Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble for the Ball: Quarter Pole Projections

Mike and Tom weigh the chances of this year's class of receivers, running backs and tight ends who are on pace to break the magical 1,000-yard mark for the first time.

08 Sep 2008

Audibles At The Line: Week 1

Compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Thursday, September 4

Washington Redskins 7 at New York Giants 16

Bill Moore: We're midway through the second quarter and Jason Taylor looks like he's on NBC's new hit, Dancing with Kareem McKenzie. Other than one play where he utilized his football smarts to break up a screen, he is absolutely being abused off the line by mostly single blocking.

The Skins in general look quite lost out there, on both sides of the ball. Fred Smoot has looked terrible against Plaxico Burress.

Aaron Schatz: I think that was Carlos Rogers getting schooled by Burress early on, and then Smoot starting around the third drive. Man, do the Redskins look awful. Will someone tell Jason Campbell that the point is step-step-step-throw, especially when Justin friggin' Tuck is coming after you? There's no time to improvise, find the damn hot read. And boy, did Jim Zorn learn from the master or what? If you like the draw on third-and-long, you'll love the draw on second-and-long followed up by a draw on third-and-long! I mean, they might as well just wave a big flag that says "We Love to Punt."

Doug Farrar: I'm hoping that Zorn literally took that draw out of the Seahawks playbook, so Holmgren will forget to do it.

Yeah, Campbell had that problem in the preseason, too. He'd take his drops, read, read, hesitate, clutch, double-clutch ... blech. Play over. He's got a lot of work to do before he gets the tempo Zorn's scheme requires, that's for sure. Redskins fans can be encouraged (I suppose) by the fact that Matt Hasselbeck looked like Bobby Brady on LSD his first year in this system under Mike Holmgren. It takes a while.

Reason No. 753 to love Clinton Portis: 5:20 left in the third quarter, and Campbell threw a three-yard pass to Santana Moss in double coverage on a little crossing pattern. Yuk again, but Portis blew Mathias Kiwanuka UP on a chip off the left side after Kiwanuka tried to get past Chris Samuels with a rip move outside. The drive was over, but that was impressive. Portis does the little things well.

Mike Tanier: Our man Portis sure can pass block. I guess that's the bright spot for the Skins in the third quarter: Portis popping Kiwanuka.

The Giants running game is having its way with the Redskins' D-line. They are consistently getting guards out to the second level and getting hats on linebackers. Brandon Jacobs is finishing his runs well. Eli Manning hasn't looked sharp since early. He's looking to Plaxico too much and waiting too long.

The Redskins are just getting into too many third-and-longs. I think Zorn made some play-calling adjustments since the first half, but he can't just keep sending Portis up the middle. Portis' big run was on a sorta counter trey, with some linemen slanting and others pulling. He should try more counter-type running plays, or how about more swing passes to the backs on first and second down. They need more third-and-3s, they need that pass rush to be slowed down.

Will Carroll: Portis didn't get poked in the eye, Madden. He wears a shield. What happened was he got hit so hard that his facemask came back and hit him in the nose. It's a growing issue for helmets, largely due to players refusing to snap them properly.

Mike Tanier: Dunno why the Giants are putting the ball in the air late in the game. Every pass downfield is an adventure, and the one thing that the Redskins are doing right is getting after Eli. The Giants worked off about 5 minutes of clock to get it to 6:12 in the fourth quarter, but I think they could have worked another 3 minutes or so off without a couple of incompletes and a sack.

Carlos Rogers' yellow tipped shoes anger me. I think there's a flag on every play he's involved in.

Doug Farrar: Late in the game, I'm realizing that Zorn learned end-of-half time management from Holmgren, as well. Tick-tock, guys...

Aaron Schatz (at virtually the same time): Hey, apparently Zorn didn't just learn the third-and-long draw from Mike Holmgren. He's also picked up Holmgren's frustrating lack of urgency when the half is winding down and the offense is driving.

Bill Moore: Change of possession with 2:02 left is a "minor break for the Redskins because it stops the clock." Down by 9. Really, Al? I think announcers need preseason action too.

Doug Farrar: I don't know that there's much to conclude from this game, except to say that Michael Strahan gave his can of whup-ass to Justin Tuck, and Tuck now has two. Manning was good in fits and starts, mixed with lucky -- I counted two dropped interceptions. The Giants were very wise to give Burress that extension. This was a team trying to beat the odds and repeat versus a team in serious transition. We now know how sweeping that transition will be.

With Jason Campbell and the offense, it's just going to take time. It's all well and good to say, "Well, he played in kind of a West Coast thing part of his time at Auburn, so it should be a solid transition," but I guarantee you he's never seen anything like this. It's not the Al Saunders 700-page playbook (he wasn't really effective with that, anyway, beyond dump-offs to Chris Cooley -- I don't think he threw a touchdown to a wide receiver in the first half of the season), but it's tempo and execution and fractional variations in verbiage. It requires an extreme focus on mechanics. I hope for Campbell's sake that Zorn is given the time to make it work. Putting the kid in danger of double-digit offensive coordinators since his college days is just silly.

Mike Tanier: Yeah, I remember when Hasselbeck looked like he stunk in the same system. At least Hasselbeck wasn't learning one coach's pass offense and a different coach's rush offense like Campbell is.

I take away that the Giants' run blocking is good and their pass blocking needs work. And they need secondary and tertiary pass targets. But the defense looked very good and very fast again this year, and only a part of that was inept Redskins play.

Will Carroll: The one thing I noticed is that while Manning did look calmer, he still throws high on nearly every pass. I'm not sure if that's something mechanical or if it's where he means to put it -- he doesn't seem to do it with Amani Toomer as much -- but there's got to be a way to exploit it defensively.

Doug Farrar: That's what's known as "Page One of New York Giants Playbook: Jump Ball to Plaxico." With Burress, that's absolutely where he means to put it.

Vince Verhei: I knew the Redskins were in trouble on their first play from scrimmage, when Campbell took a three-step drop. His first read wasn't open, so rather then look elsewhere, or take off running, he just kind of drifted to his right, right into the pass rush. He wasn't even being pressured. It went beyond incompetence into some more severe realm of bad, bad football. And how many failed completions did he have on third down tonight?

I thought Eli was great early, but really poor later. One interception, two more dropped, and three or four others in a position that they could have been picked off, but absolutely not completed.

Images of Brandon Jacobs steamrolling over Redskins defensive backs aside, my lasting memories from this game are going to be a coach and quarterback who looked like they had no idea what they were doing.

Bill Barnwell: Eli was amazing. In the literal sense of the word. He'd throw four or five really great underneath passes and then just hit a Redskins defensive back in the hands with a throw. Steve Smith looked like a pretty good secondary target to me. He and Kevin Boss are competing for the same passes, but Smith really has promise -- for a guy who's so young, he really runs crisp routes.

Corey Webster still can't tackle. He totally whiffed on Portis' big run. Campbell was definitely hesitant -- especially for a guy who wasn't hesitant last year. That's disappointing.

Sunday, September 7

Kansas City Chiefs 10 at New England Patriots 17

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure what to say about the Tom Brady injury. We don't know yet how bad it is, and I'm guessing we still won't know when Audibles runs on Monday. I think that we saw with Matt Cassel that most teams do not self-destruct when the starting quarterback is hurt, even when the drop in talent is as severe as the drop from Brady to Cassel. The Patriots ran more when Cassel was in there, but he made some plays when he was in the spread shotgun.

You can see the difference, though. He holds the ball a little long. He takes longer to identify the open man. Some of his passes are wobbly. If Brady is out five or six weeks, this team will still win the division. Obviously, if Brady is out for the whole year, that's a different story, but I still think they're playoff contenders thanks to the easy schedule.

The game certainly didn't seem as close as the 17-10 score. The Patriots' front seven really dominated the Chiefs offensive line, and the secondary was as inconsistent as expected, with a massive blown coverage that almost allowed Kansas City to tie the game at the end.

It's hard to overstate just how bad Larry Johnson looked. He was running into a big pile of defenders on nearly every play. Sure, part of that is the lack of an offensive line. But he didn't show any strength pushing those piles, and he didn't really show much vision to sidestep the pile and find a seam. It was just run up into the line for two yards, over and over.

Will Carroll: OK, just got my first good look at the injury and there's SOME good news. The way that Brady got hit suggests a PCL injury. Bill, we have any of those to quarterbacks in the database? Off the top of my head, I can't think of one. EVERYONE is going to talk about Shawne Merriman playing with this, but it's just not comparable at all.

Bill Barnwell: Reggie Bush missed the last four weeks of 2007 with a partially torn PCL. Roy Williams did the same. Those are both speed guys, though. Brady's just a different type of player.

Mike Tanier: Well, I don't think we'll see Brady for a few weeks, and you have to be worried about how tight that game was against a just horrible team. I want to see how the game plan changes with Cassell out there. I would call a few more designed runs, tighten the formation a bit, make play-action a bigger part of the offense. You have a bunch of winnable games with McFumbles until October 12 at San Diego. When I saw the hit I said bye-bye 2008, but maybe if it is a four-week injury the Pats could still be 4-0 or 3-1 heading in there.

Bill Barnwell: Realistically, if Brady's out for the year, the Patriots are what -- the Ravens? The Titans?

Aaron Schatz: No, the Patriots have much better receivers than the Ravens and Titans, and a better offensive line than the Ravens, at least.

Bill Barnwell: But their defense isn't as good.

Will Carroll: It's really unlikely that he'll be out for the season. I'm curious how conservative they'll be with him. If the Patriots called, Daunte Culpepper would listen, right? (Note: Colts fan taunting.)

Doug Farrar: They're the Browns, maybe with Charlie Frye still under center.

Bill Barnwell: Their defense is way better than Cleveland's. Remember, the defense carried this team in 2006.

Sean McCormick: Their linebackers weren't 47 years old in 2006. Their secondary was also much better.

Mike Tanier: The Patriots are the Vikings without Brady. But they are the Vikings in a weak division with no Packers. They go 4-2 or 5-1 in the division with or without Brady. But you have to say at Chargers is a loss with Cassell, at Indy is a loss. Denver and Pittsburgh, let's call a split. At Seattle, well, we assume they are tougher in Qwest in December.

I need to get a better handle on the Pats defense before I say all is well though. The Pats defense looked like the Eagles offense today. They were playing a really poor opponent so almost everything came easy. I don't think they should have had the lapses they had.

Well, show of hands. I think that even if Brady is out all year and Cassell plays all year, the Patriots can win 10 games and the AFC East. And that if this is a four-week thing, they are an 11- or 12-win team still. Who agrees?

Aaron Schatz: The spreadsheets raise their hands.

Mike Tanier: The spreadsheets have hands? If they had breasts I would never leave my office!

Doug Farrar: Depends on who replaces him. The Patriots with (insert reasonable veteran quarterback here) would be OK. The Patriots with Cassel? Up goes the floor, down goes the ceiling.

Sean McCormick: I think the Pats max out at 9-7 with no Brady all season. I was expecting them to struggle to hit 12 with Brady, honestly.

Aaron Schatz: Why? I'm just curious, but how much of that is intellectual, how much emotional?

Sean McCormick: No, it's not really emotional (much as I might like to see this era of New England dominance end). I just think that they have become a team that is heavily reliant on getting excellent quarterback play and that Brady makes all the other parts work better. Basically, they've become Indianapolis. When Brady is exerting pressure on both the opposing defense and the opposing offense, he makes every other part of the New England roster look better. But if he's not there, I don't see the other players as being nearly as dangerous, with the exception of Randy Moss.

I also thought the Patriots were likely to have a serious Super Bowl hangover and that their preseason was an indicator of it. All along, they've reminded me a bit of the 2002 Rams. By all rights, the Rams should have rolled through everyone that year. Instead, their quarterback got hurt and was never right all year and they just seemed flat. Everything about New England has looked flat since training camp.

Would anyone expect the Jim Sorgi Colts to do better than 9-7? I know the AFC East is not the AFC South, but that said, it's not the 2007 AFC East, either. All three teams are somewhere between a little better and significantly better.

Mike Tanier: You can't separate the team from the division. Put the Pats in the AFC South, take away Brady, and I might say 9-7, because I could see 3-3 or 2-4 in division. The Pats also get the AFC West, so they beat the Chiefs already and face the Raiders. Also, I think the Pats running game and D-line is good enough to win games without a top-flight pass offense.

Aaron Schatz: Again, I remind everyone, Bubby Brister had -63.4% passing DVOA in 1995, one of the worst figures ever. Three years later in Denver, he came in for an injured John Elway and had 25.8% DVOA. Even with the best quarterbacks, the team around you does matter. Think back to recent years and how many teams lost a quarterback to injury -- and didn't collapse. How many times were the 49ers fine when Young or Montana were injured and replaced by Jeff Kemp or Elvis Grbac or Steve Bono?

Sean McCormick: Sure, but scheme also matters. The Patriots offense was dominant last year because they were able to flood the defense with receivers and could rely on Brady to identify where the rushers were coming from and to buy time in the pocket to allow things to open up. It put a lot of responsibility on the quarterback. Could the Pats run with their 2005-2006 offense? Probably. But I don't think they could call an offensive game the way they did last year without Brady or a reasonably competent backup.

Sometimes you have a scheme that allows Bubby Brister to be competent and sometimes your team plays one way with Charlie Frye and plays another way with Derek Anderson. (Or one way with Drew Bledsoe and another way with Tony Romo. Or one way with Matt Hasselbeck and another way with Seneca Wallace. Etc., etc., etc.)

Mike Tanier: I think the Patriots have the personnel to adjust their scheme, though. They can run the ball and are deep at running back. They have a good tight end.

Ben Riley: I'm with Sean regarding the Patriots. They just narrowly eked out a victory against the Kansas City Chiefs. At home. Even before the Brady injury I had serious questions about the secondary, but if Brady is out four or five weeks I think this is a 9-7 team at best. I think Laurence Maroney is a decent tailback, but he has yet to show he has the ability to take over a game, and Sammy Morris isn't scaring anyone. And I have no idea who the "good tight end" Mike is thinking of -- Ben Watson? He's fast, but again, not someone you have to scheme against.

Bill Barnwell: That's just silly. We're talking a team with one of the best defensive lines in the league, one of the best groups of receivers, and an incredibly easy schedule. Saying that they're at best a 9-7 team without Brady is ... it's just silly.

Sean McCormick: They're the 2002 Rams.

Aaron Schatz: Look, the 2002 Rams didn't just lose their quarterback for four or five games. Marshall Faulk only started 10 games (though he played in 14). Orlando Pace missed a few games. Marc Bulger, the backup quarterback, missed a few games, and they had to start Jamie Martin twice.

Will Carroll: I think Bulger is better than Cassel.

Bill Barnwell: 2002 Rams had three times as many injuries as the 2001 team.

Mike Tanier: Well when Bulger was 25 what did you think of him? And he came off the bench to go 6-1 that season, which strains the comparison. It was the starting quarterback with the injury problems that caused the trouble. That, a lousy defense, and an early-season schedule that started them against three playoff teams, not Chiefs-Jets-Dolphins-bye.

I really don't see much connection except that both teams had great offenses but lost Super Bowls the year prior.

