Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Talbuc's Take - Week 2

It didn’t take long to get our first flip flop from week one.  After having no answer for the Niners on either side of the ball last week, the Packers shut down Jay Cuter and company to avoid an 0-2 start.  Green Bay was excellent defensively, sacking Jay Cutler 7 times (Clay Matthews had 3.5 of them) and forcing 4 INTs.  How good were they?  The Packers secondary held Brandon Marshall to 0 first half targets, a week after the receiver torched the Colts for 119 yards and a TD.  Marshall also dropped a TD pass in the 3rd quarter that could have made the game 13-7 instead of 13-3 and didn’t catch his first pass until their were just 7 minutes left in the game.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Bears lost Matt Forte to an ankle injury, and he’s unlikely to play this week and possibly longer.  Jay Cutler showed his ass and pushed around LT J’Marcus Webb.  How’s that locker room this week?  Aaron Rodgers didn’t have a highlight filled game, but he was efficient.  He also got help from Cedric Benson who ran for 81 yards on 20 carries.  I loved the excellently executed fake FG by the Packers.  Chicago had no idea what was going on.  The Bears are a solid defense, so the fact that the Packers looked in much better rhythm this week speaks volumes for San Francisco’s defense. 

Browns @ Bengals
I can honestly say I didn’t expect to see both QBs put on a passing clinic in this one.  Andy Dalton had a great game, completing 24 of 31 passes for 318 yards and 3 TDs.  That was the 3rd time he’s thrown for more than 300 yards and only the 2nd 3 TD game of his career.  Brandon Weeden rebounded from his pathetic 5.1 passer rating against the Eagles to put up 322 yards and 2 TDs against the Browns.  Trent Richardson got in on the fun too, scoring twice and rushing for 109 yards on 19 carries.  He had 19 carries last week too but finished with 70 less yards.  If Dalton can throw for 318 yards on a Joe Haden-less defense, how many will Ryan Fitzpatrick put up in week 3?

Raiders @ Dolphins
You couldn’t have paid me to sit through this one.  Featuring what I believe to be two of football’s worst teams, the Dolphins got into the win column with a 35-13 thrashing of the Raiders.  Reggie Bush ran for a whopping 172 yards and scored twice.  Brian Hartline made out routes an art form, catching 9 passes for 111 yards.  He was targeted on 12 of Ryan Tannehil’s 30 passes which tells me the rookie has found a security blanket.  Color me impressed if he can do it again against the Jets in week 3.  Darren McFadden and the Raiders blockers couldn’t get anything going on the ground for the second game in a row.  McFadden rushed for 22 yards on 11 carries a week after gaining 32 on 15 totes last Monday in San Diego.  Big problem!  He’s their offense, and they can’t utilize him at all like they’d like.  You think it’s going to get any easier against Pittsburgh on Sunday? 

Cardinals @ Patriots
Ok, so in my picks piece I said that this one would be close for a half with the Cardinals giving the Patriots a little bit of a scare.  Arizona apparently took me seriously and took it to the AFC Champs for a full 60 minutes.  In return the Cardinals left town with a 2-0 record and winners of the season’s biggest upset so far.  It sure didn’t help the Patriots (or my fantasy football team) that Aaron Hernandez was lost for 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain on their third offensive play from scrimmage.  Maybe they’ll be forced to stop this game they’re playing with Welker and utilize one of their better weapons.  This non-featuring of their reliable receiver is an obvious negotiation middle finger if you ask me.  Can someone please explain to me why the Patriots didn’t try to get any closer with 40 seconds to go?  Rob Gronkowski had two HUGE penalties on that final drive.  The first one negated a Danny Woodhead go ahead TD, and he had a false start on Tom Brady’s first attempt to line things up for Gostkowski.  When the Patriots kicker finally did make it onto the field, he did his best Billy Cundiff impression, messing himself under pressure, and pushing the ball way wide.  Josh McDaniel’s play calling so far is suspect at best and will be under the microscope now that he’s down one weapon.  Heading to Baltimore for a Sunday night showdown isn’t the easiest environment to turn things around. 

