“SWEET” PETE’S WEEK 4 NFL PREVIEWS!
Nobody noticed when the Seahawks hired Brian Schneider to coach their special teams this off season. But Schneider noticed something about the Chargers—that San Diego’s kickoff coverage unit played tough up front, but didn’t leave adequate coverage behind the front line—and he quickly installed a new blocking scheme designed specifically to attack what the Chargers were doing. The result: Leon Washington returns two kickoffs for touchdowns, and that was the difference between winning and losing the game. Watch the replays on youtube if you can find them. You’ll see Washington bust through the hole his blockers made, and after that, it’s all Leon. Head coach Pete Carroll described it from his view on the sidelines: “I was standing next to Brian when Leon caught the ball and he said, ‘We got them.’ As soon as he caught the ball, we could see that we had the crease we needed.”
Rookie Cody Grimm started at safety for the Buccaneers last week. Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch noticed a tendency of Grimm’s to turn his back on the play in deep coverage, so he doesn’t know where the ball is. Batch told receiver Mike Wallace in the huddle that if Grimm turned his back again, he’d try to drop the ball in over the top. Grimm did, Batch did, and Wallace attacked the ball while Grimm simply waved his arms in the air. Commentators would say things like, “he forced a throw into coverage there, he’s lucky it wasn’t picked off.” It wasn’t lucky. Batch and the Steelers knew what they were doing.
I have a feeling that Chargers will work on changing up their coverages this week, and probably everyone on the Seahawks schedule will be taking extra care not to let a predictable special teams coverage beat them. I have a feeling I know what Josh McDaniels and the Broncos will be working on too. More on that below.
Bye weeks begin this week—check your fantasy roster! The Cowboys, Chiefs, Vikings, and Buccaneers have the weekend off to prepare for (respectively) the Titans, Colts, Jets, and Bengals. This is great news, because this means that we have at least one week where we don’t have to worry about being forced to listen to Troy Aikman and Joe Buck call another Cowboys game!
Denver Broncos @ Tennessee Titans
Line: Titans by 7
Last week, the Broncos moved the ball against the Colts but couldn’t score. Last week, the Giants moved the ball against the Titans but couldn’t score. Josh McDaniels has probably been spending the week working on red zone offense, and that means we’ll get to see some brand new plays on Sunday. If I’m right, expect something fancy with lots of pre-snap motion, whether it’s a run or a pass. Could this be the week we finally get to see a play-action touchdown to tight end Dan Gronkowski? I think it might be! So that’s something to be excited for.
But how do you stop Chris Johnson from rushing for 2,000 yards on you? Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Don Martindale have spent the week talking about how hard it is to take good angles to the ball carrier. Other losing coaches have talked about gap responsibility. But I noticed something else. The best counter to CJ is an offense that can control the ball and win the time of possession. Ever since Vince Young took over as the Titans starting QB last year, the Titans split the time of possession pretty evenly in nine games, and they won eight of them. But in the four games their opponent won the time of possession by six minutes or more, the Titans went 1-3. That’s a small sample size, but a big difference! We know that keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hands doesn’t work, the Colts can still win those games. But the Titans don’t have that ability
I like the way the Broncos match up with the Titans. RT Ryan Harris is expected to play. The defense will get some stops, and it’s important for the offense to keep the ball and run a bunch of plays before giving it back. They were 5-15 on 3rd downs last week, but 14-20 the week before. That’s how they can beat the Titans on Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Steelers by 1.5
The Ravens defense seems to slowly be getting worse now that Rex Ryan is gone. Meanwhile, the Steelers look like the best team in the NFL.
New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills
Line: Jets by 6
Sure, the Bills scored 30 last week, but it came against the crap-tacular Patriots D. They’ll be lucky to score half as many this week. Jets.
Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams
Line: Seahawks by 1.5
Are the Rams for real after beating up on the Redskins? I doubt it. Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
Line: Falcons by 7
The 49ers promoted their quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. Head coach Mike Singletary was asked what kind of offense the team planned to use now. “You know, it’s not a smash-mouth run team. What I want is a balance… I want to run Frank Gore when we want to run Frank Gore. But at the same time I want get the ball to Vernon Davis, I want to get the ball to Crabtree, I want to use Brian Westbrook more, I just want to use the playmakers in the best way that we can. But I want to attack people both running and throwing the football.” Well, it says here that Alex Smith looks like a real NFL QB in the shotgun, putting up numbers similar to Eli Manning. Under center, he looks about as good as Derek Anderson, or maybe Keith Null. Yet, the 49ers use shotgun sets less than almost anyone in the league. Hmmm… the 49ers are one of the most poorly coached teams in the league. Pick the Falcons.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Line: Packers by 14.5
Detroit will win a couple games this year, but not this one. I don’t see the Packers losing two in a row.