Will Carroll: There's an interesting continuum for backups. It's not 32 starters and then 32 backups to make up the top 64. There's a lot of overlap and I'd guess there are probably some third-stringers better than a starter or two. (J.T. O'Sullivan over Alex Smith makes that case, despite his play today.) This isn't really a discussion about "How good is Cassel?" It's more one of "Can anyone do this given the ability to at least get in the door of the NFL?"

Mike Tanier: Lemmee take Brady out for the year and find seven losses on the schedule: Indy. San Diego. Pittsburgh. Denver. Seattle. One each to the Jets and Bills? Yes, that's possible. Is it likely?

Ben Riley: Regarding my alleged silliness and the Pats' easy schedule, I think the AFC East may be a little tougher than originally anticipated. I know, I know, it's National Jump to Conclusions Week, but I'm finding it hard to believe that the Patriots could lose the league's best player for more than a month and have it barely register in the standings.

(The conversation continues during the Colts-Bears game.)

Aaron Schatz: Michael Silver and Tom Curran are both reporting that Brady is done for the year. Silver has anonymous sources in the Pats front office, apparently.

Will Carroll: I'm wrong -- or rather saw it wrong. On the angle NBC just showed, he got hit on the side and there was much more of a caving than in the previous sideline angle I saw before. It's definitely not good.

Aaron Schatz: Strange. Not sure how I feel as a Patriots fan. I know I should be totally distraught, but I'm overwhelmed by a feeling of "well, this is football, these things happen, it was bound to happen eventually." The season isn't over, it's just totally different. Assuming Brady is truly out for the year, we say goodbye to the high-powered Patriots. They'll be back in 2009. Instead, we're now rooting for a good-but-not-great team in a winnable division: the Sub-Patriots. It's a totally different fan experience. Honestly, Patriots fans aren't used to that one -- we're used to either totally sucking hardcore or being annual Super Bowl contenders.

I'm glad it happened today, and not in Week 8 or something. At least we can really re-adjust our expectations before we get too deep into the season. If the Pats were humming along at 7-1 and this happened, I think that would be far more emotionally devastating for the fans.

Ben Riley: Trent Dilfer said he spoke to people within the Patriots organization, and was told: "Matt Cassel is our starting quarterback for the rest of the year."

Mike Tanier: That's what I would tell Trent Dilfer too!

Aaron, the writer is taking over the fan. The fan is mad, but the writer is saying, hooray! All new storylines! All new personalities! I don't have to write a Brady-Favre thing next week, and there will be something to write about before those Dolphins and Niners games besides the 16-point spread.

Aaron Schatz: Well, yes and no. I don't care about new storylines and personalties, but I will admit to a very weird zen-like feeling of freedom, that this injury allows me to have a season where I can write about what the numbers say without worrying that people will think anything is too Pats-friendly.

Bill Barnwell: Any chance avowed workout fanatic Tom Brady makes it back for the playoffs?

Ned Macey: This is obviously easier to say now as Manning gets ready to take the field, but when the Manning rumors started circulating, I was actually kind of excited to see what this team would look like with Sorgi. I feel bad for Pats fans because it is impossible that the Pats won't be worse, but as a sort of experiment, it is fascinating. If I were to vote, I still think they're a pretty good team in a bad division so long as Cassel isn't horrible. The Jamie Martin comment reminds me that there is a level of quarterback play that won't get it done even with this offense.

Aaron Schatz: OK, I'm thinking a little more about my zen-like calm regarding the Brady injury. I think I may have another reason why I'm not that distraught.

There was no way for the Patriots to follow up last season. Anything short of winning the Super Bowl would have been failure. Patriots fans were basically in a position to spend the whole year worrying about how the Pats were not as good as they were in 2007, and they weren't going to win the Super Bowl this year, and this amazing juggernaut would never climb back to the top of the mountain. With the Brady injury, the Patriots really have nothing left to lose. Patriots fans can go back to just rooting for wins every week, instead of expecting perfection and worrying when it doesn't materialize. Now, all it takes to make this a successful season is a wild card spot or something. When Brady comes back in 2009, we will be able to really enjoy it instead of constantly worrying about how it doesn't live up to 2007.

Am I making any sense?

Sean McCormick: I don't know what to say about Brady. On the one hand, you always want to see the best players play, and as a fan I want to see my team beat the best.

On the other hand, after watching a potential Super Bowl team go up in smoke in 1999 when Vinny Testaverde went down in the first quarter...

Then watching Chad Pennington come in and be the best quarterback in the league in 2002 and then not make it out of preseason the following year...

Then watching Pennington tear his shoulder apart in 2004 while leading a really good Jets team and then do it again in 2005...

I can't say that there isn't a certain level of satisfaction in seeing the Patriots -- who have had nothing but fantastic luck at the quarterback spot from the moment Brady stepped on the field -- get a taste for what the other teams in the division have been going through. Buffalo, Miami and the Jets have just been going through one quarterback after another after another, and all the while the Pats have been able to play to their potential because their stud quarterback never got hurt.

Again, I'd rather not see anyone injured, but I don't blame fans who are grinning in anticipation of Bill Belichick being forced to earn his genius stripes without Brady for a full season.

Detroit Lions 21 at Atlanta Falcons 34

Aaron Schatz: I will really enjoy National Jump to Conclusions Week, as everyone gets excited about the quality of the Atlanta and Detroit offenses without noticing that they played well against the Atlanta and Detroit defenses.

Ben Riley: Did anyone watch the Atlanta game? Michael Turner has 220 yards. I'm thinking it wasn't just the Chargers offensive line that made him look good.

Aaron Schatz: Detroit ranked 27th in run defense DVOA last year -- with Shaun Rogers. Beware of jumping to conclusions.

Will Carroll: Was Michael Turner always so big in the ass?

Vince Verhei: I was curious to see how Mike Smith and Mike Mularkey would use Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. I saw them both on the field at the same time at least once. Turner lined up at tailback; Norwood lined up wide right, with a regular wide receiver (Harry Douglas, I think) in the slot. Douglas motioned into the backfield as the ball was snapped. Turner ran a fake dive into the line, then Matt Ryan pitched to Norwood coming across the field on an end-around, with Douglas as his lead blocker. It was a cute little counter play that didn't fool the defense at all, but Norwood is a good enough runner to pick up 5 or 6 yards on a play where most would be stopped for no game.

Norwood was also used on special teams -- and not just returning kicks. I saw him make a nice tackle covering a kickoff. Which begs the question: If the team thinks he's too fragile to maintain the load of a top rusher, why are they risking him covering kicks?

Cincinnati Bengals 10 at Baltimore Ravens 17

Will Carroll: Did Willis McGahee see the field at all?

Mike Tanier: I saw almost no McGahee if I saw him at all. The Ravens were using Le'Ron McClain, big 260-pound fullback, as a tailback much of the game, spelling him with Ray Rice. McClain runs upright and is pretty slow but he finished his runs well and can shift and slide a little. The game plan was to bulldoze the Bengals and let the defense do much of the work, and it was successful.

Seattle Seahawks 10 at Buffalo Bills 34

Doug Farrar: Here's a Cal alumni matchup to watch: Bills running back Marshawn Lynch versus Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Round one, to end Buffalo's first drive, went to Mebane, as he bulled through a double-team and took Lynch down. The second-year tackle is crucial to the Seahawks' ability to stop the run, because the rest of that front seven is more fast and light.

On Buffalo's first play, Mike Wahle just plastered Aaron Schobel. This Seahawks team looks more physical, but I have to wonder how the offense will do without Deion Branch and Bobby Engram. On Seattle's first drive, Courtney Taylor dropped a pass on first down and failed to cut a route on time on third down. This is entirely on Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell; the receiver situation is the centerpiece of a series of really "interesting" offensive decisions.

Second drop for Taylor halfway through the first quarter. This formerly lockstep passing offense looks like hell to start.

On Lynch's first-quarter rushing touchdown, I'm thinking, "Oh … THAT's why some teams run the draw on third-and-long. Because with some teams, it works!" Walt Coleman's crew didn't do the Seahawks any favors on the first Bills touchdown drive, though -- Lee Evans only got one foot in bounds when he had control of the ball on a long pass. Holmgren threw the challenge flag in time, but the officials didn't see it. Then, Evans was obviously holding Kelly Jennings on Lynch's touchdown. That said, the Seahawks need to wake up. Mike Holmgren must have been positively thermonuclear at the end of the first quarter. I'm not also sure how good the interference call on Jabari Greer was on Nate Burleson in the second quarter. Later in that same drive, Burleson dropped an easy touchdown with nobody around him, only to make a great catch over Greer on the next play.

I'd also like to thank Tony Boselli, who's calling the game with Ron Pitts, for talking about and showing the Walter Jones-Aaron Schobel matchup through the game. Good stuff.

Ben Riley: Seattle traditionally plays poorly in early morning East Coast road games, but they are really outdoing themselves today. I've counted at least four passes where the Seahawks' collection of no-name receivers have run the wrong routes and/or look completely surprised that Matt Hasselbeck is throwing them the football. The fact that Jeb Putzier has been targeted twice (unsuccessfully, of course) really tells you all you need to know.

And how about that new-look RBBBBBC for Seattle? Iit's possible that I've been too hard on Shaun Alexander, because the running game looks pathetic; if you drafted Julius Jones in your fantasy league, you can commence weeping now. Also, I think center Chris Spencer is in danger of losing his job. It's your third year in the league, Chris -- time to recognize the blitz and make the line adjustment.

Aaron Schatz: I would like to see some history on that first statement, since our research has showed that the cross-country thing generally doesn't matter, and Buffalo doesn't actually have a larger home-field advantage than other teams.

Doug Farrar: They were 1-3 in 10 a.m. PST games east of Denver last season and the trend goes back a while. Beat Philly, lost to Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Atlanta. I think it's more about the body clock than the HFA of any particular stadium.

True to his 2007 numbers, the only thing Julius Jones appears to be good at is catching the ball out of the backfield. The one long run he got off in this game was a 24-yarder with six minutes left in the game, and that was because the Bills were running that weird "Moving Cow" defense where the front four is milling around instead of setting, and safety Donte Whitner was essentially a defensive tackle. Other than that, he doesn't look like he could bust a wet paper towel.

Ben Riley: I'm having a hard time seeing straight right now. Credit to the Bills for absolutely dominating in every phase of the game. They ran a fake field goal midway through the third quarter, when the Seahawks decided to not cover the player lined up wide on the sideline. It's one thing to get outplayed, but Holmgren got outcoached too.

Doug Farrar: OK, back to the Julius Jones acquisition for a moment: I'm watching Felix Jones scooting through holes the size of small tractors thanks to this incredible Dallas run-blocking line, and I'm thinking to myself, how is it that a personnel executive like Tim Ruskell -- a guy who has forgotten more about football than I'm ever going to know -- takes a look at Julius Jones spinning out behind that line and cannot see that behind the weaker Seattle line, disaster is looming? Is it that hard to realize how important offensive lines are from left to right, and that you can't just plug a back in with a different style if your line collapses under the smallest amount of pressure? How many cautionary tales do there need to be?

Will Carroll: With Jones -- and I don't know if this is known -- what were the options? Choosing Jones over certain other free agents might make more sense.

Vince Verhei: On the Eve of National Jump To Conclusions Week, I feel the need to comfort Doug, Ben, and the rest of Seahawks fandom. This loss was not THAT bad. Three big special teams plays -- Roscoe Parrish's punt return touchdown, the touchdown on the fake field goal and the fumble on the kickoff return -- led directly to 21 points, almost the entire 24-point margin. Those won't happen every week. On offense, Hasselbeck and the receivers were on different pages of different books in different languages, and yes, the offensive line was mostly befuddled. But I found myself thinking "Wow, Buffalo is good" at least as often as I thought "Wow, Seattle is bad."

Hasselbeck did commit one of my biggest football pet peeves though. On a second-and-22, Hass caught the play clock about to expire and called timeout. WHY? You're screwed anyway, save the timeout and go to second-and-27. To top it off, after the timeout, the Seahawks lost yards anyway and finished with a third-and-31.

In the second half, the announcers noted it was a "good call" when a Seahawks draw play on third-and-long picked up a first down. If you run a million draws, one or two are bound to work.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of National Jump to Conclusions Week, I have four words for those people (like Cris Collinsworth) who think this win and the Brady injury suddenly make Buffalo the leading contender in the AFC East: Rams 18, Broncos 10.

St. Louis Rams 3 at Philadelphia Eagles 38

Bill Barnwell: St. Louis looks awful. They seem to have no idea where the Eagles rush is coming from, which they've alleviated by not bothering to block anybody or taking penalties.

One guy on the Eagles who hasn't looked good is Shawn Andrews. He has blown a couple of blocks and doesn't look anything close to 100 percent.

Mike Tanier: That was simply pornographic. The Eagles looked great, but my God, what a dreadful secondary the Rams have. The stop-and-go route is some kind of new innovation for them. And the Rams still jump offsides once per drive.

Still, healthy McNabb = good thing.

Ned Macey: Maybe the Eagles will have a dominant secondary, but in the one-plus quarter I watched this game, it was extremely noticeable that the Rams were getting no separation. Sure, the offensive line continues to struggle, but traditionally even when the Rams are struggling, they have flashes with people running free in the secondary. Bennett went down with an injury that can only make things worse, but he's no great shakes himself. The decline of Holt the last couple years is an under-reported story.

Jacksonville Jaguars 10 at Tennessee Titans 17

Bill Barnwell: Vince Young just went down. Got up and hobbled around on one leg and then went back down. Looked like maybe an ankle. Defender fell down on his leg and it bent the wrong way. He's walking with a limp, but it's not pretty. Lower leg or ankle.

Ned Macey: Didn't we do this last year with the Titans winning in Week 1? I feel like I'm the one person not on the Jaguars' bandwagon, mostly because I do not believe in this offense, and despite popular perception, the offense drove them last year. (I realize that everyone around here knows this.) They just got DOMINATED up front, and a healthy Albert Haynesworth makes Tennessee clearly one of the top three or four front sevens.

Will Carroll: Young out at least a month with a strained MCL. Much worse for him, assuming he's still mobile. Man, I've heard nothing about this until I started making calls.

Houston Texans 17 at Pittsburgh Steelers 38

Bill Barnwell: Houston's playing much better than the score indicates. They got absolutely jobbed on a fourth-and-1 QB sneak call on their first drive where Matt Schaub somehow took three steps forward and didn't get a first down. The Steelers fumbled on back-to-back plays and recovered them both (with one bouncing out of bounds), and then scored on the play after.

I've been impressed with the Steelers' offensive line so far. Mario Williams has been cheating some on his pass rush and the Steelers were taking advantage, specifically on the draw that led to Willie Parker's second touchdown.

The one thing I forgot to ask: Did Mike Tomlin wear aviators last year on the sidelines? Is he the first hipster coach? Does he ride his fixie to the game?

Mike Tanier: Tomlin can wear flip-flops and cutoffs if he calls games like that. I know the Texans were playing closer than the score early, but that was a beatdown by the end.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20 at New Orleans Saints 24

Ned Macey: I thought Tanier would have at least one comment on Reggie Bush for Barnwell. This was not going off on the Lions.