Saints @ Panthers
I think the Saints might be in a little bit of trouble.  It’s too early to go into panic mode, but an 0-2 start and 75 combined points allowed is not quite how championship seasons start.  This defense is brutal so far.  They’re the worst team in the game against the run and aren’t much better stopping the pass.  Drew Brees must be feeling the pressure to make things happen as he threw a really stupid pick-6 deep in his own territory early in the game to pretty much set the tone for the afternoon.  Pierre Thomas is easily the team’s best rusher and really needs to be featured more.  Cam Newton didn’t have a spectacular Sunday, but he got the job done, consistently leading the Panthers on scoring drives.  Watch out for Brandon LaFell.  He and Newton hooked up 6 times for 90 yards in this one and should get even better together as the season progresses.  New Orleans HAS to win Sunday at home against Kansas City

Chiefs @ Bills
Speaking of those Chiefs, they’re reaching desperation mode already as well as they fell to 0-2 after getting throttled 35-17 by the Bills in a game that wasn’t even that close.  Like the Saints, the Chiefs have surrendered 75 points through two games and are falling horribly short of preseason expectations (especially mine).  Jamaal Charles gimped his way to 3 yards on 6 carries and isn’t exactly making an Adrian Peterson-like return from his own ACL injury.  Dwayne Bowe scored twice for what that’s worth.  I’m shocked they’ve been this bad on defense.  Sure they didn’t have Brandon Flowers or Tamba Hali in week one, but this defense has talent despite evidence to the contrary.  CJ Spiller is loving life.  With Fred Jackson nursing that knee injury, Spiller gained 170 total yards against the Chiefs and leads the league in rushing (by 51 yards) after two weeks.  Buffalo’s defense responded after getting shellacked by the Jets in week 1 with a Leodis McKelvin 88 yard PR TD, sacking Matt Cassel 5 times, forcing 3 turnovers, and limiting KC to 2 garbage 4th quarter TDs.  The Bills can’t afford a letdown now as they head to Cleveland, and either the Saints or Chiefs are going to be starting at 0-3 a week from now.  

Bucs @ Giants
This one was interesting from the first to literally the last whistle.  The Bucs looked like they were on their way to putting the defending champs in an 0-2 hole early in this one.  Vincent Jackson made a great play on a Josh Freeman deep ball early in the 2nd quarter to give the Bucs their first lead of the game.  After an exchange of scores, as bad as the Giants were playing, they had a chance to get into FG range late in the 1st half, but Eli Manning threw his third INT of the half.  The INT wasn’t so much the bad part.  The bad part was the inexcusably putrid pursuit of Eric Wright on the part of the Giants offense.  My kids do a better job chasing me around the yard than those 11 professionals did Wright who danced around the field on his way to a pick-6.  The Giants must work on their red zone execution if they’re going to have any hopes of repeating.  Their first two drives of the game saw them penetrate Tampa’s twenty, but both drives ended in FGs.  Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a neck injury early on and was replaced by Andre Brown, not David Wilson.  Wilson is apparently still in the doghouse and Brown looks to get the majority of the carries if Bradshaw misses any time.  For the Bucs, they didn’t get a victory, but I love the way this team is competing.  You didn’t see a lot of last year.  Doug Martin joined Jackson in scoring his first TD as a Buccaneer, and the defense played a strong three quarters.  Unfortunately, football is a four quarter contest, and the Bucs allowed 24 points in that final frame.  The Bucs aren’t going to win many games when they allow the opposing QB to throw for 295 yards in the second half as did Eli.  I can’t not mention the controversy at the end of the game.  I like the message Greg Schiano sent the Giants and the rest of the NFL that this Buccaneer team doesn’t quit and doesn’t lay down for anyone.  On the game’s final play, the Bucs dove at the center on the snap attempting to cause a fumble on a kneel down play.  Eli called it a “little bit of a cheap shot”, but I’m not sure I agree.  I’m not for players intending to injure their peers, but what’s this unwritten rule crap about a defense needing to lay down because the opposition goes into kneel down mode?  Sure you’re unlikely to get a turnover, but what’s so wrong about trying to win the game when there’s still time on the clock?

Texans @ Jaguars
There’s not much to say about this one.  The Texans bullied the Jaguars all afternoon to a 27-7 victory.  Houston ran for 216 yards on the day as a team with Arian Foster gaining 110 and scoring once with Ben Tate adding 74 yards and 2 TDs.  It says something about the strength of your team when you can win by 20 even though Andre Johnson catches a meager 3 passes for 21 yards.  JJ Watt is playing every bit as well as I anticipated him to, totaling 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 2 PDs on the day.  Chad Henne was forced to finish the game after Blaine Gabbert left with a hamstring injury.  After a decent week one, Gabbert regressed to last year’s version and couldn’t anything done offensively for Jacksonville.  Their two QBs combined to complete 9 passes on the day, none of them credited to 5th overall pick Justin Blackmon who put up his first goose egg as a pro. 

