Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 7

Saints / Colts
Wow! What is there to say about this 62-7 embarrassment that hasn’t already been said? Drew Brees pretty much does whatever he wants to do with the football, and Sunday night’s snoozer against the Colts epitomized that. Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Marques Colston. It’s unfair. The Colts? They’re pathetic.

Jaguars / Ravens
Speaking of pathetic, what a shitty showing by the Ravens offense. The Jacksonville Jaguars held you to 0 first half first downs. How do you not even accidently get one first half first down? The Ravens defense showed up, forcing a MJD fumble on seemingly every other carry, but they were upstaged by their Jaguar counterparts. I know this is the NFL and anyone can beat anyone, but that was absolutely ridiculous.

Falcons / Lions
Atlanta turned in a solid performance and looks to have avoided a major injury to Matt Ryan. They’re off this week and have a bye the following week in Indy. That’s two home losses in a row for the Lions. Stafford’s a little dinged up, and they’re heading to Denver, a place that’s never a cake walk for visitors.

Cowboys / Rams
Welcome to the NFL DeMarco Murray. Showing how easy it is to play in the NFL, Murray took his first carry of the game 91 yards for a the tone setting score. The rookie ended up with 253 yards on the day, breaking Emmitt Smith’s franchise single game rushing record. How Dez Bryant isn’t catching at least 8 passes for over 100 yards every game is beyond me. With his talent, he needs to see double digit targets weekly. I’m eager to see which Cowboys team shows up in Philly this Sunday night.

Packers / Vikings
Aaron Rodgers is unshakeable. You can’t watch him play without coming away impressed with the control he exerts over the offense and how smoothly he consistently leads his team down the field. I’m still waiting for James Starks to have that signature game where he really separates from Ryan Grant. It’s coming. Sure he got real familiar with Charles Woodson a couple of times, but you had to come away from that game impressed with Christian Ponder. They’re a substantially more threatening offense with him under center, and with teams now needing to respect the passing game beyond 15 yards, Adrian Peterson was able to do a lot more damage. See his 175 yards on 24 carries. Jared Allen continues to dominate. He now has 11.5 sacks in just 7 games.

Texans / Titans
I really didn’t see that ass kicking coming. Without their best weapon on both sides of the ball, the Texans went into Tennessee and laid a whooping on the Titans. Arian Foster totaled 234 yards from scrimmage on the day, smashing Chris Johnson’s pathetic 45 in a matchup of showcase backs. Matt Schaub was nearly flawless, and Matt Hasselbeck threw for a ridiculous 3.5 yards per attempt. Four Texans receivers tallied more yards than Tennessee’s top receiver. Houston looks to be back on track with three very winnable games ahead – v. JAX, v. CLE, and @ TB, while Tennessee is fading badly. How they play these next two weeks v. IND and v. CIN will say a lot about this team’s heart.

Jets / Chargers
There was a Shonn Greene sighting in this one. It was his first 100 yard game in over a year, so I’m not buying just yet. Sanchez again did just enough to not lose the game. After sitting out this week, the Jets will travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in a matchup to keep pace with New England. If the Chargers want to be taken seriously, they need to win games like this. Something tells me San Diego is going to lose at Kansas City on MNF. Philip Rivers doesn’t look right, but he says he’s not hurt. Stay tuned.

Bears / Bucs
The comeback was nice and all, but a narrow loss is a loss.  Here’s some Buccaneer word association:

Josh Freeman = sloppy, indecisive
Kregg Lumpkin = ineffective
Adrian Clayborn = improving
Rush offense = non-existent
Rush defense = more non-existent
Jackson-less secondary = unskilled

Bucs primary needs – CB, WLB, RB, S, RT, C, LG

Panthers / Redskins
No one is happier about Cam Newton’s development than Steve Smith. The veteran receiver put up his fourth 140+ yard game in seven contests. That’s amazing. If Jonathan Stewart is ever allowed to be the primary ball carrier this offense would be even more dangerous. John Beck didn’t flop in his first start as a Redskin, but losing both Tim Hightower and Santana Moss to injuries won’t help his development. Both teams have what I call “show me” games this weekend. Carolina will try and post consecutive wins for the first time this season against the Vikings while the Skins will look to stay in the NFC East race by beating the Bills in Buffalo.

Chiefs / Raiders
It’s tough to win a game without a player of Darren McFadden’s caliber, especially when your QB situation is as ugly as Oakland’s. Kyle Boller was awful, and Carson Palmer was rusty as hell. They combined for 6 interceptions, and their combined QB rating doesn’t break 40. Unless Palmer finds some game, this team isn’t going anywhere. Jason Campbell may not have been this team’s best player, but his loss may have the biggest impact of any other player on the Raiders roster. The Chiefs scored on two short runs and two pick sixes, so don’t go getting cocky Matt Cassel. He wasn’t much better than Palmer. I’m predicting a big MNF game from Steve Breaston this week. He’ll be lining up against a rookie first time starter, Marcus Gilchrist.

Steelers / Cardinals
Banged up or not, the Steelers had no business leaving Arizona with a loss. Ben Roethlisberger made sure that didn’t happen, throwing for 361 yards and 3 TDs. That secondary still can’t stop anyone, but the Steelers can’t like the fact that Rashard Mendenhall was only 13 for 32 on the ground. The NFL has its share of elite athletes, but Mike Wallace is really a joy to watch. The man is scary fast and separates better than anyone in the game. Kevin Kolb isn’t getting any better, and the Cardinals are no closer to having a franchise passer than they were before the season started.

Seahawks / Browns
275 combined passing yards in this one. Where’s the beef? Browns win a snoozer of two teams headed nowhere fast this season. Mike Tirico referred to this one as a pillow fight on MNF.

Broncos / Dolphins
What was worse – Tim Tebow’s first 50+ minutes of action or the Dolphins’ collapse? Only Tebow can look like garbage all afternoon and pull a win out of his ass to look like a savior. Losing Willis McGahee for at least a couple of weeks won’t help things.

Best and Worst

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Packers (1)
Impressively plowing through this season just like they did last year’s playoffs.

2 – Saints (3)
If you weren’t paying attention to them before last Sunday, you are now.

3 – Patriots (4)
Strong, needed win against the Cowboys helps reassert them in the division.

4 – Ravens (2)
That’s two brutal, inexcusable losses for the Ravens this year. Championship teams don’t lose those games.

5 – Steelers (6)
They’re not interested in pity, just Ws.

6 – Texans (NR)
They’re focused even without Johnson and Williams and just won the first of a possible five game streak.

7 – Chargers (7)
This is probably too high for them, and if they stumble on MNF on the road against the Chiefs, you’re looking at likely three straight losses after a game against the Packers.

8 – Bills (8)
I expect the Bills to come out of their bye focused and win their next two games, both at home, against the Redskins and Jets.