I maintain that the Saints are too reliant on big plays, but if you can get them on the Bucs, then you are in pretty good shape.

Bill Barnwell: Bush had 14 carries for 51 yards. He had one carry for 26 yards and 13 carries for 28 yards otherwise. Color me impressed.

Ned Macey: I guess I was referring more to the 112 yards receiving, including the 42-yard game winner.

Bill Barnwell: I never said he wasn't a good receiver.

Mike Tanier: I have 100 percent confidence that I will win my bet with Barnwell and have no need to comment on how much fun it will be to read that Pro Bowl blog.

Bill Barnwell: The bet is 45 rushing DYAR. I don't think Bush got very many today.

Mike Tanier: It's a long season. The rushing DYAR will come. And of course he will have many other outstanding receiving days, but they don't matter in the bet.

Is exactly 45 a push? How did we word it?

Bill Barnwell: "I'll take the under on Bush putting up 45 rushing DYAR."

New York Jets 20 at Miami Dolphins 14

Benjy Rose (Atlanta-based Jets fan): Advantage No. 1 of Brett Favre going to the Jets: more nationally-televised games. Woo-hoo!

9:00 in the first quarter, Chad Pennington overthrows Greg Camarillo on a deep out. Threw it about 30 yards downfield, and looked effortless doing it. Haven't seen him make a throw like that in about four years. Usually that's a put-your-whole-body-into-it heave. Other than that, though, Pennington looks bad; poor throws, some poor choices. He's seemed to get it together towards the end of the first quarter, though.

Jets' front seven looks good on running plays. While the line doesn't seem to be getting a substantial push, the linebackers are making the plays. Could be that the line is taking up blockers, could be that Miami's line sucks. Hard to say. They aren't getting any pass rush, though, which has allowed Pennington to get time to make throws. Can't give Chad time.

Mike Nugent was injured on a missed field goal, so Jets go for it on fourth-and-13 from the 22. Favre throws an eephus as he's hit, and somehow, no Dolphins got to it. Chansi Stuckey grabs it for the touchdown. They go for two, apparently not trusting punter Ben Graham to kick the extra point. Then Graham "kicks off" and you see why he didn't try the XP. Ick. Kellen Clemens is seen on the sideline kicking into the net.

Favre looks pretty good, all in all, although far from perfect. The first touchdown pass, a 56-yarder to Jerricho Cotchery, was a bit underthrown, but Cotchery was about 10 yards behind the defense, so the catch wasn't a problem. The second one was the above-mentioned floater that should have been intercepted. He's made good passes, he's made some not-so-good ones. All in all, though, I'm happy with the offense.

Mike Tanier: I was waiting for a comment on Favre's fourth-down, close-my-eyes-and-throw-deep-over-the-middle-of-the-field pass to Stuckey, wherein five Dolphins defensive backs in the vicinity fail to react to the high, arching throw over the middle. I guess they call that vintage Favre.

Bill Moore: If I threw a pass like that in Madden '09, about five guys would have had a crack at the interception before my receiver as much as looked at the ball.

Sean McCormick: I thought Vernon Gholston might be buried on the bench after his dismal preseason showing, but he's been in a regular rotation with Bryan Thomas and has been playing pretty well. He cleaned up on a Shaun Ellis sack and pushed the right tackle back on several other passing downs.

The Jets line is having an up-and-down day. The left side looks terrific with Alan Faneca between D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, but the right side is leaking in pass protection. Brandon Moore in particular seems to be having a rough day, and Favre has had to dance out of early pressure on quite a few throws.

It's shocking that Eric Mangini doesn't seem to have any contingency plan at kicker. Nugent hurt himself on his first field goal attempt to the point where he couldn't even come on and kick an extra point. The Jets ended up going for it on fourth-and 13 -- which turned into a touchdown on a Favre toss-up special -- and then they had to go for two. Ben Graham promptly came out for the kickoff and kicked a wobbly duck that only got the Miami 35. Kellen Clemens was actually practicing kicking into the net on the sidelines, which should give you an idea of how bad the situation is.

Doug Farrar: Well, the Seahawks currently have two kickers on their roster. Got any extra receivers?

Bill Barnwell: Might need another one now that Nate Burleson's out.

Benjy Rose: Dwight Lowery (the Jets' rookie fourth-round pick) is having a HUGE day. Two passes defensed at the goal line will be the highlights, but he's been tight on coverage all day. Considering the secondary has been a big liability (aside from Kerry Rhodes) for a while, this is nice. Darrelle Revis and Dwight Lowery: cornerbacks for the future. Of course, I'm not sure why the Dolphins passed twice on third- and fourth-and-goal from the 2, but that's not the point.

Sean McCormick: Wow. Dwight Lowery just singlehandedly shut down that Dolphins' drive halfway through the fourth quarter with back-to-back defenses on third- and fourth-down throws where he was isolated against the receiver. Beautiful defensive back play.

Bill Barnwell: What's the point of the Dolphins running play-action with 20 seconds left, the ball in second-and-long, and no timeouts?

Sean McCormick: Valiant late effort by Miami, but you have to wonder if trying to complete a 20-yard fade pattern to Ted Ginn, Jr., in the corner of the end zone is the way you want to go out. Darrelle Revis boxed Ginn out and picked the ball to effectively end the game.

Aaron Schatz: Who will be the first announcer to see footage of Brett Favre jumping up and down after his touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery and then say "Look at Brett, he's just having fun out there!"

Dallas Cowboys 28 at Cleveland Browns 10

Bill Barnwell: The Browns look like they're really struggling to arrange their defense and account for everyone on the Cowboys offense. Jason Witten's been wide-open on their first drive.

Mike Tanier: Pacman Jones just tackled Braylon Edwards in the end zone at the start of the second quarter. It's a shame the ball was in the air. Would have taken an amazing catch by Braylon to score, but now it is first-and-goal ... and a touchdown to Kellen Winslow.

Bill Barnwell: It's always nice to see a defense (Dallas) celebrate a third-down stop when the quarterback fumbles the snap. You know, since you did a lot.

Aaron Schatz: The Browns are getting no pass pressure on the Cowboys. Zip. Weren't Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams supposed to change this? Of course, it doesn't help when you only send three on third-and-4.

Bill Barnwell: The Cowboys are using really wide splits on third down. Maybe they think they have a better shot at getting past Joe Thomas with pure speed.

Mike Tanier: The Cowboys do a lot of interesting things with fronts. I think the wide splits are a reflection of the fact they have no fear of a draw or a quarterback run up the middle on third downs, and they would tighten them a bit against the Jaguars or Eagles. I haven't been watching their D carefully, but in the past they would use a lot of six-man fronts, with DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis, and maybe Roy Williams or another linebacker on the line. Tough to run against.

Bill Barnwell: They did a 5-2 a lot under Phillips, which makes sense.

Ben Riley: Glass is half-full, half-empty if you are a Browns fan. The good news: Derek Anderson looks good and his numbers would be even better if Braylon Edwards would stop dropping passes. The bad news, already identified by Aaron: absolutely no pass rush. None. Romo has had eight seconds to scan the field, wave to Jessica, and then hit Witten or Terrell Owens.

Vince Verhei: The Browns rushed three on almost every play in the first half. The announcers were clueless to this, noting only that Cowboys' linemen "looked like they were looking for someone to block." Well, yes, when you have six men blocking three, you are going to have guys literally standing around looking for someone to block. I realize Joe Buck is incompetent, but I expected more from Troy Aikman. The onus for the Browns' failure falls with the eight men dropping back in coverage, who were getting beat short and deep with regularity.

Arizona Cardinals 23 at San Francisco 49ers 13

Bill Barnwell: I don't really like the Cardinals' game plan. They're running lots of draws and counters and misdirection tricky stuff. You're not playing the Giants, you're playing the 49ers. You can go at them. It's OK.

Mike Tanier: The Cards are winning, so don't rain on their parade. FOX won't turn away from the precious Cowboys delivering a butt-whooping to the Browns so I can have a look at a closer game.

Bill Barnwell: It's not exactly an exciting game. SD-CAR is way more interesting.

Vince Verhei: Here is the kind of game you missed, Mike: The 49ers' possession following the Cardinals' first field goal was a strong candidate for worst drive of the year. Allen Rossum takes the kickoff four yards deep in his end zone and foolishly decides to bring it out. He is tackled at the 10, but the ball is placed at the 5 after a Takeo Spikes block below the waist. On first down, Frank Gore runs left, makes a cut, and fumbles without being touched. Niners recover. On second down, J.T. O'Sullivan hits Zak Keasey, who is DRILLED by Darnell Dockett and fumbles. Cardinals recover at the San Francisco 11 -- and proceed to go three-and-out, then miss a field goal.

On the whole, I thought O'Sullivan played OK, certainly better than his teammates. His one interception came when he didn't see Adrian Wilson. Wilson made a great play, breaking in front of the receiver before the ball had even been released.

Warner, on the other hand, took several sacks where he just stood in the pocket forever, including once in the red zone.

The Cards tried Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at wide receiver, throwing him one deep pass that was broken up. I guess if Rodgers-Cromartie is really that special an athlete, it makes sense to try to get the ball in his hands, but doesn't Arizona have enough receivers?

Carolina Panthers 26 at San Diego Chargers 24

Ben Riley: Every time the Red Zone channel flips to this game, I see unheralded tight end Donte Rosario (I'm not even sure if that's his real name) catching a 20-yard pass. Get ready for a fantasy waiver wire stampede the likes of which we have not seen since Anquan Boldin's rookie season.

Bill Barnwell: The weird thing is that when Merriman was in there, the Panthers went right after him with Dante Rosario, of all people. It wasn't always that Merriman would be on Rosario, but the Chargers were shifting their coverages to account for the fact that Merriman isn't going to have much range in
coverage.

Jake Delhomme hasn't looked good, but the Chargers defense just hasn't looked all that impressive.

Will Carroll: The knee shouldn't affect Merriman's range or speed at all. At least physically. I can imagine it would have a big mental effect on him.

Ben Riley: Saddest comment among my friends watching today's games: "The Seahawks wish they had Dwayne Jarrett."

Mike Tanier: Dante Rosario? He was the guy from Dancin on Air, right? I actually read Dante's Rosario in college. Ozzie Virgil takes Dante through the nine levels of Panthers offensive ineptitude:

1) Brad Hoover, featured back.
2) DeShaun Foster off-tackle, loss of 1 (this is historical, folks).
3) Jake Delhomme misreads coverage for an interception.
4) 3-yard pass to Nick Goings on third-and-15.
5) Steve Smith's Punchout!
6) David Carr's very existence.
7) Is Wesley Walls in shape? Can we coax him out of retirement?
8) Let's find some unmotivated USC wide receivers!
9) Hey, last-second touchdown to obscure tight end. At least Norv Turner is in midseason form!

Vince Verhei: The Panthers' interior line owned the Chargers' front seven. Just owned them. Big, gaping holes that anyone reading this could have run through for at least three yards.

When the Panthers did pass, they focused most of their attempts (and almost all of their success) to the left. You could tell they were afraid of throwing to Quentin Jammer.

I'd like to tell you how the Panthers kept the Chargers' offense in check, but I can't. Every time I looked at the screen, Carolina had the ball again.

Chicago Bears 29 at Indianapolis Colts 13

Bill Moore: Great Cris Collinsworth quote: "If Manning comes out and wins tonight, the Colts become like the 'leader in the clubhouse.'" Ah no, they
become the leader after the first hole.

Will Carroll: Manning is wearing a GIGANTIC brace on his left knee. Means nothing, but it's interesting in that his knee shouldn't need any sort of structural protection ... but in light of Brady's injury, I bet Pats fans wish Brady would have had one on.

Why, why, why do they kick to Hester? The Colts can't cover kicks against normal return guys.

Aaron Schatz: Random observation: Dusty Dvoracek is finally starting for the Bears after two years mostly lost to injury. I went to look him up. Do you realize he's already 27 years old? And not "FO calls him 27 because his birthday is December 30, 1981" -- the guy was born in March of 1981. Did he do a post-grad high school prep year AND redshirt or something?

Bill Barnwell: And the Bears start their season off with a fumbled snap and a false start.

Ben Riley: Followed by Kyle Orton spiking the ball 5 yards downfield, into the turf. Going to be a long year in Chicago.

Will Carroll: As notable as Manning's kneebrace is, Marvin Harrison isn't even wearing knee PADS.

Joseph Addai looks very unsure of his footing. Not sure if that's the new puffy turf.

Aaron Schatz: Caveat: He's going up against Tommie Harris. But number 61, Jamey Richard, the temporary Colts center, looks awful.

Bill Barnwell: This turf is giving everyone issues. As much as it's people slipping (and the black clouds of dust that come up with them), it's the people taking strange angles to the ball.

Ben Riley:Apparently, if you build a new stadium, you are entitled to have one game handed to you by the officials. Brian Urlacher got flagged for a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty earlier, and presently the referees are trying to figure out how to give the Colts the ball back after they fumbled the kickoff return. (Answer: You review the play and affirm the incorrect call on the field. Sigh.)

It isn't just this game, either. The officiating in the Bills-Seahawks game was also absymal, although it was equally abysmal for each team.

Bill Moore: Conspiracy theory aside, it is absurd that referees who have the benefit of instant replay at their disposal do not allow a play to continue through fruition because one referee THINKS he sees down by contact. If the ref wants to call him down, he still may do so AFTER they determine who possesses the ball.

The Urlacher call was a ridiculous flop, but bully to Manning for being able to exploit the refs' overcautious nature when it comes to quarterback hits.

Ben Riley: We are only in the first quarter of the first game of the season, but I'm thinking my pessimism about Matt Forte may have been premature. He's making great cuts and plowing through defenders, much like Cedric Benson didn't. And he's going to get plenty of carries, given that Kyle Orton seems to be struggling with something as simple as the three-step drop.

Bill Moore: Actually looking at the cable cam replay NBC just showed, I take back the flop quote. It still wasn't a penalty, but he was throwing off his back foot when he gets hit.

Bob Sanders must have been mad he missed getting Forte on the way to that
50-yard touchdown and leveled him. But for anyone who saw that, how was that
not a leading-with-the-helmet hit?

Mike Tanier: Dvorack spent five years in college. One year was a no-play year when he was in an anger-management type program after getting kicked off the team.

No way the Colts win this safety challenge. The center does look bad. Tony Ugoh is getting pushed around.

Ben Riley: Four minutes to go in the first half, the officials (correctly) rule that the Bears tackled Addai in the Colts' end zone and thus are entitled to a safety. Tony Dungy has thrown the challenge flag. If the ruling is overturned on review, the conspiracy theory will take on Oswald-like proportions.

(Ruling upheld after review. The black helicopters are no longer circling above my apartment.)

Bill Barnwell: Ryan Diem got embarassed on the play before the safety.

Why do people get so hyped about the safety symbol? I mean, when people score a touchdown, sometimes they put the arms up in the touchdown signal, but when a safety happens, everyone on the defense does the safety symbol.

Mike Tanier: I think the Men Without Hats said it best: We can dance if we want to.

Aaron Schatz:The defense loves the safety because the defense doesn't get a lot of chances to score, and to back the other team all the way back through their end zone feels like total domination.

