“SWEET” PETE’S WEEK 3 NFL RECAP
Celebrating the national Jump to Conclusions week since 2003!
The Steelers and Chiefs are 3-0, as will be the winner the game tonight. The Bills, Browns, Lions and 49ers are 0-3. Everybody else still has a chance.
The NFL is pretty unpredictable, but I like to try anyway. Several readers have pointed out that with only three weeks of games, it’s a mistake to base broad predictions on early results. The point is not lost on me. Observe: Phillip Rivers and Kyle Orton lead the league in passing, and both are on pace to throw for over 5,700 yards. Arian Foster is on pace to rush for 2,100 yards on 370 carries. Austin Collie, who leads everyone in receiving, on pace for 144 catches for 1,900 yards. While we’re at it, Clay Matthews is on pace to record 48 quarterback sacks.
Some of you may be surprised that the Kansas City Chiefs are 3-0. But when I made the seemingly bold call that the Chiefs will win the AFC West, I am not reacting to their 3-0 start. I figured they were the best team in the division before the season started; their 3-0 start just supports that idea further.
Colts 27, Broncos 13
Broncos offense played well, except for their five trips inside the red zone, and that is not a good exception. It added up to lots of yards but not many points. I expect the offense to rebound, since there is no reason to expect such poor red zone performance from an otherwise talented unit. The defense played well enough to keep the game close, despite the missed opportunities on offense. Their secondary is on fire so far this year, but the unit is crippled by a front seven that can cover okay but can’t rush the passer. D.J. Williams looked great in coverage on one play, forcing an incompletion aimed at a Donald Brown on a fade route in the end zone. Reynaldo Hill and Nate Jones also had notably strong games.
Like Kyle Orton, Austin Collie probably doesn’t get the fan respect he deserves. And also like Orton, Collie is a legit NFL starter and one of the better players at his position.
Rams 30, Redskins 16
The Redskins hired Mike Shanahan specifically to prevent debacles like this. Sure, the Jim Zorn Redskins could lose to anybody, but even then we knew that the team had talented individual players, just nothing approaching a talented team. Shanahan was supposed to teach these athletes how to be football players. And after the first two games, it looked like a wild success. But the ‘Skins dug themselves into a 14-0 hole early in the first quarter Sunday where everything that could go wrong did, and they were never able to dig themselves out.
The biggest problem is a defense that has been slashed in consecutive weeks by superstars such as Kevin Walter and Kenneth Darby. The quickest way for the Redskins to improve their defense would be to stop playing Albert Haynesworth. On several plays, including Steven Jackson’s first quarter 42-yard touchdown run, the Rams attacked Haynesworth by simply pushing him out of the way and then running to where he used to be. I can’t think of a more shameful performance in any professional sport. Fat-fuck Albert isn’t their only problem. Coordinator Jim Haslet has not put his guys in positions to succeed. On Sunday, if a guy looked like he was going to blitz, he blitzed. If he didn’t, he dropped predictably into coverage. Rookie QB Sam Bradford had no trouble reading the defense and picking it apart. Haslet needs to do a better job preparing this unit to face Michael Vick next week or else it will get embarrassing fast.
The quickest way for the Redskins to improve their offense would be to trade for Vincent Jackson. Trent Williams, who missed the game due to injury, will return next week. They will need him when facing Trent Cole and the Eagles.
Seahawks 27, Chargers 20
The most exciting game of the day. Down 20-12 late in the fourth quarter, a Phillip Rivers to Antonio Gates touchdown pass was called back on a penalty. Rivers went right back to Gates on the next play and scored again. On the 2-pt. conversion, a successful Rivers to Legedu Naanee pass was called back on a penalty. Rivers went right back to Naanee on the next play and scored again. Down 27-20 in the closing seconds, a Rivers to Patrick Crayton touchdown pass was called back on a penalty. Rivers went back to Crayton on the next play,… and Seahawk safety Earl Thomas intercepted it in the end zone to seal the game. The Seahawks would have struggled to hold on to the lead except for two awesome Leon Washington kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Jets 31, Dolphins 23
For three quarters, the Dolphins looked like the team with the most sound football fundamentals: solid blocking from the o-line and running backs picking up the blitz, receivers running crisp routes, players showing excellent awareness all around. But in the end, head coach Tony Sparano blew the comeback attempt. Trailing 24-20, facing a fourth and six from the Jets 32 with 6:42 left in the game, I think you have to go for it. But Sparano sent in Dan Carpenter, who nailed a 50-yard FG to make it 24-23. Fine. But to win, the offense still needs another field goal. The ‘Fins kick off for a touchback, and the Jets need only eight plays to drive to the Dolphins five yard line, now with 2:24 left. The Dolphins have two time outs at this point, and since any score will force the ‘Fins to score a touchdown, I think you have to let the Jets score immediately. However, the ‘Fins allow the Jets five more plays before LaDanian Tomlinson eventually scores. So instead of needing eight points with two and a half minutes and two time outs, they need eight points with a minute fifty left and no timeouts. Just bad, bad, coaching at the end of the game.
When the Jets scored that last TD to go up by seven inside the two minute warning, I swore to become a Rex Ran fan for the rest of the year if he had the balls to go for two to make it a nine point game. He didn’t, and kicked the extra point, unfortunately or not.
TE Dustin Keller looked like an all-pro for the Jets. The NBC broadcast crew did a good job highlighting some of his game: perfect route running, great awareness moving around the line of scrimmage, solid blocking. He looked good enough to almost forget about his oddly boneheaded play running out of bounds short of the marker on 4th down against the Ravens in week 1.