Vikings @ Colts
Andrew Luck’s second game as a pro went a lot better than his first.  April’s #1 pick tossed 2 TDs, didn’t turn the ball over, and led his first 4th quarter game winning drive that resulted in an Adam Vinatieri 53 yard game winning FG.  Adrian Peterson was held out of the endzone after making two trips there last week, but Percy Harvin stepped up with 12 catches for 104 yards.  This team desperately needs another threat at receiver.  Jerome Simpson might be the answer, but he has one game remaining on his suspension for being an asshat.  A couple of big plays I saw that impacted the game were a Christian Ponder lost fumble near midfield on 3rd and 8 and a questionable late hit penalty on Jared Allen.  With Luck scrambling on 3rd and very long, the replacement refs called what I thought was a very ticky tack personal foul on Allen as he tripped up the QB going out of bounds.  That gave Indy, up 11 at this point, an unearned 1st down and allowed them to put 3 more on the board, making it a 2 TD game. 

Redskins @ Rams
Stay hot Josh Morgan.  With the Redskins driving to get in position for a game tying FG attempt, the idiot receiver got up after a 7 yard gain and threw the football at Cortland Finnegan.  Now I know Finnegan is one of the biggest, if not THE biggest ass football, but my 5 year old has better discipline that Morgan showed.  Finnegan got in his head, broke his brain, and the receiver cost his team a chance to win the football game.  RGIII wasn’t able to do whatever he wanted this week facing a much stouter defense.  Still, the rookie had a fine game, limited the mistakes, and was responsible for 3 TDs.  When you look at the boxscore you’ve got to laugh.  Sam Bradford completed 26 passes to 6 different receivers, but only one of them had more than 3 catches.  It should come as no surprise that Sam Bradford’s primary target Sunday was Danny Amendola.  The short passing game king caught 16 passes, 12 in the first half to tie an NFL record.  Steven Jackson was benched for a personal foul call and also suffered a hamstring injury.  It doesn’t look like he’ll play against the Bears, so that means rookie Daryl Richardson will likely lead the Rams in carries Sunday.  I expected Isaiah Pead to earn a decent role, but he’s been limited to special teams so far. 

Cowboys @ Seahawks
Told you so.  After a great opening night win against the defending champs, Dallas went west and laid an egg.  Don’t put that all on Tony Romo and the Cowboys though.  The Seahawks are a really good team, especially on defense.  In my season preview, I praised their secondary, a unit that may be the best in football.  Romo struggled to build sustainable drives, and DeMarco Murray was limited to 44 yards rushing after gaining 131 against the Giants.  Sure the Cowboys have multiple weapons, but they really need Dez Bryant to be the feature guy in the passing game.  Through two games Bryant has just 7 catches for 102 yards.  He’ll likely draw Aqib Talib this week and has I’m sure already seen plenty of film of Hakeem Nicks abusing the Tampa corner.  Seattle was able to stick to their game plan.  Run the ball and stop the run.  They rushed for 182 yards as a team, with Marshawn Lynch’s 122 yards leading the way.  What Russell Wilson lacked in style he made up for in substance, completing 75% of his passes and not turning the football over.  I don’t believe there’s a team in football that would benefit more from acquiring a top tier receiver than these Seahawks.  There’s just not a lot of talent for Wilson to work with.  It won’t get any easier this Monday night if the Packers bring Thursday’s attitudes with them to Seattle

Jets @ Steelers
Now that’s more like it.  After the offensive outburst in week 1, the Jets crash landed in Pittsburgh.  Mark Sanchez threw for fewer yards than every QB not names Jay Cutler or Blaine Gabbert, Shonn Greene got knocked out of the game in the first half after tallying only 23 yards on 11 carries, and Stephen Hill didn’t catch a single pass and was targeted only twice a week after catching 5 passes for 89 yards and 2 TDs.  I believe this is the Jets team we’ll see more of in 2012.  Ben Roethlisberger had a much easier afternoon without having to face Darrelle Revis.  He needed to have success through the air because neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Isaac Redman had much success on the ground.  In my AFC North preview I suggested the Antonio Brown might have become Roethlisberger’s new #1.  Through 2 games Brown has been targeted 18 times to Wallace’s 11.  It’s only a couple of games, but while Wallace might be the best deep threat in football, Brown has 3 20+ yard receptions this year to Wallace’s 1.  Debating whether or not Mike Wallace is your #1 receiver is a nice problem to have. 