What on earth is going on in this game? I guess I haven't been paying perfect attention, but when I look up the Bears don't look that good, yet here they are up 15-6.

Sean McCormick: Bad tackling by the Colts.

Bill Barnwell: Really? The person I noticed who was really bad was Nathan Vasher, who got juked out of his shoes by Addai and then again by Anthony Gonzalez.

Bill Moore: Wow. That was monumentally stupid. Hubris at its best.

Ben Riley: I assume Bill is referring to Devin Hester's decision to wait in the end zone for four seconds, and then decide to run it out -- only to get shoe-stringed tackled on the six-yard line. But in my view, you must be willing to die in order to live, and so you let Hester do his thing. Sometimes it's not going to work, but sometimes he's going to win the game for you.

Bill Barnwell: Yeah, but jumping off a cliff doesn't have a lot to do with living.

Mike Tanier: Our buddy Hester? Yeah. Has a high opinion of his talents. And no football IQ.

Urlacher is on the line in the A-gap on every single play. And Lance Briggs is often crowding the line too. The Bears want that center thinking. This third-quarter drive, the kid is starting to figure it out better.

Bill Barnwell: The Colts are almost exclusively using Reggie Wayne in the slot, trying to keep him away from their corners, and using him on pick plays and in patterns. That would work better if Briggs was being occupied by Dallas Clark.

Will Carroll: The guy that Hester plowed on the kickoff return is Hunter Smith. Not the punter, but the head trainer. Imagine HIM getting hurt.

Mike Tanier: Think the Colts were trying to get Wayne on that McGowan kid who plays the nickel for the Bears. It worked for the touchdown. And they seemed to be working the middle more because it is tough for Urlacher and Briggs to get proper drops when they are filling gaps. They can do it, it's a standard part of their defense, but there's an increased chance that they get out of position.

Bill Barnwell: I suspect there'll be a hitch-and-go with Wayne on the next Colts drive.

Boy, is the Indy line getting away with murder. I've seen them hold unabated linemen three or four times, especially in the middle of the field.

Aaron Schatz: ... and they are still getting run over. The offensive line injuries are clearly a problem for the Colts. This isn't the same as replacing Tarik Glenn with a second-round pick who has an entire preseason to prepare.

Ben Riley: Normally I'm a proponent of going for it on fourth down, but Dungy's decision a moment ago seems a little aggressive to me. There are 14 minutes left to play and the Bears defense has been playing well -- why not punt and see what magic Kyle Orton might bring?

Aaron Schatz: I think Madden and Michaels are right, however. Orton does look a lot better than he did three years ago. Whether or not that's a one-night phenomenon, well, you all know my feelings about participating in National Jump to Conclusions Week.

Ben Riley: I agree. Orton is playing well. We clearly have gone through the looking glass this week.

Ned Macey: I don't think Orton's relative level of play should've factored into the decision to go for it. The bigger issue is that they have had ZERO success running up the middle behind the two rookies and Charles Johnson interior line. The slow-developing handoff to Rhodes was a terrible call.

Aaron Schatz: OK, for those of you playing our home game... nearly everybody out there thought the best four teams in the AFC were New England, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and San Diego. Three of those teams lost their first game -- two at home -- and the other one is going to have to play the entire season without the reigning league MVP.

Wow.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 08 Sep 2008

160 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2011, 4:17pm by LeeGentry19

Comments

1
by BigB (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:26am

Wow. What a first week - so far. A very interesting year is already in the making.

2
by BigB (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:28am

Also, are you going to start an "Irrational Tom Brady was Cheapshotted" thread?

3
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:32am

Before I read "Audibles" a quick note to the Outsiders:

Your advert from "The Association of Cultural Realtionships" keeps trying to attack my computer. The message my AV software give me is:

"An Intrusion attempt by www.23baby.com was blocked".

4
by bowman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:36am

Jacksonville lost both starting guards and backup guard at Tennessee. Include the injuries to their starting center and backup tackle, this is going to be a long year for the Jaguar offense.

5
by Moe (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:40am

Has Pats management ever give a reason for seemingly not making an effort to improve at backup QB?

Did they claim to like what they had or was it more "you can´t be strong everywhere"?

6
by M (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:56am

I know this isn't the forum for it, but I have two DST's (Baltimore & Philadelphia - yes, I bought PFP 2008). However, given their schedule and special teams talent in Buffalo, would it make sense to dump one of my current DST's? If yes, which one? I know week 1 isn't a large data souce, but Buffalo has had dominant years before (2004), and they do have ALOT of special teams talent - plus the schedule may hand them some gifts in the forms of TO-happy offenses.

7
by Adam B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:56am

Pat Ryan, Jeff Kemp and Brad Goebel are all available. Yes, we Eagles fans have been there.

8
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:02am

I was a big Donte Rosario fan while he was at Oregon. I believe he was recruited as an "athlete", and lined up at TE, FB, HB and even split out if I recall correctly. But I never felt like they were using him to his full potential because there would be some plays where he just made the defenders look stupid, but he only got the ball maybe once or twice a game. That's why he wasn't drafted that high, there just wasn't much production in his body of work. But he can definitely play.

9
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:06am

Ray Lucas, AJ Feeley, Cleo Lemon, et al. Miami feels the New England pain. (And chuckles quietly to itself)

That in no way makes me pleased that Brady is hurt, and personally, I hope somehow, he can play next week. But the idea that the Pats might be facing the same sort of 'Adventures in Quarterbacking' that Miami have seen over the last decade fills me with a warm feeling of Schaudenfreude.

10
by Some Dude (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:08am

Kyle Orton just wins.

11
by TGT (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:13am

I know it's audibles, but that's no excuse to use "begs the question" when you mean "leads one to the thought"

On another note, I'm sad to see only one comment on the Baltimore game, and no mention of how Flacco played. I know it's likely due to the Favrettes being shown nearly everywhere, but it's still annoying.

For all those out of market, my inexpert opinion says that Flacco is no Kyle Boller. Except for one busted play, he didn't take off running (and that play was a designed run where he filled in for the rusher). He didn't look flustered and throw 50/50 balls every third pass. He seemed relatively calm in the pocket. He did throw plenty of checkdowns, but they appeared to be after he went through a couple reads. The numbers aren't going to look pretty, but he hit Heap in the hands 3 times, and Rice once in space that could easily have been 70 more yards and 1-2 TDs. I don't want to say Flacco is god (his screen passes were screaming "pick me off" and daring the refs to throw and inelegible downfield/pi flag), but he looked like a competent quarterback. I was prepared for Boller 2.0, but now I think FO's Ravens prediction might be on the mark, if not low.

Quick notes:
-It's amazing how good the Raven's D looks when both McCallister and Rolle start.
-Keep Ivy in the slot where he belongs
-The kickoff coverage was horrible, but the punt coverage was stifling. I'd attribute it to small sample size, but I recall the same thing last year. What gives?
-Blame the Rice fumble and Bengals TD return on the play call. The Bengals weak side LB held his responsibility for the pitch counter on the 3 previous unbalanced line rushes. There was no reason to think he wouldn't do it the 4th time.

12
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:13am

I think Sean's comments WRT to the Brady injury and the AFC East are a little silly. Sure, I'll grant you Pennington in 2002 (though I don't believe it was a season-ender), but the recent quarterback inepititude in that division has otherwise had much more to do with poor personnel choices than injury. Jay Fiedler? Sage Rosenfels? Past his prime Drew Bledsoe? J.P. Losman?

Not to mention that the Jets' current QB has had phenomenal injury luck for a heck of a long time, hmm...

13
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:15am

Re: 12

Er, I meant Pennington in 2003; my bad.

14
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:38am

Worst no call of the week had to be when the Redskin player ripped the Giants players helmet off then head butted in the face. How exactly is that not a penalty? I'm glad to see the Dolphins haven't lost the knack for not winning close games. Going to be a looooooooooooong season.

15
by jebmak (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:40am

#11

Thank you for that quick breakdown, I was unable to see the game and disappointed that they didn't talk about it more.

16
by Joseph (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:40am

It will be interesting (for me, at least) to see the Saints DYAR vs. Bucs. Since the Bucs usually have a good D (I know that it will be DAVE, not DVOA), I would guess it will be pretty high, helpfully spiked by the 3 long TD's. I also would imagine that their defensive YAR/VOA would be at least decent, because the Bucs went 2-12 on 3rd down, and VOA likes that sort of thing. (BTW, if you didn't see much of that game, the Bucs' 2 conversions were in the 4th quarter) Was it a dominating win like say, Buffalo's? No--but it's still a W, and we still have our All-Pro QB. Shockey, 2nd rounder CB Tracy Porter, and Sedrick Ellis made an impact; Vilma was solid, and the defense played well enough to win, including the INT in the final minute. Plus, it's a W in the division over the reigning champs. My concern is that Carolina won a game they weren't supposed to--that obviously won't help the Saints return to the top of the NFCS.

17
by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:44am

Welcome back to this feature: I particularly love the nine levels of ineptitude.

I watched FO's on-off playoff dark horse Houston melt down against Pittsburgh. While firmly refusing to jump to conclusions, I only half-agree that Houston played closer than the score. Mario Williams seemed to be going after Big Ben on every play - including the runs. A good half, if not more, of Pittsburgh's 180-plus rush yards came either from runs off left tackle or end, or because the line pulled that way, and all the Texans followed, leaving Parker/Roethlisberger with half a field to trot across for the first down.

Equally, Matt Schaub didn't look comfortable in the system. He checked down way too often, seemingly lacking confidence in his protection, and leaving Ahman Green or Steve Slaton to get massacred in the open field. Plus he threw three really bad balls into coverage, two of which were picked.

Mendenhall looked very hesitant in the small amount of playing time he saw. I fear that Mike Tomlin is going to have Parker break the 370-run threshold this year. Slaton isn't (yet) a patient enough runner, and (even accounting for the opposition) the Texans look like a team that will struggle to run the ball.

18
by Possuum (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:47am

My wife is a Bills fan and constantly complains about media sources blaming Bills wins on the other team sucking. Generally, I point out that either it is true that the other team made uncharacteristic mistakes (Washington game last year) or that there is some positive coverage. Here, I have no explanation. I know Seattle was undermanned on offense, but why couldn't their defense force 1 turnover? Why can't they sack Trent Edwards a few more times? Is it possible that the Bills did some good things like present the Seattle O-Line with a variety of D-Line fronts? There was very little comment on Buffalo's play except for "Don't jump to conclusions, they probably still suck." A little analysis guys? Please? You knwo the type that makes this site unique?

19
by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:49am

Matt Forte: promising young back or product of National Jump to Conclusions week getting the benefit of a poor run defense?

20
by billsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:50am

2:
Looks like the de-facto irrational thread is already underway:

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2008/09/07/extra-points/6541/
(also linked on my name)

21
by Sideshow Bob (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:56am

you can never have too many Men Without Hats references. Well done sir. Well done.

22
by Kevin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:02am

More National Jump to Conclusions week observations:

The Buffalo Bills are the best team in the AFC
The AFC East is the toughest division in the AFC
The NFC West may manage just 12 wins among them for the year.
The NFC East may manage just 12 losses among them for the year.
Chicago Bears: NFC contender
Matt Forte/Ryan: Rookie of the year
Atlanta Falcons: Offensive juggernaut

23
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:20am

re Michael Turner: Red is not slimming.

24
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:20am

I'm bummed that Brady got hurt because I was convinced that NE was heading for a surprising downturn this year despite what appears to be any easy schedule (ranking a schedule as easy or hard until they play about 5 games isn't very accurate). Now if NE sucks everyone will say it's because the great Tom Brady got hurt.

I think we are seeing a shift in the balance of power between divisions. It started last year. Dallas demolished Cleveland in Clevland. Carolina beats SD in SD. Chic beats Indy in Indy.

I think the best teams are in the NFC.

25
by Quentin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:24am

Why do people get so hyped about the safety symbol? I mean, when people score a touchdown, sometimes they put the arms up in the touchdown signal, but when a safety happens, everyone on the defense does the safety symbol.

In addition to Aaron's reasoning, I think there's also a bit of "point to recover" going on here. They're not just doing it out of excitement, they're also pleading with the refs.

26
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:29am

The Browns did try to blitz Dallas a number of times, but their timing was so bad that they weren't able to disguise it at all. Not sure if Romo was doing something that got them to show it early or if the Browns were just inept, but the result was that Romo and the Cowboy blockers were able to see it coming and adjust.

27
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:35am

Aaron - have you ever done a study on the correlation between getting a safety and winning. My gut tells me there is a strong correlation there.

28
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:43am

"Has Pats management ever give a reason for seemingly not making an effort to improve at backup QB?"

You mean, other than drafting a guy in the 3rd round this year, and bringing in dozens of vets over the last couple years? (testeverde, flutie, etc).

The Vets haven't beat out Cassel. People keep saying "go out and get Chris Simms", etc. Theres a reason Chris Simms isn't on an NFL team, just as theres a reason that any QB out there isn't on an NFL team: They're not any good.

29
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:44am

"It’s always nice to see a defense (Dallas) celebrate a third-down stop when the quarterback fumbles the snap. You know, since you did a lot."

As a fan I celebrate such things, and I know I had nothing to do with it!

30
by Sociojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:45am

I think the thing I'm happiest about with Forte is that he didn't fumble when he got hit hard like Bustson would have.

People might say the colts defense threw the game away, but I think they actually played well for most of the game. Sure Sanders took a bad angle on one play but I noticed on almost every subsequent running play he was always there "putting the hurt" on the runner. Let's not forget, they were the what? The 3rd best defense last season WITH injuries? Even if they played poorly compared to normal, I'll take the W

Also, Forte's upright style scares the shit out of me. Jones and him seem pretty interchangeable in running, passing and blocking too which is nice.

31
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:46am

*Breaking News*
Commissioner Goodell has suspended the NFL season indefinitely in order to give Tom Brady time to recover for Week 2.

32
by Miles, Calgary (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:56am

I'm really surprised by the comment "Houston’s playing much better than the score indicates." For much of this game (until the 4th quarter when Pittsburgh had closed up shop), Pittsburgh did whatever they wanted to Houston on both sides of the ball. And Houston is supposedly a decent team (although you wouldn't know it today, from their line play in particular). The Steelers were very, very impressive.

33
by kj (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:03pm

"Bill Moore: Conspiracy theory aside, it is absurd that referees who have the benefit of instant replay at their disposal do not allow a play to continue through fruition because one referee THINKS he sees down by contact. If the ref wants to call him down, he still may do so AFTER they determine who possesses the ball."

I don't think you can have a situation where the officials start making on-field decisions because they're thinking about instant replay. In the scenario above, the coach/fans of the team recovering the football are going to go nuts if the play isn't whistled dead but then the down-by-contact ruling is made. You create a situation where players/coaches/fans can no longer play the game knowing that what the officials are doing is their best judgment at the moment.

What's more likely to happen (and I think is happening) is that officials are letting potential fumble plays go longer in case it turns out it was a legitimate fumble. This puts the fumbling team at a disadvantage, having to use an instant replay appeal on a play where the officials' best judgment may have been that the runner was already down.

