Schwartz at the helm, and the combination of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller along with the steady emergence of rookie wideout Sammy Watkins has given their offense some needed punch. Their two wins were big, and their two losses I believe are more of a hiccup than a truly damning sign of a team that doesn’t have what it takes to compete.

12 – Atlanta Falcons

Has any time been more up-and-down after four games this year? A heartstopper win against the rival Saints? Great start. A back-to-earth loss against the Bengals? In retrospect, not necessarily a shocker. A huge rebound against the lesser Buccaneers? Not overly impressive, but very much needed. But losing to the Vikings? That’s where the Falcons drop a bit in my estimation. That game, more than any other, exposed glaring defensive holes that more teams than most people realize are prepared to exploit; namely, playing bend-but-don’t-break and still breaking when enough pressure is applied. They’ve been great, they’ve been terrible, but overall, they’ve got the look of a competitive squad. They just have to cover up their flaws a little better.

13 – Kansas City Chiefs

I had to reassess my early thoughts on this team after their last two victories. In fact, it appears to me that, while not being the same squad that pushed the Broncos for the division in 2013, they’re still a very well balanced team that can dissect many of their opponents with extreme efficiency. That begins with Alex Smith, but it goes much deeper. Their running game is obviously upper-end, with backup Knile Davis seemingly not missing a beat in replacing Jamaal Charles over a couple of games. Their defense is playing better than most people realize and, if you ignore their opening week baffler of a loss to the Titans, they have been playing solid football all around this year.

14 – Green Bay Packers

I’m ignoring their Thursday Night romp of the Vikings simply because these rankings are in judging the first four weeks of the season. That being said, the Pack have been obviously inconsistent but, recently, have started to show the qualities of a team that many people seemed enamored with before the year began. I wasn’t one of them, but I’m observant and decent enough to know where I was wrong. I saw a major slide in store for Green Bay this year: so far, they’ve slid only so much. As Aaron Rodgers told us, we need to R.E.L.A.X. And I suppose we should.

15 – Pittsburgh Steelers

I can almost forgive them losing to the Buccaneers. Almost. What the Steelers have shown after four weeks is an offense that has the capacity to do serious damage, and a defense that has the capacity to lose games. I’m not quite sure how the equation balances out, but four weeks into the season, I feel more confident about what they’ve done than the handful of teams who are seemingly as good as them.

16 – Chicago Bears

I don’t give passes to teams, but the injuries are depriving Chicago of a big part of their ability to succeed. Losing to the Bills was a shock, and losing to the Packers, although I expected it, was too convincing a defeat for me to hold Chicago in high confidence. But their victories showed me a team that can pop up and surprise just about anyone given the right conditions. One of those conditions has to be health, though, and until they get a handle on that side of things, they’ll linger in the middle of the pack.

17 – San Fransisco 49ers

This team is rubbing me in all the wrong ways this year and I can’t fully figure out why. Unfortunate holes in the defense are definitely part of the problem, but for the most part, their offense has looked stagnant and only capable of the occasional spell of high-level play. I don’t know whether it’s a mirage or the actual truth, but that’s forward thinking; as of right now, the 49ers are playing so far below their capabilities that they belong where they are in the grand scheme of things.

18 – Indianapolis Colts

They’ve lost to two good teams and beaten up on two bad teams. I’m not the type who looks at the latter and forgives the former. It all matters. I won’t start believing in the Colts until they prove they can defeat someone other than the Titans or Jaguars, the current whipping posts of a weak AFC South.

19 – New York Giants

Now, 19 and 20 may be the easiest positions to argue against in these rankings, so let me make this clear: the Giants have shown steady improvement over four weeks. The Panthers have shown the opposite. I’d rank New York a little higher, but the improvement has mostly come against teams that, considering the Giants’ potential on paper, they should be beating. That’s not to take too much from them, however. I just want to know, before taking them seriously, whether the offense is starting to click or their recent opposition is as bad as New York made them appear to be.