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
Line: Bengals by 3
I’m afraid Cleveland’s quest for 0-16 may hit a bump in the road this week. The Bengals were supposed to be good but their offense is cover-your-eyes awful. Take the Browns in the “upset.”
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
Line: Saints by 14
The Saints are looking more and more like an 8-8 team this year, kinda like the time they actually finished at 8-8 two years ago. I’m not saying their super bowl was a fluke—they really were the best team last year—but they caught lightening in a bottle, or something, and it doesn’t seem to be happening again this year. But they should still be better than the Panthers, who look awful. Jimmy Claussen seemed to be struggling just holding on to the ball once it’s snapped. I hope he has time to scout the Saints defense in between—ahem—practicing taking snaps from his center. Pick: Saints.
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Eagles by 6
Let’s try to put last week in the past, shall we? Let’s try to pretend it didn’t happen for a little while.
All the talk in Redskin-land is about how Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain will split carries. But I don’t think that makes much difference. CB Carlos Rodgers spoke a little about the Eagles WRs, and he might know a thing or two about them. DeSean Jackson has been held to 33 yds/game vs. the Redskins in four games. “DeSean gives you so many things,” Rogers said. “He kind of freelances. Maclin is a straight route-runner. He’ll run the route… They both don’t want no physical contact.” So bump the receivers at the line, check. What about Vick? LaRon Landry has been playing close to the line of scrimmage so far, and he’s been excelling. He’s the natural pick to play a short zone/spy position. “It’s gonna be fun,” Landry said, “but just think about every time he breaks, it’s an opportunity for this guy to score… You’ve got to have great leverage and be able to run and not get tagged.” It’ll be up to the rest of the front seven to keep blockers from “tagging” fast guys like Landry and London Fletcher. Wait, doesn’t that job sound like one for a 4-3 front, rather than the Redskins 3-4? I wonder if coach Haslett feels the same way.
Redskins super rookie LT Trent Williams, who missed last week, will be starting again, and I think his return will make all the difference in the world for the offense. Eagles DE Trent Cole isn’t famous but he might be the best and most complete DE in the NFL right now, and the Williams vs. Cole battle could be epic. Juqua Parker is vastly underrated at the opposite DE spot, so RT Jamal Brown needs to play well also.
The Eagles are favored in this game for a reason. The ‘Skins can win but everything has to go right for them. If not, with Indy and Green Bay on the schedule next, they could be looking at a 1-5 record at the bye.
Arizona Cardinals @ San Diego Chargers
Line: Chargers by 8.5
The Chargers loss last week is on the coaching staff, not the players. They’ll rebound. Chargers.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Line: Colts by 8
The Jags looked fired up at home in week 1, but lackluster on the road afterwards. Their franchise’s “biggest game ever” is all that’s between the Broncos and a 2-1 record. Pick: Colts.
Houston Texans @ Oakland Raiders
Line: Texans by 3.5
If you were to say the Raiders don’t look half bad, you’d be wrong. They are getting better, but they’re still half bad. Texans.
Chicago Bears @ New York Giants
Line: Giants by 4
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
Line: Pats by 1
Isn’t Bill Belichick supposed to be a defensive genius? I guess he’s a little better at building an offense. I think the Dolphins are going to win this one.
Gamblers: the Old-Ass Volvo Safe picks this week include San Diego, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the New York Jets.
Good scouting can win games, bad scouting can lose them. The Chiefs won last week because the 49ers were totally unprepared for the types of coverages the Chiefs were using. The first link below is to an article breaking down the coverage on Brandon Flowers’ pick-6 that turned the game into a rout. The Cowboys won last week because they had all their o-line starters back. People say, “man, we lost because of injuries to key players!” but you never hear anyone say, “we won because nobody was hurt.” But it’s true. The second link goes to an article breaking down the Cowboy’s offensive line play, and how they forced the Texans to start blitzing, which was when they really started to get burned.
Have a great weekend, and happy football watching!