This is the road that instant replay has led us down; there's seemingly no limit to which every minute detail of every play can be examined.

34
by shake n bake (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:04pm

Re 19
Without the 50 yarder he averaged 3.3 a carry. I still think he's the guy he was coming out of Tulane. Solid but will never be great. Consistent short useful gains, great pass blocking and a good target from the backfield.

I'd have thrown a fit if he had dropped to 59 and the Colts passed.

35
by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:04pm

19 - I'm going to go with promising young rookie. Good speed, good vision, good in the passing game, surprisingly slippery, what's not to like?

36
by dmb (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:05pm

14: If they'd called any penalties, they would've been offsetting, since the Giant (Antonio Pierce, I believe) landed a nice punch before the Redskin (Pete Kendall) pulled his helmet off. Now if the headbutt happened -- the announcers said something, but I didn't catch it -- then Kendall should definitely be fined.

The weird thing is that it happened right by the refs, so you'd think that SOMETHING would've been done.

Mike: I'm with you on the gold-tipped shoes. To make things worse, Smoot wears them too, which means that no matter what side of the field the play goes to, there's a decent chance of seeing that gold flash on the field.

37
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:48pm

“It’s always nice to see a defense (Dallas) celebrate a third-down stop when the quarterback fumbles the snap. You know, since you did a lot.”

As a fan I celebrate such things, and I know I had nothing to do with it!

To further your point, that D did in fact get the O to a third down so they're probably celebrating the drive not the play.

38
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:49pm

I don't seee why Aaron is so sure that the Pats will still be good. A downbeat assesment of the team would say that they have a stellar WR, a well coached but slightly thin pass-blocking line, a good slot receiver and an OK running back. Defensively they have two very good linemen, one very good injury prone lineman, a bunch of old linebackers that can't cover, a rookie linebacker that can't cover and a crappy secondary. That is a rather negative assessment of the Pats but fixtures such as away to SF and the Jets now look much harder. With the effects of the Brett Favre trade the Pats could end up third in their division now. They only scraped past the Chiefs who are pretty bad.

SF V ARI

Gore was amazing for the niners today but the niners shot themselves in the foot. It was nice as a niners fan who endured their offense last year to see them actually move the ball but JTO looks like a nightmare to watch. He had 140 yards passing in the first half, (nearly reaching the niners' 145 average passing yards per game last year) but he looked very poor when he failed to get rid of the ball on time. However, the Cards could run with some ease up the middle of the niners' defense. Ronald Fields saw very little action after being talked up as the starter in training camp and Franklin was regularly dominated by double teams and contained one on one by the Cards linemen, who are hardly the elite of the NFL. Parys Haralson showed some good pass rush skills and Justin Smith was active all over the front seven but see above for the Cards linemen. Willis played like Willis and Lawson looked sharp. It was the boneheaded turnovers that lost the niners this game but if they can't get a handle on them the niners will look better than the teams from the last few years but only slink to 5-11 because of their slapstick errors.

39
by Joseph (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:51pm

Re: 11, 16, 17, 18 (I know one is my own post)
Dear FO: If it is difficult for one or more of your writers to cover a game for whatever reason, maybe you could allow a regular poster who is a fan of one of the teams do their own commentary for Audibles--esp. if they do game charting as well. (although it would prob. need to be edited for homer comments) In this way you probably would develop other writer interns. I know it helps me learn about the other teams that I don't follow.

40
by vanya (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 12:59pm

Count me among the Pats fans who are just not as distraught as we ought to be. I probably basically agree with Aaron - I didn't expect the team to win the SB this year anyway, not with this aging defense, and now we can reclaim the "underdog" mantle and even a division win will feel satisfying. Plus if Cassell ends up performing decently, not that farfetched a notion with the Pats receivers corps, maybe we get some real trade value for him in the offseason.

41
by Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:11pm

There used to be a disclaimer on this feature. I don't know why it's gone now, but to reiterate: Audibles is a collection of random thoughts the writers of this site send to each other during the games. It is not analysis as such and the games they watch reflect their choices as fans, not football writers. Hence, you will see a lot of discussion about nationally televised games and games involving the writers' favorite teams -- the Pats, Giants, Seahawks and Eagles tend to show up a lot -- and little discussion about teams not in either of those situations. Accept this as reality, or start rooting for a different team, and you will find this feature much more enjoyable.

42
by Hurt Bones (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:11pm

Re: 11

I think relatively calm is an understatement. He was calm after the the Heap fumble. He was calm after Heap dropped a touchdown. He was calm after other drops and the Ray Rice fumble. Flacco kept the offense moving in spite of those. I thought he kept the offense in great rhythm . So good it reminded of my childhood watching Don Cornelius.

On the opposite side was Palmer. He had beaten the Ravens in 6 of their last 7 meetings, but he looked like a rookie yesterday. He was under pressure but his throws were all over the place.

43
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:13pm

Bill Barnwell: And the Bears start their season off with a fumbled snap and a false start.

Ben Riley: Followed by Kyle Orton spiking the ball 5 yards downfield, into the turf. Going to be a long year in Chicago.

I desperately wanted to make a snarky comment about this exchange, but two things stopped me: 1) FOMBC; 2) I'm a Bears fan, and I thought the exact same thing at the time.

Re 19

Without the 50 yarder he averaged 3.3 a carry.

So? What's the league average when you throw out the longest run? Were a lot of the 3-yard runs on 3rd-and-2? (Hint: they were.) I'll be interested to see the success rate / DYAR statistics on Forte's evening.

44
by RMGreen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:34pm

Anyone who watched the Eagles-Rams game notice the two receptions by Jackson that seemed to go right through the defending DB? Twice Jackson was going up the right sideline and was completely covered. The DB was in such good position that it was hard to tell that Jackson was there. But somehow the ball snuck through and Jackson caught it. Great catches for sure, but against any team but the Rams wouldn't those passes have been defended, or even intercepted? With how short Jackson is, shouldn't he be fighting for inside position so he can have first shot at the ball rather than hoping the DB misses it?

45
by steelberger (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:56pm

Maybe, and I am not saying this was karma or anything like that, but just maybe if the Pats had given their backup QB more playing time last season (rather than keeping Brady in so they could win 58-7 instead of 42-7) then they would be more comfortable with their backup.

46
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:56pm

The "throw out his best run and then look at how his ypc sucks" meme is usually pretty worthless.

In some extreme cases, it's meaningful. Like if someone has 14 rushes for 82 yards with a long of 72, or something. But if the guy is still doing at all decently after you take away the long run, then he had a good game.

I think I remember hearing something like this from a coach whose hapless team gave up 200+ yards to a running back: "We weren't all that bad against the run today. Take away the 72 yard run and the 56 yard run, and we held him right at 3.5 yards per carry."

47
by Possuum (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 1:56pm

Re: 41

I understand that. I guess I should have said that they have so much commentary on the Seahawks sucking in depth that a little commentary opposing that would be nice. I understand that they may not be watching the Bills, but when the Bills are playing the Seahawks, there should be something more about the quality of the Bills play.

48
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:11pm

Dear FO: If it is difficult for one or more of your writers to cover a game for whatever reason, maybe you could allow a regular poster who is a fan of one of the teams do their own commentary for Audibles–esp. if they do game charting as well. (although it would prob. need to be edited for homer comments) In this way you probably would develop other writer interns. I know it helps me learn about the other teams that I don’t follow.

We've heard this request a few times. However, the point of this feature isn't to summate what happened in the weekend's games. It's to let the readers in on what we're discussing.

49
by Joe (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:13pm

Re: 44

I think it was two different situations. On the first play, Jackson was covered well but the DB didn't defend him when the ball arrived. It was probably a poor defensive play as the DB never turned around. But the optimist's POV would be that Jackson did a great job of disguising that the ball was coming such that the DB didn't have time to turn and defend against the ball. So a DB would have had to keep up with Jackson and also read his body language to know the pass was coming and then also turn around and pick it off - probably not easy to find athletes who can do all three. Still, he was covered as you say and made a great catch.

The second play was just an excellent route by Jackson finished by a superb throw by McNabb. The DB was with Jackson but still beat to the outside - McNabb placed the ball far enough that Jackson was the only person able to get to it and still managed to keep it in bounds. Hesitation in either making the cut or throwing the pass would have put Jackson covered or out of bounds. That was a great pass play.

50
by NY expat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:13pm

re: Rose's comment on Pennington

The link is to a NY Times article (you may need to register to read it) which indicates that Pennington actually changed his mechanics over the offseason "to use his hips and abdomen more". [Besides being impressed with his willingness to take as much criticism as he's gotten on his arm strength and consider how he could get better at this stage of his career, it does make me wonder why coaches don't do more of this to say, speed up Leftwich's release time.]

51
by dbt (Bears fan) (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:19pm

possumm, if you care about the other team, then you can provide commentary. Whining isn't appropriate and will not change what the writers are going to care about in real-time.

52
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:21pm

#32: I've never liked that argument, which seems to come up more often with RBs.

Saying 'take away his one long run, he averaged...' ignores the fact that, when you give someone the ball in the backfield, they will have the chance to MAKE that long run. But it shouldn't be expected each time they touch the ball.

Most of an RB's yardage - his 'median' yardage (I think; been a while since Stats) - will be in the 2-4 YPC range. And a major function of that will also be the line.

But, it's the good RBs that can get the 50+ yard runs. They can break through the line, avoid or outrun the 2nd level, and get down the field.

So instead of saying 'take away his really long run', it might make more sense to say 'he's able to produce long runs'.

As for Forte - we'll see. Could be the Colts D was not up to par. As a Vikes fan, I hope that's the case.

53
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:21pm

maybe you could allow a regular poster who is a fan of one of the teams do their own commentary for Audibles

I think they do allow such commentary, in a feature called "Comments".

54
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 2:34pm

19/34 Shake, we're both Colts partisans, so I'll be blunt. I always like putting it this way: Without his 68 yard TD run late in the 1999 playoff game against Indy, Eddie George had a mediocre game and the Titans lose. Manning drops the "can't win a playoff game" curse even before it starts. A no-talent hack named Simmons fades into well-deserved obscurity.

But it didn't happen that way. EG got his big TD run and Forte did as well.

I thought Forte looked pretty darn good, and our D looked pretty darn reminiscent of the bad old days.

It's early yet and they might just be able to put together an 18-1 record. heh-heh-heh.

55
by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 3:35pm

I didn't see the game until later in the third, but joining in the second half of the Jax-Tenn game, I heard mention of how Tenn has shut down the run of Jacksonville. Then I saw MJD carry the ball, and then the stat line that it was his fourth carry. Maybe I'm missing something since I missed so much of the game, but doesn't that make it easier for your run to be shut down if you only give your best back five carries over the course of the whole game?

56
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 3:53pm

46 Yaguar, Sorry I missed your post when I more or less said the same thing. 6 years ago Colts fans might have rested easy with those thoughts, but I think our standards are a little higher now.

Our new (and old) mantra: 18-1! 18-1!

57
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 3:55pm

My two cents on Cassel: Bill Belichick is smart enough to tweak his gameplan to meet Cassel’s strengths. If he has the talent and poise to play in the NFL, the Pats should be a 10-12 win team. A lot of times backups who have marginal talent thrive when they are put into a system in which they are comfortable. Just look at Todd Collins last year. The problem becomes when the backup either doesn’t have the requisite talent (ie Jamie Martin or Doug Johnson) or is put into a system that doesn’t cater to the skills that got him to the NFL in the first place.

On one hand though, I think BB learned something from his mentor. There was a lot of talk this offseason about dropping Cassel and going with cheaper alternatives (Guttierez and the San Diego kid) as the backups to Brady. Cassel at least gives the Pats a guy who knows their system. Counter that to 1999 when Parcells left no reliable option behind Vinny. Cassel will have an outstanding O-line, top notch receivers, an efficient running game, a coach who won’t ask him to do too much and a system he’s practiced for three years. He should be fine.

58
by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:15pm

54:

While I can explain away the offense with the rustiness and not having a healthy line, and fully expect that to improve; their lack of shutting down Orton and the Bears scared me. To give credit, Orton didn't make the mistakes I expected; but they really seemed to stuggle to stop a simple, yet not one I noticed before, of making a real point of taking Sanders out of the play.

59
by jebmak (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:35pm

Re: #51

Wow, someone is in an attacking mood. I would hardly call what he did "whining". More like expressing disappointment.

60
by Possuum (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:35pm

Re: 51

Yeah Yeah, I am probably just shell shocked from Brady's injury. Anyway, despite the danger of jumping to conclusions, I think that the Bills shifted their DL around alot. Saw Stroud and Kyle Williams in the DE position from time to time. It seemed that part of that may have been a reaction to Schobel getting blocked out of some plays.

61
by morganja (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:43pm

Yuck it up on the 9 levels of Panther offensiveness. Let's see how you feel without your starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

62
by shake n bake (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:45pm

Re: Re: my YPC - the 50 yarder comment.

I like Forte, he did well and the Colts run D has to be better, but the point was they weren't getting gashed all game. They just gave up one big one and a bunch of much smaller ones. The stat is much better to show the run D hasn't regressed to 2006 levels were they couldn't tackle anyone and every run went for 6+ yards.

63
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:53pm

I'm going to jump to a conclusion.

The Lions have not improved.

They suck. again.

Non-sports businesses have hostile takeovers. Any chance of that happening in the NFL?

64
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 4:53pm

My problem with those arguing against "take away the big run" is that people greatly overestimate how many big runs there really are. I think the league average for runs over 20 yards is something like once every two and a half games, and everyone gives them up, even the best defenses. If you're talking about the performance of the run defense (which is usually where this is raised), you're not really interested in the one big play where everything broke down, because that happens to everyone against everyone a few points during the season, but is infrequent enough that it doesn't really tell us anything aside from the fact that they really screwed up one play out of 20-some.

If the argument is over how good a defense is (read: how well it will perform in the future), and one run significantly skews the YPC, it makes perfect sense to see how the defense did on every other play (which, again, everyone gives up once in a while). If the defense was "give up big play" bad, it would give up more big plays, or at least high YPC regardless.

65
by Andrew B (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:00pm

Mike Tanier: "The spreadsheets have hands? If they had breasts I would never leave my office!"

That's sweet man. I like that you are a Proverbs 5.19 man too.

66
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:02pm

I think the league average for runs over 20 yards is something like once every two and a half games, and everyone gives them up, even the best defenses.

There were 321 runs of 20 yards or more last year, or about one per every 1.59 team-games. The teams with poor rush defenses tended to give up more 20+ yard runs than those with good rush defenses.

67
by are-tee (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:13pm

Looks like so far the "curse of the Super Bowl loser" has trumped the "Madden curse".

68
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:31pm

Sean McCormick: Their linebackers weren’t 47 years old in 2006.

Sean, I know you're not a Pats fan, but as a writer for an intellectual football site, please get your facts straight and stop perpetuating false myths.

The Pats may have problems at LB this year, but they're not age related. Not counting Larry Izzo, who plays exclusively on special teams, the Pats have 8 LB's on the roster. Three rookies (Mayo, Crable, and Guyton) and two more still on extensions of rookie deals (Alexander and Woods). Only three veterans (Bruschi, Vrabel, and Thomas), and Thomas is still considered by most to be in his prime. Only Bruschi is really considered to be past his prime, but he seemed to be in the game for only about 1/3 to 1/2 of the snaps (we'll have to see once Reiss posts his snap count numbers).

