Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 2 NFL Notes

Is the Seahawks Era of NFL dominance finally over? Some may chuckle at the very suggestion that one even existed, but it can now be safely said that it is, after a second-straight humiliating performance by the offence, this time against the Rams—who lost 28-0 last week—in a 9-3 defeat. Russell Wilson almost led another “miracle” late-game drive to win the game, and I do mean “miracle”; but this time the opponent’s defense didn’t fall down before the “mystique” of Wilson. Seahawk fans must ask themselves if the quarterback who is being paid $22 million a year is really at the “elite” level that such a salary suggests. Well, fine, he took you to two Super Bowls, and you actually won one of them, thanks to one of the most dominant defensive efforts in Super Bowl history. Maybe you can consider that money “back pay.”

But how much are you going to blame Wilson’s bad ankle (if it is still injured) for inferior offensive output, or admit that NFL defenses have finally caught-up to him, like they did Kaepernick and RG3? After all, the guy is short by NFL quarterback standards. Of course, it would be wrong to write-off the team completely; I thought the Seahawks would finish no better than 9-7 and be a one-and-done in the playoffs, and they won 10 games and a playoff game, albeit after a botched chip-shot field goal attempt at Minnesota. But Michael Bennett’s cheap-shot on the kneel-down as the seconds ticked-away just reminded me again why I dislike this team (another being that I’m a long-time Packer fan).

Chargers 38 Jaguars 14 The only reason I would be interested in the result of this game is because I’m still waiting to see if any of these former Wisconsin Badger running backs will turn out to be any good. Michael A. Bennett seemed to be on pace for a decent career with the Vikings, gaining 1,296 yards rushing in his second season, but injuries sealed his rapid demise. After a failed career with the Giants, Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne had his best season with the Texans in 2007, but as a free agent in 2008 not one team in the NFL showed any interest in him. Montee Ball set the NCAA Division I record for career touchdowns scored, but he lasted but two seasons in the NFL; he is currently serving a 60-day prison sentence for battery back in Wisconsin. 

Melvin Gordon, who gained 2,587 yards in 14 games as a Badger in 2014, is trying to break the jinx. His rookie season with the Chargers was no great shakes, not even scoring a single touchdown, but this season he has already scored 3 touchdowns in two games, and rushed for 102 yards in the victory against the Jaguars. Fantasy experts seem to think he is good for 900 yards this season. We’ll see.

Falcons 35 Raiders 28 Matt Ryan had another big day statistically, throwing for 396 yards and 3 TDs. That’s not a surprise. What is a “surprise” is that the Falcon defense has allowed 800 yards in two games. Why should that be a “surprise”? Because the Falcons hired Dan Quinn, former defensive coordinator of the Seahawks, to “fix” that problem. Obviously you can’t be a head coach and defensive “genius” at the same time in this league. Just ask Rex Ryan.

Broncos 34 Colts 20 Football is a funny game. Andrew Luck had an awful game, throwing for just 197 yards on 21 of 40 passes, much less impressive than his first-year counterpart. Yet this game could easily have turned out with a different result, although again, Luck was the principle culprit. Both of Luck’s turnovers—an interception and a fumble—were returned for touchdowns. But that is just the “Luck” of the draw, as they say.

Cardinals 40 Buccaneers 7 Having all off-season to rest his tired body has done wonders for Carson Palmer. Despite the fact that he hadn’t won a single playoff game in 12 seasons until last season, we shouldn’t sell him too short; after all, Warren Moon had a “Hall of Fame” career and didn’t do squat in the playoffs during his NFL career, the most notable moment being that epic meltdown against the Bills when the Oilers blew a 35-3 third quarter lead. Meanwhile, after a fine opening-day performance , Jameis Wilson was ineffective from start to finish, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble. But not to worry; no one will be comparing him to Mark Sanchez. I wonder why.

Steelers 24 Bengals 16 I’ve noted before that Andy Dalton can put-up big numbers, and for the second straight week he threw for 366 passing yards. But as in the case of Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson, one wonders to what effect; Dalton has thrown only two TD passes in two games. Still, 39 points in two games is still slightly more “impressive” than 15 points in two games, which most people who call at a level not seen since the 1991 Colts, whose 143 points were fewest scored in a 16-game schedule. Now what team this season has scored the fewest points through the first two games? Oh, damn, I'm getting too "excited" here. That would be the Rams, whose kicker has scored all nine of their points.