20 – Carolina Panthers

Two weeks into the season: So far, so good. Four weeks in: What’s going on here? Truly, I’m starting to believe the Panthers are taking a slide backwards for reasons nobody would have predicted at the start of the season: startlingly poor defensive play and a lack of healthy talent in their backfield. I think they can correct the slide, but the problems are mounting up very fast.

21 – Miami Dolphins

21 and 22 are where they are, and not reversed, because 21 beat 22. And that is, truly, how far either ranking goes.

22 – New England Patriots

See above. Also, I’m not nearly ready to jump on the “This is the end” bandwagon that’s circling the Patriots after one month. But that has nothing to do with how they’ve played so far. They’ve played like one of the lesser teams in the NFL.

23 – Cleveland Browns

As tough as I expected, but the results aren’t showing up in the win column. So far. The NFC North is, without a doubt, the toughest division in football once again, and the Browns are as capable of making opponents pay as the Bengals are…they’re just nowhere near as consistent about it.

24 – Minnesota Vikings

They’re 2-3. If we don’t count Thursday Night (which, again, we’re not), they’re 2-2. Beyond their record, I have a hard time putting them this high because they’ve been exposed in so many ways. What does give me optimism is Teddy Bridgewater and Mike Zimmer; one brings hope to a stagnant passing game and the other to a lukewarm defense. But, so far, the results are inconclusive.

25 – New Orleans Saints

Below the Vikings, you say? Below the Browns? Yes. This team is living up to their reputation as road-incapable, and they’re also playing abysmal defense. Two things we all thought they had cleared up in 2013. So far, it looks like we were all seeing ghosts last year.

26 – Washington Redskins

The way both teams look right now, do you think the Redskins and Rams might consider reversing the RG3 trade? When you think about it, wouldn’t it make a whole lot of sense for both clubs?

27 – St. Louis Rams

See above.

28 – New York Jets

The biased fanboy in me loves this. The subjective critic in me cringes every time I see Geno Smith with the ball in his hands. Can he improve? Maybe. But will the Jets wait around as long as they did with Mark Sanchez before they make a decision? The biased fanboy hopes so…

29 – Tennessee Titans

They managed to win a game, and they’ve been slightly more competitive in their losses than the…

30 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

…who have also managed to win a game, which is more than I can say about the…

31 – Jacksonville Jaguars

…who are really no better than the…

32 – Oakland Raiders

…who will lose to the bye week by at least 21 this week.

TMD-B (Late Edition)

Okay, now it’s all starting to make sense.

No, really. It is. The picture is coming into focus. The fog is clearing. The light is rising.

Just don’t think about Tampa Bay. Or New Orleans. Or New England, Buffalo, Washington, Carolina, Philadelphia.

Ignore all that.

Go Fins Go!

Far above my expectations, the Dolphins were at home in London and the Raiders were…well, there. I can’t take too much from this game beyond the W and some renewed confidence in Ryan Tannehill. Also a nice little caveat that we were the team to force the first head coach firing of 2014. Too bad that doesn’t count in the standings, too.

It Makes Sense

So, these apparent upsets? These games where the better team isn’t better for a game? Well, I’m starting to figure them out. After four weeks of truly unexpected outcomes in around half of the games, I’m on the case. Here’s how this week’s ‘upsets’ break down:

Pittsburgh Loses, Buccaneers Can’t Refuse Win

Head honcho Mike Tomlin summed it up perfectly during his post-game press conference. You cannot expect to beat anyone when you’re penalized so often. This only tells a small part of the story, however. This is a team in Pittsburgh, much like all the good-but-not-great teams that make up the vast middle of the pack of the NFL, that has a hard time balancing themselves out from one week to the next. Riding the high of the victory over Carolina, the Steelers were not only undisciplined, but simply unprepared to take a game they held by a thread for 58 minutes. The great teams will seal that deal, even if it is at the last second. The good teams will often find a way to lose their grip. I love the look of the Steelers right now, but I would expect them to lose four or five more games in similar fashion before the year is out. They’re getting there…

…and the Buccaneers are getting nowhere. Despite my claim of them being as bad as they appeared, they managed to win against a superior opponent. But, mark my words, this team is a handful of plays from disaster every single week. The margin for error is so slim that, save for a few pivotal defensive plays, they would have lost whether or not Pittsburgh tried to hand it to them.