OUT – Lions (5)

Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Uh, that was embarrassing.

2 – St. Louis (5)
I just can’t make excuses for them any more. They’re bad.

3 – Miami (3)
Of these three pathetic teams, the Dolphins make me laugh the most. They’re inept offensively and are just a soft team.

4 – Jacksonville (2)
Bravo Jags for showing up on MNF. Where has that been, and will we see it again?

5 – Minnesota (4)
If they keep Christian Ponder under center, they’ll be off this list before Thanksgiving.

6 – Arizona (NR)
Winless since the opener, they get a pissed off Ravens team this Sunday. Enjoy.

7 – Denver (7)
Do it again Baby Jesus! Do it again!

8 – Seahawks (NR)
Their win against the Giants was a fluke. This is a average team with a low ceiling.

OUT – Chiefs (6), Cleveland (8)

Best Performances
Drew Brees (NO) – 27/31, 310 yds, 4 TDs, 147.9 QB rating

Aaron Rodgers (GB) – 24/30, 335 yds, 3 TDs, 146.5 QB rating
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – 26/39, 361 yds, 3 TDs, 121.8 QB rating
Matt Schaub (HOU) – 18/23,. 296 yds, 2 TDs, 147.7 QB rating

Arian Foster (HOU) – 25 carries, 115 yds, 2 TDs, 5 catches, 119 yds, 1 TD
DeMarco Murray (DAL) – 25 carries, 253 yds, 1 TD
Adrian Peterson (MIN) – 24 carries, 175 yds, 1 TD
Matt Forte (CHI) – 25 carries, 145 yds, 1 TD, 2 catches, 38 yds

Greg Jennings (GB) – 7 catches, 147 yds, 1 TD
Steve Smith (CAR) – 7 catches, 143 yds
Calvin Johnson (DET) – 5 catches, 115 yds, 1 TD
Marques Colston (NO) – 7 catches, 98 yds, 2 TDs

James Anderson (CAR) – 12 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 FR
David Hawthorne (SEA) – 11 total tackles,1 sack, 1 INT
Brandon Flowers (KC) – 3 total tackles, 2 INTs, 1 TD
LaMarr Woodley (PIT) – 7 total tackles, 2 sacks

Worst Performances
Carson Palmer (OAK) – 8/21, 116 yds, 3 INTs, 17.3 QB rating
Kyle Boller (OAK) – 7/14, 61 yds, 3 INTs, 22.3 QB rating
Matt Hasselbeck (TEN) – 14/30, 104 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 38.7 QB rating
Charlie Whitehurst (SEA) – 12/30, 97 yds, 0 TSs, 1 INT, 35.0 QB rating

Chris Johnson (TEN) – 10 carries, 18 yds, 6 catches, 27 yds
Rashard Mendenhall (PIT) – 13 carries, 32 yds, 1 catch, 5 yds
Daniel Thomas (MIA) – 19 carries, 53 yds, 2 catches, 0 yds
Ryan Mathews (SD) – 13 carries, 39 yds, 4 catches, 26 yds

Dallas Clark (IND) – 0 catches, 0 targets
Miles Austin (DAL) – 2 catches, 16 yds
Vincent Jackson (SD) – 1 catch, 15 yds
Santonio Holmes (NYJ) – 2 catches, 24 yds
Nate Washington (TEN) – 1 catch, 10 yds

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 6

I Can't Believe They Cancelled Charlie's Angels!!!!!

Really short version this week. I spent this past Sunday at the Bucs-Saints game, so my exposure to the rest of the league’s action was limited to tailgate tv, my iPhone, and evening highlights.

The Bucs were surprise winners in a game that was a lot more exciting than I expected it to be. Sean Payton broke his tibia and tore his MCL early in the game, and I definitely think that had a huge impact on how the game played out. Even on the in stadium replay, we couldn’t see who the coach was that got hurt when it happened and didn’t know until the game was over that it was indeed Payton.

I spent a bit of time focusing on Freeman – how he read the defense at the line, how he went through his progressions, and how/when he made decisions. Too many sideline passes are grossly overthrown. On the vertical (especially the crossing stuff) routes, his passes are this lollipop toss shit. His decision-reaction skills were awful at times, and he left a lot of opportunities on the field. It wasn’t all bad (nice hook up with Benn), but it definitely wasn’t his best performance. Nice to be able to beat a team of New Orleans’ caliber without having your A game.

Ronde Barber is so ineffective as a boundary corner. Teams look to feast on him every time he lines up out wide. He got torched not only on Colston’s TD but on the play before the TD as well. They want to keep him on the field, so we’re basically in nickel most of the time. He can definitely make plays around the tackles, but he’s really limited to that.

Tanard Jackson is a welcomed re-addition. He’s definitely not all the way back, but it’s good to see his athleticism back on the field.

Earnest Graham is the man. His better years are well in the past, but the man ran for over 100 yards and picked up some critical first downs against the Saints. The Bucs don’t win this game without his performance. 

I won’t get into detail on hearsay, but I heard some good things about Clayborn and Foster but really disappointing/discouraging things about Raheem, Freeman, and McCoy. If what I was told is even partially true, it’s safe to say the level of commitment is not consistent across the team. 

A 4-2 start is the opposite of the 2-4 start I was anticipating before the season. On paper, the record is promising, but what stands out to me is that the Bucs biggest win was a 7 point victory over the hapless Colts. I don’t think this is the kind of team that can continue winning close contests, so everyone needs to step their game up. We’ll see how the Bucs respond this week against the Bears team that showed quite a bit of life against the Suckasota Vikings.

Other Notes
Getcha some Jim Schwartz! I loved seeing that fire from the coach after the game. I heard a bit about what reportedly was at the root of the issue (for one, Schwartz’s preseason comments to Harbaugh about him not having a chance to win this year). This game needs some new rivalries, and I love this one. These two teams have a chance of hooking up again in the postseason, so stay tuned.

Losing Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone was a huge blow to the Raiders playoff chances, so they responded by going all in with a Carson Palmer trade. He has familiarity with Hue Jackson, and it looks like he’ll be the starter this Sunday against the Chiefs. I’ll definitely try to see as much of that game as possible.

Finally! McNabb was mcbenched for Ponder in the game against the Bears, and Leslie Frazier made the move permanent this week, saying Ponder is now the starter. More on Ponder when he actually plays some meaningful snaps, but I truly think this is the end for McNabb. He was never an accurate passer or a great decision maker, but his mobility has vanished as has most of the zip on his passes. It blew my mind when they signed him; knew it wouldn’t work. Less than halfway through the season, the experiment is over. Can you say – waste of a season?

Tebow time! I think he wins this week in Miami; just sets up well from a homecoming perspective. Baby Jesus always has a horseshoe up his ass too, so I have a hard time seeing this fairy tale not coming true.