Titans 16 Lions 15 Here is a recipe for victory. Put together just two decent drives that end in touchdowns, and hope that your opponent reverts to form from previous years. That is how the Titans somehow beat the Lions in Detroit. Once more, the Lions blew a big early lead as they often do, but unlike last week, Matthew Stafford remembered what he was supposed to do whenever he had a big lead: take a nap for most of the third and fourth quarter, then wake-up just in time to throw a game-losing interception.

Ravens 25 Browns 20 Unbelievably, the Browns opened the game with 20-0 first quarter lead. And without Robert Griffin III, who is out for a while with that shoulder injury. Could it be that RG3 was holding a talented team back? After scoring three touchdowns on their first three possessions, the Browns did the following: punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, missed field goal, punt, interception. I hear that Michael Vick is still looking for a job.

Cowboys 27 Redskins 23 How the world turns. After the Cowboys opened with a 10-0 lead, the Redskins dominated the Cowboys for two-and-a-half quarters and were poised to put the game away in the fourth quarter, leading 23-20 with a first down at the Cowboy six-yard line. But when you don’t have much of a recent history of competitive play, you should expect bad things to happen, like after an interception in the end zone, leading to an 80-yard game-losing TD drive.

Giants 16 Saints 13 Fun facts: In 1985, the Giants Phil Simms threw for 513 yards in a game against the Bengals, and threw for only one touchdown pass. The following year, the 49ers Joe Montana threw for 441 yards and no touchdowns in a 14-6 loss to the Redskins. Thus Eli Manning throwing for 368 yards leading to not a single offensive touchdown scored can’t be counted among the worst yards-to-touchdown ratio in NFL history. After all, the Seahawks have scored only one touchdown all season.

Panthers 46 49ers 27 Look, Blaine Gabbert was mediocre and the 49ers rushing game even worse, yet they put-up 27 points against a pretty good Panther defense. What happened? Well, the 49ers defense is not as good as advertised, allowing over 500 yards to Cam Newton and company. Newton isn’t the most accurate passer in the league, but when you throw the ball ten yards past the line of scrimmage on a regular basis, that tends to make-up for accuracy deficiencies. 

Patriots 31 Dolphins 24 The Patriots actually led this game 24-0 in the second quarter and 31-3 in the third quarter, and then hung on for dear life after quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down. The Dolphins certainly could have done without four turnovers, but they are not a good team anyways, and as things stand now, the Pats are still in first place in their division without Tom Brady. But now things get a little interesting, with Jacoby Brissett, a rookie out of North Carolina State, the apparent starting quarterback for the next two games. Now we’ll see what kind of genius Bill Belichick is.

Texans 19 Chiefs 12 A blah game. Alex Smith came back down to earth, and the Chiefs’ secondary couldn’t seem to figure out that if they kept tabs on DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Brock Osweiller would look like someone who isn’t in the league anymore. But the Texans are 2-0; the rest of their division is 1-5. 

Jets 37 Bills 31 Rex Ryan fired his offensive coordinator after he appeared in the team photo session; maybe Rex should have fired himself or his defensive coordinator instead (his brother?).  Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards against his old team as the Jets piled-up nearly 500 yards of total offense. Tyrod Taylor, who threw the ball a few yards down the field a few times this time, but was injured in the game, and now Rex can examine his current “options.”

Vikings 17 Packers 14 Saving the worst for last. Truth-be-told, Aaron Rodgers has not looked like the "elite" quarterback he allegedly is since Week 3 of last season against the Chiefs.  The last time he threw for 300 yards in a game was in a Week 9 loss at home against the Lions, and he threw 61 passes in that game. Rodgers used to be the kind of quarterback who regularly could toss the ball all over the field when called upon, but that seems ages ago now. The great pass catchers that began their careers with Brett Favre are gone, and while Jordy Nelson did catch one deep ball in this game, he clearly is not a No. 1-level receiver, if he ever was. How to explain the five sacks? Is it a deficient offensive line, or is Rodgers just not finding open receivers?  If I was concerned about the Packers last week, that goes double after this inexcusable defeat.

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