Missing Pieces For Panthers, One Fits Nicely In Baltimore

First, and as usual, I’d like to admit I was wrong about Steve Smith this week. I couldn’t look past my gut feeling when it comes to hype and how it almost always leads to a letdown.

If, by ‘blood and guts’, Smith meant ‘yards and touchdowns’, he delivered both in ample quantities.

Smith’s invaluable assistance in balancing the Ravens’ offense is just one piece of their overall improved team this season. Likewise, Smith’s absence, while visible in a receiving corps that features rookie Kelvin Benjamin and not much else, is just one factor of the Panthers’ decline.

Looking at it in-depth, the defense just isn’t the same without The Kraken (Greg Hardy) on the line. I think the gaps in their defense run deeper, but they’ve been out-muscled and outplayed the past two weeks on that side of the ball, and you can only look at what they’re missing from last year to explain why this year is any different. Still might be an illusion, a hiccup, but I’m starting to doubt it.

The Saints…or the Aints?

This is tough to figure out. I predicted an upset at the hands of a Cowboys team who, I assumed, hadn’t forgotten the shelling they took in New Orleans last year. But, by the end of this game, it didn’t feel like an upset.

It felt like the better team had won.

I’m not sure I believe that, but what other choice do we have but to? Dallas is playing smart, efficient football, a revelation that suddenly seemed to dawn on them. The truth is actually much more simple: they’ve drafted and cultivated a formidable offensive line, which in turn is allowing DeMarco Murray to shine and Tony Romo has more room to operate. It’s a beautiful domino effect that may or may not be allowing the previously suspect defense in Dallas to play far above expectations so far.

Take all that, and compare it to what the Saints have done.

For starters (and perhaps in closing, too), Rob Ryan’s defense is not what it was last year. It isn’t even close. Why? I don’t know. Overcomplication, more of the same, new pieces not coalescing, young players not maturing. The reasons are not evident, but the results are plain as day depressing. On the other side, Drew Brees has no excuses. The offense looks almost exactly the same as 2013 (minus Darren Sproles, which I don’t think is enough of an excuse to justify their recent struggles). The running game is there, the offensive line is decent enough, just…I don’t know. It’s starting to make sense that the Saints are a poor road team. Hell, we’ve seen that for years now. But they can’t expect to be blown out of the water when they’re away from home and still achieve their long-term goals.

Doug Marrone Plays Politics, Achieves Nothing

There is zero justification for the benching of E.J. Manuel for Kyle Orton. Zero. In his second year, Manuel has made his share of mistakes…but he’s also made some excellent plays as well. This sort of balancing act is what most teams come to accept from young signal callers, as long as they see progress. We see progress, and so do they.

New ownership is shaking the system up at the worst possible time for Buffalo: when they’re close to being relevant again.

Marrone has taken responsibility for the QB change, but his reasons are ridiculous. Behind the scenes, I can only assume that Marrone and the management are concerned about their jobs, believe that winning now is the only way to keep them, and think Orton has more potential to make that happen. I think he does, too, but what happens when/if he doesn’t?

This is a bad situation that just didn’t need to happen. They’ve lost two in a row, but they’re still growing. They may have just stopped the growth of their most crucial piece.

Kirk Cousins…Cam Newton…Nick Foles…Oh no.

Three young, promising, talented QBs.

They all lost this week. Their teams helped, but not one of them helped tip the scales in the opposite direction.

Cousins looked the worst, throwing four interceptions, three of which were blatantly his fault.

Foles and the Eagles offense did less against the 49ers’ banged up defense than anyone could have predicted. It brought to mind last year’s shaky performance from Foles against Dallas. It’s something you don’t expect to trend, but hate to see. Unless you’re a 49ers fan.