Best and Worst

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Packers (1)
The machine moves on. Welcome to the league Christian Ponder!

2 – Ravens (2)
Is Blaine Gabbert going to beat these guys? Monday Night Football could get awfully ugly.

3 – Saints (3)
This past week’s loss wasn’t a fluke, but I don’t think it’s indicative of who this team truly is. After three straight road games, I think the Saints spank the Colts in the Superdome. 

4 – Patriots (4)
I’m still on sold on that defense, and something tells me they’re due for a slip up. They’re off this week and return with three tough ones - @ PIT, v. NYG, @ NYJ.

5 – Lions (5)
When I look back in a month, this might be too high for these guys, but there’s no reason why they can’t win their next four games – v. ATL, @ DEN, @ CHI, v. CAR.

6 – Steelers (6)
They’ve got to beat Arizona this week with New England and Baltimore looming. A slip up this week could be catastrophic. Look for another week of focus on the ground game with Mendenhall.

7 – Chargers (7)
I expect them to beat the Jets fairly soundly this week, but they’re still not a top tier team.

8 – Bills (8)
They have this week to heal up a bit but will need to come out of the bye firing on all cylinders to stay in the playoff hunt.

Worst Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Will be 0-7 after losing on Sunday Night Football to the Saints.

2 – Jacksonville (2)
They’ll get spanked too this week and are really 1a rather than 2.

3 – Miami (3)
The effort on this team drops every week. A loss to Tebow’s Broncos might just be Sparano’s fade to black moment.

4 – Minnesota (4)
Benching McNabb was a start. Putting together a complete game would be step 2.

5 – St. Louis (5)
Sam Bradford is now dealing with an ankle injury. How much worse will things get for the Rams? 

6 – Kansas City (6)
The winning streak stops in Oakland.

7 – Denver (7)
If starting Tebow was a step forward, dealing Brandon Lloyd was four steps backwards.

8 – Cleveland (8)
Peyton Hillis is now dealing with a hamstring injury. Greg Little is about the only thing to be excited about offensively.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 5


Do you believe yet? The Lions defense flat out destroyed the Bears offensive line in a game that was a lot closer on the scoreboard than the play on the field resembled. To beat these guys you’ve got to get an A game from every one of your offensive linemen. I don’t care if he’s got constant double coverage, but you’ve got to go Calvin Johnson’s way at least once in every series. The guy is arguably the most dangerous weapon in the game, and he only got 6 targets. Inexcusable. Jahvid Best busted loose for 163 yards on the ground including a huge 88 yard jaunt that effectively sealed the game for the home team.

The Bears have 99 problems, but Jay Cutler ain’t one. As much shit as this guy takes, he didn’t shrink one bit under the incessant Lions pressure. His line blows, and he rarely has more than two seconds to go through his reads. Matt Forte is the most important player on this team, and he added another 151 all purpose yards. Unfortunately, aside from some trickeration with Devin Hester, this guy is all Cutler has on offense. Julius Peppers sustained a knee injury during the game, and although he was able return to action, that’s a situation that warrants monitoring. Don’t be shocked if they lose to the Vikings this week at home, even with McNabb under center for the Vikings.

Vikings / Cardinals
The Vikings finally broke into the win column this year with a (first quarter) pounding of the Cardinals. Adrian Peterson was dominant running for three first quarter TDs, something that hasn’t been done in 12 years. Even in victory, McNabb is unimpressive. Sure he avoided turnovers for a change, but a 10/21 performance against the Cardinals secondary isn’t anything to thump your chest about. Jared Allen is still getting it done on defense. His 2 sacks on Sunday gave him 8.5 on the year.

Kevin Kolb was worse than McNabb, completing half of his passes, throwing 2 TDs, and putting up a 46.9 QB rating. With Beanie Wells unable to get going and rendered pretty useless with the Cardinals down 28-0 after the first quarter. You can’t tell by how they’re playing, but I still think the Eagles got the best of the Kolb deal.

Bengals / Jaguars
The Bengals are the worst 3-2 team in the league, but that means squat. They’re 3-2. AJ Green keep building his resume, catching another TD and adding a couple of other impressive catches. Andy Dalton is doing a great job of managing that offense.

The Jags suck. Their execution the last play of the game says it all. Look away. There’s nothing to see here.

S#*%^y in Philadelphia
As I mentioned in my preseason preview, Fred Jackson is an incredibly underrated player. His fantastic start to the season will end that though. He finished just shy of 200 total yards against the Eagles “defense” and is making a case for the league’s offensive player of the year award. The Bills are a win against the Giants away from going into their bye an amazing 4-1.

Laughable…Unbelievable…Pathetic. Those three words pretty much sum up the Eagles so far. Michael Vick looks like a deer in headlights out there, missing wide open receivers and throwing horrible passes that you don’t see even in high school ball. It’s only a matter of time before he’s knocked senseless and sidelined for a few weeks. They can’t stop anyone on defense and have surrendered 119 points over the last 4 weeks. They’ll lose to the Redskins this week.

Seahawks / Giants
What an effort by the Seahawks. For a team not being given much of a chance be competitive, to come back against the Giants with their backup QB is impressive. Marshawn Lynch looked like an NFL rusher, and Doug Baldwin is quietly becoming a reliable receiver. Brandon Browner made the play of the game, picking off Eli Manning and running it back 94 yards for the clinching score. Seattle has to be moderately pleased about heading into their bye with 2 wins. Aside from the shutout in Pittsburgh, they’ve been competitive in every game so far.

Victor Cruz is ridiculous. He showed great concentration on that tipped catch around two defenders that he ended up taking in for a score. Hakeem Nicks is clearly their #1 receiver, but Cruz is the dynamic downfield threat this offense needs. Eli deserved a better fate, throwing for 420 yards and three (nearly 4) TDs. Six sacks look nice in the boxscore, but I’m not sure how you let a Jackson/Whitehurst led offense light you up for 27 points. If they play like that again this week, Buffalo will stomp them.

Chiefs / Colts
This certainly wasn’t the snorefest I was expecting. Congrats to the Chiefs for erasing a 17 point late third quarter deficit to beat the Colts on the road. Matt Cassel was competent for a change, only missing on 8 of his 29 pass attempts and tossing 4 TDs. Dwayne Bowe was a beast, showing just how much damage he can do when given the ball. Without Jamaal Charles the Chiefs have to get the ball into Bowe’s hands as often as possible.

Curtis Painter played better in his second start than he did in his first, throwing for 2 scores and 0 INTs. Again Pierre Garcon was his primary target, and if Garcon can stop dropping routine passes, he’s going to have a big year. The Colts aren’t a great run team, but losing Joseph Addai, Mr. Consistent in the backfield, won’t help Painter. Pat Angerer was all over the place again totaling 15 tackles. Indy should have won this game, and if they don’t beat the Bengals this Sunday, they won’t see win #1 for quite a while (@ Saints, @ Titans, v. Falcons).