Titans @ Chargers
Wow this Titans running game is garbage.  Chris Johnson and his blockers look like garbage time preseason players.  In my picks for week 2 I mentioned that the stout Chargers run defense and weak Titans rushing “attack” would be the key to the game.  Well, Johnson was outrushed by his QB, and Jake Locker only carried the ball twice.  Johnson is a joke at this point, and while his interior line might be junk, you’ve got to step up at some point, especially when you’re as quick and explosive as Johnson is (or was).  Nothing went well for the Titans on offense.  Locker completed half of his passes and threw an interception while Nate Washington and Kenny Britt (on limited snaps) combined for 3 receptions and 25 yards.  Not the start Titans fans were looking for.  San Diego on the other hand has to be stoked that they’re 2-0 without star running back Ryan Mathews.   Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley combined for 112 yards rushing, and Philip Rivers had 3 TDs and completed passes to 7 different receivers.  And that’s with Antonio Gates inactive for the game.  The Raiders and Titans aren’t exactly the Niners and Texans, but 2-0 is 2-0. 

Lions @ 49ers
San Francisco looks to be in postseason mode already.  After pushing the Packers around, they picked on another NFC North team, sending the Lions back to Detroit in a game that wasn’t as close as the score reflects.  Their defense is a championship caliber unit.  They can apply constant pressure to the QB with 4 pass rushers.  They can clog up run lanes with three linemen.  Their inside backers can cover better than some corners.  Their safeties are lethal weapons.  Alex Smith is proving me wrong through two games, showing that he can indeed repeat and exceed his 2011 breakthrough numbers.  If I can raise one red flag it’s the potential distraction of an unhappy Randy Moss.  He was targeted only once in limited snaps, and given his history, you’ve got to wonder if he’ll be able to handle this kind of role for an entire season.  I think he’ll be alright, but that would be the one risk I see facing the Niners at this point.  Great situation in San Francisco.  This wasn’t a big loss for Detroit.  Everyone expected them to lose, but it’s not like they were inept in doing so.  Matt Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Kevin Smith were all able to make some plays.  What’s really disappointing is that Titus Young had another flop of a game.  Through 2 weeks, the guy who caught 17 passes for 171 yards and 4 scores in the last 4 games of 2011 has 2 receptions for 25 yards.  On a positive note, they’re supposed to get Mikel Leshoure back this week, and apparently, Detroit plans on getting him the ball early and often.  I rated this guy higher than Mark Ingram when they entered last year’s draft. 

Ravens @ Eagles
This was probably the second worst officiated game of the weekend (worst one is still to come).  From inconsistent penalty calling to a really bad fumble call that almost cost the Eagles the win, the replacement refs were out of their league in this one.  The players were sloppy as well – 6 turnovers in all.  Michael Vick overcame 2 INTs, a fumble, and injuries to his left tackle and center to beat a really strong defense.  I picked Baltimore because I believed (still do) they were the better team playing better football.  Teams coming off a MNF game the previous week tend to struggle in their next game, so maybe that trend was a factor.  A legit factor was the disappointing play by Joe Flacco, especially in the second half.  He barely had a completion percentage of .500 and threw for less than half as many yards per attempt as Vick.  I expected Torrey Smith to be Flacco’s #1 guy out of the gates, but it’s TE Dennis Pitta that’s getting all the looks.  Through two games Pitta has 13 catches for 138 yards and 1 TD.  He’s already 33% of the way to matching last year’s numbers.  Philly is now 2-0 with a total win margin of 2 points.  If Arizona hadn’t won at New England I’d give them a better shot of beating the Eagles (bit of a letdown spot this week for the Cards in my opinion).

Broncos @ Falcons
I’m telling you.  Don’t sleep on the Atlanta Falcons.  They’re my non-Packer NFC team to make it to the Super Bowl, and they’ve done absolutely nothing to sway me from that thought so far.  A week after Julio Jones caught 6 balls for 108 yards and 2 TDs, Roddy White was the focal point of the passing game, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and 1 TD.  Even old man Tony Gonzalez got in on the act with 7 catches for 70 yards and a score.  They guy is still one of the best in the game.  Sean Weatherspoon and Williams Moore were the standouts defensively for the Falcons.  Weatherspoon is always around the football.  If he’s not making the tackle, he’s cleaning up the play.  Moore had an INT, put a nice hit on Demaryius Thomas in the endzone to break up a TD pass, and a sack.  These guys are for real.  Michael Turner gets a “stay hot” too.  How damn fast was he pounding those drinks if he got a DUI at 2:30 or whatever when the MNF game didn’t end until 12:30?  Slow your roll bro!  It must be a Manning thing.  After little brother Eli threw 3 INTs against the Bucs, Peyton threw 3 INTs of his own against the Falcons.  Unfortunately, Peyton threw for 269 less yards and 4 fewer TDs.  Those INTs were some of the ugliest throws I’ve seen him make.  Not to take anything away from William Moore and the rest of the Falcons secondary, but a decent PAC-10 defense picks off those passes.  There were some bright spots though.  Von Miller sacked Matt Ryan giving him 3 through the first 2 games.  Willis McGahee ran for 113 yards and scored twice.  Demaryius Thomas has assumed the role of Peyton’s #1 target, especially in the red zone.  He has 13 catches and 188 yards to go along with 2 scores so far.  Don’t be surprised when Thomas finishes in the top 10 this year in receptions.