Newton is so banged up right now, especially after this week’s game, that I’m not sure he should be taking the field. If the RB corps wasn’t a M.A.S.H. unit, I think the Panthers would be able to win without him. As it is, I don’t know if they can win much either way.

Patriots. Haha.

Let’s just hope it continues this way, shall we?

Alright. All bias aside, what’s going on in New England needs clarification. A week or two more of similarly terrible performances will clear things up. As it stands, I’m not ready to sign off on this team, and nobody else should be, either. They’re the high standard of NFL adaptability, and until they show otherwise, you can’t count them out.

But you can want to. You might have even wanted to for the past thirteen years of your life. Like some of us…

😦

First Quarter Power Rankings Coming This Week!

Yep, it’s that time already. First month of the year is in the books, and now we take stock of where the teams sit based strictly on what they’ve done so far. So, just for clarification and also an early taste of the rankings, don’t expect to see the Seahawks sitting at #1. They haven’t been the best team in the NFL so far this year. That much should be clear to anyone.

Oh, and kudos to the teams that won this week. Particularly the Packers, who needed it in the worst way and got it in the best way; within their division. R.E.L.A.X.

Weekly Awards

QB Of The Week: The NFC North doesn’t like to share, but Aaron Rodgers and Teddy Bridgewater both deserve it this week. The young Bridgewater looked excellent in his debut start, and Rodgers looked like Rodgers; the best QB in the NFL.

RB Of The Week: Welcome back, Jamaal Charles. It’s amazing how one man can plug a leaking ship, isn’t it?

WR Of The Week: Mr. Blood and Guts. Good show, old man.

Offensive Line Of The Week: The Cowboys might have the best offensive line in football. They certainly continue to put their stamp on opponents, doing it in particularly efficient fashion against the Saints this week.

Defensive Performance Of The Week: Many teams won on the strength of their D this week, but no team needed a better performance, and received it, than the 49ers. The Eagles went nearly the entire game without a single offensive snap on their opponent’s side of the 50 yard line.

Goat Of The Week: As if it was all Dennis Allen’s fault. He left the team in better shape than they were when he arrived, and sitting at 0-4, that’s saying something. Tony Sparano is going to celebrate field goals until he’s out on his ass, and if anyone actually thinks Jon Gruden is coming back to town at this point, they’re as delusional as Mark Davis is in not firing his GM.

Coaching Performance Of The Week: The Brothers Harbaugh share it this week. John laid out the perfect plan against the Panthers, and Jim inspired his team to a huge victory. The fact that Jim is actually being accused by some idiot who used to be a great football player (unnamed source who I can only refer to as “21”) of losing his locker room, after that kind of victory, is so laughable that I cannot believe media outlets have run with the story and were dumb enough to start questioning Niners players about it.

Who’s got it better than Jim? Noooooo….uh….somebody. Or somebodies. I don’t like the guy, but please, do us all a favor and…

4737458483_leave_him_alone_answer_2_xlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Next?

Tomorrow, the Vikings and Packers will meet up for the year’s best NFC North divisional matchup to date. Believe me, it’s going to be a good one.

Can the Panthers right the ship with the Bears coming to town? Can two ships be righted in one game?

Philadelphia should be able to bounce back smoothly against a struggling Rams squad. They damn well better, because my plate is full trying to figure out all these upsets and poor performances from (apparently) strong teams.

Same deal with New Orleans hosting the Bucs. You don’t lose at home against lesser talent, New Orleans. Don’t you dare…

I’m somewhat intrigued by the Texas bowl, being played in Jerryworld. I want to see if J.J. Watt can single-handedly stop what has been the best offense in the NFL for the past few weeks.

I don’t doubt it.

Ravens. Colts. Big stuff. Tune in.

Cardinals. Broncos.
Bengals. Patriots.

The winners of these two will instantly change perceptions and/or cement their standing. Bigger stuff.

Early condolences to Redskins fans.

kirkmanning

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

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:

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