I Like Where This Is Going
What a great game. The Saints couldn’t shake the Panthers and needed a late TD along with a defensive stand to hold off the Panthers. Drew Brees continues to put up video game numbers at QB, completing 32 of 45 passes for 359 yards and 2 TDs. Aaron Rodgers is the only QB in the league I’d take over Brees. He’s now thrown a TD pass in 32 straight games. Jimmy Graham continues to be Brees’ best weapon, putting up another 100 yards receiving game and converting big plays for their offense. He’s going to be special.

Cam Newton didn’t have his best game as a pro, but he almost came up with his best victory. I’m impressed with how quickly he’s adapted to the pros; doesn’t look overwhelmed like I was certain he’d be. Now he just needs to get some Ws. Look for them to keep it close and may be get a win at Atlanta this Sunday. The Bucs have 3 wins to Carolina’s 1, but the Panthers are clearly the more competitive, better prepared team in my opinion. If Cam keeps developing at this rate, the Bucs are going to get a quite a test in weeks 13 and 16, and right now I’d give Carolina the edge.

49ers / Bucs
Ok Niners, you’re halfway there. I said beat the Bucs and Lions, and I’d believe. Completing the second half of this equation won’t be nearly as easy as the first turned out to be. Alex Smith will never be flashy, but he was at his efficiency peak Sunday, completing 11 of 19 passes, throwing 3 TDs, and posting a 127.2 passer rating. Frank Gore looked like his old self rushing for 125 yards on a 6.3 average per carry.

The Bucs get the 3 Ps in this one – Piss Poor Pathetic. Josh Freeman was awful, the defense couldn’t stop Florida’s offense (bazinga!), and they couldn’t establish anything on the ground. You’re not going to win many games that way, and they won’t win this week in their return home to host the Saints. Brees is going to pick these schleps apart. I’m not going to waste any more time talking about a team that didn’t bother to show up.

Chargers / Broncos
San Diego moved to 4-1 on the year by winning this game, but I’m still not overwhelmingly impressed by what I’m seeing from this team. The four teams they’ve beaten (KC, Miami, Minnesota, Denver) have a combined four wins, and they’re largest margin of victory is only 10 points. They’re one of the league’s worst red zone teams, scoring TDs only 41% of the time, and the rate is worse (33%) during their last three games. I’m still not big on the Jets, but this should be the Chargers toughest game aside from their loss to the Patriots.

For the love of all that is holy, Tim Tebow has been named the starting QB for the Denver Broncos. After another abysmal performance from Kyle Orton, John Fox had no choice but to give in to the public’s relentless Tebow chants and make a change under center. Will the Broncos suddenly start winning games? Nope, but like Tebow or not, Broncos games just got a little more interesting. Willis McGahee hasn’t been getting a ton of talk, but this marked his second straight 100+ yard game and third on the season in just five chances. He’s the clear #1 back in this offense, and I’m impressed with how he took ownership of that job.

Just Win Baby!
I haven’t rooted for the Raiders since Bo Jackson was in the backfield, but I really like this team. Unlike recent Raider teams, these guys have been competitive week in and week out and should be very excited about their future. It says a lot when you can win a big game on the road when you only get 41 rushing yards from Darren McFadden. Got leg? Sebastian Janikowski continues to be the best kicking weapon in the game. All he did was add FGs of 54, 55, 50, and 42 yards. RIP Al Davis.

A couple of red flags for the Texans – Matt Schaub got really banged up in this game and gets to face the ravenous Ravens this Sunday. How do you throw for 416 yards and have a QB rating of only 72? Defensively, the Texans lost Mario Williams for the foreseeable future with a pectoral injury. That’s a huge loss. These next two games - @ Baltimore and @ Tennessee – should be great indicators of their readiness to move to the next level.

Steelers / Titans
Don’t count them out just yet. The Steelers pretty much stomped the Titans. After allowing a first quarter FG, Pittsburgh ripped off four consecutive TDs and put Tennessee in their rear view. Ben Roethlisberger, gimpy foot and all, heaved 5 TDs in a huge performance that helped Pittsburgh match the Titans at 3-2 and send a message that they’re still among the league’s elite. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer filled in nicely for an injured Rashard Mendenhall, totaling 156 rushing yards between the two of them. This Sunday’s game against the Jags could get ugly in a hurry.

Losing to the Steelers on the road is nothing to be ashamed of, but the Titans lack of competitiveness for most of the game was disappointing. They were unable to get any pressure on Roethlisberger and generated only one turnover on the day; an interception just before the half that resulted in no points. They need to put this loss behind them immediately, use their bye week to get refocused, and come out strong and ready to face the division rival Texans at home in week 7.

Patriots / Jets
There was grounding and pounding going on alright, but the Patriots were the ones dishing it out. Just as the Stevan Ridley hype train got rolling, BenJarvus Green-Ellis reminded us he played for the Patriots too, posting his biggest game of the year by far. He ran for 136 yards, scored twice, and outgained the Jets as a team on the ground by almost 40 yards. Wes Welker continues to be a machine, eclipsing 100 yards receiving for the fourth time in five games this year. Not that he needs any help, but Aaron Hernandez getting back to full health will only help Welker’s ability to get open.

You could see it on Rex Ryan’s face in the postgame conference. His team isn’t as talented as he’d like everyone (including his players) to believe, and he knows that we know it too. The Jets weren’t awful, they’re just not an elite team. Shonn Greene finally had a decent game, but his TD was only his second on the season. Mark Sanchez had his first INT-less game and posted his best passer rating on the year, but he was only able to throw for 166 yards against the defense that’s getting lit up like a Christmas tree this year. They get a break this week, hosting the Dolphins on MNF, and shit will hit the fan in New York if the winless Dolphins get on the board against their Jets.

I Must Break You!
If there was any doubt as to who is the best team in the NFL, the Packers squashed it by beating the Falcons. Down 14-0 and having lost his blind side protection, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to scores on 6 of their last 8 drives. He threw for 396 yards and two TDs and showed just how what kind of a leader he is, putting the team on his shoulders and consistently, methodically marching his team down the field against the Falcons. James Starks didn’t have a huge game, but he got the majority of the carries after Ryan Grant fumbled early. I’m anxious to see how Starks does against the woeful Rams run defense this week. Gotta give it to the defense too. After allowing two early TDs, the Packers didn’t let the Falcons modify the scoreboard for the rest of the game. If you don’t know who Desmond Bishop is by now, you better do so soon. This guy makes plays.