Chiefs 31, 49ers 10
The trick play of the week award might go to the Chiefs for their 3rd quarter doozy: a wildcat end-around reverse flea-flicker. Thomas Jones took the snap, handed off to Dexter McCluster coming across the field, who tossed the ball back to Matt Cassell coming in the reverse direction, who threw a bomb to a wide open Dwayne Bowe in the end zone. That put the score at 17-3 and the Chiefs never looked back.
On the 49ers side, I wonder if Mike Singletary is really NFL head coach material. I think he might be better suited for the role of motivational speaker, and leaving it at that. Does anybody get the impression that he would prefer to lose, thus getting the change to show how tough a coach he is by yelling and berating his team than actually, rather than, you know, win? The 49ers fired (sacrificed) their offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who looks to be taking a fall for all the bad coaches on the team. This may save Singletary’s job for a little while, but hopefully not for too long. Judging from Raye’s long term history of a lack of success, it makes you wonder what the 49ers expected when they hired him in the first place.
Patriots 38, Bills 30
This game featured two polar opposite teams. The Bills seemed lost, thrown into a game they didn’t adequately know how to prepare for. They don’t seem to know what works for them and what doesn’t, going through a random assortment of running backs, quarterbacks, and game plans each new week. Today they cut Trent Edwards, who as recently as two weeks ago had “won” the starting QB “competition.” So they want to start Ryan Fitzpatrick, but is it necessary to CUT Edwards? The Patriots, on the other hand, are a team that knows all too well their strengths and weaknesses. On offense they are a full-on west coast pass-first-second-and-third team, and they know that short crossing patterns to Wes Welker and deep bombs to Randy Moss on double or triple moves are their best plays. On defense, they do whatever they can to try to hide the fact that their secondary sucks, while hoping the offense can keep up in a high scoring shootout, as all of their games this year are bound to turn out to be.
Steelers 38, Buccaneers 13
Would you want to play the Steelers? I wouldn’t. It’s funny how some teams struggle for years and years and never seem to find an adequate quarterback, and here the Steelers 4th stringer Charlie Batch comes in and throws 3 touchdowns in a blowout win. I guess it helps that he only had to throw 17 passes in between handing the ball off 39 times.
Falcons 27, Saints 24 (OT)
I didn’t actually watch any of this game because the bar I was at had a large lamp hanging from the ceiling in between me and the TV that it was being shown on. But it looked like it was awesome. I give the Broncos and Giants credit for spreading the ball around between three receivers rather than relying on one go-to guy like the Falcons and Cowboys, but the Saints beat everyone by using seven or eight recievers fairly regularly. Sean Payton and Gregg Williams coach two of the most entertaining units to watch.
Bengals 20, Panthers 7
I didn’t watch any of this game either but it looked like a big suckfest. Panthers coaches ask Jimmy Claussen to throw 33 passes, while calling hand offs to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart 18 times combined? I’m not an expert or anything, but that doesn’t sound like a winning game plan. The Bengals are creating the opposite problem for themselves. They hand the ball off to Cedric Benson on average 22 times per game, and to other running backs only 5 times per game. Research suggests that no back can handle such a large workload over time. Larry Johnson’s career was ruined by Herm Edwards running him into the ground; Michael Turners was almost ruined before Mike Smith and the Falcons discovered they can hand off to Jason Snelling 10 times a game without the universe exploding. The Bengals have a perfectly good #2 back in Bernard Scott. I suggest they use him to save Benson.
Titans 29, Giants 10
If you don’t know who Cortland Finnegan is, take the time out to watch the Titans sometime this year. He’s one of the most aggressive and hardest hitting cornerbacks I’ve seen play. The Giants are a better team than this game suggests. Like the Broncos, the Giants moved the ball well but had a little bit of everything go wrong down in the red zone, which prevented them from turning their yards into points. Chris Johnson said before the season he wanted to rush for 2,500 yards. He’s on pace to rush for 1,600, plus 21 touchdowns.
Ravens 24, Browns 17
The Browns race to 0-16 continues, as Joe Flacco’s unibrow throws for three touchdowns. The question remains: is Jim Zorn ruining Flacco? Tune in next week when they play the Steelers to find out!
Vikings 24, Lions 10
Everybody knows the NFL is a passing league. That’s true, but the passing itself isn’t what’s really important. Moving the ball effectively is what’s important, and most teams just happen move the ball better in the passing game. The Vikings, on the other hand, move the ball better by handing it off to Adrian Peterson. That’s okay, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The sooner Brad Childress grasps this, the faster the Vikings will seem to improve.
Cowboys 27, Texans 13
Rumor has it that Jerry Jones celebrated the Cowboys first victory of the year by buying his entire offensive line plastic surgery to make them look and play 10 years younger. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the Cowboys first win comes in a game where Jason Garrett seemed to have a plan about how to use his running backs, rather than letting the Madden “gameflow” system pick his plays, or whatever he was doing before.
Eagles 28, Jaguars 3
The Jaguars called their season opener against the Broncos “one of the biggest games in franchise history,” because they actually got some fans to show up to the game. They followed their week one 24-17 victory by losing the next two 66-16. Michael Vick is more valuable in fantasy football than in real life football. He is a fantasy stud, but below average in the real NFL. Mike Tanier breaks down his game on Sunday pass by pass.
Cardinals 24, Raiders 23
Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32 yard game winning field goal as time expired. His friends after the game said he wasn’t taking the miss too hard, but he was unavailable for comment while dancing on top of a speaker wall to some sweet European dubstep.
Week 3 predictions (vs. the spread):
“Control group,” picking all home teams: 4-11.
“Safe Picks”: 4-4.