Five out of eight are young guys. The Pats are actually younger at LB then they were in 2006.

69
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:39pm

"There was a lot of talk this offseason about dropping Cassel and going with cheaper alternatives"

The talk of dropping Cassel had nothing to do with Gutierrez being cheaper, and everything to do with the fact that it looked (to fans) that Gutierrez was a much better player. Now, us fans don't get to see practice, so we can't always tell, but it always seemed to me that Cassel took to long to make decisions, and Gutierrez makes really quick decisions.

As to the patriots "Aging defense", aside from Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi, the Patriots defense is extremely young. Vrable is getting up there, but still plays pretty well.

Starters:
DE: Seymour: 28
DE: Warren: 27
DT: Wilfork: 26
OLB: Vrable: 33
OLB: Thomas: 31
ILB: Mayo: 22
ILB: Bruschi: 35
CB: Hobbs: 25
CB: Wheatley: 23
S:Merriwether:24
S:Harrison: 35
S:Sanders: 24

You may not think the patriots defense is that good, but to say they aren't good because they are OLD is totally inaccurate. If Bruschi and Harrison retire after this year (which I think they will), this defense will be extremely young.

70
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:41pm

As if Seattle WR corps couldn't be more banged up, Nate Burleson is now out for the year.

Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent, Logan Payne and Michael Bumpus FTW...I guess.

71
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:58pm

some thoughts re: Colts:

I am a Colt fan, and while I don't quite endorse 18-1, I do find it remarkable how often a complete game changes on the smallest of events. I thought the Bears really dominated the game, and Manning looked almost like a rookie again, but yet here are a series of plays that changed (or easily could have changed) the game a great, great deal:
--the long TD run by Forte where he juked Bethea and was gone
--the strip and TD return by Bears D
--The three long passes by Manning that were just barely not completed (one of Harrison's fingertips, one just barely deflected and Gonzales could hold on, and one where Wayne caught it out of bounds)

So, it's not that the Colts could have won, but because the games are so close (even in one that eventually ended as domination) that keeps me watching the NFL and not many other sports.

72
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:02pm

re: Brady's injury

How do QB's traditionally fare coming back after ACL surgery? I can't say I have a great memory on this, just Palmer in the front of my mind. In other words, is the expectation that he will return as good as new, or not? (My guess is that as a very small silver lining, at least the injury occurred in the first game, so if he's really gone for the year, he has 10-12 months to rehab; Palmer was hurt in the playoffs, and had about 4 months less before trying to play again).

So, what is the long-term guess on this type of injury to a QB?

73
by cd6 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:03pm

The steelers were up like 35-3 when they basically gave up the 4th quarter. If whatever Houston was doing can be called "playing better than the score indicated" then I'm very very glad I'm not a Houston Texans fan.

If I were the patriots, I would just forfeit every game for the rest of the season. Scratch that... for the rest of time.

Also Aaron don't despair: the best team in the AFC did just fine this weekend. I look forward to them winning the superbowl against whatever suckers the NFC decides to have lose the big game.

74
by chip (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:05pm

#34 I'd say Forte had a pretty good day. He completed 13 "successful" plays out of 25, including 4 of 6 in on third down. He was also 3 of 5 on second and 6 of 14 on first. Hopefully you can read this:

First Quarter First Drive 1-15-CHI 28 (12:33) 22-M.Forte left tackle to CHI 29 for 1 yard (58-G.Brackett, 99-E.Johnson). Unsuccessful
First Drive 2-14-CHI 29 (11:57) 22-M.Forte up the middle to CHI 35 for 6 yards (99-E.Johnson, 91-J.Thomas). Unsuccessful
Second Drive 1-10-CHI 46 (5:46) 22-M.Forte right tackle to 50 for 4 yards (91-J.Thomas). Successful
Second Drive 3-6- (5:07) 22-M.Forte up the middle for 50 yards, TOUCHDOWN. Successful
Third Drive 1-10-CHI 17 (2:32) 22-M.Forte left tackle to CHI 26 for 9 yards (54-F.Keiaho, 41-A.Bethea). Successful
Third Drive 1-10-CHI 30 (1:31) 22-M.Forte left end to CHI 32 for 2 yards (96-K.Dawson). Unsuccessful
Third Drive 3-1-CHI 39 (:18) 22-M.Forte up the middle to CHI 46 for 7 yards (21-B.Sanders). Successful
Second Qtr Third Drive 3-5-IND 49 (14:29) 22-M.Forte up the middle to IND 49 for no gain (58-G.Brackett, 41-A.Bethea). Unsuccessful
Fourth Drive 1-10-CHI 34 (9:32) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte up the middle to CHI 38 for 4 yards (26-K.Hayden). Successful
Fourth Drive 2-6-CHI 38 (9:01) 18-K.Orton pass short middle to 22-M.Forte to CHI 43 for 5 yards (55-C.Session, 21-B.Sanders). Successful
Fourth Drive 1-10-IND 31 (6:36) (No Huddle) 22-M.Forte right end to IND 28 for 3 yards (54-F.Keiaho, 98-R.Mathis). Unsuccessful
Fifth Drive 1-20-CHI 28 (3:38) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte up the middle to CHI 30 for 2 yards (68-E.Foster, 58-G.Brackett). Unsuccessful
Fifth Drive 1-10-CHI 48 (2:23) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte right tackle to IND 48 for 4 yards (54-F.Keiaho, 95-D.Reid). Successful
Fifth Drive 1-10-IND 41 (1:27) 22-M.Forte up the middle to IND 36 for 5 yards (98-R.Mathis, 54-F.Keiaho). Successful
Fifth Drive 2-18-IND 39 (:33) (No Huddle) 22-M.Forte up the middle to IND 36 for 3 yards (93-D.Freeney). Unsuccessful
Third Qtr Sixth Drive 1-10-CHI 3 (14:50) 22-M.Forte left tackle to CHI 5 for 2 yards (99-E.Johnson, 28-M.Jackson). Unsuccessful
Sixth Drive 3-8-CHI 5 (14:13) 22-M.Forte up the middle to CHI 10 for 5 yards (21-B.Sanders, 98-R.Mathis). Unsuccessful
Seventh Drive 1-10-CHI 41 (7:13) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte left guard to CHI 41 for no gain (98-R.Mathis). Unsuccessful
Seventh Drive 2-10-CHI 41 (6:38) (Run formation) 18-K.Orton pass short left to 22-M.Forte to 50 for 9 yards (55-C.Session). Successful
Seventh Drive 3-1- (6:01) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte right tackle to IND 48 for 2 yards (54-F.Keiaho). Successful
Seventh Drive 3-2-IND 40 (4:39) 22-M.Forte left guard to IND 38 for 2 yards (79-R.Brock). Successful
Fourth Qtr Eighth Drive 1-10-IND 48 (13:42) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte up the middle to IND 45 for 3 yards (21-B.Sanders, 54-F.Keiaho). Unsuccessful
Eighth Drive 1-10-IND 36 (11:42) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte right end to IND 28 for 8 yards (41-A.Bethea, 21-B.Sanders). Successful
Eighth Drive 2-2-IND 28 (10:55) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte right tackle to IND 27 for 1 yard (99-E.Johnson). Successful
Eighth Drive 1-1-IND 1 (9:35) (Run formation) 22-M.Forte up the middle to IND 1 for no gain (98-R.Mathis, 21-B.Sanders). Unsuccessful

75
by Purds (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:05pm

Finally, a question about punters:

Are punting averages inclusive of all punts? If they are, shouldn't all punts downed inside the 20 be taken out, if we're trying to measure a punter's ability to boom the ball? I saw a bunch of punts from about midfield that were intended to just pin the team inside the 20 -- how does that translate to punter's average yardage? (I know there is an average that includes the returns, so that the type of punt comes into play, but often the return is also a function of the other 10 guys).

76
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:10pm

Vince, Romo shares your thoughts on the Brown's game plan:

"I think a lot of it depends on the coverage they run," he said. "They rushed three guys a lot. Sometimes it's tough because you work on getting yourself into a rhythm. The benefit for them to rush three guys is that they have more guys in coverage. The negative side is that they might get a quarterback that can go through more reads."

Looks like Romo thinks that the Brown's game plan was to rush 3-4, drop 7-8, and force Romo to go through multiple reads. They were evidently of the opinion that Romo wouldn't have the patience/ability/intelligence to stand in the pocket and make 3,4,5 reads before he threw. And then they'd wait for the INTs. Not a bad plan with their beat-up secondary, and with Romo having had 19 picks last season.

77
by Brian Moorman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:16pm

Possuum is absolutely right, but what do you expect from a Patriots fan run website? These are the same people who have argued for years that Brady isn't a system quarterback that are now saying the Patriots system should mean the Pats aren't hurt by the Brady injury.

The Bills got a ridiculous amount of pressure on Hasselbeck, Kawika Mitchell said the front 4 reminded him of the Giants front four last year. We all know how that front 4 played against ACL Brady and the Oxycontin Five. Sure some of the Seahawks receivers dropped passes, but a lot of those passes were not on target due to a seriously pressured Hasselbeck.

Your wife is right Possuum, but as a Bills fan you just have to learn to live with it. When the media immediately anoints the "6 points over the Dolphins" Jets as the new AFC East champions while completely ignoring the Bills (aside from a very few like Collinsworth), you just have to giggle instead of get angry.

78
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:18pm

66: One and a half, not two and a half, sorry for the error. My point was that everyone gives them up, and that the average after removing that run is useful when discussing the quality of a rushing defense because a) even the best defenses give up big runs, they just do it less frequently, and b) if there back has a low YPC with that one run removed, that tells you that the defense did a good job stopping him on all the other runs.

Now, if a defense is giving up 20+ runs all over the place, than taking them out is silly. But if you have reason to believe the offense is good or even mediocre, it's useful data.

79
by Fnor (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:19pm

cd6: Please to stop bringing the FOMBC down upon our heads. Thank you.

80
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:21pm

Tell you what. When the bills actually get into the playoffs one of these years, then we'll start talking about what a quality team they are. Until then, lets wait until they have more than one impressive win, shall we?

81
by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:22pm

I have a question about the television coverage yesterday. Was there a change in contracts on how the games are shown this year, was week one an aberration, or did I get stuck with a crappy local market decision?

1PM here...
Fox: A movie
CBS: Jax-Tenn
4PM here...
Fox: Dal-Cle
CBS: Tennis

Looking at the schedule, as I understand the contracts with regards to the double-headers, there was no option for an AFC game in the 4PM slot, so must be a Fox double-header. National listings showed a game on Fox at 1PM. Any ideas? (Yes, I called the local Fox station and the Fox Sports number.)

82
by Sociojoe (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:41pm

So he had a 3.5 average after you take out his 56 yarder... Uhhh, so?

I think that's still more than we averaged all of last season with Benson. Not only that, but Forte can catch the ball too. It's not a criticism of the Colts playing poor or anything. I just think Bears fans are glad we can move the chains again.

I'm also really looking forward to what footballoutsiders stats show about his success rate on 1st 2nd and 3rd down. He "seemed" to be picking up successful yardage, but then again it could just be an illusion based on the final outcome of the game. He could have actually been playing poorly and picking up bad yardage on 1st down and I might have missed it or coming up short on 3rd.

83
by Roscoe (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:42pm

Bill - Still beating up on Corey Webster, are we? Yeah, he missed the tackle on Portis (not an easy guy to tackle) but he made a great stop on Moss to prevent a first down. And he wasn't covering Moss, he came off his guy to make the stop.

More importantly, I don't think any receiver Webster was covering caught a single pass all game. I was watching on the tube and couldn't see the coverage away from the ball, so maybe his guys were wide open and JC was just too clueless to find them (possible the way he played). More likely Webster's performance in the playoffs last year was not a fluke.

84
by zip (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:50pm

#76

Don't FOMBC curse the Bills, please, and take your pointless "we get no respect" posturing back to the Fox message boards while you're at it.

85
by David (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:58pm

71: The most recent example is Donovan McNabb, who was injured in Week 9 of 2006 and came back for the start of 2007. He was very spotty early in the season - not in terms of scrambling, just because of what a bad knee does to a QB's throwing motion and legwork - and re-injured late. He looks to be more recovered now, but it might just take a better team than the Rams to make him show the effects of the tear. The main difference is that Brady will have a full year to recover, while McNabb went back to playing earlier than was optimal.

80: If you're in a team's designated "home market," no football games can be shown opposite that team's home games. Do you live near Nashville?

86
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:02pm

Isn't the FOMBC dead after what happened with the Giants last year?

87
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:09pm

Any comment that has "...what do you expect from _____" is never, ever relevant.

88
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:12pm

Yuck it up on the 9 levels of Panther offensiveness. Let’s see how you feel without your starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

Jeez, who crapped in your cornflakes this morning? First of all, learn how to take a joke. Second of all, who is the "you" in "Let’s see how you feel without your starting quarterback"? 'Cause Tanier wrote the joke, but his starting QB just passed for 380 yards and is healthy as a horse. Or are you making the "FO writer = Pats fan" approximation, which is like saying "0.05 = 1", which even astronomers don't do. Finally, your team won yesterday! Try to enjoy it.

89
by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:15pm

Thanks for that, chip. I did a similar thing but without the receptions and got 11/23 or 47%, which is respectable but not eye-popping.

90
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:38pm

"These are the same people who have argued for years that Brady isn’t a system quarterback that are now saying the Patriots system should mean the Pats aren’t hurt by the Brady injury."

I don't think ANYONE is saying the Patriots aren't going to be worse. The question is how much worse?

If they were a 14 win team before, and Brady to Cassel is 4 wins (say Indy, SD, Seattle, one of Buffalo), then they're still going to the playoffs.

Don't forget, they have a WR who has been the cause of what, 5 of the top 10 best QB seasons of all time? Now, Brady is very good, but the reason he had a 57% DVOA last year instead of his usual 25% or so was because of Randy Moss.

If Cassel is replacement level, getting average performance out of him throwing to Randy shouldn't be so unexpected. Get league average QB performance, and the Patriots still win the division

91
by cd6! (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:52pm

79

By suggesting that the FOMBC can take down good teams upon merely mentioning their achievements in the Audibles thread?

Is that overstating the power of the FOMBC? By overrating the curse, aren't you dooming the curse to failure through that same FOMBC voodoo that takes down the so-called DVOA-disrespected teams? Can the FOMBC withstand the power of the FOMBC??

We're through the looking glass on this one people.

92
by ed-bob (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:57pm

cant come back this year. brady will be placed on ir.

93
by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:27pm

Re: 81: Marcumzilla, do you live in or near Nashville (as David asked in #85) or Cleveland? My understanding is that no doubleheaders can be shown in a team's home market when the team plays a non-primetime home game that day. So, if you live in Cleveland (or in the Browns' designated market area), you got an early game on CBS (but no early game on Fox) and the Browns game as the late game on Fox. Even if there had been some late games on CBS yesterday and it had been a CBS doubleheader day, you wouldn't have received a CBS late game opposite the Browns' late game on Fox.