What a disappointing loss for the disappointing Falcons. They were trying to avenge last year’s playoff loss were inept offensively after taking a 14-0 lead. The remaining Falcons drives ended in punts (5) and interceptions (2). Matt Ryan is no longer automatic at home, and Michael Turner didn’t do much after an early outburst, totaling only 56 rushing yards. Tony Gonzalez is still getting it done. He’s lost a step or five, but he still catches what’s thrown in his direction and is a load to tackle. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Julio Jones went out with a hamstring injury. That would be a big loss, however long he was out.

Best and Worst

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Packers (1)
6-0 is right around the corner; no way the Rams slow down this machine.

2 – Ravens (2)
After a week off, I think they lay a sound beating on the Texans this Sunday.

3 – Saints (3)
They’re extremely dynamic and deep offensively and might have the games new best tight end.

4 – Patriots (4)
Weapons galore offensively, but they’ve got to fix that defense to get any higher on this list.

5 – Lions (5)
They’re going to lose eventually, but eventually isn’t this week. Calvin Johnson and a healthy Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best is a lethal combination.

6 – Bills (NR)
They’ve already matched last year’s win total and are a serious playoff contender.

7 – Steelers (NR)
It’s obviously not going to be smooth sailing this year in Pittsburgh, but the talent and experience is there to win big games.

8 – Chargers (8)
Show me more!

OUT – Texans (6)
I think they’re going to stagger a bit here on the road against Baltimore and Tennessee, especially with Andre Johnson and Mario Williams on the shelf.

Worst Teams
1 – Indianapolis (1)
Congratulations. You suck!

2 – Jacksonville (3)
Indy falling into a victory is the only thing keeping the Jags from the top of this list. After they lose to the Steelers, Ravens, and Texans, they’ll get to face those Colts in a battle for the top spot.

3 – Miami (5)
Still looking for their first win and a viable QB.

4 – Minnesota (2)
If they don’t beat the Bears this week, it’s going to be a while until they see win #2 (Packers, @ Panthers, @ Packers, Raiders, @ Falcons).

5 – St. Louis (6)
Nothing’s going right for these guys, but I still refuse to believe the Rams are one of the three worst teams in the NFL.

6 – Kansas City (4)
Prediction – They won’t lose this Sunday.

7 – Denver (8)
Tebow time! An exciting loss is still a loss.

8 – Cleveland (NR)
I could probably fall asleep at one of their games.

OUT – Seattle (7)
They’ve looked better each week since getting throttled by Pittsburgh.

Best Performances
Aaron Rodgers (GB) – 26/39, 396 yds, 2 TDs, 117 QB rating
Drew Brees (NO) – 32/45, 359 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 100.1 QB rating
Matt Cassel (KC) – 21/29, 257 yds, 4 TDs, 138.9 QB rating
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – 24/34, 228 yds, 5 TDs, 1 INT, 116.2 QB rating
Curtis Painter (IND) – 15/27, 277 yds, 2 TDs, 115.8 QB rating
Alex Smith (SF) – 11/19, 170 yds, 3 TDs, 127.2 QB rating

Adrian Peterson (MIN) – 29 carries, 122 yds, 3 TDs
Jahvid Best (DET) – 12 carries, 163 yds, 1 TD
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) – 27 carries, 136 yds, 2 TD
Fred Jackson (BUF) – 26 carries, 111 yds, 1 TD, 6 receptions, 85 yds
Frank Gore (SF) – 20 carries, 125 yds, 1 TD
Matt Forte (CHI) – 22 carries, 116 yds, 4 receptions, 35 yds

Victor Cruz (NYG) – 8 catches, 161 yds, 1 TD
Doug Baldwin (SEA) – 8 catches, 136 yds, 1 TD
Dwayne Bowe (KC) – 7 catches, 128 yds, 2 TDs
Pierre Garcon (IND) – 5 catches, 125 yds, 2 TDs
Jason Avant (PHI) – 9 catches, 139 yds
Calvin Johnson (DET) – 5 catches, 130 yds, 1 TD

Brandon Browner (SEA) – 6 total tackles, 1 huge INT returned for a TD
Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG) – 6 total tackles, 2.5 sacks
Nick Barnett (BUF) – 3 total tackles, 2 INTs, 1 TD
Pat Angerer (IND) – 15 total tackles
George Wilson (BUF) – 11 total tackles, 1 INT
Brian Robison (MIN) – 4 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Worst Performances
Josh Freeman (TB) – 17/33, 187 yds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 43.4 QB rating
Michael Vick (PHI) – 26/40, 315 yds, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 66.1 QB rating
Kevin Kolb (ARI) – 21/42, 232 yds, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 46.9 QB rating
Kyle Orton (DEN) – 6/13, 34 yds, 1 INT, 21.0 QB rating
Matt Ryan (ATL) – 18/32, 167 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 55.1 QB rating

Cedric Benson (CIN) – 24 carries, 53 yds
Darren McFadden (OAK) – 16 carries, 51 yds
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – 17 carries, 58 yds
Chris Johnson (TEN) – 14 carries, 51 yds

Denarius Moore (OAK) – 0 catches on 6 targets
Jacoby Jones (HOU) – 1 catch for 9 yards on 11 targets
Dallas Clark (IND) – 1 catch, 7 yds
Percy Harvin (MIN) – 1 catch, 11 yds
Brandon Lloyd (DEN) – 1 catch, 20 yds
Eric Decker (DEN) – 2 catches, -4 yds

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Talbuc's Take - Week 4

Ground and Pound? Duck and Cover!
Who pissed in the Ravens cheerios? In a game for the ages, Baltimore’s defense thrashed the Jets for three, yes three non-offensive TDs. Starting with Ed Reed’s fumble causing shot on Mark Sanchez, these guys are always in the right place at the right time. You can’t throw deep on them because 1) the front seven won’t give you time, and 2) they’ll just flock to the ball and pick you off if you go deep. You can’t run on them. They’re absolutely dominant. Ray Rice didn’t have a really big game, and Joe Flacco was pretty inaccurate. It’s nice to be able to fall back on an elite defense if you need to at times.

It was borderline assault. In the end, Sanchez was just trying to get rid of the football without wearing another helmet in the chest. He finished a shoddy 11 for 35 with a 30.5 QB rating. Where do the Jets go from here? The Raiders loss was technically an upset, but I had Oakland winning that one. I’m not the least bit shocked that they were a double digit loser to Baltimore, but to get pushed around like that offensively is outright embarrassing. Rex Ryan is reportedly fuming, but I’m not sure the timing is right for a behind closed doors blow up session. They’re facing the Patriots this week in a game that I fully expect them to lose. Have the blow up Sunday night or Monday and then take it out on the Dolphins next week. I’m not sure these Jets make the playoffs.