Best and Worst

Elite Eight
1 – San Francisco 49ers (1)
2 – Green Bay Packers (3)
3 – Baltimore Ravens (2)
4 – Houston Texans (5)
5 – Atlanta Falcons (6)
6 – New England Patriots (4)
7 – Denver Broncos (7)
8 – New York Giants (NR)

OUT – Chicago Bears (8)

Funk Bunch
1 – Jacksonville (3)
2 – Cleveland (2)
3 – Oakland (5)
4 – Miami (1)
5 – Minnesota (7)
6 – Indianapolis (4)

Top Performers

QB –
Eli Manning – 31/51, 510 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 89.5 QBR
Andy Dalton – 24/31, 318 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 128.2 QBR
Brandon Weeden – 26/37, 322 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 114 QBR
Sam Bradford – 26/25, 310 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 117.6 QBR
Philip Rivers – 24/32, 284 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 119.8 QBR
Ben Roethlisberger – 24/31, 275 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 125.1 QBR

RB –
Reggie Bush – 26 car, 172 yards, 2 TDs, 3 rec, 25 yards
CJ Spiller – 15 car, 123 yards, 2 TDs, 3 rec, 47 yards
Willis McGahee – 22 car, 113 yards, 2 TDs, 2 rec, 11 yards
Marshawn Lynch – 26 car, 122 yards, 1 TD
Trent Richardson – 19 car, 109 yards, 1 TD, 4 rec, 36 yards
Arian Foster – 28 car, 110 yards, 1 TD, 6 rec, 37 yards

WR –
Danny Amendola – 15 rec, 160 yards, 1 TD
Hakeem Nicks – 10 rec, 199 yards, 1 TD
Victor Cruz – 11 rec, 179 yards, 1 TD
Darren Sproles – 13 rec, 128 yards
Dwayne Bowe – 8 rec, 102 yards, 2 TDs
Percy Harvin – 12 rec, 104 yards, 2 car, 13 yards
Brent Celek – 8 rec, 157 yards

Clay Matthews – 4 tackles, 3.5 sacks
D’Qwell Jackson – 3 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT
JJ Watt – 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, 2 PD
William Moore – 5 tackles, 1 sack, I TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD
Calais Campbell – 7 tackles, 2 sacks
Garrett McIntyre – 6 tackles, 2 sacks
Michael Griffin – 16 tackles, 1 FF
Charles Godfrey – 6 tackles, 1 pick-6
Tramon Williams – 4 tackles, 2 INTs
Mason Foster – 12 tackles, 1 INT

Worst Performers

QB –
Jay Cutler – 11/27, 126 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 28.2 QBR
Blaine Gabbert – 7/19, 53 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 62.8 QBR
Mark Sanchez – 10/27, 138 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 66.6 QBR
Peyton Manning – 24/37, 241 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 58.5 QBR
Joe Flacco – 22/42, 232 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 66.8 QBR
Jake Locker – 15/30, 174 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 65.1 QBR

RB –
Michael Turner – 17 car, 42 yards (2.5 avg), 1 rec, 0 yards, 1 DUI
Jamaal Charles – 6 car, 3 yards (0.5 avg), 3 rec, 19 yards
Chris Johnson – 8 car, 17 yards (2.1 avg), 2 rec, 11 yards
Ryan Williams – 10 car, 13 yards, 1 near game-losing fumble
Knowshon Moreno – 3 car, 2 yards, 1 fumble
Darren McFadden – 11 car, 22 yards (2.0 avg), 2 rec, 19 yards

WR –
Josh Morgan – being a dumbass and costing his team a chance to tie the game late
Larry Fitzgerald – 1 rec, 4 yards
Brandon Marshall – 2 rec, 24 yards
Andre Johnson – 3 rec, 21 yards
Dez Bryant – 3 rec, 17 yards
Fred Davis – 2rec, 14 yards

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