None of this is new. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. For those of us with NFL Sunday Ticket, however, it is a non-issue. NFL Sunday Ticket is perhaps the greatest invention of all time, even greater than Liquid Prell.

94
by RMoses (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:30pm

Hey FO, start the "Tom Brady Can't Stay Healthy" thread.

95
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:50pm

Did you guys even actually watch the Chargers game? Some of the comments read as though you didn't.

96
by Stevie (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:08pm

NE vs KC - I know the Pats have had a weak secondary for a while but did anyone else notice how easily Dwayne Bowe got open in the red zone? Talented physical recievers like Bowe are a massive mismatch for the Pats CB's. He was open every play I saw but they only made a good throw to him one time (for a TD).They'll go 8-8

I thought Detroit, Jaxonville, Cincinatti and Arizona were locks to cover the points this week, one outta four eh. Watching the Det vs Atl game you know things are bad when St Kitna is screaming words we don't say in our Bible study group at the coaches. Nonetheless I felt good for Arthur Blank, a lot of the crap that happened in Atlanta wasn't his fault and after pouring millions into Ryan and Turner it was nice to see a return on that investment so early.

And what the hell happened to the Colts?

97
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:11pm

57-

The Giants would dispute your characterization of the Patriot offensive line as "outstanding". "Somewhat above average" is probably more like it; the fact that Brady makes such quick reads and gets rid of the ball quickly has made them look better than they are for the past few seasons. One of the knocks on Cassel is that he doesn't make decisions quickly enough, so they're going to have to hold their blocks a bit longer for him than they did for Brady, especially when they start playing against teams that are better at rushing the passer than the Chiefs are.

68, 69 - While it's not true that the Patriots' entire defense is old, it is true that three of their key starters (Vrabel, Bruschi, and Harrison) are old, and at this point slow enough that they are all major liabilities in pass coverage. A defense can usually afford to have one guy like that, but not three - I expect the Patriots defense is going to give up a lot of yards/points this season, particularly now that they can't rely on a historically great offense to force their opponents into becoming one dimensional early in the game.

98
by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:14pm

It was my understanding that the FOMBC only struck when an irrational argument was made against a projection that is not based on the methodology of the projection, but rather the poster's own inability to separate his emotions from the evidence at hand.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

99
by raiderette (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:39pm

Is it jumping to conclusions to think Raider def could be worse than everyone + models assumed? Or is that more like "stepping" to conclusions?

100
by morganja (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:12pm

Re: 88
You might want to check your own cornflakes.

101
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:35pm

re: 73

Steelers are the best team in the AFC? I remember they got off to a hot start last year and ended up being a below average team by week 17. So enjoy the dominance while it lasts, cause its not going to be very long...

102
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:41pm

FWIW I really enjoyed the Packer game.

I enjoyed Will Blackmon making the special teams a tad special.

I enjoyed Cullen Jenkins getting a regular push after being MIA for all pre-season and most of last year.

I enjoyed seeing AJ Hawk blow up some plays.

I enjoyed NOT seeing Collins or Bigby 20 yards from the intended receiver save for the one TD pass where the guy got lost in traffic.

I enjoyed seeing Chad Clifton punk Jared Allen like the bigmouth, sorry *ss redneck that he is. (Sorry, that just slipped out)

I enjoyed seeing Greg Jennings announce his presence with authority.

And I enjoyed Aaron Rodgers being a d*mn good quarterback.

Didn't enjoy seeing the defense on the field the entire second half.

Didn't enjoy being correct about the fact that Al Harris is not only done he is overdone. My gosh, get the coffin and tombstone already.

Didn't enjoy seeing Tony Moll muck things up on a regular basis.

103
by Felden (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:15am

So...

When do we get Quick Reads?

104
by b roo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:16am

24 to skunk. I fear for Raiderjoe's safety at the moment.

105
by Marko (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:19am

I fear for the supply of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at the moment.

106
by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:29am

The guy the Patriots should be calling is Jake Plummer. Not sure if he'd consider it.

107
by Stevie (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:04am

After watching my raiders get debacled I too checked in to see if RJ had any pearls of wisdom to offer me

108
by b roo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:05am

Perhaps Raiders should be calling Daunte...

109
by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:45am

Any comment that has “…what do you expect from _____” is never, ever relevant.

What do you expect from a pats fan defending his pats fan website...

j/k

110
by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:06am

Guess we'll see if that Pats run game that was #1 in DVOA last year really was one of the best in football, or if teams were just terrified of the qb.

111
by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:48am

A couple more thoughts about the Pats: I could see 4-6 wins for them. Randy Moss is getting older, has a history of getting nicked up, and has been known to lose interest in the past. The defense isn't just old- Seymour hasn't been the same player since he got paid. He was their lynchpin. They struggled to beat a Kansas City team that figures to be among the worst in football. They might still be competitive, but its far from a given. I also think there's nothing wrong with 'jumping to conclusions' from week one. The narrative of every seaon is fluid until it's over. It's one more data point than we had before.

112
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 4:20am

Wow, it's getting harder and harder to comment here on game days. Good for FO, as far as readership is concerned. (Please make it easier to comment, if at all possible.)

(Also, as a Denver fan: not to jump to conclusions, but that did feel good - if only as inoculation against the next few weeks.)

113
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 4:54am

I was travelling through the weekend (thank God for Sirius Radio), so first chance I've had to comment on anything:

1) Eagles-Rams: I'm amazed how many people have been writing this off as "God, do the Rams suck." Yes, they do - but the Eagles beat the ish out of the Rams on offense, defense, and special teams. Unless the Rams are historically bad in all phases of the game, this bodes reaally well for the Eagles.

Especially special teams. The Eagles with average special teams are a top-10 team last year and in the playoffs.

2) Brady's injury: Honestly, I'm surprised everyone at FO is so upbeat about it. I can't see them winning the division easily. My best guess would be 3-3 in the division: especially down the stretch, Cassel is going to be a serious liability.

Realistically, Brady's injury hurts everything on the team. Obviously it hurts their offense, but their defense is now going to be playing lots more low-scoring games, where one screwup in the secondary will cost you the game. And the Patriots do not have either a great or deep secondary. Again, late in the year, I wouldn't be surprised if this team totally falls apart.

114
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:34am

The Giants would dispute your characterization of the Patriot offensive line as “outstanding”. “Somewhat above average” is probably more like it; the fact that Brady makes such quick reads and gets rid of the ball quickly has made them look better than they are for the past few seasons.

Last season Brady regularly had 5-6 second to throw. Not only did they have outstanding OL play, they had the best OL play of any team I've ever seen. Yeah, the Giants overcame them -- kudos to the Giants. That doesn't change anything.

115
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:43am

Glad to see the Outsiders jumping off the Jason Campbell bandwagon. Also, Pats are not good with Cassell, they must sign The Rat or Simms.

116
by Shawn (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:51am

I can't remember the importance of Rams 18 Broncos 10, but I'm surprised Aaron didn't mention an even more drastic Week 1 Jump to Conclusions performance by the Bills - Bills 31 Patriots 0 - in 2003.

I'm a Bills fan, and that 2003 season always reminds me to take a wait and see attitude until 4 or 5 weeks into the season.

117
by TGT (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:52am

@39 I was surprised there weren't more Ravens comments because FO's metrics completely disagree with commentators on how well the Ravens will do this year. Even ridiculous homer writers aren't expecting better than 7-9 or 8-8. I thought some writers would be watching just to see what FO sees in them, other than the injuries and horrible fumble recovery luck. (3 Fumbles Sunday, all lost. Maybe it's not luck. Ugh.)

@42 I meant to only be commenting on how Flacco looked in the pocket: only a minor case of happy feet occasionally.

I agree that Flacco was amazingly calm when things went wrong. When Heap pretended he was a usual Baltimore receiver, it was almost like Flacco was disinterested. It kind of reminded me of Eli, but an Eli that doesn't throw lame duck passes when he's pressured. He was Robot calm.

118
by Charles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:53am

No mention of how solid the Cardinals defense was despite being down to their third string nose tackle? This defense will be the most improved unit in the league and give Warner the opportunity to surprise some teams.

As for Warner standing in the pocket and taking sacks, it sure as hell beats him forcing the ball into a tight spot and throwing a pick (which he's been know to do). They've been working on limiting his turnovers (both picks and fumbling) and if he's not turning the ball over, the Cardinals will be a tough team to beat.

119
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:06am

I can't believe how bullish the outsiders still are on the Pats and Matt Cassell.

The one writer "Mccormick?" has it right. Brady makes it all work. The comparison to the Colts losing Manning is a good one. Nobody would be saying they are still a 10-12 win team. Brady's ability to read the defense and hot routes MAKES everbody look better. He operated with a weak run game last year, and the entire offense will have to be shifted. This puts more pressure on the line, skilled position players, and yes, defense.

Anybody want to talk about how Lovie Smith outcoached Dungy in the SNF game? Seeing his backers line up in the A gaps and do creative things while Fungy ran the boring cover 2 and got beat by what the FO saw as one of the worst offenses in the league?

120
by Lance (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:46am

Ben Riley, I think someone took your line. On ESPN Radio yesterday ca. 5 PMish Eastern, the two hosts were running down all of Sunday's games, and one of them (I forget which) commented on the Dallas-Cleveland game by saying almost verbatim "Romo has had eight seconds to scan the field, wave to Jessica, and then hit Witten or Terrell Owens." He varied it up just a bit, but he used the "wave to Jessica" line, and then dropped the Witten and Owens linw. Could be a coincidence, but...

121
by Kalyan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:50am

I would be more than happy if the Pats pick up a 9-7 record or on second thoughts, even 8-8.

It will be too much to expect Cassel to deliver the pats to post-season.

On second thoughts, what happens if Cassel does play well? I don't think he will replace Brady. He is in his contract year and might make a cool $10 mn signining bonus if he wins 10 games and leads the Pats to post-season.

Cassel - that's $1 mn for every win (only 9 more to go!)

122
by BigB (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:08am

RE: 90, Rich Conley "Don’t forget, they have a WR who has been the cause of what, 5 of the top 10 best QB seasons of all time?"

Where does this statement come from? I'm seeing P. Manning with 5 of the top 10 DYARs. Warner, Garcia and Favre with one each.

123
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:19am

"it is true that three of their key starters (Vrabel, Bruschi, and Harrison) are old"

THe only key starter out of those 3 is Vrabel, and he seems to be playing fine. Bruschi plays roughly 30% of the time, and is a starter only in name at this point. Harrison is the same, and isn't even playing safety anymore..hes a nickel linebacker.

124
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:20am

"Also, Pats are not good with Cassell, they must sign The Rat or Simms."

I don't see why people think Chris Simms (of the -4% DVOA at his peak) would be an upgrade over Cassel.

No, Cassel isn't good, but neither is Simms.

125
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:21am

Re: 90
Don’t forget, they have a WR who has been the cause of what, 5 of the top 10 best QB seasons of all time?
:: Rich Conley

That same WR is the guy who started acting like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum and showing a serious lack of effort when he didn't see good QB talent. I find it hard to believe anyone would use Randy "I'm only going to try when I feel like it" Moss as a reason Matt Cassel is going to have a relatively easy transition to every day starter.

I wonder if Moss is having any second thoughts about turning down Philly's contract? I actually think more of Moss for choosing what he thought was a better chance to win over money, but I'm sure that thought is going to be going through his head at some point this year.

126
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:30am

"That same WR is the guy who started acting like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum and showing a serious lack of effort when he didn’t see good QB talent."

I don't know. Its tough to tell whether Moss threw his tantrum because of QB talent, or because of organizational incompetence. My money is on the latter, although, I guess we'll see.

Moss has made every quarterback hes played with significantly better. I don't see why Cassel would be different.

127
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:38am

Just for the record, I don't think Cassel is going to be GOOD, I just don't think hes going to be 4-wins awful. I think he's going to be enough to not lose them a lot of games. The strength of the rest of the roster will carry them through, and they'll still probably win the division.

Buffalo is the only team in the division I'd worry about. Miami sucks, and the Jets don't appear much better, even with Favre.

128
by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:44am

RE: 93

Thanks Marko. I recently moved to the Nashville area from Toledo, which is close enough to be sort-of market for both the Lions and Browns, but not full-blown market, so they always trumped any other matchup, but we didn't have the double-header blackout.

I REALLY wish the Sunday Ticket wasn't exclusive to DirecTV. Getting a satellite would be a pain in my apartment, though I should be back in a house for next season. On the other hand, the bundle-discount for interweb access is nice and I hate supporting them having the monopoly. Maybe as a stop-gap I could try to convince my carrier to add the national feeds for Fox/CBS.

129
by el presidente (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:19pm

My thoughts:

1. Buffalo is the best team in the AFC East. I know that's a Nat'l Jump to Conclusions Week special, but without Tom Brady, what is the difference between New England and Arizona? And I mean Arizona with Matt Leinart starting, not the good version with Kurt Warner. Anyone who can get good odds on Buffaslo against NE or Buffalo to get to the playoffs should take them.

2. San Diego would have won this week if Marty Schottenheimer was coaching the 4th quarter.

3. Cleveland is every bit as good as I thought they were. Which is to say, they could compete for the playoffs in the NFC West.

4. You have to feel sorry for Matt Hasselbeck. A few fewer injuries on the Hawks and bad front office decisions and he's being spoken of in the same breath as Tom Brady, or at least Jim Kelly. Not that he deserves it, but Deion Branch, a certain guard now in Minnesota, and Michael Turner over Julius Jones make Seattle a juggernaut. As it is, they'll struggle to win the NFC West.

5. Given the injuries on the offensive line, maybe a few games with Jim Sorgi at QB wouldn't be a bad idea in Indy.

6. The TV commentators used the "wave to Jessica" line live during Dallas-Cleveland. They also said that the Dallas O line was "standing around lokoing for someone to block" when Cleveland was rushing three. Go figure.

7. Minnesota is who we thought they were.

8. So is Oakland.

9. Tommie Harris is back. So are Tillman and Vasher. And Kyle Orton is just close enough to replacement level to take Chicago to the playoffs if their defense is dominant again.

6.

130
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:19pm

It's too bad Audibles doesn't cover Monday night.

I'd love to hear FO's take on the ashes strewn around the Coliseum that were formally known as Deangelo Hall.

Also, FREE NNAMDI!

131
by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:28pm

KJ - I disagree about the officials waiting to blow the whistle. On that particular play, the official was blowing his whistle BEFORE the refs determined who had control of the ball. He thought there was down by contact. In fact, they reviewed his call and likely determined it wrong. The reason the call was not ruled a turnover was that the play was not allowed to be finished and they didn't know who (if anyone) had possession when the whistle was blown.

I'm not suggesting they let the play run, and then be forced to use review to call it down-by-contact. Rather, I'm suggesting that same ref could have made the same call (down-by-contact) after the play was resolved, because if he were wrong - the play wouldn't have been over when that whistle was blown.

132
by Temo (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:51pm

When will the week 1 numbers be up!

133
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:11pm

without Tom Brady, what is the difference between New England and Arizona?

The best offensive line, defensive line, and coaching staff in the league?