Patriots / Raiders
Uh, his name is Wes Welker, and he just scored again. I understand that the Patriots move him around the field to exploit matchups, but why are teams continuing to allow him to destroy their defenses? I think there’s a noticeable difference in Tom Brady’s rhythm when Aaron Hernandez is on the field, so you know Brady’s hoping he’s back this week. Stevan Ridley keeps impressing. Belichick isn’t a guy to ride just one back, but Ridley looks like his best option back there. Jerod Mayo injured his MCL during the game and is going to miss at least a month. That won’t help an already struggling defense. The Jets are this week’s opponent, and as much as Rex Ryan wants to go back to ground and pound, he’s got to give Mark Sanchez a chance against this secondary. After all, he did throw 3 TDs the last time he faced them.

I’m chalking this one up to simply the better team winning. I still believe in the Raiders. Losing to one of the league’s elite is nothing to be ashamed of. Where the Patriots aren’t elite is in the secondary. Like everyone’s been able to do the Patriots, Jason Campbell had a field day passing. You have to go back almost two years to find a game where he threw for more than 344 yards. Five different receivers caught four passes, and interestingly, Denarius Moore wasn’t one of them. The Raiders go to Houston this week and get to face a defense that just held Ben Roethlisberger to a 16/30, 206 yd, 1 INT stat line.

Chargers / Dolphins
I like how Ryan Mathews is starting to pick up the offense and, not coincidently, more touches. Vincent Jackson had his second 100 yard game of the year, but now he’s dealing with abdomen and leg issues. It doesn’t appear to be terribly serious at this point. Speaking of injuries, when will Antonio Gates get back on the football field? It looks like they’re going to hold him out at least through their bye next week. Larry English finally got on the stat sheet tallying his first two sacks of the season. The annually slow starting Chargers get a chance to move to 4-1 this week against the Broncos. Nice way to head into your bye week.

The Dolphins are bad, really bad. I’m not sure it can get a ton worse, but Chad Henne is probably going to miss some time after their week 5 bye with a shoulder injury. Matt Moore is the only option they have right now, but David Garrard and Jake Delhomme have been mentioned as possibilities. Sparano is apparently safe through the bye, but I can’t see him surviving too many more losses (@ Jets, v. Broncos, @ Giants).

Bears / Panthers
Matt Forte exploded for 205 yards on 25 carries, showing the world that he’s capable of big things when he’s got room to run. Devin Hester, you are ridiculous! Why oh why is anyone kicking the football to that man. Put the damn thing 20 rows deep on the sideline, or just give the Bears the ball at midfield. Do we not have enough film on that guy taking the ball to the house? That’s the good news. The bad news is that Jay Cutler had a pathetic 9/17, 102 yd, 1 INT performance against an underwhelming Panther defense. Detroit will tear him up if he brings that kind of game two weeks in a row.

Yes his Panthers are 1-3, but I’m really impressed with Cam Newton’s competitiveness. I’m not sure him throwing the ball 40+ times a week is a recipe for a ton of wins, but he’s making his team a consistent threat. I still think they’re the worst team in the division, but their three losses were by a combined 19 points. I don’t think they win either of their next two games (v. Saints and @ Atlanta), but keeping those contests close will say something.

Steelers Staggered
Welcome back Arian Foster. It’s not every day that the Pittsburgh Steelers allow an individual rusher to own them for 155 yards on the ground, and that’s what Foster did on 30 carries. Andre Johnson going down with a hamstring injury is about as big a loss as Houston can take. There was a huge change in tone of the game when Johnson went out with the injury. Pittsburgh was able to run the ball a bit more; almost like the Texans shut it down a bit on both sides of the ball. This week’s game against Oakland will be no walk in the park.

I’m not ready to say that the Steelers are old, but these guys aren’t able to dominate regardless the opponent like they used to. You can keep the Colts down without your A game, but when you face a team as talented as the Texans, you can’t just show up and expect that to be enough. Ben Roethlisberger is getting abused behind a horrible offensive line, and if he wasn’t the game’s sturdiest passer in the pocket, his lack of protection would be even more obvious. Now he’s got an injured foot going against the upstart Titans this week. The horrid offensive line is extending to the run game too as Rashard Mendenhall has been unable to put up an even mediocre performance. I think after they lose to Tennessee this week, the media will be feasting on the Steelers.

Titans / Browns
These Titans look like the real deal. Matt Hasselbeck is in a big time comfort zone. He threw 3 more TDs giving him 8 on the year. If he keeps this up he’ll outdo his TD output for the last two years combined. Chris Johnson finally got something going on the ground too, so look out. I don’t think Tennessee’s defense is as good as their #1 ranking, but they’re getting plays at every level of the defense. I think they’re a fairly serious contender.

Cleveland isn’t making strides. Colt McCoy has no business throwing 61 passes in one football game, and the Browns aren’t going to win when Peyton Hillis gets only 10 carries. Joe Haden, their best defensive player, got banged up, so they’ll hope he gets healthy real quick during their bye week. Cleveland looks no better than a 5 or 6 win team at this point.

Redskins / Rams
You figure if your top RB runs for just 8 less yards than your QB throws for that you’re probably going to lose badly, but the Redskins can win in spite of Rex Grossman. Ryan Torain was the story of the game, running for 135 yards in his first significant duty of the year. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are a lot of fun to watch defensively. I don’t think the Skins are that good and that we’ll learn a lot about them in their three post-bye games – v. Philly, @ Carolina, and @ Buffalo.

Man the Rams are bad. The receivers continue to drop passes. A big one I saw was Lance Kendricks dropping a TD in the endzone on a 4th down trailing 17-0. They had to settle for a FG on that drive and ended up losing by 7. Sam Bradford isn’t capable of carrying the offense just yet, and he’s getting zero help from his receivers. Tackle Jason Smith looks like a huge bust so far as the #2 pick just 2 years ago. Now they get to sit out a week and ponder how pitiful they are before facing the Packers, Cowboys, and Saints in their next three games. They’re looking 0-7 square in the face.

Giants / Cardinals
Imagine if Eli put together 4 quarters of football in a row. Impressively, the Giants were able to win on the road while only generating 54 yards on the ground. Victor Cruz has at least temporarily passed Mario Manningham on the depth chart and is now the #2 receiver. Catching 6 passes for 98 yards will do that for you. Hakeem Nicks is still the #1 on that team, as if he needed to put up a 10 catch, 162 yard performance to make that clear. New York will be atop the division next week after they go to 4-1 by beating the Seahawks Sunday.

The bright spot in this loss was Beanie Wells. After missing last week’s game, Wells threw down 138 yards and 3 TDs on a pretty stout Giants defense. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough as Manning feasted on a secondary that now ranks 26th in passing yards allowed. They should find the going a little easier this week in Minnesota against a must less threatening Vikings passing game. Kevin Kolb hasn’t been terribly threatening since his week 1 performance against the Panthers.

