by Bill Barnwell
This week's Miami-Pittsburgh game reminded me a lot of the game Miami played at home last year against the Jets. That Christmas night game was an exercise in futility, with neither team executing offensively until the fourth quarter, when they traded touchdowns and a 64-yard Leon Washington scamper on a screen pushed the Jets to a game-winning field goal and, eventually, the playoffs.
The Monday night game this week was similar. Offenses weren't really running plays as much as they were running hopes and prayers. When a player was able to make a catch, they were usually wide-open because someone slipped, or lost their assignment and then slipped. It looked like a high school football game, full of punts that went nowhere and ineffective offensive schemes.
So, then, what can we take out of it as analysts or fans? When South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Ethan Skolnick asked Boomer Esiason what he thought about John Beck's performance, Esiason responded, "How can you evaluate anybody in these conditions? The conditions aren't fair for any quarterback, let alone a rookie quarterback." Esiason's right.
Does the game have any predicative value? And what does the weather do to teams? To answer the former, I don't think so. If you watched any of the players and how they performed on Monday, I can't think of one who looked any bit like the player they normally are. Without having done research on the latter, I think what such extreme weather does is take the abilities of all players and level them to the point where they're relatively equal. Basically, it seems like it turns running backs into DeShaun Foster, where they can pick up a big play if they get lucky, but otherwise don't garner consistent positive yardage, while receivers become Troy Brown. It takes the difference in talent and situation between Willie Parker and Jesse Chatman, between Hines Ward and Marty Booker, and eliminates most of it.
We still need to do more research on it as a topic, but I'm open to suggestion as to whether that makes any sense or not.
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QB: I think it's safe to say that David Carr is on the Tim Couch career path at this point. A total of 95 yards and two interceptions for our favorite statue earned Carr a donut this week. Runner-up was poor John Beck, who had to face the Steelers in the Mud Bowl Monday Night. Beck still put up a very respectable four. If we adjusted Loser League numbers for absurd weather conditions, he'd be way ahead of Kellen Clemens and his five.
RB: If Carr wasn't enough, Carolina's offense is still saddled with the suckhole that is DeShaun Foster. Remember when it looked like Foster had some promise in the new zone-blocking scheme Carolina was installing? Yeah, that was an amusing exercise in delusion. Would Foster still be Carolina's starter if it weren't for that famous last burst of effort in the playoffs in 2004? He was never the same player before or since. Foster had 16 yards and a fumble this week, on a play where he lost, yes, 26 yards. That's -4 on that play, and -1 overall. Jesse Chatman was another casualty of the Mud Bowl, with an impressive 17 yards rushing and -4 yards receiving. He had a single point. LenDale White trucked his way to a two, as did Cedric Benson, who may have killed some Loser Leaguers hopes with his season-ending injury on Sunday.
WR: Is it Vince Young who struggles because he has no wideouts, or Roydell Williams who struggles because he has Vince Young? I can't answer that question, but Williams sure looked like the problem this week. His two catches only earned him nine yards this week, which is good for, well, nothing. In other news, Mark Clayton continues to disappoint, Lee Evans puts up another seemingly-abbreviated game, Bobby Wade and David Patten return to their previous ways as below-replacement-level receivers, and Brad Smith's explosive spaciness goes relatively nowhere. They all earned a lone point this week.
K: It's hard to fault Jay Feely, as he didn't get a chance to do a single thing this week besides his lone kickoff. That's a zero in Loser League, though. His counterpart was the Naked Kicker, and Jeff Reed's successful field goal topped Feely's missed one to earn him a single point. For all I know, Reed might have been naked out there Monday night. I wouldn't have known the difference outside of Reed interrupting plays to take pictures of himself on his cell phone while he insisted that he was Brian St. Pierre. Oops, sorry, getting my embarrassing Steelers sex stories confused again. My bad.
Keep Choppin' Wood
Wood was chopped this week by the combination of Arizona long snapper Nathan Hodel and coach Ken Whisenhunt. When Neil Rackers lined up for what should have been a game-winning field goal, neither Whisenhunt nor Hodel noticed that the play clock was winding down. Either should have called a timeout. Neither did. Rackers converted the field goal, but was served with a delay of game penalty during what ended up being a meaningless kick. He missed the resulting field goal (one that, granted, was only from 32 yards, but not one he should have taken). San Francisco punted with aplomb after going three and out, downed the ball inside the Arizona 5, and claimed victory when Kurt Warner fumbled on the Cardinals' next play from scrimmage.
Last Week: 3-0, 16-15-1 overall
The lesson for those of you who come into comment threads and taunt about how you were right about something the week before: You will invoke the FOMBC. Count. On. It.
MIAMI (-1) over New York Jets
It's a little sad when you're an underdog to a winless team. Vegas isn't dumb. Neither are we. The Dolphins may very well be a better team than the Jets, and this is their best chance at a victory.
Tampa Bay (+3.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I would take this line outright for the Buccaneers, who are a significantly better team than the Saints. My only concern is Jeff Garcia's health, because if he's at 100 percent, the Saints aren't going to have an answer for him.
CHICAGO (+2) over New York Giants
OK, so maybe Eli doesn't throw four interceptions this week. Chicago's at home, and they aren't stuck with Cedric Benson anymore. The real Adrian Peterson has a nice day, and I think Chicago wins outright here.