134
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:28pm

The best offensive line,

Who believes this? Mankins is the only real "top of the league" OL on the line, and the others are average or so.

They certainly didn't look like the "best OL in the league" in the preseason, and offensive linemen really can't afford to mail in the preseason.

135
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 1:50pm

A couple of impressions from SEA-BUF:

BUF: I didn't see the Patriots game, so I don't know if Buffalo becomes the new AFC East favorite. But they looked pretty good on Sunday, esp. the front 7 on D. Trent Edwards started shaky, but began to hit some nice throws as the game went on. Marshawn Lynch is fun to watch--I've never seen him play in a game before now. Excellent special teams, but that was expected going into the game--even as a SEA fan, I liked the execution of the fake FG.

SEA: The season isn't over, but the WRs need some extra work in practice this week. Apart from the drops, there was the fact that several plays featured a receiver/TE running a sloppy (or simply wrong) route. Hasselbeck was clearly hesitant because he didn't know where his receivers would be. John Carlson made some nice plays in the passing game. Julius Jones looks like a smaller Shaun Alexander, dancing behind a collapsing line and getting swamped for a loss--on the plus side, he can catch a pass, so using him as a receiver to get outside is an option. Until the passing game starts to click, the opposing defense's game plan should be 8 in the box and count on the WRs to drop the ball or be in the wrong place. Defense still gets sucked in on cutbacks, still gives up big pass plays. The schedule is favorable for the next few weeks, but this is a team that needs to take advantage of the bye week to get some extra work in.

136
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:45pm

"They certainly didn’t look like the “best OL in the league” in the preseason,"

Well.considering that the only starter that played in the preseason was the center, thats not surprising at all.

137
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:47pm

136 should be

"who played significant time in the preseason"

138
by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:02pm

I agree that Buffalo has got the greatest potential in the East, with the Jets and Pats battling for second. It was kind of a kitchen sink game, with the trick plays and the special teams excellence. Hard to say if that's sustainable. Arizona is an interesting comparison to New England. I'd take the Cards straight up right now, I think. I had the same thought about Moss and Philly, I kind of feel for the guy. Bellicheck is very good, but he's not a magician.

139
by Ben Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 5:00pm

#130

I'll give you my take on the Ashes Formerly Known as DeAngelo Hall. He looked as bad as any cornerback I've ever seen play in the NFL. Not only did he fall down repeatedly whenever Eddie Royal made a double move, he even pulled his classic game killing, back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties trick again. Of course, it's not just Hall: the entire Raiders team did not look like a professional sports franchise last night.

#120 and 129

I did not hear Buck or Aikman refer to Romo as having time to wave to Jessica, but it doesn't surprise me that someone other than me (e.g. ESPN Radio) might have thought of the same joke. Now if only I can up with a unique Kim Kardashian ass-reference this year...

140
by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 6:32pm

It's funny but I do not see why there is all this hand wringing over the Patriots losing Tom Brady. With me being a Colts partisan ( my AFC team, I am a Bears fan first and foremost ) there are no tears being shed for the Pats but if anyone thinks that the Patriots are going to fall apart simply because they are missing Tom Brady then they have another thing coming.

First off the N.E. still has a plethora of talent. What the coaching staff needs to do is simply readjust the offense and make them more ball control. Matt Cassel can be very effective with this offense. They could still run the spread offense but run more running plays out of the spread. Maroney and Morris are good running backs and they can still do damage. Or even go to a more traditional power running game. Plus, NE still has a quality defense. Maybe not great but still quality. I will be bold enough to predict that NE still goes 11-5 and comes out a division winner. Everyone seems to think that the Bills and Jets will now be fighting for the AFC East crown but remember, the pressure will be squarly on both the Bills and Jets. Can they handle being the favorites. For instance, this coming Sunday if the Pats lose to the Jets it will not be such a big deal since they are now supposed to lose. But if the Jets lose the game, that will be devestating. Particularly since the Jets will be at the Meadowlands.

If Brady's absence is the reason why they go 5 - 11 then NE wasn't much of a " team " in the first place and BB was a gigantic fraud. As a Colt fan, I would feel a little more smug if the Pats were missing R. Harrison, T. Brushi, M. Vrabel, T. Warren, R Seymour and if the Pats coaching staff decided to take a year sabbatical.

141
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 6:51pm

Badger - I had the sense in that game that if Favre had been the QB they would have lit up the Vikings for 30+ not the 17 the offence actually scored. Rogers was decent but he really wasn't challenged to do much.

As a Viking fan I was very discouraged how poorly the defensive line played. They got their butts kicked.

My sense was neither team is much better than mediocre. Hope I'm wrong.

142
by Ezra Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 6:57pm

I don't think anyone said or believes the Pats are just going to fall apart. They were pegged as maybe a 12-win team, so now the question is whether they can win 9 or 10. That seems like a reasonable estimate of the difference between Tom Brady and what is essentially a replacement-level QB.

In certain systems certain QBs might be more or less interchangeable, but not in this one. It's the 'system,' sure, but with Brady the QB himself is a component of that system, so you can't just plug someone else in.

Meanwhile, I'm picturing Brady spending the winter holed up in GB's apartment with his leg propped up like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, minus the witty banter.

143
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:10pm

#136, 137: Kaczur and Mankins were playing well into the 3rd quarter versus the Eagles, which can be easily seen given that both of them gave up penalties in the 3rd quarter. Yates (starting for Neal for 6 weeks if not more) played significantly in the Ravens game and looked awful. And Light didn't play in preseason because he was injured, so I don't exactly consider that a positive.

144
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:30pm

If Brady’s absence is the reason why they go 5 - 11 then NE wasn’t much of a ” team ” in the first place and BB was a gigantic fraud.

For every "great" team who lost a QB and hobbled their way to a decent record, there are probably 2 or 3 teams who just fell apart.

It's a domino effect, really. With Brady out, you'd imagine they'd mix in runs a bit more, which means that the RBs will take a bit more pounding, and probably get injured a bit more. You've also got little-to-no information on Cassel's durability, and the one "advantage" that Cassel supposedly offers (his mobility) just increases his chances at getting injured as well.

Then, if the offense struggles, the defense'll likely see the field with less rest, and that could compound the injuries as well.

I don't really see the "gigantic fraud" argument. Losing Brady massively changes the team. I don't think anyone could argue against that. And I doubt they practiced in preseason assuming that Cassel was going to be the starter. It's a huge change for the team, and I wouldn't call Belichick a huge fraud if they struggled a bit in doing so.

145
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 12:24am

Last season Brady regularly had 5-6 second to throw. Not only did they have outstanding OL play, they had the best OL play of any team I’ve ever seen.

I highly doubt this. NFL quarterbacks almost never have 5 to 6 seconds to throw, much less regularly.

Pat's right. Their offensive line has one very good player (Mankins), and a bunch of guys who are just guys. With a great quarterback who reads defenses quickly and will burn any team that blitzes him, they will perform above their ability level. I'm not saying they'll be horrible with Cassel in there, but they are going to be exposed to some degree.

146
by Geronimo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 8:49am

In about five weeks, all this back-and-forth about whether the Patriots will be competitive or tank to a 12-loss season, will be quite a bit more clear, as we see Cassell take snaps against defenses gameplanning against him.

As for me, I think the Pats are going to finish somewhere between 8-8 and 10-6.

Any team in the NFL that plays solid, fundamental defense and limits turnovers on offense, can win 8 games no matter how shaky they are at QB. I think the Pats' coaching staff can achieve this much. Throw in a bit of luck and what looks like an easy schedule, and they could get up to 11 wins.

147
by Geronimo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 8:52am

The biggest impact of the Brady injury, though, isn't that it makes them play with Cassell -- it's that it makes them more vulnerable to other injuries.

With Brady, they could afford the losses to injury that a typical team endures during the course of a season.

But without him, should they lose Moss, or Welker, or a lineman or two, they are going to suffer that much more of an impact.

In other words, their margin for injuries just got a lot more narrow.

148
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:24am

"For every “great” team who lost a QB and hobbled their way to a decent record, there are probably 2 or 3 teams who just fell apart."

Really Pat, please give examples. Every team I can think of over the last 5 or so years that lost a great QB did just fine. Were they as good as before? No. Were they better than people thought? Yes.

Contrary to popular belief around here, the QB isn't the only part of the passing game.

149
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 11:59am

You honestly think Brady to Cassell is only a loss of 2-4 wins? Are you kidding me? It sounds stupid, but Brady/Manning are underrated to the casual fan. Maybe not in a fantasy football/stats sense, but in a real football wins sense. There will be a snowball effect where this puts more pressure on everybody and who knows what happens to morale.

Cassell was dangerously close to being cut this preseason, and hasn't STARTED A GAME since High School in 1999. All we know is that he was highly touted out of HS, wasn't as good as Carson and Leinart in college, and wasn't impressive as a backup ( even enough so that the Pats spent a high pick on O'Connell).

The chances of the Pats running an offense that looked anything like last year are slim to none. They will have to run the ball more. I personally think the O-line isn't as good as you guys say, as Brady MAKES them better with audibles, reads, and getting rid of the ball on time without turning the ball over. No way Cassell is anywhere near as effective at doing that. The Pats will probably run a lot more of their 2TE stuff, and less of the 4-5 WR stuff.

A weaker offense, also puts pressure on the D. They will be on the field longer and will be in closer games. Instead of being up and playing with house money, the opposing offenses might PASS or RUN, instead of being up big where they basically have to pass.

The Pats were at home, and were dangerously close to losing to KC ( one of the worst teams in the league). I'd say the most games the Pats could hope to win is 9 ( I am not a big Cassell fan), but 6-10 is very probable.

150
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:15pm

"The chances of the Pats running an offense that looked anything like last year are slim to none"

No one is saying they'll run an offense that looks like last year. I'm saying they'll run an offense like 2004 or 2005 or 2006, where they ran lots of screens and dumpoffs and were remarkably effective despite having absolutely no decent WRs.

Will they have a 50%DVOA offense? Hell no. Will their offensive DVOA be positive? I think so.

151
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 2:29pm

"Cassell was dangerously close to being cut this preseason, and hasn’t STARTED A GAME since High School in 1999. All we know is that he was highly touted out of HS, wasn’t as good as Carson and Leinart in college, and wasn’t impressive as a backup ( even enough so that the Pats spent a high pick on O’Connell)."

That seems to be the common oppinion, that Cassel was close to being cut. Yeah, it looked like that to me too, but that doesn't mean its true. We're fans, not scouts. There IS a reason why Bellichick felt Cassel was a better player to keep than Gutierrez (And Simms, Cullpepper, etc). We just don't know what it is, but that doesn't mean there isn't a very valid one.

Theres a reason Bellichick and Pioli are making the big money, and we're not. I trust their evaluation of Cassel a lot more so than I trust my (or your) substandard evaluation of him.

"The Pats were at home, and were dangerously close to losing to KC "

Yeah, and in week 13 last year, when the patriots were the best team that DVOA has ever seen, they almost lost to Baltimore, one of the worst teams in the league. The difference this week, is that they (according to VOA) completely outplayed KC, which was not the case against baltimore.

I don't think the patriots are great this year, but if you gave me a 6 game over under, I'd be betting the over, and hard.

152
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 5:06pm

#148: I don't think this situation has much in common with any of the examples I can think of, save one - the Eagles, with McNabb, in 2005.

The Eagles in 2006 don't really fit, because Garcia was a veteran starter. The Patriots in 2001 don't really fit, because Bledsoe was an average-or-worse QB at that level (his DVOA for 2001 was only slightly above replacement level, and he was just average in 2000). The Steelers in 2004 certainly don't fit, since Maddox was replacement-level and Roethlisberger was a high round pick anyway.

The only other examples I can think of are short-term losses, and that's not really the same. The Patriots aren't counting on Cassel for a week or two. They're counting on him for the whole season.

153
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:54pm

Rich- That is my point. Even if Cassell is "acceptable", the offense still won't look dynamic like it did last year. You can kiss that style of play good bye.

You cracked me up with the "substandard" evaluation. Did you realize Matt Millen makes big money too? Just because Cassell wasn't cut, doesn't mean he wasn't CLOSE to being cut.

If you have me a Patriots O/U at 11, I'd bet the under hard.

154
by zerlesen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 12:16am

Even with Brady, the odds were against the Patriots doing what they did last year, because last year was apparently some kind of unusually good offensive season, or so I hear.

I would also bet the over on 6 wins for the Pats.

On an unrelated note, as someone who began following American sports in 2002 and who has been subjected to a near-unprecedented reign of dominance by Boston-area teams, coupled with an unseemly inferiority complex (punctuated by occasional unseemly jeering) exhibited both in person and in print by many fans of Boston-area teams, I say: you (Pats fans) have my absolute sympathy. Please try to understand how fans of lesser, non-Patriots teams feel during similar times.

155
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 9:44am

The O/U wouldn't be put at 6, it would probably be moved to say 8.5. Do you think the Pats will have a winning record or not?

156
by iapetus (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 10:23am

I'm intrigued. Which teams does Ned Macey think would still be at full strength at offensive line if they lost their centre, had their backup tackle shot, then lost both guards for the season and had their best backup guard injured all in the first game? I'd be disappointed in any defensive line that didn't dominate that, regardless of who it was. When it's one of the better lines in the NFL, it's a no-brainer.

157
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 3:04pm

"You cracked me up with the “substandard” evaluation. Did you realize Matt Millen makes big money too? Just because Cassell wasn’t cut, doesn’t mean he wasn’t CLOSE to being cut."

I agree, but just because sportscenter says Cassel was close to getting cut, doesn't mean he was.

Pioli is not Millen.

And Yes, I do think the Pats end the season with a winning record.

158
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 3:21pm

"
#

Rich- That is my point. Even if Cassell is “acceptable”, the offense still won’t look dynamic like it did last year. You can kiss that style of play good bye. "

Chris, please point out where someone said that the patriots offense woudln't change. Please point out where we said the patriots would pass for 50 TDs. Please point out where we said the patriots would put up lastyears numbers.
'

NO ONE IS SAYING THAT. The patriots offense is going to be MUCH worse than it was last year. Drastically worse. But, they don't have to be the best team DVOA has ever seen to have a winning record.

If we go by the preseason projections for Defense and ST, you get .2%, so just about average, with a 0% offense. I don't think the offense is going to be that bad, as even the patriots no-receivers-throw-screens-all-day offense broke +10% and was at +20% most of the time. I also think their defense is going to be better than predicted, as the prediction is based on Ellis Hobbs playing half the season with a torn groin, and not having a first round pick linebacker.

Even if the prediction sticks, and they end up with a 0% offense, they end up with a DVOA of 0.2%, which puts them right between NO and Denver, who have 8.2 and 8.4 expected wins. Coupled with an easy schedule...and I see a winning record as likely.

159
by Tim (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 3:22pm

I keep reading comments on how the Pats barely beat KC, one of the worst teams in the league. For pete's sake people, the leader of the team went down with a serious injury. Stats be damned, you can't tell me that doesn't have a psychological/emotional impact for the rest of that game. I read numerous quotes from players saying that they were all standing around with the 'deer in the headlights' look during the game. I'm fairly confident that will not be the case going forward.

That said, I'm very interested to see what happens the rest of the way.

160
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