Drama in Dallas
WOW! WOW! WOW! These Lions are something special. Facing deficits of 17-0 and 2 7-3, Detroit scored 34 of the game’s last 37 points to shock and awe Dallas. Calvin Johnson – you can’t stop him; you can only hope to contain him. The Cowboys were able to do that for the majority of the game, but Johnson took over in the 4th, doing what superstars do – stepping up when his team needed him. Titus Young continues to produce when his number is called, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished the year getting more targets than Nate Burleson. As awesome as their 4-0 start has been, Detroit’s biggest game of the year so far by far is next Monday night at home against the Bears. Think that dome will get loud? Matthew Stafford is already gaining priceless experience and confidence, and a MNF win would be another huge step forward.

What can you do but shake your head? This kind of stuff only happens to Tony Romo. Forget how a QB can throw pick-sixes on consecutive drives. How can he even be in a position to throw pick-sixes on consecutive drives? It’s a theme across talk radio this week – Where’s the run?!?! The Cowboys don’t have a bruiser anymore, but you’ve got to be able to run the ball when you’re up more than 3 TDs in the second half. No excuse for losing that one. I’m also a bit surprised (or maybe not) at how many are calling for a change at QB in Dallas, but McAwful continues to get free passes in Minnesota. Romo may make some bad plays at the worst times, but he at least gets his team to compete.

Packers / Broncos
I know these offensive numbers are getting ridiculous, but Aaron Rodgers is still the man. He became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400 yards and 4 TDs to go along with two rushing scores. M-V-P. I love Greg Jennings’ route running, concentration, and hands, especially in the deep passing game where I think Mike Wallace is the only other pro who can rival his “dangerosity”. James Starks would have liked to have seen more than 13 carries, but he ran hard every time he had the ball. Desmond Bishop continues to make a name for himself, totaling 10 tackles, a sack, and a TFL.

Typical Kyle Orton. He threw 3 TDs, but he backed that up with 3 INTs. I think he’s a far more competent passer at this point than McNabb, but I also think the Broncos should make like I propose the Vikings do and see what they have in their young passer(s). Tim Tebow is rumored to be gaining momentum to emerge from their week 6 bye as the starter. Stay tuned. Willis McGahee may be 120 in football years, but Sunday marked his second 100+ yard performance in three weeks. He’s clearly the #1 there over Knowshon Moreno. Von Miller got two more sacks, giving him 4 in 4 games, and getting one step closer to that Defensive ROY award.

Falcons/ Seahawks
I think Matt Ryan has found something he likes. For the second week in a row, Julio Jones put up at least 115 yards, this time catching 11 passes on an insane 17 targets (40% of Ryan’s passes). The guy is a beast and is fitting in perfecting with the Falcons. I don’t like how their defense continues to bend and have trouble putting away the opposition. That’s going to come back and bite them soon, maybe REAL soon. Oh they host the Packers this week.

Tarvaris Jackson resembled an NFL QB against the Falcons, throwing for three scores and a career high 319 yards. Sidney Rice had his second big week in a row and caught his first TD as a Seahawk. I’ll be interested to see how much damage those two can do against the Giants this week.

Giving it Away
Yeah, I know they’re 3-1, but I still don’t think San Fran is any good. A gimpy Frank Gore made Philly look silly. Hell, Michael Crabtree was even relevant, so you know the Eagles weren’t doing their job. The Bucs don’t play well out west, but they should still beat the 49ers. Beat the Bucs and Lions, and I’ll believe.

The Eagles suck. They give up big plays like it’s their job – Gore 40 yd run, Crabtree 38 yd catch, Josh Morgan 30 yd catch, Kendall Hunter 40 yd catch, and Vernon Davis 26 yd catch. Hell, I thought they had three of the best corners in the game, and they can’t stop Alex Smith? They’ve got no heart and play like a bunch of individuals. Look no further for the prime example of how meaningless individual stats are. They’re 1-3 heading to Buffalo in a game that they probably should lose. Are they going to figure out how to play together this week? Doubtful. Stay hot Ronnie Brown.

Bengals / Bills
Beating Buffalo was Cincinnati’s best performance so far, but they’re still a bad football team. Fortunately for them, they have one of the league’s easiest schedules and get to play the Jaguars and Colts next. Again, another example how misleading stats can be – Andy Dalton threw for 298 yards, but he completed half of his passes, threw 2 INTs, and had a QB rating of 64.4. I don’t like where this inflated stats thing is going.

The Bills showed that they’re not quite there yet. Championship teams don’t lose 17-3 halftime leads against punchless teams like the Bengals. I’ll give them a mulligan, but they can’t come out flat this week against Philly. Not much else to say about them right now.

Saints / Jaguars
New Orleans’ offense is borderline criminal. It’s not enough that they’ve got one of the most talented and intellectual QBs in the game running the show, but at his disposal he’s got four reliable receivers, a monstrous, athletic TE, and a trio of backs that attack you from every angle. Jimmy Graham exploded for 10 catches on 14 targets with 132 yds and a TD. Darren Sproles continues to show how much of an improvement he is over Reggie Bush. He has such an influence on how defenses attack this offense, leaving them vulnerable to Brees and the big play. The Saints are looking really strong.

The “experts” figured MJD would put up good game against the Saints, but he was held to just 87 total yards and no scores. That’s not going to help a rookie QB get the team to a W. Blaine Gabbert’s second outing wasn’t an improvement upon the first, going 16 of 42 for 196 yd with 1 TD and 1 INT. Brees is elite, but the Jags defense/secondary put up a really weak opposition. Jack Del Rio might beat Tony Sparano to the unemployment line.

Vikings / Chiefs
The Chiefs still suck, but fortunately for them, so do the Vikings. I saw a lot this yawner and watched Kansas City FG Minnesota to death. Sure they got the win, but their run game is pathetic and Matt Cassel and Todd Haley got into it a bit on the sidelines. Tamba Hali dominated a piss poor offensive line, collecting 7 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, and 5 QB hits. Having a pass rusher like Hali will make up for a lot of weaknesses. The Chiefs try to run their streak to 2 games against the Colts this week in what’s being billed as the Suck for Luck bowl. Love it!

The Vikings are bad, but they can’t be any worse with Christian Ponder under center. McNabb is a joke. He’s still useless in the pocket, can’t hit open receivers, and has zero big play capability. What more do we need to see? If they can’t beat the Cardinals at home this week, I’m not sure how many more excuses can be made for McNabb.

Monday Night (Flag) Football
20 total ACCEPTED penalties, 14 on the Bucs. Again Ron Winter’s crew of officials shows itself to be one of the worst in all of sports. Way to go men!

The Bucs closed out week 4 with an extremely unnecessarily frustrating win over the Colts. They’re 3-1, but I think it’s pretty clear that this team has a long way to go before it’s a serious contender. The Bucs don’t do the little things it takes to be a champion. You don't step out of bounds before the ball gets to you as a receiver. You don't have stupid defensive breakdowns, letting receivers run free for long scores. You don’t jump offsides from the DT position. You don’t make stupid penalties that have no impact on the play. You don’t take a sack on 3rd down with minimal time left in the half or game. You get your offense off the field in time to kick a FG.

That bitching aside, there were plenty of individual performances to praise, starting with Josh Freeman. In addition to capping the victory with a critical fourth down conversion, I think the Bucs QB did a tremendous job managing the game action. He’s getting labeled a check down guy for the number of short passes he threw against the Colts, but that was simply a case of a QB taking what the defense gave him. Pat Angerer clears out the middle in the Tampa 2, and the Bucs were just running in players to where he was, getting those intermediate gains. Smart move in my opinion. No need to go for the big one when the defense is letting you walk down the field.

If Sucker Punch can string together a few more games like this one where he consistently hits the right hole and drags tacklers for extra yardage, I just might have to start calling him by his name. Until then… I’d like to see Mike Williams separate himself from this group of receivers, but I’ve got to say that I’m pleased that Preston Parker is making himself a regular factor. Again, I think we can do better talent-wise, but he’s got some of the quickness/suddenness that’s been missing. The offensive line did a great job giving Freeman time to look downfield and kept Dwight Freeney completely out of the stat sheet. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the Colts are one of the weaker defensive fronts in the league. Tampa won’t find things so easy in San Francisco this week.

Defensively, it was nice to see Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy get after Curtis Painter. After two invisible weeks, this was Clayborn’s second straight game with a sack. Michael Bennett added two himself and looks really solid at LE. I did see him struggle with his hands and leverage a couple of times when trying to disengage from blocker moving laterally. Other than that, I can’t complain about what he’s doing. Aqib Talib is the only guy I’ve really got a beef with. All Pro players make All Pro plays. They don’t let Pierre Garcon run free for a long score, and they don’t drop near automatic pick sixes.

The Bucs are better than the 49ers and should win Sunday’s game. If they play as sloppy as they did for the majority of the Colts game, it’s going to be a long flight back to Tampa.

Best and Worst
At the quarter mark:

Best Teams (Previous Rank)
1 – Packers (1)
Dominated Denver and looking to repeat last year’s playoff visit to Atlanta.

2 – Ravens (2)
Speaking of dominating, their defense has given up 31 total points in their 3 wins.

3 – Saints (3)
Avoided a potential letdown in Jacksonville; looking to welcome Cam to the NFL this week.

4 – Patriots (4)
Played pissed off from that Buffalo loss, and I think they carry that over to a sound beating of the Jets.

5 – Lions (5)
Someone tell these guys they’re allowed to play with the lead. 

6 – Texans (7)
Three tough ones ahead (OAK, BAL, TEN) without Andre Johnson will be rough.

7 – Chargers (NR)
They’re finally off to a good start at 3-1 but lost to the only decent team they’ve played so far (Patriots).

8 – Titans (NR)
Huge week ahead. I think they go all out and beat Pittsburgh on the road, get a week of to regenerate, and then host Houston in a huge division showdown.

Worst Teams
1 – Indianapolis (2)
Take away Pierre Garcon’s two long TD runs, and Indy’s offense was pitiful yet again. They’re getting banged up on both sides of the ball at an absurd rate.

2 – Minnesota (5)
They’ll continue to play badly as long as McNabb is under center.

3 – Jacksonville (4)
Sunday against Cincinnati might be their only winnable game for a month.

4 – Kansas City (1)
Sure they got a win, but they’re still awful and are now fighting on the sidelines.

5 – Miami (6)
You know things are bad when you’re upset about losing Chad Henne. 

6 – St. Louis (8)
I surrender!

7 – Seattle (3)
Played Atlanta close, but I expect to see a truer representation Sunday against the Giants.

8 – Denver (7)
Tebow! Tebow! Tebow!

Best Performances
Aaron Rodgers (GB) – 29/38, 408 yds, 4 passing TDs, 1 INT, 134.5 QB rating, 9 rushes, 36 yards, 2 rushing TDs
Eli Manning (NYG) – 27/40, 321 yds, 2 TDs, 108.4 QB rating
Matt Hasselbeck (TEN) – 10/20, 220 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 108.3 QB rating
Philip Rivers (SD) – 21/31, 307 yds, 1 TD, 110.6 QB rating

Matt Forte (CHI) – 25 carries, 205 yds, 1 TD, 4 catches, 23 yds
Arian Foster (HOU) – 30 carries, 155 yds, 1 TD, 3 catches, 11 yds
Beanie Wells (ARI) – 27 carries, 138 yds, 3 TDs
Ryan Torain (WAS) – 19 carries, 135 yds, 1 TD

Calvin Johnson (DET) – 8 catches, 96 yds, 2 TDs
Steve Smith (CAR) – 8 catches, 181 yds
Jimmy Graham (NO) – 10 catches, 132 yds, 1 TD
Julio Jones (ATL) – 11 catches (17 targets), 127 yds
Wes Welker (NE) – 9 catches, 158 yds, 1 TD

Jason Babin (PHI) – 3 total tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Brian Orakpo (WAS) – 5 total tackles, 2.5 sacks
Tamba Hali (KC) – 7 total tackles, 2 sacks
Kavell Conner (IND) – 18 total tackles (14 solo)
Stephen Tulloch (DET) – 12 total tackles, 1 INT
Michael Bennett (TB) – 5 total tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Paul Posluszny (JAX) – 13 total tackles, 1 sack

Worst Performances
Mark Sanchez (NYJ) – 11/35, 119 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 30.5 QB rating, 3 lost fumbles
Jay Cutler (CHI) – 9/17, 102 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 46.7 QB rating
Rex Grossman (WAS) – 15/29, 143 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 48.5 QB rating
Joe Flacco (BAL) – 10/31, 163 yds, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 37.4 QB rating
Blaine Gabbert (JAX) – 16/42, 196 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 51.3 QB rating

Shonn Greene (NYJ) – 10 carries, 23 yds
Peyton Hillis (CLE) – 10 carries, 46 yds, 5 catches, 23 yds
Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG) – 12 carries, 39 yds, 1 TD, 4 catches, 11 yds, 1 fumble
Ronnie Brown (PHI) – Anyone see him throw the ball to the ground on that goal line carry? What the hell was he thinking?

Deion Branch (NE) – 1 catch, 4 yds (at least it resulted in a TD)
Nate Burleson (DET) – 2 catches, 16 yds
Roy Williams (CHI) – 1 catch, 15 yds
David Nelson (BUF) – 2 catches, 18 yds
Anquan Boldin (BAL) – 1 catch, 28 yds
(Quarter Way) MVP Voting
Here’s how I’d cast my ballot at the quarter mark:
1 – Aaron Rodgers
2 – Tom Brady
3 – Darren McFadden
4 – Drew Brees
5 – Matt Forte